I met Mia in high school. She was a cheerleader with the short black skirt and I was a jock. I liked her right away. She was intelligent and mature, had a regal feel about her. I was a wreck and a prankster. But we had a lot in common. We both liked books and music and would have these long conversations about bands like U2, and why they were heady, and why bands like Poison were shit. And how when we read Robinson Crusoe we were Robinson Crusoe. We were on that island. We liked art and football and thought breakdancing and baseball sucked. Our favorite color was green. We liked Hostess lemon pies.
Where we differed was that I liked to party and had been laid a few times. My reputation was that I fucked all of Hesperia, but that was far from the truth. I liked to party and was always around girls, but rarely did I sleep with any of them. Truth was, the girls I messed around with hung out in the smoking area and listened to The Cure and Ratt. They were unknown to the jock and cheerleader world. Mia didn’t date anyone in high school. She skipped the high school scene and went straight for the college dudes. But even on the grounds of higher learning she claimed to be a virgin on graduation day.
“I’m not gonna just give it away,” she said. “I’m not a slut.”
Mia wasn’t a slut, but her two best friends were. I met Tammy and Becky in junior high where they honed their skills giving hand jobs and whatnot behind the portables. I liked them and didn’t pay much attention to their loose ways. Just a couple of crazy white chicks to me. My attitude then is what it is now: I don’t care what people do with their lives. Want to run for mayor? Great. Want to own a pig farm? Fantastic. Want to bang the whole wrestling team? Wonderful. Not my concern. And not for me. Still, I found it necessary to harass Mia about how dirty her friends were.
“Mia, you’ll never believe this. Last night I had a dream I was about to bone Tammy and when I went down her pants for a little finger diddle I found a wine opener.”
“That’s sick. Dream my ass. I bet you really did screw her. Screwed the whole town from what I’ve heard.”
After we graduated Mia moved to Oregon and got married and I went to college in Orange County. After a few letters we lost contact. Ten years went by. Then twenty. Then one night I went to a party and there was Mia holding a glass of wine. Just like that. Mia. She looked beautiful and was the same warm and intelligent person I met in ‘85. She had a kid. I didn’t have any. I was divorced. So was she. My ex-wife had green eyes and drank a lot of wine. Mia’s ex-husband smudged or broke everything he touched and was allergic to work.
“Tammy lives in Norco,” she said. “She’s married. Has like four kids. Becky lives two blocks from here. Still funny as hell. Works for the county.”
After the party we saw a lot of each other. Coffee. Movies. She dragged my ass to Disneyland where I had a panic attack. I met her son. We covered twenty years in a matter of weeks. How I still loved Iron Maiden. The time she sold magazine subscriptions in Florida. How I made a horrible husband. How she loved to bake and made a mean cheesecake. One night we started talking about our sex lives. Mine in particular. She wanted the lowdown. The scoop. She knew my story. The bands. College. That I worked as a bartender. Two things happen in the service industry. A lot of drinking and a lot of screwing. Married women blowing busboys. Me and the manager from Dallas. Holed up in Bally’s with the hostess with the mostest. I bounced lightly through the years as if I were talking about somebody else.
“You’re a horrible liar, Romero. Really, how many? More than ten? Fifteen?”
“Who keeps track?” I asked remembering the countless times men told me how many women they handled.
The truth was that I didn’t know the actual number, but I had an idea of how many. I’d read somewhere that men averaged around seven sexual partners in their lifetime. Women have four. I beat the average. Easily. I explained that sure, the numbers could be considered slutty, but the truth was that I didn’t whore around. I never chased women. I never went to a bar or a party and picked up on women. Never asked for a phone number. I just found myself in what I thought were normal situations. Play in a band? Some girls like musicians. College? Girls go to college. Work? The workplace has always been ground zero for fucking. Always.
“Jesus, I bet you slept with everybody,” Mia said smiling. “Probably even my sister. She’s a whore. At least she used to be.”
“I didn’t screw your sister. But in junior high Becky gave me a blow job.”
“Oh my god.”
At the time of this conversation, I’d been single for around a year. Had gone out on a handful of dates, messed around a bit, but nothing serious. I wasn’t in the mood to get into another relationship. Didn’t need the extra maintenance. So I ran with the boys for a while. A nasty pack of men with addiction and commitment issues. Most of us had a divorce in our pocket. Some of us had two. Being single at forty was a lot different than being single at twenty-five. The mood was different. It was sharp and aggressive and full of agenda. I hated it. But since I wasn’t looking to get laid or find the next Mrs. Romero it didn’t mean much to me. So I hugged up to the bar like I did in my twenties and lost my mind.
The biggest slut of the bunch was Marty. He taught English with me, was a big Richard Brautigan fan. Rumor was, he slept with a couple of teachers on campus and even banged Sylvia the sultry Mexican secretary who worked at the district office. The funny thing about Marty was that despite the fact that he was sinking his dick all over town what he really wanted was a family. He wanted a wife. He wanted some kids. So he made himself constantly available. He went to parties and functions he had no interest in. He went places where women went. He went cyber and joined a couple of dating websites. He even bumped up his church attendance. One of those “Jesus light” churches. Gone was the doom and gloom, the hell fire talk, and in was a rock band and a chubby preacher in faded jeans and spiked hair.
Mia, on the other hand, worked with a sea of women. A whole building full of them, huffing and puffing and stomping around. The parties she took me to were packed with women drinking wine, eating guacamole dip, and man bashing. You know how it goes: Men suck. They’ll always suck. They don’t step up. Limp dick. At one of the parties, I met Mia’s best friend Lisa. Lisa was fun. Beautiful face. Big blue eyes. Lush. And she was a slut. She’d been married a couple of times. Once to some restaurant manager with a lazy eye and then to some fireman who did a piss-poor job eating her out. So, Lisa was looking for the next. She networked. She dated constantly. She chewed through men.
“She’s a machine,” Mia said.
“Marty,” I said. “Those two pigs are perfect for each other.”
Lisa was having her annual Cinco de Mayo party. Pulled out all the stops. Mexican shit everywhere. Ponchos draped over chairs. Sombreros in all sizes and colors thrown around. Her famous chicken enchiladas and bottles of Cabo Wabo. Lisa was a Hagar fan. Loved all that goofy I Can’t Drive 55 bullshit.
Mia and I drove over together. Along the way, we picked up Marty. He’d gone on a date earlier in the evening with some woman he’d met at church. When he got into the car I gave him the how’d-it-go look. He shook his head. I guess she was nice, just moved to California from Vegas. Didn’t gamble. Didn’t have much to say about literature. Didn’t like football. Didn’t drink. Was Jesus crazy. She told him over some dried out chow mein that in her lifetime Jesus was going to return. That she felt there was a final battle going on in the heavens. She told him she had visions. There wasn’t a second date.
Lisa answered the door wearing a red sombrero and her face dropped like a rock when she saw Marty. We went straight to the kitchen and made some drinks. The place was packed, and decorated like a Mexican restaurant. There was even a band tuning up on the patio. After we made the rounds, Marty pulled me aside and gave me the goods: Two years earlier, he and Lisa had met at a mutual friend’s cabin in Big Bear. It was real simple. They got drunk, started talking fuck talk, got a blanket from his car, and banged under some fragrant pine trees. One shot deal. They never saw each other after that. Until now. But Lisa and Marty were pros. They didn’t let a little bang get in the way of a good time. We ended up getting good and drunk that night, all of us, and in the weeks to come we even went on a couple of road trips together. One being a weekend in Vegas where Mia hit a royal flush and walked in on Lisa riding Marty. On our way back to California we stopped off in Baker for a bite to eat. Lisa and Marty were passed out in the backseat, Marty’s hand between her legs. One of Lisa’s fake tits found its way out of her tank top and was taking in the hot desert sun.
“All my friends are whores,” Mia said. “Even you, Reno.”