You turned around and looked straight into our cart. “How much for the cake? That’s a nice looking cake.” Then you looked up to our faces, the question still furrowing your brow. “Ten-bucks! That’s pretty damn good. It’s got them caramel swirls.” The line to the till lurched ahead while you continued to lean on our cart. “I’d get myself one of those but I got these flowers here for my wife. You know, Christmas.” It wasn’t a connection I’d ever made before–hot pink Costco carnation bouquet for Christmas. Its tag read “Mystic Beauty”. This was either a serious misfire of seasonal giving’s or the perfect cherry on the 25th for a relationship whose quirks I wasn’t privy to. Whichever it was you were enamored enough with our chocolate layers to take off in pursuit of a gift for yourself, shouting over your shoulder:
“What the hell, it’s Christmas!”
With the baritone of a middle-aged nightclub bouncer and the cadence of a beat poet you took to the stage and showered the restless throngs of those on the floor in the jazz inspired chimera that is your music. As one song finished you spotted something in the crowd and muttered “Oh, fuck this” into the microphone before putting down your guitar and jumping over arms and legs on your way to the commotion. The crowd swelled, I heard you yell–your voice breaking. Then as if only off taking a drink of water you returned to the stage, donned your guitar and casually told us “This next song’s about reptiles.”
Things you actually said as a result of me asking politely for you to move after forcefully squeezing yourself into the 2” space between myself and the person in front of me:
1. “It’s a show, it’s supposed to be uncomfortable.”
2. “It’s my life, it’s my body and I don’t give a shit about anyone else around me.”
3. “Fuck these bitches.” Bonus: “OMG, I am basking, like seriously basking in awe right now.” (Probably not directed at me)
I wasn’t sure why you were dressed like a bumblebee; none of the pulsing, kicking, increasingly agitated crowd you were engulfed in had costumes or face paint. You were like a buoy in turbulent waters, the black and yellow stripes that divided your appearance erupting from the audience at occasional intervals as we all jumped or swayed to the music. It was as if you were on a different plane, the smile fixed on your face while fights broke out around you. As those around me became more obnoxious and irksome and my hope of a good time seemed close to extinction I looked to you for inspiration, the bumblebee, who despite the odds was still enjoying himself. Even as a special kind of galoot pushed you to the ground you rose again on wings tattered and hanging by threads, a smile wide and gleaming, black paint staining your teeth.
It was only two-blocks away. A reasonable distance. I skated home loaded with groceries; five bags hooked around my right hand, four around the left. My fingers had started to turn purple from the constriction of the plastic handles by the time I’d reached my building. There was a group of people smoking in the parking lot while nu-metal pushed its way out of the cab of the pick-up truck they leaned against. I took another push and the urethane of my wheel screeched as I hit a pebble. The most vivid memory is the squelch of the yogurt as it burst on the pavement. I did a baseball slide through my produce, warped the loaf of bread and popped the carton of OJ. As I got to my feet I expected laughter but got only Korn. I collected what I could and threw out the rest. I cradled the survivors in my arms: A jug of milk, chocolate sauce and a bag of salt & vinegar chips–some sort of delicious destiny.
Our table was facing yours. I watched as you sat there, looking at your friend who was dosing off in his seat. Then the crash. Broken glass showered and splintered around you. Your friend jumped. It took me a moment to realize what had happened. You sat in the leather chair for a few minutes, watching the blood careen down your arm, before heading off to the bathroom. I followed out of curiosity and a genuine need to piss. You stood at the sink, rinsing your wound and pulling it out of the water to wait for the blood to pool and run through your hands. I asked what happened. “Just wanted to break my glass, you know?”
I didn’t. “Think I might need stitches. Probably only three or four”. I nodded and then asked if I could take a picture. You let the blood swell in your palm and I shot.
The skintight aerodynamics of your cycling onesie lead me to believe you were not just going for a ride. This succession of pedaling had a purpose; you were pining for some sort of feeling of reward, some sort of psychological trophy. What you didn’t know was that I was also racing for the podium but my medal was made of cheese, salsa and tortilla chips and destined for my belly. I knew once my lead wheel was in line with your rear I had it.
I pushed harder as we went uphill, gaining and passing, my broken spoke banging against the others in a victory song. We’d almost reached the top and I could hear you panting behind me, hope audibly sucked from the polyester of your suit. When I reached the peak I took a right. You didn’t follow. I’m not sure what silver tastes like but gold is guacamole.
At first you walked in front of me, occasionally looking over your shoulder as if you’d heard a noise but I knew you were just making sure I was still there. After a time you stopped to smell the base of a very uninteresting looking tree. This was your game. You were making the rules, controlling the outcome. Of course I stopped. Asked you what you were up to this evening, if you’d checked out any parties. You didn’t respond, just rubbed the entirety of your body against the bland, naked tree.
I squatted down and held out my hand, you slowly came forward, tentatively sniffing each finger. Finally you pushed your head into my knuckles but flinched when I moved to pet you myself, eventually returning once again to do it on your own, squeezing out all autonomy I imagined I had. Objectifying me. Fed up I went for a long, wholly well-intentioned stroke on your back and was met with a nip and a hiss. You ran down the sidewalk and waited. There was no doubt you’d won the game but I still enjoyed playing.