I was sitting on a patio watching a lightning storm over the mountains that linger at every edge of the valley when a couple of girls walked up to my table.
“Are you having a good night?” the tall one screamed into my ear, startling me into spilling a little beer on my pants. There was an athletic grey rabbit tattooed on her neck.
“No!” I screamed in return.
“Why not?” she screamed back, disappointed.
“Cause it’s hot as hell and everyone in this town’s brains seem to have melted!”
She tilted her head sideways like a puppy in an earnest attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible. Now she spoke in a normal tone. “Do you ever just wanna dance like a hippie?”
The two girls sat down in a chair at my table, a table at which I had been happily sitting alone watching my lightning storm, and started kissing loudly. This was not a fantasy moment. This was the way that genie’s get revenge when people rub their bottles and request fantasy moments. All the elements were there, the promise legalistically fulfilled, but wrapped in something unsavory, like a birthday cake with kelp frosting.
I sipped my beer and tried not to listen to the sound of lips smacking together. Out of the corner of a kiss the tall one squeezed, “What’s your name?”
“Ryan,” I answered honestly for some reason.
“I like your flannel.”
I was wearing a T-shirt.
“Are you having a great night?” She was screaming again. This time at a table full of men next to mine.
The men at the table shifted awkwardly into positions from which they could avoid eye contact. The girl from the upper portion of the lap-sitting arrangement took this as an invitation and moved to their table.
I was left with the shorter, spikier girl, who had as of yet not spoken.
“I love that girl,” she said. “She my baby mama.”
“I just can’t be with one woman though.” She looked to me for validation, which technically I could give because there was one woman I had been trying to be with for months, and I couldn’t because she wouldn’t let me. Not really a monogamy issue, but lexically I slid into the truth zone.
“Lots of me to go round, dig?”
I sized her up because it seemed like she was asking me to, but then I was immediately self-conscious about it and returned to nodding, which seems to be an ever effective conversation with oppressive strangers technique.
“We used to be married, but shit, you know women.” She shook her head.
I shook mine. I was unsure if I did in fact ‘know women’, but it seemed like a moment for commiseration.
I realized I was contributing too little to this conversation and that if I wasn’t going to leave I should think of something, anything, to say.
I should back up here and explain that I was on the lookout, and these two were fitting the bill. Earlier in the day I’d spoken to a good friend who works for a certain Jerry Springer and had mentioned that there was a not unsubstantial finders fee for tip-offs for good segment material. I sensed that I may be staring some ‘A’ material, as they say in the industry, right in the glow-in-the-dark nose ring. I had asked how exactly to approach people when angling to lure them to expose their not insignificant vulnerabilities to a national audience.
“Just offer them smokes. Everyone wants to be exploited and most of these Springer types smoke.” Spoken like a true prison guard.
I questioned his ‘everyone wants to be exploited’ logic, but I nonetheless forged ahead.
I opened the pack on the table and offered it towards the short spiky haired glow in the dark nose ring girl. She accepted. Hooked.
She lit the cigarette. “Plus, she’s back with Tommy. Bitch.”
I could already see them clawing at each other’s metal adorned appendages from either side of the formidable Tommy, upturned chairs surrounding them, whoever replaced Steve Wilkos sauntering slowly to the rescue.
“Tommy’s the bio-baby daddy, but he was just supposed to be the donor. Now they’re all like in love or some shit.” She pronounced that last stretch in a kindergartner’s oooo-that’s-icky voice. She took another smoke from the pack.
I was seeing a limited number of dollar signs flash in slow motion before my increasingly intoxicated eyes.
“So…” I went in gently. “…Have you ever been to New York?”
“Fuck New York.”
“Statue of liberty…” my confidence waned, voice trailed at the sight of her disgusted stare. “…Time Square, Brooklyn Dodgers…” Wait that’s not right. I’m not a baseball fan.
“Ain’t no liberty in this fascist shithole.”
I wasn’t sure if she meant America or Phoenix (the great Maricopa county sheriff Arpaio always makes for good local fascism references). I needed a new approach and I went with direct. “I got a buddy who works for Springer and I think they’d like your story. Free…”
The sound of the slap registered before the sting, which was quickly cooled by a Miller Lite applied as a projectile.
She was gone before I knew what happened.
She took the smokes.
It turns out not everybody wants to be exploited, but yes, most of these Springer types do like cigs.