Chapter 10

Glass and flames


Vic walked away from the house Estrelica lived in and the flames followed, taunting his every step and sabotaging his every thought. It was a more wretched loss than any other because he had never gained what it was he had lost. He simply followed the impossible into the farthest reaches he could until the realm of possibility had no claim on what lay ahead. He struggled in vain to distract his attention with the world before him and tried conjuring up some enthusiasm for a few dreams he still had in his back pocket. Maybe now he’d ride trucks across Africa; maybe now he’d teach himself Hebrew; maybe now he’d finally abandon any hope of trying to touch souls with someone and let the encroaching grip of cynicism and reality submerge what light he had let shine so magnificently that even those who could recognize it and envision the infinity he held in his eyes flinched and turned away in disbelief that such a soul might still in fact be so naive as to exist.

He looked up at the sky and wondered why the strongest ones he had ever met, those who could take the longest strides and cut paths across any obstacle in their way, were also prey to the most overwhelming feelings of doubt and failure. He wrestled with a thought that had been nagging him for years: That perhaps those whose dreams weren’t as grandiose, whose tastes were simpler and whose lives were as pedestrian as the ingredients on a box of cereal, had in fact realized that gambling too much for deliverance is bound to leave just you and the dealer weary, after-hours, when the dealer is so tired that when he catches you cheating he just sighs and stares at the speed in your eyes.

He thought of the times he and Kirk Erickson would go out and have a couple of pints, and inevitably the conversation would spiral downward into a lot of embarrassing pauses until Vic would finally mutter in exasperation, "If we’re so clever, why are we here?" Kirk would nod his head, tip his glass back and say, "Yeah, it’s not exactly all ambrosia and thunderbolts."

The weight, the unbearable wait that clamped it’s jaws tighter with each day that Vic used to be able to wriggle around inside of until it tickled, started to fester in his mind leaving a poison that worked its way down to his throat and strangled any attempt at communication with anyone remotely earthbound or landlocked. He had managed to keep his head as far away from his heart as possible, but now found them so estranged that he may already have forfeited any chance of reuniting them.

The sun began to shine through a tapestry of clouds moving slowly across the sky as Vic reached up to rip them over the sun and blot it out. Like a man within sight of land after so long at sea, Vic felt the gnawing rumble of having to deal with land and had to fight off the feeling of turning the ship around to just live in the longing that perched on high and majestic, just on the other side of infinity, where stillness lies.

He thought about Rob Janning, who would have Deathday parties on the day of his birth, complete with a funeral pyre in the backyard with two burning four-by-fours stuck in the ground with a gigantic old television placed between them that he’d stand on just as the sun went down. With a sledgehammer held skyward he would bellow "Render unto Caesar, what is Caesar’s," then with a mighty crack send the television booming its tube into oblivion. Rob Janning; who slept just as close to the railroad tracks as Vic did and sometimes walked in his sleep.

A dull ache rabbit-punched Vic in the ribs as he coiled up and bellowed Estrelica’s name to the skies and listened to it echo off into tomorrow.

"They never say why. They never even try."

The violence that Vic had always been able to hold in the palm of his hand and stare down suddenly roiled up in his fist as he slowly edged towards the block of apartments he was walking by, eyed a front window and put his fingers through the glass. He pulled out his hand, wiped it on his pants and kept walking, oblivious to what he had just done.

He thought of the aloneness he treasured when he was a child and how much he was able to do without the presence of others intruding upon his world, and how his aloneness had only festered into loneliness when he had sought out others like him and had intertwined with them to such a degree that coincidences flowed like magic and when they were apart, the heart he’d grown so fond of left his own heart pining.

He made his way to the apartment Gingersnap lived in, a stripper at Razzmatazz, the local strip joint. He knocked on her door and found her at home."Well, look who it is...." she beamed.

"Hey, what’s up?" Vic replied.

"Get your ass in here, babe. What have you been up to?"

"Oh, this and that."

"I was just in the middle of some ham and sausage. You want some?"

"No, that’s okay, I already ate."

"So, what are you up to these days, Vic?"

"Oh, same old thing. No real plans."

"I don’t believe that. Not Vic, the God of the Road, going as he pleases in search of life itself. Whatever happened to what’s-her-name?"


"You know. Whatshername, with the boutique and the hair."

"Oh, her. Whatever."

"Looks like she’s still on your mind."

"No, it’s someone else."

"Who is it this time?"

"Somebody I didn’t even know this time yesterday who just made me put my hand through a window." He said holding up his fist.

"God’s crotch! Let me get something to wrap that in." she said as she went to the bathroom.

"So, she was something special, huh?" she called from the hall.

"What gives you that idea?" Vic said, looking at his latest handiwork.

"I remember the last time you came to me after something like this and you bawled your eyes out for hours. Remember that?"

"Don’t remind me."

Ginger came back from the bathroom with a rag and some iodine and nursed Vic’s hand for him.

"When are you going to learn?"

"When all of my teachers are in the grave, I guess."

"So, talk to me. If you want to."

"Ah, there’s nothing to say really. You know what I look for, and you know how I react when they wake up to find that it must have all been a dream."

"Was she beautiful?"

Vic didn’t respond.


Vic didn’t respond.

"Oh, come on now. This isn’t the same guy who told ME that expiring for love is beautiful but stupid."

"Ah, you know how it gets sometimes."

"Yeah, I do."

"Ham and sausage, huh?"

"Still warm."

"Nah, that’s okay."

"So, when are you going to stop dealing with this extremes stuff?"

Vic didn’t respond.

"It’s not very, uh, healthy, you know."

"Yeah, yeah, I know."

"I don’t mean to upset you or anything, but, come on, Vic, you know women by now."

"Yeah, I do."

"Look, you can come and see me at work this afternoon. Truffles will be there. and you like Truffles."

"Truffles is going to be there?"

"Truffles will be there."

"She still owes me money."

"I should be in fine form by about ten or eleven. I’ll give you a dance..." she sang softly under her breath.

"Okay, okay, okay. I’ll be there."

"Ah, it’s so nice to have my friends pay my rent."

"Wait a minute. I have to pay?"

"Okay, the dance is free, but I don’t think I can talk to the guy at the door. He’s a real jerk."

"That’s okay. I’ve got enough."

Ginger saw Vic lapsing back into his own little world.

"Oh, you know Tangerine? The one with the mole? The one with the misplaced aureoles?"

"Oh, yeah, Tangerine."

"She took something like this to heart and left the engine running with the garage door down. I don’t mean to be macabre or anything, but...there WILL be others."

"Do you have anyone these days?"

"No one to really speak of. They come and go. There is this one guy who keeps coming back, though. He’s always reading, so tonight I thought I’d go up and ask him what he’s reading. Who know, it could be Flannery O’Connor for all I know."

"Yeah." Vic said half-heartedly.

"Look, if you need a place to stay for a while, there’s plenty of room here."

"Thanks. I might take you up on that."

"You know, I’ve been missing you."

"Yeah, I’ve been missing you, too."

"I often wonder when you’ll bother showing your ugly mug around here...but, I don’t exactly hold my breath."

"I haven’t see you hold your breath since the time I saw you make your belly-button whistle."

"I use that now. It goes down pretty well when it’s time to close. They won’t just tip you for anything and sometimes you really have to bend over backwards, but, what the hell. I’ve enrolled in a class on belly dancing, like in the Middle East. The authentic stuff. It’s a lot harder than it looks."

"Ah, nothing you can’t handle."

"Yeah, probably not. But, it’s fun. There’s this one girl in the class who cracks me up. Meesha. She’s French; raised there and everything, and she’s so funny when she tries to pick up guys. I got her a job at Razzmatazz and she tries to pick up guys while she’s dancing, which they think is all an act until she won’t leave them alone and, of course, they freak out and go scurrying for the toilets. And she always says, "What did I say? What did I say?" because she doesn’t have ALL the language down yet. One guy actually ripped up his divorce papers right in front of her. She’s a scream, she really is."

"Sounds fun." Vic said staring into space.

"Oh, Vic...When are you going to wake up?"

"She gave me her St. Christopher, okay?"

"But, you already have one, don’t you?"

"No, it’s not that, it’s...."

Ginger went over to give Vic a hug as she found a bulge in his pants and started to play with it.

"No, don’t do that."

"Okay. Would you like some coffee?"

"No, I don’t need any more coffee, but I do need to use your phone."

"You’re not going to CALL her, are you?"

"No, of course not. I have to see if my insurance settlement has come through yet."

"What settlement is this?"

"This car accident I was in about two and a half years ago. Charles and I were in his car going down 45th, about to take a right onto The Ave when this huge Mercedes truck in the middle lane also decides he’s going to take a right turn. He went right over the top of Charles’ car and pushed us up onto the sidewalk and kept driving. Of course, we had tons of witnesses, including the President of Safeco Insurance who saw the whole thing and gave us his card. The driver of the truck denied the whole thing and that’s why it’s taking so long. We’re suing him and he’s suing us, so it’s just a matter of time, really. Charles and I each had to see a massage therapist for a couple of months, which ran up a few thousand in bills."

Vic spoke to his attorney’s assistant for a few minutes who told him that there had been no news either way but that something should be happening very soon. A reply that Vic had been hearing for over two and a half years.

Ginger went to the kitchen to make some more coffee and finish the last of her breakfast.



"Oh, nothing."

"Yeah, right. So, when are we going to get married, Vic?"

"I don’t know. What are you doing tomorrow?"

"Bad day. I have to help out at Planned Parenthood tomorrow. One of the high schools asked them to put together some sort of a lecture show for them. and one of my friends who works for them wants me to go and give a talk to the girls about the, uh, economic advantages of being, or not being, a dancer and all that."

"Well, I guess we just weren’t meant to be."


"So, what are your plans for the day?"

"I’ve got some errands to run. I have to check up on a few things."

"Yeah, I have to get some things done, too. In fact, why am I making more coffee? I have to be someplace after I choke this meat down. But, do stop by the place tonight." she said between bites of food and sips of coffee. "Promise?"

"Yeah, okay; I’ll be there."

Gingersnap and Vic exchanged hugs and kisses as she kicked him out the door.



Estrelica & Vic, Chapter 11

Baby, please don't go