Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"Winter Break"

            Turn on the radio. Vince’s hands are knobby. It’s Lana Del Rey’s low voice all scratched and distorted because Live105.3 is static out here for some reason. The car’s going, some ’08 Mazda 3—white. I’m sure it’s not his car. There’s what looks like a baby boar tusk hanging from the rearview. The car we drove in two months ago was green—the tusk was there too. At least he’s laughing; I can never tell his mood especially over voicemails.
            Nearing nine o’ clock, we pull up to Skid’s on the edge of Emeryville, up Hollis near Adeline. He always opted for this place, with its dimming blue twinkle-lights strung around the wide windows, its steel door, its mismatched tables of odd white shades. Mike’s still working behind the counter, nodding to us with that gap-tooth smile and always playing The Black Keys on repeat. No matter, we got a seat and Vince declares the drinks are on him.
            “One thing,” he says sternly to me with those browns eyes I know too well by now.
            “You’ve got to try spinal fluid with me!”
            “Yeah right—” but Mike is already approaching with the two murky brandy glasses full of what could have been velvet root beer float. Vince—or Mike, whenever I had the time to drive out there and give him a hello—never gave in when asked about what the hell was in that thing besides the Grey Goose vodka.
            Catching up gets easier as the spinal fluid goes down. Lab work, fake IDs, the situation he was in up in Portland (like how he could put up with the snow and how good really were the donuts), selling my brother’s comics to a place on Divisadero in the City for Christmas shopping money—I just really can’t wait ‘til he mentions Carolina. She was why I had to show up. Had to hear it for myself.
            “Is she the one?” I say to him. He takes a breath before downing the rest of my fluid, then he bursts out that laughter that’s always been reassuring to me. Just then someone comes in from the street and starts shouting that a car’s alarm’s going off.
            The front passenger’s window’s been smashed with a wrench they threw onto the dashboard, and the locks on the front doors got jammed in the attempt. They found nothing of interest—except the boar tusk of course. Mike’s inside calling the police and a tow truck, but me and Vince take it easy on the cold black curve. He gets up to examine the car again. “This sure is one fuck-up!” he starts laughing again. “Another reason I can’t wait to get back to Portland.” He’s running his hands through his blonde curls roughly; I know he’s quite upset.
            I go and kiss the hood of the car, leaving my neon lipstick there into a perfect impression. “Alice!” Vince exclaims, looking with satisfaction, “Car looks just as good now.”
            “I know how to fix things,” I say mockingly with a dumb smile. Bet you Carolina would never do that. He doesn’t get to answer, instead he gets out that ’droid phone. “I’m going to call Carolina.” I knew it was her car.
            She’s the one.

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