5729 words (22 minute read)

7:55 PM - AUGUST 13

We burst out of the elevator faster than Clive could piss someone off. When we made the scene at Reggie’s place, barging in without the courtesy of a knock, it was already abundant with the cast of the sundown’s birth. “Welcome to the Jungle” filtered through the speakers, and the lights were reduced to a consolatory velvet tone. It smelled like vanilla candles, fresh weed, and the opulence of the fairer sex. Our arrival was met with inquiring faces. Some nodded, some stared, some looked plain scared, every one of them hiding something.

It was a typical Hollywood party—a melting pot of sweet, innocent, romantic stargazers with a dream and the most self-involved species of devil-trained citizens spawned from the depths of our beloved earth. Hollywood is but a delusory terrain, fifty percent hunter and fifty percent prey, all gluttonous in their own way, that false glaze like curtains over their eyes, mainly concerned with who they are going to probe in order to ride the fast track to fame or shame no matter what laws of decency said behavior will mar. After a while living in such an affected city, it was easy to differentiate between the two pleasure seekers. I’m not so sure Clive and I are any different. We have motives. But I like to think we go with a certain panache.

As we scanned the room, I recognized a girl from work, Niki Fine. We’d worked the same shift earlier in the day. She’s a ginger, basic-beautiful with a sway in her advance that exhibits her fondness of sex. She was cached on the balcony, straight across on the other side of the apartment. Niki and I hooked up a few months ago, made the two-backed beast in the warm effervescence of a Jacuzzi overlooking our pretentious city from the backyard of some record label executive’s mansion.

“You gonna go say hi?” asked Clive.

“Yeah, I’ll come find you,” I said.

Clive started to say something but my mind drifted off to the night I had sex with Niki, and the encompassing harmony of Reggie’s soiree began to fade…

Someone at the record label party was giving out ecstasy like it was candy; it was in a trick-or-treat bag along with condoms, a pocket pussy, cheap sunglasses, and a Matchbox car. Mine was a black Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am, Smokey and the Bandit style. Clive’s was a hearse…and Hollywood parties are fucking weird. We popped the ecstasy, kept the condoms and cars…and the pocket pussies, trashed the rest.

The extravagant affair was kind to us—free booze, a wide array of drugs, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, and plenty of drunk women to go along with the champagne and chandeliers. Twenty minutes in and my face was dripping. I sweat like a fat guy. I wiped across my forehead, snapping a splash onto the snow-white tile floors. Clive disappeared. He was probably off talking Shakespeare with a semicircle of partygoers. He knew how to command a room, sometimes aggressively, other times poetically.

I went outside to breathe the air and lay eyes on the sky. That only increased my high. I ambled into Niki’s territory, caught her in an abandoned promenade. She was out-of-her-mind sensual in her lyrical movements, detached from all concern. She took hold of me without missing a step in her hustle, grabbing my hand as she spun away and out toward the city, then back into my arms, her lips pressing to mine. It was the perfect amount of wet. We danced slowly for a while, never prying our lips apart. Kissing a beautiful woman is something special. While you’re on ecstasy, it’s otherworldly.

We made our way to the hot tub. It was unoccupied. We took off our clothes while Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” played to what seemed like the entire city. I got in first, then held her hand as she stepped through the steam and into the hot, bubbling water. We kissed some more. I was still sweating, but it didn’t matter; we were both sweating. She backed me up, sat me down, grabbed my cock, and put it in…slowly. We couldn’t help but be watched, laid bare underneath the stars, but we felt alone.

My flight to orgasm turned out to be one of those long overseas aeronautics. The threat of not climaxing only relented when the ecstasy began to fade. It was worth the wait. The orgasm was mind-blowing, explosive. The force of its combustion felt as if it would blow the tip of my member clean off, leaving the apex blackened and frayed.

Before that night, Niki and I hadn’t spoken much—a few flirtatious encounters, but mostly glances. She hadn’t been at the Lux for that long, but noticing her was especially easy; she was beautiful without trying. Since the hot tub, we hadn’t communicated regularly; although our relevance did shuffle a tad, merely a subtle rotation. It was more saccharine with her at the restaurant now, a few small, quiet moments. We shared something worthy of hanging on to, and it was somehow that much more momentous not to canvas our lustful encounter.

“Jake. Hey. Earth to Jake…Wake up, crazy!” said Clive.

“Yeah, yeah, I heard you,” I said.

I snapped out of my hot tub time machine, back to the present, back to Reggie’s.

“I said try not to defile her on the balcony, you fucking pervert.”

“I won’t, asshole. There’s no hot tub, and your mom’s not here to blow me while Mary Magdalene puts a fist in her kitty.”

Clive laughed while beating it to the kitchen. He grabbed two beers from the fridge, not at all concerned with who they belonged to. He came back, handed me a beer.

“Seriously, we only have a couple hours, so try not to have a go at her. You’ll never make your show on time,” said Clive.

I sped past his quip, kept my foot on the gas.

“How is your mother doing these days anyway? Coming out for a visit soon? I love when she stays with us. Do you think it’s weird that she sleeps in my room?”

“Fuck yourself.”

“That doesn’t come till morning… Don’t you have someone to go recite Shakespeare to?”

Clive was notorious for waxing Shakespeare poetic when he was inebriated. It was a unique version of the mostly incoherent speed reading of Hamlet, including aggressive arm waves, a crouching tiger, hidden…something position, and the distinct mischievous grin of the Cheshire Cat. Clive laughed, then vanished, left his beer on the counter. I could only assume he was escaping to one of the bedrooms—someone else’s drugs were calling. Niki noticed me and nodded. I nodded back and made my way toward her. She was alone, listening to conversation. Her eyes shadowed me every step of the way, except once when she looked down at her feet.

“You waiting for someone?” I asked.

“Hey, Jake. How are you?”

She had an easy smile. I lifted the bottle of Beam in one hand and the beer in the other.

“Livin’ the dream.”

I went in for the hug. She gave back nicely, held on tight for longer than I expected. A throbbing desire to taste her pink, naked lips arose like high tide on fast-forward. Our profiles brushed, creating a stubbled, creamy white spread with light-brown cinnamon freckles.

Niki Fine was considerably fundamental—cutoff jean shorts, a tight white tank top and black high-top Chucks, loosely tied, and her blush tresses pulled back to a basic tight ponytail. To avoid making a scene and bending her over the railing, I opened with small talk—work stuff.

“How’d you do today?” I asked.

“Not great, made like eighty,” she said.

“That’s not bad…short shift, right?”

“Yeah, I was first cut.”

“Cool.” I smiled bashfully, looked down at the ground. “You coming to my show tonight?”

“I can’t tonight. I’m meeting Promise at the Rainbow Room. It’s her birthday.”

“Aw, no worries. Next time.” It was quiet for a moment, then I continued. “You know Reggie?”

“No, I came with Janine. She knows him.”

“Where is she?”

“Smoking weed in Reggie’s room, I think.”

“None for you?”

“Maybe later. I don’t like smoking around a lot of people.”

“Me neither.”

I leaned against the railing next to her.

“You get Promise anything for her birthday?”

“Oh…no, not really.”

She was embarrassed. I swooped in.

“Well, you can’t go there empty-handed.”

I reached into my left inside jacket pocket. Her eyes grew as I pulled out a pre-rolled joint the size of my thumb.

“Here, give her this,” I said.

“Oh my God, it’s huge.”



“Just tell her not to smoke it all at once. It’s potent.”

“I’ll tell her. Thank you.” She ran the length of the joint underneath her nose. “Smells so good. I may have to enjoy it with her.”

“I’ve got more.”


“What time’s the party over?”

She smiled, then blushed.

“I can probably get out of there by one.”

I smiled. It was hard to resist asking her back to my apartment right then and there, but Clive was right; I’d never make my show on time. So, I acquiesced, conceding to the consolation in knowing that, by two a.m., she’d be in my bed.

“Call me when you’re done then,” I said.

“I will.”

“I’m gonna go find Cl—”

Some guy wearing a top hat and a purple bow tie interrupted by spilling his Sea Breeze at our feet. I grabbed Niki’s waist and lower back, pulled her toward me and over to the other side of the balcony to avoid the mist of fruity Russian shrapnel. She smelled like jasmine. Top Hat apologized. I waved him off, then turned to Niki; we shared a smile at the expense of the drunken faux pas. It was nice being that close to her, and the jasmine was still there, so I kissed her. It was soft, and it was slow, and it said something.

“Call me later. Tell Promise I said happy birthday,” I said.

“Okay,” she said.

I was thinking that I better leave now before the moment was ruined by an awkward silence or her noticing my hard-on or some douchebag stumbling into the conversation with a haphazard Hollywood story about how he “got the part.” Besides, I wanted to blast another line.

Somewhere deep within the viscera of my narcotic history, cocaine remodeled my identity, presenting itself to be the bright anthem of my towering nights and the lofty repercussion of my stunted, darker days—the purest Peruvian form of good versus evil, God versus the devil, or the devil versus God depending on how you looked at it. When I was high I was the truth awake in a pasture sardined with lies. I typically supplemented the flowery nose-coat with liquid courage—bourbon. Together, they would form a pasty, yellowy-white shit show that was my life. In those few hours, when I was brain fast and word savvy, I would become either the trusted leader attempting to drag down whatever pack would follow me into some menacing crevasse or a disastrous wide-eyed bull in a shop full of fine china, emotionally and physically demolishing everything in my path, leaving a wake of relationships to mend. Eventually, dangerously, I’d fooled myself into thinking that I’d harnessed control over which path I could take, further exacerbating my desire to hitch a ride on the bleached bolt. I experimented with everything I could get my hands on: weed, painkillers, mushrooms, acid. But nothing ever romanced me the way cocaine did. Charlie Snowflake—that fine white lady. From the moment I bent down to inhale the pale, glittering invincibility through a dirty one-dollar bill, so began a great allegiance, and we danced to the ardor of bad decisions for a better part of my life. I wouldn’t say that I was addicted to cocaine, I just loved the smell of it.

I went to Reggie’s room first. Through the fog, I saw thin eyes and bad posture, about five people, but no Clive. My intrusion went unnoticed. I found it hard to believe that he would be in Debbie’s room. Then again, Clive does have a way of getting back into the good graces of those he’s offended—he’s had lots of practice. I weaved through a dozen people as I passed through the living room crowded with plastic conversations—sugarcoated bullshit so grossly decadent I wanted to puke. I opened the door to Debbie’s room, no Clive.

There were four people in the room, two guys, one black, one white, and two girls, one blonde, one Asian. They sat around a multicolored, teak, oval coffee table topped with a thick pane of glass. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” was playing at a conversational level. An unmade trundle off to the right, made up of two mattresses, one sheet, and a blanket far too small for the bed itself, more or less adorned the remainder of the room. On the thick pane of glass lay a bevy of party scraps and drug paraphernalia: weed, rolling papers, an opened pack of Marlboro Reds, a rolled-up dollar bill…some other shit. They looked up as I walked in. Both girls and the black guy nodded in acknowledgment. I recognized them. I wasn’t formally acquainted, but I knew Clive and I had shared an elevator or two with them in the past. The white guy remained quiet, looked up, no nod. I recognized him, too, but never met him. Something familiar in his glossy, bloodshot eyes and shaggy hair. I noticed the by-product of a powdery white substance on the table. I knew it didn’t belong to us. Clive wouldn’t share the remedy without me, not for these tomfools.

Where the fuck is Clive?

I was sure he’d been in the room. I felt his presence. My guess was he came in and interrupted the conversation in order to start his own, just to see if he could, antagonistically imposing his containment of the room for however long he desired. He would do so because no one would have the balls to impede him. Clive carries himself with great confidence, as do I…even when we’re not. We just do it in different ways. Physically we’re quite opposite. I’m five nine, thick light brown hair, blue eyes, lean, aesthetically attractive, and more charming in my demeanor. I’m a good talker that way. Clive—two years my senior—looks more like the spawn of Satan and the Cheshire Cat. He’s six foot, dark brown hair shaved close to the scalp (slightly balding), brown eyes, a little heavy, as abrasive as they come, and that grin; it made some people afraid to be alone with him. I’m easily liked; Clive is easily feared.

“What’s up, guys? Anyone seen my roommate, Clive?” I asked.

“Your roommate?” asked the blonde girl.

“Yeah, Clive…six foot, angry-looking, probably did some of your drugs.”

I pointed to the excess cocaine on the table.

The Asian girl whispered something to the blonde and the black guy. They looked up at me like I had a dick growing on my chin. I looked over at the white guy.

“How about you? You seen him?”

“Nope. I haven’t seen anyone named Clive come in here… What’s your name?”

“What’s yours?” I asked, taking over the alpha role. “Haven’t seen you around here before. You new?”

“Yeah, I’m Reggie’s new roommate, Kevin.”

There were distinct similarities between Kevin and Kenny Harris—the small eyes, the wired hair, the drawl in his speech, his size, his build. He looked like a man with greasy secrets, the hidden neighbor who’s affectionate toward your puppy until you leave the room. That’s when his cards on the table reveal a bluffing hand. He starts to snarl at the innocent pooch. His face contorts to the shape of a lion’s growl, reducing his benevolence to a perfidious dust. He kicks the mutt, screams at it, but only when there’s no one around. People like that, I want to crucify.

“What happened to what’s-her-face from Kansas, the chick who used to live here?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Went back to Kansas, I guess. Reggie said she took off about six months ago. Out of the blue, just took off… What was your name again?”

I felt a sharp pain in my gut, enough to keel me over. I turned away toward the opposite corner of the room only to be met with painful déjà vu the likes of a rusted knife opening a black hole in my brain. A high-pitched ringing in my right ear stung like a wasp. The volume rose. The pain grew.

“Hey, buddy? You okay?” asked Kevin. “What’s your name?”

I saw pictures in my head, bad things. I saw Reggie’s roommate, Debbie. I saw Patrick Thornberg crying. I saw myself in the closet mirror, standing over them with the devil in my eyes.

“Hey…Buddy…What’s your name?”

I snapped.

Fuck you! That’s my name!

The ringing stopped. My gut pain receded. I returned to a full upright position. Kevin backed up. Everyone else was frozen. I walked over and rubbed my finger across the excess cocaine on the table in front of him, applied it to my gums.

“You from Texas, Kevin?” I asked.

He was unsteady and confused, sensing the safety had been lifted from a loaded gun. My entire body was a pulse.

“Yeah…Houston,” he said with a big swallow.

“Thought so.”

Kenny Harris was from Texas.

From behind me, a rather low, slow growl crept up the back of my neck.

“Yeah, boy!”

I turned to see Clive waiting in the doorway, his eyes peering down toward Kevin, his posture that of an angered centaur. He looked at me, gave a nod. Clive didn’t need to know why I didn’t like Kevin. It didn’t matter why—that’s loyalty. There was no need to cross-examine. We trusted each other in those positions, hunted for answers downstream. I turned and walked toward the doorway where Clive was standing.

“You ready?” I asked.

“Yut,” he said, sensing my urge to forsake the bedroom.

Part of me wanted to walk over to Kevin, smash his teeth in with my boot heel. But now was not the time to throw fists, too early for that shit. It wasn’t his fault that he looked like an abominable deviant. It would be his fault if he was one. For now, my appetite to do more coke took precedent. I flaked off first, past Clive, who followed closely behind, but not before giving Kevin one more lasting stare.

“That guy reminds me of someone,” I said to Clive.

“I know,” he said. “But not now.”

The voice of reason.

We both, at times, need the other to be the voice of reason, or VOR, as we sometimes refer to it. Mostly, it’s me taking on the role of said reasonable voice—about eighty percent of the time. But the other twenty percent, Clive steps in to act as the Situation Analysis Advocate for whatever fucked-up state of affairs we’ve gotten ourselves into—probably by design. That twenty percent staves off potentially epic repercussions. It’s an even trade.

We headed back to the living room. I peeked over toward the balcony hoping Niki had cut and run. My malevolence began to evolve into potential violence off the pace of my encounter with Kevin and I preferred she not witness the result of its combustion just yet. She would eventually; they always do.

“She’s gone,” said Clive.

“Yut,” I said.

This is the point of the night where Clive and I felt like the level needed to be raised in order to stay interested. We were growing like weeds in a field of boredom.

“This place is gonna put me to sleep,” I said.

“Uh-huh,” said Clive.

He pointed to the bathroom on the other side of the apartment. It was vacant. We walked in, closed the door, and locked it.

“Check the cabinet.”


We knocked down two lines apiece, drank from the bottle, and commandeered some Klonopin and what was left of the Ambien in the medicine cabinet for the end of the night. I have a hard time sleeping. We stormed out of the bathroom, paid and evil-eyed, crossing the threshold to impending omnipotence, a place where I metamorphize. The structure of my psyche transmutes, and suddenly, I become a territorial wretch, like a child hoarding his toys. This tends to happen when I mix cocaine and bourbon with the constant current of anger that swims my veins—a toxic combination in the district of star-fucking, name-dropping, and false communal togetherness. So many charlatans masquerading in the city of flowers and sunshine can easily set such a person off. One could feel the buildup, the sizzling in the air like power lines. It was going to be another one of those before-dawns where the bootlickers and the blow-jobbers that ended up with Clive and me past a certain hour would either end up stupefied or horrified while sitting front row, forced to witness The Brothers Undignified. I felt invincible. My strengths had multiplied, my fears dematerialized, like I could impel the angels of the lost city to melt into buttered cream by staring intently into their souls. And the night had only just begun. There was so much time to fornicate, fuck up, and forget, comet-tailing a path of bane.

For who will I exhibit my dark side, demonstrating the way I behold my course and the obscene manner in which I choose to endure it? Who will they be tonight, my believers? Somebody, maybe many, falling in line to form a happy horned coterie of hedonistic little monsters.

But that could have been the drugs talking.

We aimed back toward the balcony with a more intense swagger now. Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” exhaled from the speakers like warm breath in a meat locker. Every inch of my body was tense, my jaw was clamped, my teeth were grinding—the dry-fucking of decaying molars like the earth’s plates rubbing together indicated the initial warning signs of seismic activity.

I opened the sliding glass door. To the far left were three girls and two guys, laughing and talking with festive hands. I gave a quick look, noticed a blonde girl. Clive did a double take, racking his brain for some small part of a long-lost memory. He almost looked sad. The blonde looked at us, tightening her pretty green eyes.

“Who’s that?” I asked.

Clive didn’t answer. I didn’t care enough at the moment to ask again. We leaned against the railing of the vast mezzanine. Clive kept looking at her, the blonde, while I spied the herd inside, pensively thumbing through the predetermined biographies that I’d assumed for them, my jaw still clenched, teeth still grinding.

Out-of-work actor, sullen eyes. Too brooding. Faker…

Wannabe, out-of-work actor wearing yellow-tinted lenses and a silk shirt that cost more than that herpes commercial paid him; doesn’t he realize that the three people he’s desperately monologuing for want to puke on his shoes?

Actress who’s worked her way up from extra to girl at the register in the Burger King commercial. She’ll probably end up in porn. Just has that look. I’d fuck her…

Guy who came here all by himself and is still standing in the corner all by himself, hands trapped in his pockets. What’s he got in there?

Girl who’s fucked at least three people here… Actually, wait…I think I may have fucked her at some point; she looks familiar… Yep, make that four. Wait… That’s the porn girl… Aww, shit!

My jaw loosened, reminding me to breathe; the night was young. I inhaled slow and deep, then released. Nobody noticed, but I started to relax. I reached into my tan vintage seventies jacket pocket, pulled out a pack of Camel Wide Lights, and grabbed two smokes. The blonde kept looking over, but I refused to let her know that I noticed, for no good reason. I pulled out a lighter, tilted my head to the left, and, with a snap of my thumb against the spark wheel, ignited a fire at the end of the death stick and inhaled the cancer—a hazardous satisfaction. I gave the cigarette to Clive, then rinsed and repeated. Clive stared at the blonde some more. She was his type. He was a votary of the fair-haired maidens, tall, on the thinner side, and hair about shoulder-length—but they were all reasonably disturbed.

“I know her,” he said, then drifted off in her direction, left his cigarette on the ground.

“Yeah, man,” I said with a tone of indifference, staring into the crowd through the sliding glass.

Our friend, Brandon Tanneker walked outside. B-Funk, as we sometimes call him, does more cocaine than any two people I have ever met in my life, including Clive and myself. It’s astounding that he’s still alive. He’s a good friend, but he can be work from time to time…okay, most of the time…okay, every time. Not a midnight proceeds that some poor bastard isn’t asking us to take him home because he’s talking their ear off, just smashing words together.

“I don’t understand what the fuck he’s saying.”

“He’s foreign,” we’d say.

Brandon is a close-talking, jaw-wobbling poet who can’t formulate a clear word when riding the Big White Rush. Past a certain hour, it becomes an aneurism-inducing struggle to decipher his wasteful prose through the cocaine-crusted gibberish that impersonates his spoken word. It’s ironic that he protests himself a poet. I hadn’t seen him in about six months, before Clive’s overdose.

“What up, B-Funk?” I said.

Clive noticed Brandon but said nothing. He was too busy clocking Blondie, eavesdropping on her conversation, not engaging. Brandon’s eyes were wide as he came in for a hug.

“What up, J-Funk?” he said.

He was coherent, hadn’t quite hit his proverbial level yet.

“Just chilling, man. Slaying the age till my show tonight,” I said. “What’s up with you?”

“Slaying the age. Oh, damn. That’s some good shit, Jake. Killing time, right?”

“Right, B. Killing time.”

I smiled at him like a father smiles when his child opens a gift that he’s been asking for since last Christmas.

“I’m gonna use that one, m’man. You don’t mind if I steal it now?”

“Made it just for you, mate.”

“Where’s the show tonight? Viper?”


B-Funk looked down at the Jim Beam in my hand.

“No, I’m good.”

“I meant the show tonight, dummy. It’s at the Whiskey.”

He laughed.

“Oh, right. What time?”

“We go on at eleven.”

“So, what, like eleven thirty, eleven forty-five?”


“You guys been kinda blowin’ up lately, huh?”

“Yeah, we’re doing okay, I guess. Got some label interest, so…I don’t know. We’ll see.”

“Shit. You about to score a deal, huh?”

“That’s the plan, but who knows. Tough business.”

“Well, you deserve it, man; you guys put on a show. With pipes like yours they better give you something. Man, straight-up rock ’n’ roll. They don’t have that shit no more.”

“Thanks, brother.”

Brandon was being kind. I have an unexceptional vocal tone, not classically trained. But I do possess a law-abiding rock-and-roll, bluesy tongue with the faculty to approach the crest of the falsetto from time to time. It’s probably more our passion on stage that captivates our subtle but loyal audience, and the song writing. I cherish floating above the footlights, as hard as it is for me to get up there.

“You been here long?” asked Brandon.

He glanced again toward Clive and the blonde, who were both staring back at him with varied eyes of intent. Clive’s face was a shade darker, and his eyebrows were turned down. Blondie’s face was a bit scrunched, in thought.

“’Bout a half hour. Probably gonna take off soon,” I said.

Brandon was still looking in the other direction, sifting through his yesterdays.

“I’ll, ahh…I’ll come check you guys out tonight… Eleven right?” he asked.



Brandon leaned in for the exit hug. “Love you, man,” he said.

“Love you, too, brother,” I said.

Brandon turned to go, then turned back.

“Hey, how you doing with everything, man? I’ve been meaning to holler at you. You know, with the whole Clive thing? You good? Everything cool?”

I didn’t know that B-Funk knew about Clive, about his visit to the hospital. I wasn’t sure if he was supposed to know, so I played dumb.

“What Clive thing?”

B-Funk looked at me like I was a child caught lying to his parents about something they wouldn’t really be mad about.

“Jake, c’mon, man.”

I laughed playfully.

“B, I seriously don’t know what you’re talking about. Why don’t you tell me?”

He looked at me like I was a three-legged dog with my ribs showing.

“Jake…” he began. “It’s all good, never mind. I’m sorry, man. I didn’t mean to bring it up. I just wasn’t sure if you, ahh, you know, if, ahh…”

“If I what, B? Out with it, man.”

“You know what, it’s cool, Jake. I gotta take off anyway. We can talk about it another time."

Why doesn’t he just come out and say it?

“No, we can talk about it now.”

Brandon’s phone rang. He flipped it open, waved his finger at me to hold on.

Fuck you, hold on.

“Hey, man, what up? You outside? Yeah, I’ll be right down,” he said to the voice on the other end, then hung up. Then back to me, “I gotta get outta here, Jake. That’s my boy, Roger, downstairs.”

“B, what the fuck are you talking about? What thing with Clive?”

He was already halfway across the living room, heading for the front door.

As soon as Brandon left, Clive’s voice was in my ear.

“B asking about me?”

“Ahh, yeah, and he’s being all weird about it, all secretive and shit. What the fuck was that about?”

“I don’t want to get into it right now.”

Clive’s never said anything like that to me before.

“You fuckin’ serious?”


“You guys get into some shit or what? He know you OD’d? I didn’t want to say anything.”

“Sort of…”

“And why the fuck is he asking me about it? Why is he asking how I’m doing? You were right there. He can’t just talk to you?”

“Sort of…”

“What the fuck do you mean, sort of? You either got into some shit or you didn’t. He either knows or he doesn’t. Which is it?”


“Oh, top-secret shit, huh? All right, fuck you then.”

“Easy, princess. Nothing you can do about it now anyway. C’mon, we’ve got another party to go to before your show.”

“Whatever, Fat Burt Reynolds… What party? Where at?”

“La Cienega. Some chick I used to work with at Miyagi’s,” Clive said as he looked back at Blondie.

There was something lost in his voice. I can’t explain it. It just wasn’t there. I looked at his watch. Nine thirty p.m.

Plenty of time.

On our way out, Blondie took one more shot at me with her creamy jade eyes. She reminded me of Honey Starskate, a girl who lived across the way from me. Honey has green eyes like that, with dark circles underneath, blonde hair, frail, homeless-sexy.

Clive and I started back through the crowd. With no clear aisle, I led us off the beaten path, trampling over the coffee table, leaving a boot-printed crunch across an open bag of potato chips. It sounded like I stepped on a sack of tiny bones, giving birth to a few disapproving glances. Two dipshits sitting on the couch looked up in disgust. They were playing a card game.

“Dude!” said one.

“What the fuck?” said the other.

Clive and I readily turned to engage the fuss. Neither of us took criticism well.

“The fuck is that?” I said. “Dungeons and Dragons?”

Clive said nothing, usually doesn’t need to.

They recoiled, quickly reopening a discussion with one another on the topic of who should have won the Oscar for Best Actress in 1999, a typical response from the away team. I understood why, and it has nothing to do with me. I’m not intimidating. Clive, however, with his more bellicose outer shell and brows of hydra, scares the shit out of people.

There were no real threats to us on scene. We knew that the moment we walked into Reggie’s. Clive and I are keen to sense those things, when, or if, the possibility of an altercation looms overhead. We’ve befallen a wealth of confrontations where we pissed in someone’s cornflakes, enough to salt their cereal. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t feast on the violence from time to time. A modern-day joust is a great way to taste your own blood, to remind you that death awaits…you know, so you can live. One time, about a year ago, Clive and I brought these two girls to The Cat and Fiddle. It was right after I broke up with Talina.