the night of the bite

sometimes reality bites. and it bites down hard.last night was one of these moments. surreality with its fangs that pierce and leave you raw. i can’t decide whether this is a good thing or something i’d like to forget.
a drink with a peer, a colleague, a mentor. a moment with a mind with something to lend, some insight to share. disjointed questions and meandering answers. and the desire to find some common ground, but the inability to bridge the chasm. awkward pause after awkward pause, suspended in the frigid air until the moment cracks and dissolves into something soft. a shared smile. the commraderie that suddenly spills over the rim of my icy vodka tonic and into the pearl in his hand. disarmed. and the moment we both realize we’ve navigated through the minefield before us is the moment the silence and stillness of the 4 feet between us is not so menacing as peaceful. in that fleeting breath, we are joined by a third: a muse with a soft purr and wild hair, who, like a cat, paws her way into endearing. an artist with a knack for freezing and steeling a moment of someone’s life in such a way that you thank her for her thievery and celebrate the gorgeous ugly she captures. and in a moment more, we are all old acquaintances. three friends of friends catching up. not so familiar that we bypass the ‘did you hears’ and ‘do you knows’…but content in the ease that has fallen over us.
a few beers, cigarettes, and giggles later, we are twisting his arm, coercing him into joining us for a show best described as debaucherous. a show with the best medicine… and some tramps on the side. a benefit to save someone’s smile, to replace a tooth that escaped a mouth, crashing on some hard sidewalk somewhere. in a backwards city. a place so otherworldy that i’m suddenly alice chatting up a caterpillar, laughing as he blows grey smoke halos over my head and flicks his cigarette onto the next-door fishnets. smoking bans be damned…this city won’t bow to the common rule.
the muse and i were meeting the dark lady who had called us both. texted us from obscurity a few days ago. and the muse and i can’t decide whether our arrival together is her best fantasy realized or worst nightmare. or perhaps not noteworthy at all. a passing fancy, that, when struck with the light of day or hazy glow of the flourescents, turns a dirty shade of yellow. we arrive and pick out a face here and there, greet the ringleader (or rather, sweep him off of his feet), and set our things down among a sea of familiar. at the feet of an amber-scented hosanna. my magenta-lined leather coat, purse, etc. (mind you, this part, the part about the purse, is important.)
the minstrels take their places: a washtub bass, a mandolin, a banjo, and a saw. a band of characters like few others, plucked from some boxcar sprung from the loins of atlanta or memphis or new orleans or some place like that. the reverend so perfect i want to collect his 6’3″ frame and place him on my shelf with my grandmother’s hummel. i’m fascinated with him as i would be with a figurine in a wax museum and have to consciously stop myself from reaching up to trace the hard line above his mouth with my finger. to stop myself from pulling off the barmah hat to see the underneath, but fully expecting him to break apart exposing white ceramic insides. they are over an hour late beginning, and the crowd edges out of control with anticipation. this was the reprise of some old song…the kind that gets everyone dancing and singing and screaming and weeping.
the music begins. a squeal of the harmonica. the slow, churning thump of the trap…picking up speed with the crowd’s every breath. it all begins. the tune swings down low and then, slaps us all in the mouth, shaking us from our roots, lifting us high up, and throwing us face-first to the ground. (the missing tooth suddenly makes sense.) the vodka, gin, and whiskey flows faster than the beer…and flows fast into puddles under our feet, mixing with dirt and grime and regret. and we stomp that dirty ooze to the beat of the music. a rhythmic exorcism. and the crowd tied up with every sort…cowboy boots and fishnets and sailor suits and vagabonds, all swinging and swaying and hollering like it was the end of the world. my imagination is freewheeling, and this is the dance-off in purgatory on the way to some mississippi delta hell.
sometime, when the sweat and smoke had coalesced into a cloud of seedy over us, the muse introduces me to her other. the polroids had lied, and this other is blonder and spunkier than i’d projected, with wild hair that one can’t help but tug on as she passes. she embraces me like she’s known me her whole life, and i welcome this warm informality. i catch an old flame out of the corner of my eye at the far end of the bar, burning bright and out of control in his usual fashion…clumsily and drunkenly inserting his velvet hooks into the unsuspecting and unamused brunette at his side. (she doesn’t know what has hit her yet.) amused, i gallop past my parade of curly-haired pixies to greet him with the wry grin that characterized our three months of torrid and tumultuous. no new tricks for this one. the one from whom i ran away…pushing and pulling until the string was cut with such a loud thwack that it left us both empty. this one seems out of sorts here, though the music is still pulling at me as though my ankles were chained to the guitar. the muse, the wild-haired, and the dark lady are curious about this apparition from my past, a year and a hald removed. introductions are made and curiosity turns to confusion to unease. this does not surprise me. this was always how the story went, so i casually toss them “i see what i want to see.” and in an instant, i am back on the dance floor, thrashing my hair around in a frenzy, jumping towards the rafters for the ashtray jesus above us.
i am consumed. i am lost. i am saved and rejoicing. moved to nirvana with a smoke-filled kazoo strain. a wide awake. a stunning sober. stoned only on unfettered animation and energy.
i wail and jump and shake and stomp to the railroad cocophany. drink after drink is brought to me…and i lose each glass in the chaos after only a sip, still clinging unrelentingly to the awareness that this is my dream world. created for me alone on the urban-caked streets of the swampy south. the harmonica and banjo play on and on, spinning me into a cocoon of honey-dripped haze. i am vaguely aware i am being watched, but i’m dancing for myself. sans self-consciousness, i am whirling around my head more than any dance floor. i’m ripped from my revivaling only when the muse grabs my hand and pulls me to the serene side of the bar, where i can’t feel the pulse of the bass guitar and the echo in my breast. i can’t sit still. my toes tap, but the current is too strong, and i am drawn back to the tuneful screaches of the saw. i swoop back past the apparition, speaking only long enough to catch up on the woes and woos of his last year. the remembrance of old concerns tugs at my conscience, so i humor his hackneyed routine of old, wondering (as i always did) when the hell he would respect his gifts. wasteful, i think to myself. fucking wasteful and such a shame. i interrupt him, grabbing his face to tell him to stop. i don’t want to listen. i can’t. it pains me that he hasn’t grown in the space between us. or maybe he has, but the pattern tying us together is too worn to be restitched. either way, it doesn’t matter. i wistfully toast to this black hole standing next to me, caving in on his potential and spitting himself out in tasteless spoonfulls of forsaken genius, and disappear into the mosh of sweaty bodies.
the curly-haired women are hungry for my attention, and they say so. so i’m sat back down on the placid side of the bar once again. offered another drink, i choose water over some thicker poison. they are disappointed and eye me like some insect under a looking glass. and in this distant glow through the clattering beads of backroom passages, the muse suddenly appears a part of something else, something unfamiliar to me. surrounded, i am clinging to control, but intoxicated by the attention. they take my hands as if to dance…both extended out in front of me, waving in rhythm and rhyme. and in a second of what appears to be flattering admiration of my limbs, they both bite down into my flesh with more latent aggression than i’ve ever felt before. raw passion or bitterness or jealousy. shocked by the searing pain, i try to reclaim my arms, but their jaws are clamped down so tightly on each arm that i feel shackled. i almost expect them to pull away with bloody pieces of meat dripping from their mouths when they finally release their hold. i shiver with the dull ache of a raw steak, at odds, as my most natural reaction to that kind of hurt is a swift smack to the face. what was meant to be playful reaks of some b-vampire skinemax flick, and i’m kind of fascinated and kind of horrified and kind of bewildered. they didn’t know how much that hurt. or maybe they did. and maybe they thought i’d like it. and maybe i did. but they undoubtedly didn’t foresee the giant black puddles of bruise beginning to form on my arms when i rolled up my sleeves. they didn’t know i will be stopped and questioned tomorrow and the next day and the next day about the abuses i am allowing from someone, somwhere. they didn’t know i wouldn’t play along. or they were turned on by my tender and set about desecrating it.
i am speechless. i shake my head and blink at the bartender. i have no response, so i shyly sit there caressing my arms, hunched over in a protective fetal arch. minutes later, i am still blank. at a loss, but reaching for an answer hidden in the pile of beer bottles before me. i see no choice but to allow myself to be swept back up in the torrential downpour of dance and scream and naked on the floor, periodically jerked back into the world by the sore throb of my biceps. i turn back to look, and the savagely beautiful harpies are peering back at me with the same degree of wonderment i am them. i don’t know whether to smile or be angry. i choose oblivion. and i lose myself once again in the dance. and music. and stomp. and beat. and throb.
and then, like the hard lights of 2AM, i have suddenly had my fill. i march over to the muse and let her know. she is sheepish and longing, worried underneath that he has misstepped. i am not angry, but i need my space. a quick hug and then a hasty reach into the sea of familiar for my purse. my purse that is suddenly not there. next to a hosanna who is also not there. with a sickening void in the place where they both should be. with my blonde amber-scented guardian gone, my belongings were easily plucked. and immediately, i am jerked hard and fast from my smoke-filled fantasies. an hour is spent looking under tables and bodies and clunky-heeled go-go boots. gone. not misplaced, but gone. i keep hoping it will reappear and that this soaked-through party had indeed been a dream. but by then, i am completely sober. and cold. and less mad than annoyed that i could have been so wrapped up in come-to-jesus carrousing that i foolishly allowed this final insult.
the cement-thud of realization comes when i realize my car keys have walked off with the rest. i have no way home. no way into my house. no way of calling anyone. i feel torn out of the world in that moment. lost. and scared. and tormented. the dark lady and the muse have been feverishly searching. but we all come up empty, with nothing to show but frowns and shrugs. they join me outside where i am staring up at the crescent sliver of the moon above, shaking my head at my own stupidity. a panhandler wobbles our way, where the three of stand incapacitated, and starts to speak to me. before four words pass his lips, i glare at him and howl ‘don’t fuck with me’ with a gutteral snarl so terrifying and unnatural it scares both of us. he frowns at my companions before scurrying off to heckle the drunk couple in the doorway, and we stand there in silence a few seconds more. the dark lady offers her phone and a ride and we silently make our way to her truck, the worried look on the muse’s face turning to panic. and as we make that quiet, icy ride to my apartment, i slap away the comforting hand of the muse. i apologize. but i need my space. and i suddenly feel this racking sense of guilt. the guilt of so harshly rejecting her consolation. i apologize again, but stare out the window with my jaw set, thinking of the huge inconvenience this all is. and selfishly unconcerned with the inconvenience it must have caused others. oblivious. and in this light of day, i feel remorse.
and i feel remorse not for the objects lost, but for the things contained in those objects. the pictures of my brother and i together in our childhood kitchen on thanksgiving, laughing over the gooey, sugar-soured copper pennies we washed down the drain. pictures of my nieces and nephews in makeshift construction paper pilgrim hats. pictures of my heart. snapshots of my world. probably lost by now. erased or picked through by some unsavory. unsettling. and violating.
i awake this morning feeling numb. then, ambivalent. struck, on one hand, by the sweet memory of a spirit and sweat-filled revival… the curious balance of intrigue and horror at the big blue blotches on my arms… the sense of loss over the images now burned only in my brain. and the feeling that it will be a night i’ll always remember: the night of the bite. but with the nagging sensation that i might be breaking into the moment or some shit like that.
and i still can’t decide whether i’m fucking pissed or grateful that this happened. this thing that has managed to put all things in perspective. on this day anyways. perspective for a girl a little up tight and a little less free than she’d like to be. confined by propriety and all kinds of hang-ups she can’t understand or explain. but open to experience and wonderment and curiosity. and eager to be wrapped up in life’s embrace, despite the 7 AM feeling i’ve been chewed up and chewed on. damn naked and vulnerable. but feeling more alive than ever.

~ by ladamesansregrets on December 4, 2007.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: