SHORT STORY | INDEPENDENCE DAY
"Love is just a game" she said,
and I said,
"You mean like badminton with
badminton birdies and racquets and
Gatsby summer afternoons
on the lawn?"
"No" she said, "more like a
like bull fighting where
hearts get mangled and
bodies get trampled in the
streets of Pamplona and
OFF WITH HIS EARS!"
and I thought,
THAT kind of game.
On the plane ride home, my sleepy little, reality challenged, smack happy, sexually mysterious, runaway girlfriend Jade, who for some mysterious reason had agreed to come back to America with me, lay like a death wish against my shoulder. Gone to the world, her skin on fire, the scent of her seeped like ocean foam across my face. Even when a Canadian goose took a swan dive into our right jet engine, she never blinked. For the last hour, indecision had been jerking my brain back and forth like a yo-yo, and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out whether I should attempt to slip her body out the exit door without anyone seeing me, or asking her to marry me. Those two options were pretty much a wash so I ordered up three bourbon and sevens instead, tuned in my headset to The London Philharmonic's Lullabies to Commit Suicide By, and nearly cracked up right there over the Atlantic, thinking that I should have paid more attention to that old cliché, "Be careful what you wish for."
Once we got back to New York and hailed a cab for our hotel, all I could think about was breaking out of our cheap little putrid yellow prison, getting plastic surgery, running for President of Panama, marrying a flamenco dancer, or maybe selling llama rides to tourists in Peru, anything but stay with Jade. But I knew it was too late for that when I noticed that our taxi driver, who looked suspiciously like an Iranian Robert DeNiro, said, in faltering, half baked English: "Wanta go do something you ain't never done before?" For Jade that was simply not possible, but she replied anyway:
"You bet your cute little Persian ass I do, Ismail. Let's ride!"
Having never heard her giggle all electric and soprano like that before, I smelled a rat. She had to know this guy. So, out of a twisted sense of morbid curiosity, I put away my chisel and file for a minute and decided to follow along like the brain dead, love sick zombie she'd turned me into.
Before I knew it, Chinatown had literally swallowed us whole. Spastic chickens flapped up against the cab door, steam hissed at the tires, street lights dimmed and vibrated, and the darkness came down like black volcanic dandruff, making me nervous as a cat on a leash, but not as nervous as looking at the disturbingly gleeful look in Jade's eyes as we slid silently out of the cab into a black back alley through a rusted iron door and came nose to nose with the most beautiful, ninety pound, Chinese, drug addicted, whore house Madam I'd ever seen. standing there like an anorexic Buddha, she held an opium pipe in one hand and spit tobacco juice into a porcelain cup that she held in the other. "Me name Ying," she said, "you two yuppie shit heads gonna just stand there or smoke"?
When I woke up still stoned the next morning in a place that looked vaguely like a roller coaster ride through the mountains of Tibet in the French version of Disneyland, I could have sworn that I heard the gates of Hell slam shut behind me. The early morning New York skyline had been burned to a golden sheen, but greasy black smoke was choking the breath out of me, and I was in no mood for one more damned Sunnybrook Farm, beautiful morning. As I lay dying of that hauling your shuddering, bloody corpse over red hot coals nude kind of thirst, I suddenly realized that Ying, her fresh, off-the-boat, red hot Mercedes XL Coup, and Jade, had all gone missing.
With coffee, doughnuts, and premeditated first degree murder on my mind, I stumbled through Chinatown looking for them, when who should I see riding a boy's blue bicycle, wearing a see through, pink mini skirt, with Ying crammed into a 1950's prom dress cut off at the knees holding on for dear life behind her but Jade, singing a mile off key at the top of her lungs, "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head". Wobbling unsteadily, she pulled up beside me and cheerfully chirped:
"Mornin', bubba, how they hangin?"
Later that day, after checking out of our hotel, I dropped Jade off at the apartment of one of her derelict junkie friends in the East Village and stuffed everything else in life I gave a damn about in my suitcase. Then I attacked the Holland Tunnel in my cheap ass rented excuse for a car and drove so fast trying to get out of New York in one piece that I couldn't even tell what the hell they were talking about with that "objects may look larger than they appear" in my rear view mirror bullshit. They all looked the same to me, and I couldn't look back even if I'd wanted to, not with the rain and leaves sticking like flypaper to the windshield and the broken wipers slapping uselessly at hail stones as big as suicidal buffaloes, hurling themselves against the glass. I knew I'd never shake Jade's intoxicating scent, but if I stayed with her, all my sane choices would evaporate in the time it took her to change her mind about anything even remotely important. Yet, there I was in my usual paranoid state, drying up dead inside without her, all my escape routes blocked, bears in the air, Smokies on the ground, and snipers lurking behind every tree. Then as the exquisite madness of it all came tumbling back home to roost, it hit me. When I had looked at my daytime calendar that morning, someone had neatly cut out July 4th with a razor blade. Independence Day was missing.