“Tell me about when you grew up.” I’m three drinks in, which is not nearly enough to justify why I’m even considering granting her request. She’s two hard drinks ahead of me, though, so I figure whatever I tell her will be wiped away in a haze of alcohol by tomorrow morning. I’m not the kind of guy that sits around reminiscing about his shitty childhood, but I’m kind of hoping that she’ll pick up on why this place gives me the creeps so bad, and maybe we can just go back to the hotel and crash.
I generally don’t mind playing hooky, but I don’t want to be in this nasty little burg any longer than absolutely necessary.
“I grew up in a place that looked a lot like this. Not much to it, really—it was a shitty little town, and I worked my ass off to get out of there as soon as possible. Everywhere I looked, man, it was nothing but desperation and failure.”
“I grew up in a rich neighborhood, did you know that?”
“I did, as a matter of fact.” One thing about chicks, if you spend any amount of time around them, you know all about ‘em…whether you want to or not. The easiest way to learn everything you ever wanted to know about a woman (and then some) is by just sitting there and staying quiet. It’s like they just don’t understand about silence. You know how nature has to fill a vacuum? That’s how women and silence are. Oh, it’s quiet? I better fill that silent moment with hundreds of words about my childhood, my life, what I had for lunch, what my friend said when I talked to her on the phone. Shit.
I’m generalizing, of course, but if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and never shuts the fuck up, it’s probably a female duck.
“Yeah,” she says, “You probably did—I talk a lot more than you.” I don’t say anything. “The thing is, Chris, you know just about everything about me, you know? I mean, you know about how old I was when I got married, you know about the problems in my life. I mean, for Pete’s sake, you’re one of the only people that knows I only slept with two guys before I got married!”
A couple of the guys at the bar turn around, and I shake my head at them in a “Man, I don’t know—women, huh?” gesture. They both sort of smile, and one tips his whiskey glass at me before knocking it back. I wonder what they think is going on. Maybe they think I brought this woman to a sleazy motel in hopes of getting a little action, and instead wound up spending all night listening to her talk about how much she loves her husband and what a great friend I am.
It doesn’t matter what they think, though. Drunks in a town full of drunks. Drunks and junkies, man. What a shithole. I realize that Jessica has stopped talking, and I realize that she’s waiting for me to respond. I have absolutely no idea what she has just asked me.
“I’m sorry, what?” I ask her.
“You weren’t listening to me at all,” she says.
“Got distracted, is all. I was listening.”
“This town, it’s distracting you a lot.” She takes a drink of her beer, tips the bottle in my direction, and tries to look wise.
“Whatever, babe. You ready to call it a night, yet?”
“You’re the only person I let call me babe, did you know that?”
“No, but I’m not too surprised. Not many people try, probably.”
“I don’t even let my husband call me that. So why do you get away with it?”
“Beats me—probably you just like me that much.”
“Bullshit. Being a sexist prick is like your natural state. What would seem horrible and tacky seems normal coming from you. You could probably get a feminist wet with your sexist talk.”
I cough out my beer, and notice that now three of the guys at the bar are looking our way, and both of the women are. The women are looking at me, sizing me up, maybe wondering how desperate I am. The guys, they’re just watching the drama. I glare at all of them, and they turn back to the bar and go back to their drinks.
“Let’s try to use our inside voices, Jessica, okay?”
“Look, I’m just saying, is all.”
“I know you are.”
“What was I saying?”
“Not much, really, but you were saying it very loudly, which always helps.”
“It really does, doesn’t it? It really…no, wait. No, it really doesn’t. So you grew up in a place like this. Did your father beat you?”
“Never knew him.”
“Huh. So what was it?”
“What was what?”
“Were you molested?”
“Why didn’t you ask if my mother beat me?”
“You automatically ask if my father beat me, but then when I tell you I didn’t have a father you skip to something else. Something else that a man could have done to me to make me so angry at places like this.”
“It was your mother?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
“I don’t know, I just…I don’t know.”
“Shit, Jessica. Don’t try this, okay? Don’t try to understand what I come from. You’re too sheltered, too innocent. You would never understand.” I’m pissed off all the sudden. I don’t know why, really. Maybe because of that attitude that only men can abuse, only men can do evil shit; maybe because that’s how she got away with it for so long.
“Your mom hit you?”
“Until I was old enough to stop her.”
“You hit her back?”
“You’re damn right I did. She was fucked out of her mind on speed, she tore into the house, throwing shit at me, screaming. I’m cowered in the corner, she’s kicking the hell out of me, and I suddenly realize that I’m bigger than she is. I stand up, and she gets two really good punches in—damn near knocked me out, I shit you not. I caught her with a right hook that knocked her ass over the table. I cleaned out her purse while she was unconscious on the kitchen floor, sold her drugs to the guy on the corner for half price, and caught a bus outta there.”
“You haven’t talked to her since then?’
“I don’t even think about her, not until I get into shithole towns like this.”
“Is that why you hate women, because of your mother?”
“I don’t hate women, babe. I’ll tell you the truth—I love every woman I’m with. And I’m not just saying that to be a dick about things. For that short time we’re together, I’m in love with each one of them, they are my everything.”
“On a physical level, though.”
“That’s all I got left, Jessica.”
“That’s not enough, Chris.”
“It’s enough—the rest is just silly bullshit.”
“How sad.” She’s crying. Twice in one day—chick’s really letting herself go around me, which is too bad. I’m hoping that it’s just because she’s been so freaked out by everything lately. We’re friends and all, but if she thinks that I’m the guy with a shoulder to cry on, she’s mistaken. And then I realize that she’s crying for me.
“What are you laughing about?”
“Because, babe, you actually feel bad for me. I thought you were just getting all weepy again. But you’re actually sad. For me.”
“Of course I am. You’re so sealed off from the world, you’re so alone, you’re s-”
“I have a great life, okay? I know that it’s hard for you to understand how incredibly awesome it is to live a life where you’re not constantly bogged down by silly emotional bullshit—what with you being a chick and all—but trust me: it’s the greatest.”
“No, I don’t believe that.”
“Of course you don’t. And you don’t have to. You can sit around and feel sorry for me, oh, poor Chris, he doesn’t feel, he’s got a heart of stone, whatever. I had a shitty childhood, I got over it. I don’t have emotional scars, I don’t have issues. What I have is the drive to make my life better by the day. What I have is the desire to live life to the fullest, to take advantage of every moment, and not worry about the goofy bullshit that everyone else feels is the emotional norm. What I got from my rotten childhood is the lesson that life is what you make of it. You want to worry about feelings and emotional repercussions or whatever Oprah-induced, chick-buzz-words you read in the check-out line this week? Fine, that’s your business. I have a life to live, and I want it to be the best it can be, you know?
“I have a job that I like, I have some good friends, and I have great sex with hot women all the time—not to prove anything, and not because I have some sort of evil vendetta, crazy woman-hater vengeance thing going on. But because it’s fun, it feels good, and I like it.”
“You aren’t lonely?”
“No, man. The women I know, they range from ditzy to genius, I always have someone to talk to about whatever’s on my mind, someone to do something with, whatever. I’ve got friends to hang out with, drink beer with, watch a game with, whatever. And I talk to you like, five out of seven days each week. If there’s anything depressing about my life, it’s that my best friend is the chick drama-junkie that I work with.”
“I’m not a drama-junkie.”
“You are so a drama-junkie.”
“I’m your best friend?”
“I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”
“What about when I told you that you looked like one of those soap-opera chicks? I thought that was pretty nice.”
“For a ladies man, you’re shit for compliments,” she says, smiling. She wipes away her tears absently.
“You’re really turning into a bawl-baby, Jessica.”
“And you’re really turning into more of an asshole.”
“Good, man—I’ve got a rep to think about.”
“You aren’t sad?”
“You don’t secretly wish for more?”
“Not at all.”
“You’re happy, Chris?”
“Every day is better than the one before it.”
“Don’t you worry about dying alone?”
“Honestly, I’m kind of looking forward to it.”
“You’re a weird guy.”
“You’re a weird chick. Can we get out of here, now?’
“Chris…I think he’s cheating on me.”