By the way, much of this is based on truth.
“I love you.”
Oh shit. If the Negress hadn’t been perched on those stairs with that guy right in front of me, she could have gotten away clean. The railing had her pinned on one side; the wall on the other. As it stood, she was going to have to respond to this tequila-fueled declaration. The truth was not an option. She can’t say to someone who is furry drunk that she only slept with them because she was out of batteries for the vibrator. Or that, every once in a while, she needed to feel someone else’s skin to remind you that you’re alive. He was still there, nut brown and swaying, hair sweaty with some other bad trouble who made him think a trip to the clinic might be in order. She doesn’t know the other one, but she worked at Centerfolds. This guy wasn’t the brightest in the world — read Dean Koontz, had van seats as permanent furniture — but who was she to talk since the Negress woke up bare-assed on a waterbed in his house on Mother’s Day? The mother of his kid came by to drop off Junior and, at first opportunity, the Negress bailed.
The Negress’ wasn’t always like this or else there would be not story to tell. You wouldn’t always find her perched on the stairs of this bar listening to some coke fiend talk about interstate trucking. She does come here a lot, but she’s run out of reasons why. It was good trouble once, a place where a girl could go when she needed to be kissed but didn’t want to make breakfast for some jerk. Lately everyone was getting married, going to rehab or smoking so much dope that the mere thought of sex makes them tired and cranky. Why did marijuana have to make a comeback right at the time when sleazing around has been deemed fatal? What happened to the seller’s market she was used to?
Crueler friends might say 30 pounds happened, but her arms don’t keep moving when the Negress stops. Also, this baggy grunge rap fashion thing was a godsend to us women of substance. Real women eat and that’s all there is to it.
Which may also explain why she gave that restaurant goof so much of her valuable time. In case you’re wondering, this isn’t the guy the Negress was looking at when this story started, although this joint played a role in her running into him repeatedly. The Negress was bored, he kissed well and knew a thing or two about what she considered the finest of dining. When he came over, she would end up with rug burns and odd marks on the couch. His good trouble turned to bad when the Negress found out about the woman with the gun and the toddlers. And half the teachers at this one elementary school. And five other women she knew, one of whom confided that she was relieved when her clinic run turned out to be just a non-specific infection.
At this point, high mileage was not a good thing even though it did seem to improve technique. The Negress usually put latex where it belonged, but not always. You gave blood and lost some sleep watching the mail for a week or two.
Oh yeah. Back to the guy in front of her. He was still swaying there, expecting The Negress to say something like, “Honey, I love you so much I’d go your bail before I’d pay my rent” or some other declaration that indicated permanent brain damage on her part. She thought she’d gotten away clean. We kissed one night after the Mother’s Day thing, but it felt like a Pekingese was trying to pick her nose. The Negress had seen him up here a couple of times since then, but he had been cool. No excessive mooning, no pining. He hung with this coke dealer who was a a total bore. The Negress finally shut him up with a reasonably coherent discussion of the economics of the baseball strike. One of the bartenders bought her a drinkfor her trouble, saying that was the longest ol ‘Dillweed had gone without speaking. The Negress considered it a public service.
All right. The Negress has hatched an escape strategy. “Uh, Dick, can we talk about this some other time?”
“No,” he bleated. Dammit.
“Well, will you excuse me for sec? I’ll be right back.”
Thank God there was a side door out of there. She was down the steps and in her truck in no time. He wasn’t there the next time she came back so the Negress hoped he got the message.
Although it may be hard to believe from what the Negress is telling you here, she can do celibacy with panache. She’s talking years, kids. Some 21-year old goober tried to pick her up with that tired old line about how she needed to relax. The Negress replied that she wasn’t going to end a two-year string of doing without for him. He looked ashen. “How could you go two years without having sex?”
“It’s easy. You get up one morning, brush your teeth, get dressed, do your hair, go to work, go out clubbing, come home and what do you know? You didn’t have sex. A day becomes a week, weeks months, you get the picture.”
He asked her to leave his apartment (The Negress was stuck there after some ill-advised drinking). She thinks he thought it was some elaborate con. Sometimes the truth does work very well.
One of these days the Negress will find a man (or woman, but we’re getting to that) who will last from spring training to the World Series. She’s not lonely exactly, but sometimes an arm around you at night would be great. Or a phone call when Frank Thomas jacked one past the Russian space station (she’s waiting on this feeling from Adam Dunn). Or someone who would get the picture when you said something about sticking around for winter ball and hockey season. She was tired of explaining her jokes to people who were supposed to care about her (her tribe is out there and she will find it later).
Or maybe she’ll just settle for a good kisser who didn’t piss on her bedroom floor during an alcoholic blackout. That was bad trouble. She kissed so much during that day and a half, the Negress felt like the lower half of her face was smeared and runny. If she could have attached those lips to someone who knew where the bathroom was, half the battle would have been won. He knew baseball but often forgot which league the Astros are in. He lost his scholarship on that basis alone (though, now that might not be a deal breaker. The pissing, yes.).
The problem is there’s a fine line between good and bad trouble. If you hang with someone and it gets too boring, it may be good for you. But it won’t make you drive across town with a raincoat thrown over your nightgown because your phone rang at 2 a.m. with a highly improper (not to mention potentially painful) suggestion. Good trouble can talk you into it because of some deep mystical connection or just plain madness. Bad trouble makes you get a restraining order and change your number.
Most people the Negress talks to think the distinction is a massive rationalization. “You shouldn’t try to justify this trashing around you by palming it off on something nearly mystical in its incoherence,” said one 12-step veteran pal of mine. The Negress drank another bourbon and told her to shut up.
The Negress has had jobs and everything (though lately not so much), but that’s of minimal consequence. The hours were flexible enough back in the day that arriving in the office at noon wearing sunglasses made little difference in my performance reviews. Most of the Negress’ co-workers at the time had settled for something calm. She sometimes got the sense they viewed her as a mascot of some kind; still weird enough to drive a pickup trick and not have day-care problems. Their lives make the Negress cringe so back to the bars she went.
Frankly, the baseball strike nearly made the Negress into a nun. She had found most of her trouble by arguing about ball in a variety of joints. The restaurant guy was a Tigers fan. Mr. I Love You went to the Dome with the coke dealer, but had a hard time following the game. He thought it was too slow and there was nothing to watch, which almost matched her assessment of him for a long-term contract.
One night, another friend told the Negress her standards were too high. She had brought the restaurant guy into the picture, and had sampled Mr. I Love You back before she fell hard for a good friend of hers. The Negress was at the point in the bourbon here belligerent muttering was about the best she could do. The Negress couldn’t explain the good trouble-bad trouble distinction because all distinctions were pretty blurry. So was the road driving home(please note, this is stupid and don’t do it).
That was during a brief period where everyone the Negress knew was giving her advice even though she hadn’t asked for any. Did she look that troubled? At one point, the Negress decided it was a weird mix of envy and concern and just decided to smile a lot and forget every word.
Anyway, the Negress had to hit the road. Minor-league ball was calling. There was a prospect in Tucson that might have made it to the majors if he kept his sense of humor and continued to remember my phone number. Like most minor leaguers, he wasn’t a prospect.