One night we made Amy's mom take us
with her to the bar she owned. We didn't want to stay
and listen to grumpy Aunt Mary with her blue-rinse beehive
talk back to the Arizona Roadrunners playing hockey
on her transistor radio. Ignoring our pleas for sips of beer,
her mom handed us a bunch of quarters warning us
to leave the men at the bar alone.
Men dressed in cowboy hats and boots,
low riding jeans and snap-button shirts straining
over beer-filled bellies. Men with pinched, red faces
and eyes squinting in the smoky, boozy haze
billowing beneath the dim ceiling lights. Men who
ogled Amy's mom, flirting with jabs and winks.
Men who teetered their way to the john
and teetered their way back, some slowing to spatter
us with their reeking breath and dirty offers
for a good time. Offers we ignored, but still made us
wiggle our behinds and dance across the floor
using up quarters to play pinball, pool, and long,
slow love songs on the jukebox.
It was my idea to hide inside the walk-in,
its shiny steel door standing opposite the toilets.
Huddled inside, we examined the spoils of our raid
on the restroom vending machines. We tore apart
the foil wrappers, blew up the rubbery contents
and used spit to stick the fake tattoos under our shirt
sleeves. The smell of beer and meat pressed the chill
against us and I stuck my fingers in my ears to hear
my teeth chatter, then added throat tones to the jackhammer
repetition to give the cold a sound.
Her mom found us when she came for a box
of beer. The clear, brown bottles clinked together
when hefted, and backing out she called,
"What in the Sam Hell do you two think you're doing?"
The point of the game was we were waiting
to be rescued. Now we had been, but neither of us moved.
Instead, I asked Amy if she thought it was cold
in heaven. She said she didn't think so. I asked her what
it felt like to die. She said she hoped it didn't hurt.
I asked her how long it took to freeze to death.
She said she didn't know. I told her I hated my mom.
She said we could run away. I told her I wanted my dad
back. She said we could ride our bikes over
to the graveyard the next day.
First appeared in The
Noe Valley Voice, December 2001
P. J. Taylor ©2001