I didn't really do much of anything. All I did was go out with one man, and then realize I was actually in love with another. Men do this all the time. And when they do, us women, the painted harlots that we are, simply thrash around our rooms for a bit, maybe burn some of their stuff, cut their faces out of pictures. Stupid, childish things. I'm not going to lie. But then we suck it up and move on. Make fun of us all you want but it sure beats letting your country get invaded by Mongolians or something.
I guess I'm getting way ahead of myself here. I guess I should go back to the beginning. Which, when you get right down to it, is probably in the back seat of a red convertible somewhere around what was once Minnesota.
all it was a great big world
"Are you uh...you enjoying yourself?" The boy looked up at me with such scared, eager eyes, how could I possibly say no? How could I possibly tell him that his awkward bumbling was about as erotic or exciting as well...an incompetent 17 year old boy groping blindly towards third base in the back of his Dad's car? You can't. So instead I said, "Oooooh Yeeeessssss!"
I laid my head back, both so that I looked like I was enjoying myself and so that he couldn't see me roll my eyes. Jesus, what time was it? I should have been home an hour ago. I better hurry up and come then. I completed my performance and the child seemed appeased. Funny. I always saw them as men when I first met them. Big strapping men. Somewhere between dinner and this moment they always regressed back to kids. Not that I was getting on the in the world. I was only 17 myself. But when I was with them, I felt ancient.
By the time I was 20, I was living in a cheap studio on Mars and quite sick of children. I know that seems cold. But I just wanted more out of my life than six packs and the back seat. I guess all girls do. The thing is, when you're a guy, this restlessness makes you a spirited dreamer. When you're a chick who happens to look decent in leather pants, you're a clichˇ. Just another pretty face who's gonna try to make it in the movies. Wonder how many directors she'll bang by this time next year?
I know what you're thinking. Oh, poor little pretty girl. How horrible it must be to look attractive. And I would agree with you. I certainly don't lament my looks, which were bestowed upon me by a haphazard combination of DNA, by the way. But like everyone else in the world, there are snap judgments people make about you based on your appearance. You have yours. I have mine.
People, for instance, automatically assume that I am stupid. I will admit, I have this glazed look in my eyes pretty frequently, but that's mostly because I am probably not listening to a damn word your saying. This doesn't make me stupid. It just makes me bored. And who wouldn't be bored? There are only about 20 pick up lines in the known universe and I have heard them all repeatedly. Just once I'd like a guy to come up to me and say, "I would like to fuck you."
I wouldn't let him, but I'd appreciate the honesty. And at least I can get the inevitable rejection out of the way without having to banter incessantly about bullshit for twenty minutes. Again, I sound cold by I guess bitterness is a natural side effect of repetition.
And then came Vicious. First of all, his name was Vicious. Now, I knew that was not his real name. But he introduced himself to me in that way with a straight face. In fact, I didn't even quite catch on that this was his name at first. He simply turned to me and said, "I'm Vicious."
Well, this was a new one, so at least he had my attention. "Yeah, and I'm Trouble," I shot back. That was in my clever stage.
"Do you have a car?" he asked me. Oh God. This was it. This was finally the one kid who was just gonna straight out ask me to fuck him. I was beside myself. "Uh, yes," I said. "Yes, I do."
"Go out and start it. In a few minutes, myself and a friend of mine are going to run out of this bar. We're going to hop into your vehicle and you are going to drive."
"Where we tell you."
"Ok. And I'm going to tell you to fuck off."
Vicious suddenly peeled back his overcoat to reveal a gun. Oh shit. A thousand times shit. But then he did something totally unexpected. He handed it to me.
"Uh...." I said. What else do you say to that, really?
"This is collateral. I can assure you that our business here has nothing to do with sex. If you find evidence to the contrary, feel free to shoot me."
"What is our business here?" I asked, voice shaking as I stuffed the gun in my own jacket.
"Your business is to drive my partner and I away from this place as fast as you can at an opportune moment. I can assure you it is in your best interest if you remain unaware of my business."
"And what do I get out of this? Besides the opportunity to shoot you."
Vicious lifted up his jacket again to reveal a very, very, very large wad of cash. Well, Ok. That was something.
"Why me?" I asked him.
"Simple. You looked like a person who has stopped giving a shit. We can always spot our own. So do we have business or do we have business?"
"I take it I don't have much choice either way?"
"Would it matter if you did?" No, I decided in that moment.
No, it wouldn't. In fact, I pretty much knew from the minute this guy opened his mouth that I was in. I had to be in. What else was I going to be? Sloshed by the bar again?
"Then go now."
I got up easily from the bar and strolled over to my car. A convertible. I was always partial to convertibles, in spite of it all. I started it up and putted a bit nervously to the entrance of the bar. I waited a few minutes, and then I heard a lot of screaming, followed by two men running towards me. The first one was Vicious. The two of them leapt in and I took off, my heart pounding faster and harder than it ever had previously in a convertible. I heard some people yelling behind us, and my new partners took a few shots. I slammed harder on the gas and peeled frantically out of the parking lot, cutting off about three people as I skidded across four lanes of traffic. "Where am I going, where am I going?!?" I shouted.
I squealed into a side street where I was almost immediately told to go right. I did so, narrowly avoiding an opossum.
"There's going to be a small clearing to your right again. It looks like a driveway but it goes all the way through. That's gonna take you out to 91. Then you drive as hard as you can until you see Exit 37 and swerve to hit it. Understand?"
I responded by taking a sharp right into the clearing. My eyes narrowed as I approached the freeway, getting ready to merge like no human had merged before. I slammed again on the gas and practically flew out onto the road, cutting over into the left lane immediately, and invoking the wrath of a few truckers. I flipped one the bird on an impulse as I veered back right. I sailed in and out of traffic, dangerously, effortlessly. I never knew I could drive like that but then I never needed to. I didn't really need to now. I could have shot them both. But somehow, this seemed like the better option. I saw the exit and turned into it as Vicious told me to take it down a notch. "Casual," he said. I did what he told me and drove slowly up in front of a diner and parked. Parked like it was nothing. Like we were just here for the biscuits and gravy. The two men quickly got out of the car and indicated for me to follow. They ushered me silently into a limo, a limo, where we were able to actually look at each other for the first time. The other guy, the partner, well...he just looked like he was born in the back of his Dad's car. But Vicious...there was nothing even remotely eager in his eyes. But yet they weren't emotionless either. They were just guarded. It had been a long time since I had looked into a man's eyes and not known immediately what they were thinking. The limo took off quickly in the opposite direction we just came.
"That was some good driving," the partner said lazily. "You do this often?"
"I think the real question is," Vicious cut me off before I could answer. "Will you do this often?" He handed me the cash. All of it. I had it in my hands.
"Um... I would need another car," I pointed out the obvious, still inspecting my recent monetary gain.
"You'll always have another car," Vicious replied. Was he smiling? He sounded like he was but it showed nowhere on his face.
"Then I guess...I'm in." I felt distant from my own words, as if someone else was speaking them. I'm in? Just like that? What was wrong with me?
"Excellent," the partner smiled. "So what's your name, anyway? I feel like I should call you something when I'm barking directions at you from the back seat."
"Trouble," Vicious replied for me. "The lady has introduced herself to me as Trouble."
The partner seemed gently amused. "Well, Trouble, I'm Spike. Welcome to the Stupid Name Club. I'm not only the President, I'm also a client."
God, he really was a frat boy with a gun. Virtually interchangeable with every guy in every bar I've ever been to. Vicious shot me an almost apologetic glance as they dropped me off in front of my house. "How did you..." I sputtered.
"Don't worry about it," Vicious said.
And you know what? I didn't.
* * *
Instead I plopped down on my bed and began to weigh out the consequences of my several options. Despite the possibility that I may of come off love struck and na•ve earlier, lost in his eyes etc, I was really anything but. The man did intrigue me, yes. And yes, it had been a long time before any man had ever honestly peaked my interest beyond a serviceable roll in the hay. But those were way down on the list of pros, if they even made the list at all.
I had no delusions about what went on that night. Whatever happened in that bar was very illegal and probably very violent. For all intents and purposes I had aided and abetted a couple of murderers. It would be lovely to assume that they were the charming, rollicking good time murderers from the old movies with Redford and Newman, robbing from the rich to give to the poor, making their own justice in an unjust society. It would have been so easy in that moment to launch into an I Love America speech and totally justify what I was seriously considering doing. I could have made it all seem like a grand adventure.
But I knew better. Even then, I knew better. I could chalk this night up to adrenaline but that was long past now. If I was going to accept this offer I had to accept everything about it, including the fact that it would make me a bad person.
The real question was if I really wanted to be a good person. Or the realer question, if realer is a world, was am I a bad person already? I had a family once but we were mutually bored with each other, entirely exhausted with what little we had to offer. In the state formerly known as Minnesota, pretty blond girls were either Miss America or pregnant by the time they were 17. I was neither, and so my family did not know what to make of me. Nor, did I have some driving ambition to be successful.
I hated school with a blinding passion and could not fathom four more years. And even if I could get through it, it would only land me on the other side of a degree with no direction and a mountain of debt. I had no interest in business mergers or real estate. I never wanted to be a nurse because I would fear the responsibility and I lacked the nimbleness of speech to be a lawyer. I wasn't terribly good with children, even if I didn't hate them. Same with pets.
I never volunteered and I never gave the homeless guys a nickel. I had never been in love, nor did I imagine, had I ever been loved. So what real morals did I have? Sure, I had a basic sense of what was right and wrong, but there was honor among thieves as well, and that did not make them saints. At the moment, I was not righteous nor was I evil. I simply existed in some perpetual limbo, and it was time for me to pick a side.
And so I chose. I knowingly chose evil, not because of some young girl's confusion or because of the blue of a man's eyes. I chose evil because it seemed to excite me more than anything had previously, because it seemed I would be of more use to the cause, and most of all, because evil wanted me. Good never made such an offer. Maybe that was the point of good to begin with, that it didn't make you offers. You had to go after it.
Frankly, I didn't have the motivation. And so the next night I answered my phone and was greeted by a synthesized voice who told me a green Buick would be waiting for me in the parking lot of Connors Diner. And I went.