Basically, this is a story about karma—a concept I apparently don’t even need to believe in to be affected by. Let’s say, purely for the sake of example, I meet a girl. I’m pretty sure this girl likes me, which makes me feel good, but I’m also fairly certain I don’t feel the same way. I keep seeing her anyway. Then, let’s say purely for the sake of example, I meet another girl, with whom I fall instantly in love and at which point I stop talking to the first girl. I wonder how this will play out…
I meet Roxanna under the Congress bridge watching baby bats flutter at sunset; they’re hungry and desperate—wouldn’t know the feeling. Love her already. If those lips are only half as soft as the stands of gold hair affronting my face, I’ll stay. I’ll take time to learn even more about her than I already know: she likes horses; she’s from a northern land where instead of tagging every sentence with “you know?,” they say “-ey;” she’s a vegetarian who listens and speaks with equal veracity and for this reason, I much enjoy talking with her; it’s stimulating. I feel nothing similar from the red-bull vodka or dub-step playing at some tribal bar downtown. So let’s go.
We walk in stride for a mile without saying much, but whenever one stops to take a closer look, or to tie their shoe, or simply to pro—long—this, the other stops beside—and waits. But of course, her parked car does arrive, not stolen, right where she left it—fuck—right where she left. “Goodbye, nice meeting you.” A waste of breath considering I could have said much more with my mouth. As it stands, I don’t even know her phone number, but maybe that’s okay because it’s been a long weekend and I was a little drunk the night before…
I don’t expect this to be my last impression on Miley: I’m drunk, naked, incapacitated on the bathroom floor foaming raspberry Everclear jello at the mouth. Just one kiss. “Here, drink some water.” Her patience is currently my virtue and somehow we fuck. I wouldn’t even have known had a housemate not walked in and later recounted my ass plopping back and forth. Passion, so he says; although I’m not convinced.
Either way, I wake up with her in my bed and morning berry on my breath. She, on the other hand, rises with a smile that tells me, “Yes I’m still here and, Yes I want to be.” She likes me. She goes to meet her parents for church and I go to meet my friends for our usual Sunday ritual.
I’m too hungover not to drink at the pool, cooking fillet steaks, garlic-drenched asparagus and appropriately enough raspberry chipotle sausages from Whole Foods. Tecate’s cold and lacking essence—just how I like it; steaks are bloody salty and sausages confused with sweet versus spicy flavor. There’s food: substance; there’s alcohol: anti-matter; and there’s me: in-between. Darkness creeps on the upper deck first and soon we’ll all be under a blanket of black. I’ve grown tired of this pool and—remaining sun’s the setting—we walk to the Congress bridge. Sight and scene.
I wake up instilled with a renewed sense of a-live-it-tae—”much like today,” I keep telling myself—this is it. I listen to old songs one last time like a virgin to music; I jump in the pool like I’ve no concept of wetness; ‘tis refreshing indeed; I cook eggs and put Cayenne on them: why not?; it’s delicious; fuck it. I’m seeing Roxanna later tonight but that doesn’t even matter because right now, right here, I’m happy—over-joyed even.
A friend arrives to smoke weed in the hot tub and we tell awful celebrity jokes that rely heavily on wordplay. I’m not sure a single one deserves repeating but okay fine, “What happened when Bill Gates lost his erection?”…I don’t know, what?…”He went Micro-soft.” I know—but some girl reading War and Peace at water’s edge laughs likely because she needed something light (thank you Tolstoy for offering the ultimate opportunity for comic relief). Oh, did I mention the world ends today? But tonight—
Tonight Roxanna’s real life image somehow supplants the perfect portrait painted in my head: lace leggings over bite-able thighs give way to ruffled skirt and see-though top barely obscuring an aqua bra cupping her full breasts; she exudes sexuality and I exude at the sight of her. I take her by the hand and lead the way to Barbarella. Even tequila shots go down smooth when Beach House plays behind and this lover of mine looks at me and smiles. Cheers baby, let’s dance.
Nobody’s ready for this night, this life, despite all our sufferings, to end—so we get coke and go to Mugsy’s house. I don’t do much, no need to—watching Roxanna laugh and rev-up a non-moving motorcycle in the garage is stimuli enough—letting her lips bear down on mine is stimuli too much, almost. Drinking rum & blow keeps me grounded: my best friends are here, she’s here, we’re drunk, high and all in love—with each other and with ourselves for the time of being. The bottle spins to Lance, to Cary, to Corbin, Todd, me, Roxanna, Mugsy and we all kiss. Soft, prickly, wet, firm, gentle and raw in no particular order.
Roxanna and I watch the sun come up from my bed and if I told her, I love you right now, it would be true—but no need, she’s here anyway. If I die before I wake it’ll be okay because today, today was all right. Ever so briefly I’m ripped from this moment to a similar, but someone lacking experience that took place a few weeks ago…
I join Miley and her non-offensive friends on West 6th; Union Park is cool because they have their rooftop patio with fresh air and their basement “boom-boom” room with dance beats and their middle floor bar in limbo where we remain—plus they put two limes in each gin ‘n tonic and probably 8 or 10 limes later it’s last call on bar drinks and first call on apartment drugs / liquor. I leave the tiny bag of powder under her bathroom trash pale and excuse myself every 15 to 20 minutes to pee. Or not to pee. An hour later, I actually have to go, so when I come back, relieved and re-upped, I hurdle the sectional couch like a pommel horse and land smoothly beside Miley. She feigns applause: top marks for form.
“Seriously, I didn’t wear a shirt in Hawaii for three months, nobody gives—a—fuck there man,” my friend Todd says. Hmm, seems nice considering I was asked to leave HEB Grocery the other day while eating corn flake samples shirtless—I interrupt my own thoughts and everyone else to add—
“I mean why the fuck would they give out samples of corn flakes, who doesn’t know what a corn flake tastes like at this point in their life?—”
“What are you talking about?” some guy wearing a Hooch (of Turner and Hooch) shirt asks.
“and no milk, no fucking milk—it’s just stupid. So yeah Todd, Hawaii sounds pretty fucking cool. I bet you can eat corn flakes out of a fucking coconut shell overflowing delicious sweet tropical milk—goddamn nude if you want. That’s a sample I’d be interested in, ya know?”
I disappear to the rooftop terrace for more drugs, stare out at the University of Texas clock tower lit blood orange and chat with Lance about the downfall of our kind. “What percent of people do you think are the influencers versus the influenced? Original thought is so sparse, I’d say less than 1 percent, maybe way less. I don’t—”
Wait, exactly how much power does that give me? If most people don’t intend to think for themselves, then somebody must occupy their minds. Yes, I’ll collect consciousness; I’ll affect the unconscious; wake up. The sun’s not yet over the horizon but daybreak’s belly begins to crown. I’m on top of my world and theirs and hers and then her. If I were to tell Miley I love you right now it would be at the very least misleading, so of course, I do.
If I have any doubts about Roxanna’s interest, they’re wiped clean when she texts, “Hey, what are you doing Friday?” sent on Tuesday!—a leading question if ever there was. By the time work week ends and she picks me up to see her favorite band at Emo’s, I’ve already made up her mind. She too knows last weekend was special—after all, life went on for a reason; she too wonders if we’re the reason; she too fantasizes about our next meeting—not a cheesy airport sprint into each other’s arms, but the inevitable embrace of two polar magnets savoring dead space between their next clinch—occasionally resisting, only so touch is that much heightened. We hug and kiss on the mouth.
From stage front we drink Sparks and rub sides. Her salivation over the lead singer doesn’t make me particularly jealous because I know how it tastes—just minutes ago, I savored the flavor of warm red wine and earth on her tongue—doubt much has changed since.
The music stops; she buys a band shirt; I buy a rum shot; we leave and proceed to connect the dots between countless stages on sixth street: one dot of peach vodka at Pure leads to a dot of gold tequila at Spill leads to two dots of cherry bombed at Malia. I’m not sure if we’re Mr and Mrs Pac-Man or ghosts—fleeing or chasing?—but judging by the desperate look in my eyes, this one might be other-worldly: Blinky. She works early in the morning, so when I ask, okay beg, if she’ll stay the night, she politely declines. Oh well. Game over. Hopefully tomorrow we can have sushi and make love.
The sushi waiter scribbles down our order and runs to the kitchen seconds before happy hour expires. I wash down seaweed salad with lemon, cold sake, spicy salmon and fatty white tuna. Full and woozy, we wander through tropical storm force winds and take pictures in full-frontal rays reflecting off the downtown mid-rise. Yes, we’re beautiful in this light, but it too, must set.
Once it’s dark and we’re drunk and doing blow, I begin to note the subtle differences in her behavior. First, there’s the withholding of affection: instead of grabbing my hand, she waits for me to take hers—or maybe she’s not waiting at all because when I finally do reach it, her fingers are mostly limp; I perform CPR on her palm with a thumb and attempt mouth-to-finger resuscitation but no response—pulse fading. Next, there’s the general lack of attentiveness: instead of hanging by my side, she’s either in the washroom with her friends or at the bar with strangers and when I ask if she wants to grab a drink, she simply shakes her head. And finally, there’s the sense of downright disinterest when we go back to my place and she takes every opportunity to escape one-on-one time—excusing herself to the washroom or to smoke at the slightest hint of intimacy. Why the sudden change of heart, Roxanna?
She mixes the remaining Everclear with lemonade and asks for my help finishing it. Sure. Once her friends leave, and there’s absolutely nothing else left to do, we go to my bedroom under the guise of “let’s watch a movie,” and soon after, we have sex. Despite the night’s decidedly somber tone, things are looking up. I can’t help but feel like she’s letting me inside, opening up. We’re speaking tongues and moaning languages fluent of the body. I place one palm over her mouth to catch each damp breath while the other wanders up her hip, over her breast, by her neck and to her hand, which is no longer limp as stiff fingers dig firmly into mine. For a brief time, we’re powerless over each other—equals in a fit to collapse—but soon, morning comes and she’s gone. Au revoir.
In the wake of dawn, a missing body seems more glaring. A damp bed dries, a pounding heart slows, an indented pillow retakes shape, all while a tired boy rests alone and the sad realization that they aren’t coming back sets in—you just know. And even though the body is gone, their presence still haunts your small world: by way of beige foundation caked on the vanity, Mrs Dolloway, their favorite book, open on your nightstand, flecks of glitter collected in sheets’ wrinkles and a Canadian dime adorning the windowsill—ever-present reminders of how brief one’s stint in your life. Because before you meet them, there was always someone else…
Before Roxanna, I meet Miley at Barbarella, a dance club on Red River that plays great music like Cut Copy and Delorean and Radiohead, among others. She’s short, I’m tall, so I notice the top of her read head first, her white teeth second and her pink tongue last. Who even knows what color shoes she’s wearing? We dance along, hand-in-hand, for what must be hours and just as my legs start to waiver from crouching, I can change by LCD Soundsystem brings close to the night.
“This is the time the very best time
So give me a line and take me home
Take me over”
I kiss her goodnight and say, “I would really like to see you again.”
Then to myself, I say,
“But I can change, I can change, I can change, I can change
I can change, I can change, I can change
If it helps you fall in love”