And to think, I almost didn’t get in my truck to go see the big game between the Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs because I had just rented a video game from the Box on my way out of the grocery store from getting the kind of peanut butter that they pull the real peanut oil out of and mix in the soy oil-crap and corn syrup so it tastes good. (It was for my dog, not me, because that is the only kind he will take his flea pills with). But my roommate had these prime football tickets and was very proud of his generosity to offer me a free one. So since Rissa was waiting tables at the chain restaurant from hell all weekend and she wouldn’t be bringing me home any steaks since she was closing or some shit, I figured I may as well go and drive 6 hours down to G-ville with the guys instead of putting holes in the enemy on the couch by myself until I beat the whole game. And to think that I almost just stayed at our friend’s Gainesville apartment to smoke weed, and almost didn’t go to that stupid club and only went because I was starving and we were supposed to go to get a sandwich at Flacos afterwards because that little late-night hole-in-the-wall has the best Cubans with cream cheese and in-house strawberry jelly in the south.
It was one of those dance club nights where I seriously wondered again if I needed glasses it was so dark with laser lights searing from behind shit in this unnerving way. Drunk girls kept coming up and talking to me, eyelashes and straw-sipping and I really didn’t want to deal with it. I thought uneasily of Rissa working her cute butt off in that unoriginal, dimly-lit and secretly-dirty restaurant. And these sorority girls here tonight, they all had that look…clingy dress, so short you hope they are wearing shorts underneath…or nothing; heels awkwardly high and obviously, fucking-ridiculously uncomfortable so that you wonder if they are gifted athletes to move in those things or just fools to bother. Sometimes I like that look. Not tonight. The chatter around me was long-straight-blonde-haired giggles and “oh my gawds!” and dudes stressfully amped about the game the next morning at 10:00 am, more drinking tomorrow, kegs and beer pong to set up after the club so they didn’t have to get up early. Sure I like football, especially when I played quarterback before I busted my knee. But win or loose, each game doesn’t either make me want to do monkey back flips or else freak out and look for a fight like my roommate likes to which has been come boringly frequent since Georgia’s not doing so well this season.
But when I was sitting there on the dark velvet couch, trying to take up all the space so no one could try and sit down and spill their drink on me, it was like through my utter irritation at life and the smoke from the damn black box on the DJ booth, everything changed when I saw her. She lit up the entire room gold and I swear the smoke even cleared for a moment. What the hell was she doing here in Gainesville, right there in front of my velvet couch? She didn’t give a shit about sports. She probably didn’t even know who was playing this weekend. When she looked over at me from the dance floor the bass shook my whole body and I wasn’t even sure if it was the bass. Then her sudden, sweet, bright, smile when she realized it was me sent this funny feeling all up my arms and into my chest. I don’t remember even getting up and moving over to her. I just remember how it felt when my bare arm touched the skin on her back and I wanted to just take her out to my truck right then and there and zip her out of that sweet little blue dress. But we both knew that this was it. This was as far as it was going to go right here on the dance floor like everyone else. She seemed perfect to me, the epitome of what every girl here should aspire to dress like, arrange their hair and makeup, how they should smell and dance and breathe and blink, jingle their bracelet on their wrist. This was it. This was what I wanted now more than anything else in the world and I couldn’t breathe her in enough. When I touched her hair I could barely keep my shit together and yet I had to. How much had I had to drink? Nothing yet? Jesus. I just pressed my hand on her back and she laughed and danced so close to me and could feel her body brush against me. I had to close my eyes so I wouldn’t kiss her. I glanced over at who we were dancing next to. Her hot friend looked like an Egyptian queen or something. Then when Odette moved her fingers down my arm I got that God-awful gnawing in my chest. This pain for her was nothing I had known before and I found myself silently gasping, almost panicking to have the opportunity to satiate it. But this was it and all I could do was fight with myself about doing the right thing for Rissa, and not completely loosing myself in this girl that I was never going to stop loving, ever.
I was getting a little tired of the angry lyrics and growling over heavy thudding beats and walked breathlessly from the dance floor to slide onto a silver bar stool, making sure I wasn’t anywhere near the awful vampire girl. My friend came and sat on the stool next to me. “Are you having fun?” she yelled in my ear.
“Do you want to go downstairs and dance some hip-hop?” I asked. I glanced over at vampire-girl who was standing close to her dorky guy at the bar and shooting me evil looks. I smiled a little in spite of myself, careful not to laugh and make her more angry.
“Its too busy down there with the big game and all.”
“What big game?”
“The Bulldogs are playing the Gators tomorrow.”
“Really? Yeah, traffic was a little heavy coming in to Gainesville. “
“That’s why. And now all the Georgia rednecks are in town tonight…sure to be fights breaking out all over town.”
I nodded and thought about telling her I was originally from Athens and was technically a Georgia Bulldog myself. But instead I just handed my cash to the bartender and sipped at my third gin and tonic. I was feeling very tipsy and aching to dance downstairs to music I knew. “Come on, just for a few minutes” I said, also really wanting to get away from the negative energy that was radiating from only a few barstools away.
She shrugged and sucked down the rest of her drink. So I did too and we both stood up and wobbled a bit in our high-heels. We both laughed at our pitiful drunken state.
“Can you walk?” I asked. “How are you going to drive home?”
“I might called my boyfriend to come and pick us up.”
I felt a pang of guilt as I remembered kicking his breakup note under her wicker porch furniture.
“Oh, OK” I said, not sure of what else to say.
We clomped down the thin, dark winding staircase. I hung on tightly to the railing and we stepped out into Rihanna filling the room, apparently finding love in a hopeless place. We started to push through the crowd to find a dance spot in the middle and I looked over at the little lounge area off to the side of the dance floor. I don’t know what it was that made me look, perhaps some kind of force in the atmosphere…maybe the full moon. But I saw first, a breathtakingly beautiful guy there all sprawled out on one of the blue velvet couches. When he saw me looking at him his face changed a little. And even with my glasses off, when his grin spread across his face I knew it was Jake, my Jake, and my heart started to thud harder than the bass coming from the speakers. I could barely breath with excitement.
“Do you know him?” my friend asked in my ear, holding and peering over her straw in extreme interest.
I nodded, stunned. “He must be in town from Athens to watch the game, ” I whispered to the air.
“He’s really hot. If I didn’t have a boyfriend and if you weren’t married, we could both have some fun with him tonight.”
Was she kidding? I looked at her. She wasn’t. Did people like her really exist in this world? This was all too much. My heart felt like it was going to explode.
Jake stood up and started to walk towards me and I laughed with pure delight when he just wrapped his arm around my waist and started dancing with me. I could smell the alcohol on his breath and I was a bit dizzy from all my drinks so I rested my head on his shoulder. He was all cigarette smoke and Drakar Noir. He said into my ear, “What the hell are you doing here? Did I just dream you onto the dance floor?” He smoothed his hand over my hair on the back of my head and I bit my lip and looked up and smiled at him. His eyes glistened and in any other universe we would have kissed. Instead I put my head back on his shoulder and my hand on his arm. I ran my fingers over his muscles and took in a breath as he tugged me in closer. I probably needed to leave right now. I looked at my drunk friend who was dancing with a very grabby-guy so I left Jake’s grasp and hurried over there to her. I pushed frat-boy away from her and said, “leave her alone, idiot.” We turned and walked quickly out of the club before he could react, with Jake following. My friend was laughing “Oh my God!! Damn girl, you are lucky he didn’t push you back! Jesus!”
We stood out on the sidewalk in front of the club with the night air that perfect, Florida Spring temperature with a lovely breeze. The clubs were going to be closing soon so the sidewalks and streets were filling up with college kids.
Jake grabbed my hand and my friend looked down at our intertwined fingers. “I thought you were married,” she said, brushing past me. She went up to the wooden valet podium, long black little purse swinging from her elbow, and told the kid standing there to go get her car, “pronto”.
I was horrified. “You’re not driving home are you?” I said, marching up to her with Jake striding up behind me.
“No, I’m driving to Daniel’s house. I can’t get the fucker to call or text me back. It’s like he’s dead or something. ASSHOLE. I’m so tired of his shit.”
“You can’t drive like this. You are too drunk!” I wanted to say that he didn’t want her there, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell he about the note now. It wasn’t the right time and she needed to discover it on her own.
She shrugged, looking a little irritated. “I’m fine and…”
“Wait, Jake can drive us!” I put my hand on her arm and nodded enthusiastically at her, practically fluttering my eyelashes at her. I really needed to turn this around.
She looked at us both and smiled. She nodded, tucking her black hair behind her ear thoughtfully, and said, “Ohhh-kay! Let’s just go back to my house.”
Jake smiled to himself. “Fine. Come on girls” He took out his phone to text something, then put it away and held out his elbows for us to hold on to. Then we half-stumbled off to the parking garage where Jake had his truck.
The full moon glistened enormously in the night sky, and the red and gold lights shone in front the Hippodrome Theater while club music still filled the air. “Perhaps there is a God,” He said, as we hung ridiculously on his arms, and he grinned that evil, Jake grin that I knew all too well.
She drove a tiny little black Jetta down Second Ave, taking the traffic circles like they were a spinning ride at Disney World, and I looked down happily at her blue dress that she let me wear. I smoothed the fabric on my legs. “Where are we going?”
“Well, there is a new club that my friend is DJ’ing at and she throws down some Old Wave and Goth sometimes. You ever heard of the song, Harley David, Son of a Bitch?”
“You’ll love it.”
I thought that was an interesting declaration since she had known me for about 15 minutes. At her house, and after a short grilling session about who I was and who I “belonged to”, and who belonged to me…she was comfortable enough with my answers to disappear into her bedroom and pull on fishnet stockings and a black dress that I wasn’t sure if I should be seen out with her…in. But she looked amazing and I was almost giddy hurrying out with her to her car which was parked on the street. The cool spring air blew through our hair as we slammed the car doors and opened the windows and sunroof.
She pulled up in front of the club and got out to hand her keys to the valet. We could hear the music thudding and lights flashing around in the dark windows. She hurried me to the door and we walked right in as she kissed the door-guys on the cheek in the french “hello” style. I smiled and nodded at them. She was completely at home here and I stumbled after her wide-eyed as Alice in Wonderland.
I hurried behind her through the packed-out club with thudding R&B music, our black boots clicking loudly up a thin, wet staircase and we pushed open a heavy door to come upon a smaller room with a sparsely populated dance floor and a DJ playing what I supposed was “goth” music. It wasn’t exactly what I had imagined for my dance night and I thought about going back downstairs to the more familiar R&B. Up here I wasn’t sure I wanted to be so, er, visible on the dance floor with only about 15 other people on there. But my friend just walked right up and started to dance like an angel, a black angel and as I looked around I noticed the the other dancers were also in black and it looked like the music had lifted them up and they were directing the changes and beats with their own bodies. It could have been comical if it wasn’t so impressive. I watched in awe for a while, then wandered over to the bar and ordered a gin and tonic and sat down to watch from afar. It took about two minutes for a guy to come and sit near me. I looked at him to see if I needed to stealthily get up and move somewhere else. But he looked harmless so I sipped my drink and waited with amusement to see if he would get up the nerve to talk to me. He flickered his eyes over at me and I looked down in my drink. Then I looked up at him again and he was still looking and looked away. I could escape before he tried talking to me, and perhaps just try and navigate the dance floor. I could probably try to dance like the others, it looked pretty fun although I wondered if I was too colorful to be allowed to try to fit in there. I sucked down the last of my drink and looked up at the guy. He had moved now to only one barstool away from me. He looked over at me and smiled. I looked away without smiling back, then felt bad and looked back at him and caught his eye then smiled back. Suddenly there was a girl next to me with vampire teeth and her eyes were lined with thick black makeup. “If you look at him one more time I’m going to rip your blonde hair OUT of your head.”
I got up immediately, as if I hadn’t even heard a word she said and walked off to the dance floor. I closed my eyes out there and tried to dance to the music like I had seen the others do. It was quite easy to just go with the flow. Although the lyrics were angry, the beat was so heavy and methodical it was like it pulsated though my body. I barely had to try to dance I just had to move and the music just took me through the motions. My heart was beating hard from being hissed at by the wanna-be vampire girl, but dancing smoothed out my emotions and I realized with a kind of relief, why it had been so important for me to get out of the beach house and just melt for a while into the night and the music. I was remembering who I was, which sometimes was a just a little more than a wife and a mom. One day I was going to be too old to do this. I opened my eyes to see my friend dancing next to me. She grinned at me and I smiled back happily. Perhaps I wasn’t too blue to fit in here.
The door flew open and I met eyes with the girl who lived here. She gasped and backed up.
“No, no, wait, wait!” I shouted at her.
She stumbled backwards some more and started to open her porch screen door as I hurried out with explanations tumbling out of my mouth as fast as I could form the words, “I thought this was my friend’s house. She used to live here but she just texted me a second ago and said this wasn’t her house but it was too late you were already coming in the door! I’m so sorry this was just a silly accident I promise!”
She stopped at the screen door looking terrified still. I was scared too, gasping for breath between my words, constatnly checking her hands… that they weren’t reaching for a weapon in her purse. She gazed at my face. She had black hair with thick bangs almost in her huge blue eyes. Her skin was very pale and I wasn’t sure if that was usual or because she had just found a stranger in her house at midnight. Then I noticed that after staring at me for a second, she started to relax.
“Who the FUCK are you? And WHAT are you doing in my DRESS?” She suddenly brushed past me into her house. “You better not have stolen anything, bitch.”
I followed her back into her house to assure her that I didn’t and she was frozen there, gazing around. I realized she must be noticing that it was clean.
“What the fuck?” She whispered.
“I, I thought I was doing a favor for my friend” I stammered.
She peered around at me. “Wait a second. I read about this. I know what you are.”
“What am I?” My eyes widened as I soaked in her new, accusing demeanor.
“You’re one of those people who breaks into people’s houses and cleans them, then leaves a bill! Aren’t you?”
“What? I’m not a, a cleaner! I’m just me and I don’t need any money, and I’m not stealing and I am really, really sorry about this bizarre and horrible mix up. I should go now.”
“My dress,” she said.
I looked down at the perfect little blue dress and thought about running. I peered out of the open door at the street. Bob’s van was parked under the street lamp. I looked back at her, and as if she could read my mind she stepped in front of the door to guard it.
“I, like, need to get my clothes” I said. “I guess they are still in your bedroom.”
“That is so creepy and werid that you have been hanging out in my house for hours” the girl said. Then to my relief she cracked a smile. “That is so, fucking WEIRD. Why did you think this was your friends house? Did you clean my whole entire house?”
“Yes, for hours. And I did all your laundry.” I looked up at her and she shook her head and laughed with utter amazement. I sat down on the couch. “My friend, Kat, used to live here the last time I visited her. She never mentioned anything about moving and I never heard back from her tonight so I thought I would just come here and wait for her.”
“And so you broke in? Is that like, normal for you?”
“That window right there wasn’t locked or anything.”
She looked over at it. “Yeah, I need to keep it locked I guess, incase crazy girls who like my clothes break in and clean my house like a fucking elf. What are you going to do next, sew me some shoes and leave them on the kitchen table for me to discover in the morning?”
I laughed at this, completely delighted that she knew the fairytale. “The Shoemaker and the Elves!” I said. “I’m totally like that aren’t I?” She grinned back at me. Then I realized that I had no place to go and I was not going to be going dancing tonight. I let out a huge miserable sigh.
“What’s wrong?” she said, looking confused.
“I just, I had a stressful trip and I wanted to go out dancing but now I have nowhere to go, nothing to wear and nothing to do.”
She smiled and bit her lip. “You know what, girl, I think you were sent her to me for a reason,” she said.
I looked up at her, feeling a little worried at that statement. “What do you mean?”
“On my way home here tonight I wished on a star for the first time since I was a little girl. I thought that my boyfriend was going to break up with me tonight so I wished, I wished that nothing bad would happen tonight and that instead, something really, really good would completely change my life. And now my house is clean and you want to go out dancing. What on Earth could be better than that?”
I smiled with delight, “seriously!” I said. “What could be?”
As I folded the last of her laundry in a neat pile in a hamper next to the couch, I held up a powder blue dress with a zipper up the front. I dangled it in front my chest at looked down at it. Gosh, Kat’s style had improved, and she must have lost a little weight in the past couple of years to be able to fit into this achingly cute dress. I thought about when she came to visit me in Athens and how she made herself so at home that Chris made several embarrassingly sarcastic comments about her being “like family”. So I figured she wouldn’t mind if I just tried it on, especially since I didn’t even pack any clothes. I stepped into it, zipped up the front so that it hugged my body nicely, but in a tasteful way, and looked at myself in the mirror in the hallway. It was perfect, wow, and hung like a tulip just above the knees. I pulled my hair into a high ponytail then let if fall back down around my shoulders and tucked it behind my ears. Down looked best. Now I really wanted to go dancing but it was almost midnight and in Gainesville the bars all shut down at 2am. What a disaster if I stayed in all evening just cleaning. I looked around her spotless house. I had even made her bed, scrubbed the bathroom, tidied up and dusted the office area and mopped the floors. I vacuumed the couch too even, since that was probably where I would be sleeping. She was going to faint when she saw this place.
Then I thought I heard her pull up in the driveway, thank goodness. I hoped she didn’t mind that I was wearing her clothes. I was about to open the front door to greet her when my phone buzzed and I looked down at my text. It was from Kat and said, “Can’t wait to see you. I don’t live at that house anymore though. Just meet me at our fav coffee shop tomorrow morning.”
Oh my God what had I done? Who the hell lived here? At least it was a girl. I heard the keys in the lock and wondered as I hyperventilated, if I should bolt for the back door or just stand there in this person’s dress, smile sweetly, and wait.
When I got there it was late and Kat wasn’t answering her texts or her phone. So I drove to her house and parked illegally on her street then made my way through her screened-in front porch to knock on her front door. There was a note attached to it so I immediately, thinking it must be for me, pulled it from the door and opened the folds to read it. It said, “I can’t do this anymore hon. We are over, for good. Stop calling me, it’s pitiful.”
I carefully folded the note back into what I thought it had originally been and smoothed it as best as I could. What was I going to do with this? I tried to tape it back on to the door with the bit of tape it had stuck on it, but it immediately came loose and fell to the concrete by my feet. I looked at it, thought about it, then gently kicked it under the wicker couch that was right there by the door. If she saw this note, she would never go out and have fun dancing with me, she would just mope all weekend long. I sat down on the couch and wondered what to do. I could try and break into her house or I could just go and stay at a hotel. But how boring to stay at a hotel. I looked at the window that was next to the front door. I bet it wasn’t locked. Kat was always leaving her keys in her ignition and her doors unlocked. I put my fingers in the edges of the screen but they wouldn’t fit. So I took out my keys and the van key fit nicely in the edge of the screen and I was able to pop it out then put it carefully on the couch. I tugged at the window that came open easily and I laughed, Kat was so predictable. I climbed in, shut and locked the window then looked around me in disgust. The place was a dump. Well, the least I could do was clean it up for her since I had just broken in to her house.