I had grand plans for my Saturday night involving an art gallery somewhere and an appearance at Paul’s roommate John’s birthday party with an armload of beer. All of those plans were dashed to pieces when my favorite surly lady said that if I were to be in the north suburbs I should come see her new bed. At first I was resistant, but she said “we could go to Coon Rapids Grumpy’s! There will be billa billa!” For a brief, terrifying hopeful moment I thought that maybe she had actually read some of my blog. No.
Nonetheless, I figured that Coon Rapids Grumpy’s would have a crowd of people who wouldn’t be so Uptowny that I would be struck dumb by their majesty, and yet (because it is part of the Grumpy’s chain) would be cool enough to have gone to the Coop show at the other Grumpy’s, or at least know someone who did.
Let me tell you something: I can’t fucking stand the suburbs. Not the band called the Suburbs, for whom my dad theoretically ran sound at the Entry or some shit (there’s a chance that he lied or was delusional, but I dunno, I ran a mixing board with him sometimes when I would come from Iowa to visit once or twice a year, I mean, that’s how cool he was — we’d go to concerts and I’d drink pop and be cute for the ladies, but by the time I turned nine he switched to running witha sober crowd and those are some broken folks, but I’m getting way far afield in this aside), but rather those outlying towns that lie next to the real cities in bed but never connect — just two adjacent bodies, with one under the blanket and the other shaking and trying not to cry too hard while pressing its forehead against the cold wall, trying to just get clear and understand what it even wants anymore. So I hate the suburbs, with their streets as wide as freeways and imaginary sidewalks. I can’t stand those bratty kids lurking in packs of three or four, shuffling through the night on an adventure to hang out behind the Gas-N-Sip on a Saturday night. The tight jeans and baseball caps, the malodorous dudes who make out with greasy women who pack themselves into their clothes with a pry bar and slip-joint pliers — all of that makes me feel queasy and tired.
I met up with Cake Woman and saw her new bedframe. Her king sized bed is now raised another foot or two off the floor by a chocolate sleigh. If I were to paint the rest of Cake Woman out of my mind and just see that bed I would never imagine her as a punk rock expatriate who escaped to a government job in the suburbs — she’d be a tidy art director from a large design firm, quiet with a beautiful shy smile and a tall boyfriend whose handshake is depressingly firm. The worst part is that the boyfriend would think that I was pretty cool and talk to me all night, never once noticing that his girlfriend’s lips were all that I could see whether my eyes were open or closed. I’d get one more invitation from them but I would never go because it would eat me up.
I was really stymied about the bed. I shook the footboard and it seemed a little loose, but I couldn’t bring myself to make all the jokes about breaking beds that were in my mind, even though Cake Woman was setting them up by talking about the extended warranty that she would be buying (example joke: does that cover damage from pony sex?) or how she was worried about all the noise it made when it moved (example joke: seriously, we should just try it out now. Turn off the lights so you don’t have to see my hideousness and we will stress test this fucker). I couldn’t make those jokes because there was an issue of a crush that I didn’t want to dig out. I was fine just pulling on the stalk, even though I knew that the taproot was deep, but I didn’t want to get out the shovel and dig. Cake Woman looked super cute in her black glasses.
We hastened to Grumpy’s where the beers were enormous and the people were unappealing. I had hoped for some wingmanery out of Cake Woman. I had hoped to peel a weak animal from the edge of the herd and run it to ground in a whirl of blood and dust. I had hoped to apply what little contrived charm that I possess to pull phone numbers from reasonably cute women and never call them. Instead I got potato skins, which was probably better. Two beers later, we returned to Cake Woman’s apartment. She took her second shower of the night (this wouldn’t have been necessary if we would have been in one of the Minneapolis Grumpys). I waited with baited breath for her to finish because she wouldn’t let me drink any beer until she came back. Finally she poured a double chocolate stout for the two of us, which I somehow managed to not inhale in that excessive manner to which I have grown accustomed. I reapplied my strict inhalation of beer policy for the next beers, because even though I had been debating just fucking off and going home, that chocolate stout was over my limit and I knew that I wasn’t going to be driving anywhere.
It was several beers later when I realised that my brain was not interested in just shutting down and Cake Woman was not interested in the level of comedy that I could provide. The machinery of my mind was a car accident, cartwheeling through the ditch at the side of the road. Debris shot out of an open rear window: I was overwhelmed with the need to not like her.
“Do you remember the time you slapped me?” I asked. I was referring to the Halloween party when I’d been seized by the very same desire under the same sort of mental crash. I found myself at a loss of words for an explanation.
“Oh yeah! That was super fun!” she exclaimed. She raised her hand. I took off my glasses. It was a lot easier not to try to explain anything.
In New York, my friend Volksport gave violent, punishing high fives. He would take a step or two back, wind up, run for it, plant a foot and smash the palm of his hand into mine with the sort of crack that normally announces to an otherwise unsinkable ship that it is having an “oh shit we don’t have enough life boats” kind of moment. Cake Woman slapped me on the face like that. I grinned. Two tylenol for the pain in my quadriceps (from biking, remember?) and a gallon or two of beer meant that I didn’t feel it. I slipped my glasses back on. She raised her other hand. I took my glasses off again. I was very glad that at the Halloween party I had given her the directive “open hand for friends, closed fist for enemies.” She slapped me again. Fire enveloped her eyes.
“Oh god, this is so awesome!” she said. My cheeks had pulled my face into a lockjaw grin. I started to reach for my glasses but stopped when I saw her right hand readying.
“Maybe this-” I started, but my head jerked to the right and the world blurred. A dull roar filled my ears. I put my glasses back on. Someone turned off the lights and told me that it was time to sleep.
I woke up to the sound of the bathroom in use. I was tired, but part of me wanted to jump off of the folded up futon couch straight into my pants and out the door. It took hour-long minutes to drag my carcass into a rough semblence of order. I had to get out, but I didn’t want to go. I had a muddy shovel in one hand and a limp plant in the other. The plant twisted hard in my hand, seeking the ground. Funny things may have been said, and we may have even watched a chunk of an episode of Home Movies. Eventually I was being gently kicked out. I walked out the door with empty hands but without saying anything. In the car I heard a dull roar instead of the music, and I didn’t want to sing along.