Everyone at the table has a drink, in fact. One woman's drinking a cocktail, I have a plastic cup of Bud Light, the boyfriend has his beer bottles lined up like steadfast, perspiring tin soldiers from some Hans Christian Anderson story. Another woman nurses her British import, not quite sober but not drunk, and makes a comment about how she just can't stomach domestics anymore.
But one drink is different, however, a ballerina of a booze-free cocktail amongst the trollish Jack-in-the-Bo
Having been free of cocaine and PCP for more than a decade now myself, well, I can still remember how each day those first few years felt first like the reconquest of a stretch of battlefield long held by an entrenched enemy, how around every corner I'd find booby traps and snares lying in wait.
Some friends were supportive; some took it personally or just couldn't understand it. I walked my path back to being drug-free alone and, had I not been so stubborn, well, it might have been a bit easier to simply go to swallow my pride and go to a few more meetings than I did. I would've learned about things like root causes, triggers, and acceptance in less, shall we say, awkward ways.
We each walk our paths and choose our footing each step, whether we accept it or not. Back in my hardest days, on one of my many soul-searching trips up and down California's Central Coast in the late 1990s, I met a former Buddhist nun who said those words to me.
Still true, after all these years.
Holy shit. I could've been dead by now, a corpse in some Colorado cemetery. Instead, I've traveled the country, watched sunsets over the Pacific and danced in New Orleans streets during Carnival, dined with pro ballplayers and even held the hands of an award-winning actress as she confessed, in tears, how much she hated Hollywood.
Life's too damned fun to be a goddamn addict, man. You're even a respected member of --
Suddenly, to my left, a camera's flash breaks the darkness. I'm out of my introspective moment, just in time, to turn and wink as the photographer shoots another digital image. Miss Poison's boyfriend is fetching himself another beer, another cocktail for her friend. The other woman at our table is sipping her drink and staring into her PDA, texting away the night.
The juke's even playing one of my songs - the dark rumble of Howlin' Wolf explodes through the speakers, "Evil" seeping into the ear canals of unsuspecting college kids and locals. I look around the now packed bar and see the look of shock on the middle-aged patrons, who suddenly smile as they realize someone young played something so classic and old.
And there sits a happy Miss Poison, begging the photographer to snap pictures of her in her glam rock outfit, new pics for her MySpace page. She's smiling and striking poses and laughing, grabbing her tits and tilting her head this way and that as the flash goes off again and again and again.
Yeah, life really is fucking good when you've got something -anything - to live for, especially when you're one of those people blessed enough to get a second chance.
* * * *
LOS ANGELES (ZP, via World Wide Web) -- She confirms what it seems like everyone here in Oxford Fucking Ohio has been telling me lately.
Something disturbing. About my appearance. My mannerisms. How I carry myself.
She's an expert, after all, in appraising these sorts of unfortunate things. In fact, she frequently spends her days hunting down people afflicted with similar issues - and offers them jobs because of it.
"Jason, it is with deep regret that I must inform you that, yes, you do indeed look like, at least in these shots, a cop."
She's laughing. It's a painful diagnosis. I am not amused.
"You're fucking shitting me."
"Nope. Actually... I think I could even get you some background action work, maybe even a few limited core gigs or a few lines. Would you be interested?"
"You're fucking shitting me."
She's no longer laughing.
"Hey, casting for things like police dramas, you look for a lot of the qualities you have. Jawline, eyes, demeanor, and build. And you, my friend, look like a bonafide police officer. At least a TV cop."
I guess I should provide a bit of embarrassing background here. Last weekend, an undergrad walked up to while I was contently sitting on a bar stool, sipping a beer. The chick called me "Officer," apologized for bothering me while I was "off-duty or whatever," asked if I'd talk to pair of her guy friends at another bar, who were about to get into a fight. Even after explaining that I'm not 5-0, she still insisted that I walk next door to calm down her friends.
Funny, yes, but, well, as I relayed the rather amusing story to several friends, I discovered that a lot of people in this town think I look more like a cop than a librarian. Kinda freaked me out a bit, to say the least.
"So, hon, what about as a librarian? Or as a blogger? Would you -- "
"Jason, seriously. Do you really think anybody is going to mistake you for a librarian?"
"You're fucking shitting me."
"Hey, I call it as I see it. You do know chicks do tend to find that extremely sexy, right? Quit bitching about it."
Okay, so maybe looking like a cop's not a necessarily a bad thing.
* * * *
RICHMOND, Ind. (ZP) -- She did, at one time, think I was "The One." Women know what I'm talking about here. The One.
And then I threw her out of my apartment after I made it clear that things weren't going anywhere. Sure, she'd compared me to Jack Nicholson in terms of sexual liberation and freedoms, and sure, she'd basically tried to force herself on me after I'd made it perfectly clear that I wasn't really in the mood for her.
It was more than that. She broke my Golden Rule for friends, even lovers, within my own home. If I catch you, say, cutting up some white powder in the bathroom, and you lie to me about what it is, well, you're gone.
No hard feelings. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.
But now she knows better. She called me, in fact, under the pretense of a friendly lunch in her former hometown. Just as friends, to see how I'm doing, to catch up, to even apologize in person for how she'd behaved back then.
I'm old enough, experienced enough, to the point where I should know better. Against my better judgment, I agreed to meet her. I walked into that Hoosier Country cafe and knew, as I saw her fumbling with what looked like a color printout of a web page, that I'd probably be walking out before I even had a chance to order.
"Yeah, so my sister told me everything. Actually, she let me read it."
"Chica, look, I'm sorry if you're upset. And I haven't seen you or ____ since. It's just a stupid blog..."
She always had a flare for the dramatic. She waited, in fact, until those elderly folks were seated at the booth behind us, in their Sunday School finest, to throw the printout - all five pages and the folder - into my face.
"So were you fucking her when we were together, or just playing both of us? She thinks this is fucking funny... Do you think I fucking think this shit is funny?"
"Well, one, I don't care what you find funny. And two, no, ___ and I never hooked up. Three, it's none of your fucking business."
And then come the real fireworks, the angry verbal A-Bombs over all time's personal Hiroshimas. I let her lay it into me, just sat there listening, like a rational adult.
She didn't believe me about the whole I didn't fuck your sister thing, didn't like the fact that I hadn't been completely honest about my reasoning for kicking her ass out of my life back in 2006, didn't like reading about it years later.
Hell, I don't like reading about it. I didn't like living it. And, well, we're talking two years ago here.
And if she hadn't called, I probably wouldn't have wasted the gas driving to Indiana on an amazing Sunday morning for a brunch that never came.
As I drove back, I stopped at a gas station a few miles from the Ohio border, grabbed a granola bar and a cup of rather shitty coffee, sat in the truck and ate a simple, quiet lunch all by my lonesome.
Ya know, I could've faked it if she hadn't been a fucking cokehead. Still using. Fuck, she was high in that fucking diner. And, hell, her sister was the cooler one, hot and down-to-earth, too.
Man, life's too fucking short for that shit. Drama. Too much fucking drama.
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