Hail ! Hail ! Lock and Load.
We were gonna go.
I was gonna go.
I’m sitting at the bar. I’m feelin’ too lean. Too many rounds of Jack and Coke. The kind I know are gonna cut a wide path through the following morning and a narrow bead on the number of steps from one room to another but that don’t matter now because we are gonna go.
I caught sight of her sailing in, corner of my eye and thought to leave. That would have been the wise decision so I sat there.
She was with her friends. In other places they have names for them, “townies,” things like that. They grew up here. So did I, I guess. They never got out. Never went anywhere else. Never did anything other than this. Into their thirties still traveling in packs of “‘We still own this place” and “What are you lookin at?”
Her boyfriend went for me in high school. Everyone’s boyfriend went for me in high school, the girl with no curfew. I left. Ten years later, I came back. Because of one guy. Or another. Ten years later. Notty Jinco left my apartment that morning, pulling on his flannel, carrying his shoes. Cigarette hanging on his bottom lip, he was half laughing at me, half calling me a bitch. Telling me I shoulda stayed gone and didn’t I know how many two bit hack photographers there were in the world? Telling me I was gonna be second shift at the glass plant until I died.
Really I didn’t blink. Just don’t let the door hit you on the way out Notty, two bit mechanic, jack of all trades, master of none, know it all done nothing, see you never and where are my smokes? He never knew me. He never knew much.
So I’m still sitting at the bar, licking my wounds. Reg Arlin is helping me. He’s been helping me for as long as I’ve known him. He’s pretty much had all the help I’ve ever needed tucked into his jeans, one way or another. Reg always had me and if I hadn’t left when I did we … but that don’t matter now either. We’ve been playing pool all night, loading the juke with honky-tonk and various bands that sound vaguely like Lynyrd Skynyrd or Sabbath. Pissing off some of the old timers and fisherman as we occasionally engage in groping PDA’s. Reg looks like Gregg Allman, with caramel tinted brown hair that hangs razor straight to his waist so when I’m with him I don’t much care about too much of anything else that’s going on or what anyone thinks of it.
I’m sucking down those Jack and Cokes, elbows on the bar, feeling the belt buckle that I stole from Notty in high school cut into my waist and it feels good because I remember how I got it off him. Sherilyn Nichols, all boobs and confidence, the kind that comes from having upstanding parents in a town like this and only ever getting her ass kicked by me, repeatedly, something she remedied, once. So while we weren’t technically even, and never would be, I felt one down on the scoreboard, but mostly I just wished she hadn’t shown up because Reg and I were having a good time. There wasn’t a room big enough anywhere for me, Sherilyn, and her cleavage.
I sat there thinking how old we all were, how stupid it all was. How much I really didn’t want to do any of it anymore. I sat there thinking about broken beer bottles, broken ribs and worse, arguing with Jimmy Thompson when he showed up flashing his badge, all of us trying to talk him out of arresting any of us, again.
I looked at Reg.
“Leave with me.”
“Well, you know, I’ve a check due to Evva next week and there’s the guys at the shop. Darcy, ya know I love ya but you gotta quit this, this restless soul shit, ya know? I mean damn it, you‘re like a guy with this shit sometimes. ”
“Ah Reg, Notty broke my heart this morning and you tonight. I just know what I want, it was always you.”
He didn’t say anything. I drained the seven ounce rocks glass in front of me, we made them at the plant. There was a moment, that moment when everything could have been different. I was gonna put my coat on, walk out of The Lightning Rod, right past Sherilyn and Notty, go pack a bag and never look back. Leave. I’d done it before.
The juke took that pause as it clicked over another record, it was an old jukebox, retro-fitted so it played new tracks but still pretended it was loading forty-fives. The beginning strains of ‘”Kick Start My Heart.” I had her in my sites.
Sherilyn called out from the other side of the bar, “Hey BITCH!”
Reg said, “No! I’ll go with you.”
I was already getting up. Hadn’t heard him then. Would remember after.
‘”Bail me out if they throw me in.”
We are gonna go.