It was a blurred night of drunken insanity, a Thursday nearly year ago at the end of March. The air was no longer frigid, and the new spring rain had momentarily subsided, but the streets were still wet and slicker than a seal. That’s where I met him—on the street. Moments before the sight of his uniquely fair face galloped into my eyes, I’d been inside of a car with a different guy---a tall guy with long brown hair, reddish almonds for eyes, and rough, unshaven skin. As the car began to accelerate further away from civilization, it hit me like a train wreck that I had no idea who I was in the car with; I only knew I was slurred and incapable of making coherent choices. Seconds after coming to this drastic wisdom that I should not make any more choices, I made the moronic choice to leap from the moving vehicle. I landed on my feet and didn’t hesitate to start sprinting. Startled in astonishment, the man driving hit the brakes, threw the tan truck in park, and flung open his door to holler at me.
“Hey! Where are you going?” He stretched his neck above the top of the cab and bellowed into the roadway. “Are you okay? Did I do something wrong?” His voiced drizzled with nervousness, probably a fear that I was fleeing to find the nearest cop and report his ass for the weed he was trying to sell me. I wasn’t. I just knew I couldn’t be alone in a strange car with a strange man and leave my friends. I couldn’t see my friends. I only contained an invisible sense that it was dumb to leave the group to go smoke grass with someone I’d known for all of 10 minutes.
“I just have to go find my friends! I really shouldn’t have left them! You didn’t do anything wrong.” I assured him as I continued to run further away from the humming pickup. I didn’t look back. As the truck slowly pulled away and turned down a dim lit alley, I was left to wander the humid streets of Riverside alone. Not a bad neighborhood. The artsy district, smoke shops and tattoo parlors were lining the path before me so it wasn’t a hideously unsafe or threatening stretch of land to stroll. Still, I was alone and somewhat stunned by myself.
Not for very long though. Eventually I staggered up the sidewalk to one of those indoor/outdoor bars. My red hair that had formerly been neatly up swept, was quickly succumbing to the tempest weather, becoming more stringy and messy by the moment. I began trying to finger comb the mindless tendrils away from my face. Peeking beyond a few sloppy strands, my hazel eyes drifted upward. Unexpectedly I locked pupils with a blond haired boy who was seated under a canopy of tiny Irish flags. My eyes were the only body part that stopped spinning. I didn’t know if I should gasp like a girl or continue engaging in the other loathsome, girlish mannerism of finger tugging my hair as though I hadn’t noticed him. It was too late. He saw me looking back. Through the opaque stupor, I wondered sensibly if I’d ever seen a guy stare at me in quite the same hounding way. He watched me like he wasn’t the least bit intimidated, like he knew me even. With unrestrained lust streaking out of his blue eyes, I was certain he knew the shape of my body well enough to know me for now. The glance had a near paralyzing effect, it was one of those haunting glances that never seems to wash from the mind, no matter how much one attempts to bleach or sanitize the smoke stained memories. I suppose I had little business attempting to remember anything from this particular evening, given how sleazily intoxicated I was. But there he was, contently eyeing me and on the borderline of breaking a smile. Portions of the night in question were murky, but the way this boy looked at me remains amplified to a divine level of clarity. The look would linger with me for months.
My breathing gradually steadied after the breathless dash from the truck. I managed to stay still, except for inexplicably rubbing my palms together like I was trying to generate some kind of energy besides the overpowering energy beaming out of the eyes of the boy. I didn’t care how my hair looked anymore, but I wasn’t thrilled that I was wearing my thick-rimmed librarian glasses. Those damn glasses are likely the most potent kind of guy repellent a girl can wear. They distort my entire face into some kind of sour fruit. Men either have a twisted fantasy about a redheaded dork in glasses or they simply dismiss her as a sexless prude. Nothing could be further from the truth. The guy seated before me didn’t seem to be dismissing me at all, his damningly persistent flirty eyes were telling enough. I could have said a million things to him, but there was only a single ice breaking question singing in my bones. I scooted over to him, bent down slightly so my eyes were aligned with his and whispered, “Do you know who you look like?”
His eyes finally unlocked from mine and scoured back into his head as he cried, “I don’t look like Layne!”
I laughed a little and then plopped down on his lap without so much as an inviting gesture from his pale, skinny arms. Obsequiously impressed he’d either read my mind or heard the Staley comparison before, I tossed an arm around his shoulder and put my other spare hand on his chest as through we were young lovers who’d been torn apart by some kind of natural disaster.
“But it’s a good thing you look like Layne! I love Layne. He’s unbelievably sexy!” I rambled blithely. I gave him the condensed rundown of my work with the troubled and unsettlingly disturbed deceased. I didn’t have to say anything to him really. I had no reason to initiate a conversation. He’d been the one eye fucking me to fantasy hell. I could have just as easily wandered inside and been a snotty bitch to his existence. But I wanted an excuse to talk to him, so badly I wanted a reason to fill his stare with some kind of story.
So I talked on, explaining my forwardness, apologizing for my state of mind, and soaking up his telluric, fairytale-like smile all the while. He simmered up to me and almost began to display a slight shyness as I continued to shift around on his bony legs and yanked at his hair like it was a good luck charm I wanted to tuck in my pocket. I dug into my purse, pulled out my camera, and began snapping candid pictures of my new friend. Half of my head made it into a few of the photos, but I was more concerned with getting a clear image of his wildly different face. It was in perfect proportion. He had nimble cheek bones and this cool jut of a nose that was rather alluring in its own individuality. He was laughing the entire time, his entire face lit up like the moon when he smiled, he was so happy. I’d had a pretty insane night already, but this boy just sent it spilling over the top of genial insanity.
Because I hadn’t gone to hunt down my friends, they managed to track me down. Never fails. I finally connect with fun in the form of a fine man and someone has to interfere and cut the enjoyment short. I’m not sure if they followed the stench of beer or the generic perfume or the sound of my sensational hysterics, but they finally located me, still carelessly engrossed in the blond guy’s laughter, and now nearly hog tied by my hair to his warm lap.
“Jessi it’s time to leave, we have to go.” Kelly informed me as she marched up. She always sounds so motherly, like I don’t have a choice but to obey. I suppose I’m obligated to follow her instruction because she’s my most responsible friend. She was the designated driver so I didn’t have much say in the matter. I didn’t want to leave the blond though. I milked Kelly’s patience for another hard five minutes. She shot me expressions of annoyance and irritation the whole time. I didn’t care. The blond was like some kind of baby bird I’d nearly tripped on. He didn’t know why he’d gotten knocked from the nest or why he was still learning how to fly, he just kept hopping around with a drunkard chick on his lap like he was determined to take off eventually. I pet him one last time, grabbed at his chin and teasingly shook his face a few times. Then I sighed in sudden closure, clumsily stood up, and waved a forced goodbye as Kelly grabbed my hand and dragged me away to the car. I was gone as spontaneously as I had appeared.
Once we were climbing up the bridge and heading towards the south side of town, it occurred to me I might have neglected to offer the blond guy my phone number. The imbroglio mixture of power in the alcohol and his blinding charms must have murdered my mental checklist of proper dating procedure. (Like that list has ever worked for me, I should just burn it and chant “death to dating” anyway.) It all happened so fast, I was way more focused on playing with him in the moment than scheming to see him naked and gagged in the future. All in kinky time.
I woke up the following morning with a screaming screwdriver of a headache. The blond was the first person I thought of. My next thought was that I had no way of ever communicating with him again. This made me immediately sad, bloated with regret, and choking on the fucking “what ifs?” What if what Jessica? What if you had given him your number and he’d become just another dude to try to sleep with you only to lose interest and vanish from your life two months later? I thought harshly, but reasonably. That thought was more of a probable certainty than the conclusive uncertainty over whether I would ever see him again.
As the months flew by, I began to believe the mystery blond was nothing more than a tipsy mirage. Maybe life is just a tipsy mirage.