Augustus was drinking heavily when I found him at Midnight Poutine. But after I shared my Belgian beer he only spent 10 minutes updating me, and then ran off into the night, still steady on his feet. Read part one of this series here; part two here; part three here; and part 4 here. – Caveat
She unlocked the door to the RV she time-shares with her ex-husband at 46 minutes past midnight. She was laughing at something a friend said. She was just going to grab a coat she could wear over her costume, a silver space-alien get-up that exposed slightly less skin than a reputable bikini.
Instead, I stepped out from the dark and grabbed her shoulder.
She screamed. I waited. She turned, reaching for mace she’d have kept in her pockets if she’d been wearing pants, and then realized how defenseless she was. She raised up her fist, then she saw my face.
She took a deep breath. “Jesus! You scared me half-to-death!” Put her fist down.
I didn’t move. “Then we’re half way there.”
“What … what are you talking about?”
“Why’d you do it, Krista? Why’d you set me up?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
I shook my head. “You’re even more beautiful when you’re lying. But I’m here for the ugly truth.”
She looked at the door. “I’m going dancing with some people …”
“The music stopped when you handed me to them on a silver platter! It was you, Krista: you were the way they got to me. I couldn’t figure out why you brought me that sad sack of gray water at the time, but I thought it must be because his bike was a Hatori Hondo. But you don’t care about bikes: you don’t know a Schwinn from a Kettler, and one of them has three wheels. So why, out of all the sparkle ponies on this dust-swept desert would you bring me the one with two faces? Don’t tell me he fooled you: your instincts for people are too good. That’s why I let you be my gatekeeper. That’s why you were the only way to set me up.”
Her face went white. “It was a set-up? I didn’t know!”
“You should have known! I thought of all the people in the world you’d have understood how vulnerable I was, because I made myself vulnerable to you. But I don’t care about that anymore.”
“Don’t say that!”
We were standing so close that you couldn’t slide a kiss between us. “I don’t care about the past, and I don’t care about my broken heart, and I don’t care about you. But I won’t be used. I’m not an instrument Duchamp can blow to play his tune. So I’m making this right. I’m kicking him out of the desert a second time, and you’re going to tell me how he got to you.”
She slumped down onto the RV’s bed. Put her head in her hands. “Of all the freaks in these desert, you’re my favorite. You need to know that.”
“Look it where it got me.”
“I didn’t know it was for him!
“I believe you. I just don’t care.”
She stifled a sob.
“He found me at camp! I don’t know how he knew to look for me! But he said he was a big fan of yours, said he’d heard how you recovered Harley’s Harley from those renegade Flaming Lotus Girls! He seemed desperate!”
“So you laughed in his face.”
“Of course! I told him to go talk to Playa Info! It was hilarious! I also gave him a condom with a picture of the Man on it, because those are my gifts this year.”
“So how’d he get you?”
“He didn’t. Not alone.” She looked down at the floor. “He came back with Chakra Khan from the French Quarter’s magic shop – and Chakra said she could hook me up with … with a second floor room at the Bordello for the whole burn weekend.”
The sound that came out of my mouth was too guttural to even be a curse. “That’s it? You sold me out for a room?”
“It has a balcony! On Saturday night I could watch the Man burn from a balcony, above a bordello, and drink wine! Who gets that? And then I could sit there all night, above that massive, sparkling, wonderful, party, and watch the whole world go by! Every art car, every costume, would pass right below me, and look up, and see me – and I’d be sitting there in my costume, or maybe even naked, and the whole playa would be watching, and wanting. Every person there would be thinking ‘She’s so special, and so beautiful.’ The whole playa would want me that night, and I’d be unattainable. But if I saw anyone below that I wanted, or liked, I could just gesture … just point and gesture and say ‘come hither’ … and let them up to join me, and they’d come. And I’d probably never do that part, that’s just one of the things you think about, but … I could. I could be that girl. For once in my life, that woman would be me.”
My heart broke a little bit more. I could taste a piece of it in my throat. “Krista … you were always that girl.”
“Don’t be patronizing!”
“You were always that girl to me.”
“Yeah well … look where it got me.”
I leaned back against the wall. Tried to breathe. “So you gave Crispy Clown access to me for the balcony.”
She didn’t look up. “I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
“But you should have known it was.”
“But I should have known it was.”
I pushed myself away from the wall. Turned to walk out of the RV. “All right,” I said. “Have a good burn.”
“I … I …” she swallowed. She struggled. Lost her nerve.
“Do you … do you want a condom?”
I shook my head.
“It’s my gift,” she said again.
I walked out and didn’t look back.