Listening to Pink Floyd in a Thai Restaurant
3... 2... 1...
Bells took flight like they do at morning during that slow minute before life starts again when the sky is brushed with Johnnie Walker Blue. We sat facing each other whispering because that is what people do at a Thai restaurant, the lights so dim, textiles draped red and velvet, pillows everywhere. Her brown hair kept falling, three strands lazy, irritating an eyelash. I watched her lips as she spoke, the slight curve she formed to blow quick puffs of breath to the hair in her eye. She fiddled with hemp jewelry and crossed her legs underneath a patchwork skirt, her eyes gray and white like spray -- Adriatic, that one coastal view. I inhaled the entirety of her, took a big breath of Jenna and filled my lungs with the chime of her personality ringing like the bells in stereo, music from another time spilling out of four old speakers mounted near the ceiling of four separate corners of the Thai house singing a chorus of alarms one after the other, each sound individually recorded in an antique shop. Time. From this side of the moon where a man like me can sit with a woman like her quietly listening to Pink Floyd in a Thai restaurant. "So, itâ€™s been years," I said, "why'd you call?"
"It’s no big deal," she replied, "and don’t make it out to be something it’s not. You always do." "I’m not making anything. Wait. Before we start," "Start what? I saw that thing in the paper," she said. "Good Morning America? Who could have guessed that, right? Jared Jackson. Wow. Now he's in front of the camera." "I don't get it. Why do you care?" "I can get a dose of you every morning. I can drink you with my coffee. It’s not like the news isn't depressing anyway." "Still, huh?" "Still what?" She replied. "Still like this. Lashing out. The shit you always pull." "I’m not lashing, just conversating." She always said it like that. Conversating. I hated it before, a nerve tickler, but as I sat there with her I remembered the tickle fondly. Jenna leaned back and pulled a cigarette from behind her ear. She scratched fire against the table and burned the stick alight before giving it two quick puffs. Smoke drifted lazily from her nose as she turned away, staring off, wisps of second-hand laughing along the slope of her neck. "It’s no big deal. Really," she said, her eyes rolling instead of meeting mine. She was just a girl when I met her on a dirt street just outside of Fresno. I was a cameraman newly introduced to porn-- big tits, bubble-gum clits, blissful ignorance. She dealt pot by the pound, but specialized in baked goods. She had a regular route hitting the set on Mondays and Fridays with cookies and brownies. Sometimes after a hard rain she would slip me a dose of mushrooms, the naughty kind that bring abandoned feelings in truck stop bathrooms for minutes that seem like hours.
We shared our first night together at a La Quinta in Clovis. She fucked me fast and heartless with opiates in the air, the smell of menstruation on bed sheets. She let me rest her hand upon her thigh as she rolled a joint in the nude, nipples snoozing, sweat at her temples, cigarette cocked to the side of her mouth. "Enough about you," she said. "I had a showing a couple of weeks ago. Thought I’d see you." "I heard. Didn’t think much about it." "Asshole." "Why do you say that?" "Oh, fuck you and your stupid questions, Jared. Come on." "You called me. Why do I have to remind you of that?" "So, where’s this Sheila girl you’re seeing?" "Moved to Portland. How’d you know?" "I heard. Portland?" "Had someone else’s baby." "What’s with your luck, huh?" "The winners... as my dad would say." "I was a winner," she said staring into a soy sauce container. "You were something," I replied. She used to hit me when I didn't pay attention to the books she read aloud. She'd grab something near and throw it hard. She read Nietzsche and Flaubert, just not my style. She'd yell at me in French, and then laugh, and we'd fuck again. Jenna had a sexual desire for knives. She kept them on her body, her secret places. I guess she was some sort of ninja on her good days,
and maybe that explained why she claimed to be Buddhist even though she sometimes whispered the Hail Mary in her sleep. "Something awful, probably," she said, head down, smoke turning cycles in the air. Our old Thai waitress stared at us from across the room cursing in a language that upon listening never seems vague. The old woman slammed the cash register shut. The force knocked over a crooked sign that read, "You No Smoke Here." "Probably," I said, but wanting to say more. "I’m glad you decided not to kill yourself. The guilt from a shotgun blast would have done me in. Were you even serious, Cobain?" "What the fuck? What kind of question is that? Was I serious? I was serious about a lot of things. And you know what? Guilt would’ve been nice," I said. "You could’ve cared some." "I was seventeen," she said. "You don’t seem much different." "Hey, I’m twenty-five and that’s pretty fucking different. Look at you. You’re thirty!" "I’m not thirty." "Whatever. You’re different. We’re all different. Everything is different. Time is time is time, right?" After a year together, and six months after I left God behind, Jenna left me in a hotel room with two Mexicans, an eight ball of coke and roses in the trash bin. It took me years to leave that room behind and when I did I had to kick heroin because it was brown like her skin and smooth like the smoke that curled from her mouth, three joints down, two bowls in. "What are we doing here?" I asked. "Listening to Pink Floyd in a Thai restaurant,"
Now confronted with the curves of her again her beauty made me sick, the puffed folds of her ears, her hot breath, slow tongue. I couldn't help but consume the visage of a woman I had done well to forget. She had been almost gone from me, the taste of her an incarcerated memory shoved in the same confinement where I stuffed the good times with my mother, but it all came back, the image, the emotion, the dark dreams of her love brushing against mine. "I loved you, Jared. I really did." "Jenna. I still," but she raised her hand. "I know," and itâ€™s how she said it, resigned. "Isnâ€™t it about time?" I asked, grasping for the sand slipping through our fingers. "Life isn't about time, Jared." "I don't know," I said, embarrassed, confused. We sat in silence for a moment and in the quiet I realized how sad I was to see her, so sad to remember what it felt like to love and what it meant to never feel such a thing again. I looked away from her, and I could see out in the distance all the time between us drifting away with the smoke rings in the air. When I turned back to her I noticed a sense of euphoria building from the depth of me. I felt as if my body was sinking into the caverns of myself and the feel good of it all put me in a state of warmth that reminded me of a time in my life when my outlook was more free, the consequences trivial, and then I asked her, "What have you done to me?" "Just the thing that I always do," she said, chewing the side of her lip, fingering her hair back behind her ear. "Did you put something in the food?" I asked.
"The cook in the kitchen. He’s a client. Asian kid. Obviously, right?" She lifted her hand to the red drapery covering the windows and the paper lanterns with their soft glow. "He grows the best mushrooms in town." "You didn’t," I said. "You know I did, Jared." "Fucking scandalous..." "It's about to hit you," she said. "What are you going to do with it all?" Indeed, there was mind-fuck in my body. The high marched itself on singing lippy tunes, and I became more at ease because she was there and she did this to me, she did everything to me, and even far apart we were the essence of it all, and I felt like a person feels when walking into a room where stands a long dead mother suddenly alive again, the womb of her arms so soft in the tight embrace, because it was her, because it has always been her, but even so, I was afraid because it had been so long, and I think I said all of that out loud. "I know," she whispered back to me. "You no smoke here!" The old Thai lady cried, "You leave now. Go!" Jenna slapped her hands against the table, her cigarette writhed upon her lips as a pleased rage passed softly behind her eyes. She stood quickly and tossed her arms to the air, said, "What about it, lady?" Jenna swiped both hands across the table sending Thai china to the floor and I saw all of this in surround-sound, on Blu-ray Disc, shards of porcelain expanding like flowers in fastforward bloom. I stood and my legs twisted like the palsy and my arms began to cha-cha-cha. "These are good shrooms," I said. "Let’s get the fuck out of here."
I took Jennaâ€™s hand and we stumbled over the meal on the floor. A Samurai in purple polka dots appeared behind us holding a butcher knife and a wilted rose. "Who are these people?" I screamed. We ran out the door into the night air and the moon brought us to our knees. I forgot the beauty of it all, the twisted elegance. And she was there with me holding my hand staring at the same moon spinning in its own cosmic breeze. We heard sirens. The moon lost its priority. We ran laughing. The wind carried us on a whoosh of splendid inebriation, trees looming, cars purring, streetlights fucking reality in the ass. It was almost like I wasnâ€™t thirty anymore.
Published on May 26, 2014