[please see the extra-urgent cubs-related bonus story below]
BY GARY GLAUBER
This was my first time at Dana's apartment and I was nervous. She told me to clear a place and hang a bit while she cooked. I scooped up a pile of mail and magazines off the couch, and after balancing it precariously on top of the coffee table's existing mess, sat down on the batik sheet cover.
I met Dana through a friend of a friend at a party a few months back. It was a bunch of coincidences. I wasn't even going to that party, only Barry had to work a double shift at the video store, so our late movie plans got tabled. When he called, he reminded me about this party, saying some had said it definitely was the place to be.
I'm not big on what's in or hip or happening; I've always managed to stay my fairly dull course, trusting that while it probably won't lead to any blinding greatness, it conversely won't steer me into any undue course of great harm. Genetically, my older sister got all the wildness in our family. She was the one always experimenting, trying new things. I couldn't keep up with her; I didn't even try.
At the party, I saw no one I knew and felt even more out of place than usual. The deafeningly loud reggae hip-hop and electronic trance music made it impossible to think. As I made my way to the kitchen thinking a cold beer might help, my heart kept pace with the thumping bass line. With her short shocks of orange and green hair and all those earrings up the side of one ear, there was no missing Dana. She managed to stick out, even in that crowd.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, as if we were old friends.
"I have no clue," I said, grabbing two Heinekens and looking for an opener. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm here to save you," she said. She pointed at the bottle opener lying on the counter.
"From what?" I popped the tops, offered her one.
"I don't know yet."
We found a room that was fairly quiet and unpopulated, a place to talk. She told me about her brother's suicide, her hated stepfather, her string of unfulfilling career choices. I talked of my mundane existence, growing up in the suburbs, my position as a lowly clerk in a gigantic international accounting firm. Within a few hours, the "opposites attract" theory was proven true.
Since then, we'd gone out a few times, but I kept waiting for her to laugh and say this was some cruel joke. I could see no logical reason why she liked me, other than I listened to her. She was everything I wasn't and then some, and I found that both exciting and intimidating.
As she fussed in the tiny portion of the apartment she termed the kitchenette, I tried to sneak a look. Her hair was back to brown with red highlights, and as she turned from spice cabinet to stovetop, I could see the pretty blue and green of the tattoo at the base of her back. It had decorative curlicues around it. Perfectly centered, it said "obvious."
She was making some sort of tofu and vegetable dish, spicy and totally organic, along with coriander-flavored rice. In spite of my seeming mildness, I liked foods hot and spicy. I checked out her shelf of CDs: Husker Du, Belly, Throwing Muses, Sleater-Kinney, The Pixies, Alanis Morissette and The Breeders. Nothing very surprising about those choices, I thought.
Dana tilted the wok and poured the tofu concoction over rice in two bowls. She brought them over and we sat and ate and talked.
"So why do you like me?" I asked.
In a way, it did. I ran my fingers over the numerous scars on her hands and arms. "How'd you get those?"
"At one point, I trained to be a professional chef. Those are the burns and cuts you get. Nasty looking, aren't they?"
Somehow they suited her. She was an amalgam of contrasts, soft beauty and hard knocks making her something most special. I reached over and touched my lips to one long scar that ran inside her forearm. She lifted my head and met my lips with her own. With all those votive candles burning around us, it was a true romantic moment.
We kissed and gently groped until the phone rang.
"Sorry, I have to get that," she said. She was up and back in the kitchenette, talking to somebody about some shoot happening on Friday. Dana's latest career was freelance "food stylist" and some major photographers she knew had hooked her up with two big advertising agencies. The call only took a few minutes, but the mood was broken.
She flipped on the TV via remote, the volume down low. Some standup I didnít recognize was doing his shtick on Comedy Central.
"What's this?" I picked up a large photo album from the other side of the long table.
"Those are bad pictures," she said.
I opened it and, sure enough, every picture was either badly out of focus or strangely unidentifiable.
"These are yours?"
"Kind of a hobby. Some are mine, some given to me by friends. Know how sometimes people waste shots? I collect 'em."
"Hmm . . . kind of a metaphor for my life, I guess. Everything I do is like these pictures."
"What do you mean?"
"Nothing's really very focused. But there's a certain beauty to it, y'know?"
I looked at them more closely. One was a black-and-white of an old fashioned baby carriage, but the handle of the carriage blocked the baby's face. Another was so blurry it could have been a sunset or someone's rug or a visualization of a psychedelic drug trip.
I turned the pages and saw more. Some did have interesting patterns and colors. They really weren't so bad. One picture caught my eye. The face was all blurry, but I thought I could make out a familiar T-shirt. "Some of my best friends are invisible," it said. I'd had one exactly like it custom-made for my sister, but conceivably, I suppose there could be others like it.
"Who's this?" I asked, pointing at the picture.
She looked it over.
"I don't know if I should tell you," she said.
"You should, definitely."
"She was my one great lesbian love affair. We were involved for about two years, then she dumped me bigtime."
"Oh, years ago now. Does that bother you?"
I wondered at the possibility Dana had been involved with my sister. How strange would that be? A few quick questions could settle it, but I realized now I didn't want to know. I turned to the next page and studied the odd assortment of shots Dana selected to display there.
"It bothers me someone broke your heart."
"Aw, you're sweet."
Dana turned off the television, then leaned over and closed the book of bad pictures.
"Time to go to bed," she whispered. She collected the bowls, dropped them in the sink, then went into the other room. I followed.
[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/glauber.html]
B R A V E S O U L S R E C E I V E
Archive of Recent Activities
Enhanced Navigational Coherency
Long-Ass List of Contributors
Two Years Ago Today
Last Year Today
DEATH OF A CUBS FANS
BY SHOOTY BABBITT
The stadium escorts could only take him as far as his car. He would have to drive home alone, since his buddies had stayed for the ninth inning. They would take the bus home, they said. He had already taken his hat off, but he needed his glasses to see, and those could give him away. His face had been all over national TV. Moises Alou glaring at him, and he holding his arms out in misunderstood supplication.
The escorts said goodbye gruffly, and the fatter one gave his Toyota Echo a rather hard tap on its roof before they walked off. His heart thumped as the car crept away from the Friendly Confines, through streets crawling with Cubs fans. Little by little the crowds thinned out, and no one had noticed him. His knuckles relaxed on the wheel, and his lungs allowed him to breathe again.
When he got home he dashed up the stairs to his apartment, fiddling with the keys as if people were actually chasing him. He slammed the door behind him and locked it. He turned on the TV. Dusty Baker was speaking to the press with a stunned look on his face. Somebody asked him, what did he think of the guy who tried to catch the foul ball and ended up getting in Moises' way, and he said, I guess he was a Marlins fan.
He was crestfallen. His car was blue, had a Cubs bumper sticker. His grandfather had told him about going to games six and seven of the 1945 World Series, which the Cubs lost to the Detroit Tigers. His father had died of a heart attack in October 1984, largely due to the Cubs' meltdown against the San Diego Padres, according to his mother.
His whole future rested on the fate of tomorrow's game, game seven. Would he take his place in history as the accursed Billy Goat's latest sinister agent? Or would he be the most ecstatic of a cityful of ecstatic revelers at this time tomorrow night, passing the proverbial back of his hand, the size of a huge foam #1 finger, across his gigantic brow, to wipe away the ocean of sweat?