...and who knows you?
Vics shoulders dropped as he walked into the 5 Point and settled himself at the far end of the bar, just beneath the television. No one noticed him as he shrank into a stool and rubbed his eyes. After a few minutes Charlene noticed him and asked if he wanted a drink. He didnt, but asked for a glass of water anyway.
He scanned the place, didnt find anyone he knew, and looked at the booth where Estrelica had set the day before and saw another woman sitting there by herself eating a sandwich. He looked at the booth he had been sitting in the day before when he noticed Estrelica and saw some young buck gazing over at the woman eating the sandwich.
Charlene brought Vic a glass of water as he took out a scrap of paper and started to scrawl.
I was born in the dead of winter
with the promise of spring at my feet
summertime at my fingertips
and you I had waited to meet
we stole away to the meadow
we feasted on cheese and ale
Id turn and watch the horizon
and whispered I couldnt stand jail
I spent my time on beaches
I spent my time with thieves
the bonds I saw them sever
I never fathomed or believed
I returned to find the eyes Id left
and found a face of stone
carved from my ways that you paid for
a solitude not shared, but owned
my days ahead are like puppets
my days long past are antiques
this heart of mine you used to cherish
I hope you never will seek
even the purest of waters
left still, to a poison will turn
once I had only ice for you
now all I can do is burn
once I may have been lightning
so bright and always so near
I set fire to the ground beneath me
and then I disappeared
Vic looked behind him at the guy sitting in the booth he had sat in the day before gazing over at the woman eating the sandwich. He looked over at the woman eating the sandwich who raised her eyes to look at the guy, finished her mouthful, and emphatically mouthed the word "No" with her lips. A dark figure sat down next to Vic.
"Vic! What the hells up?"
It was Bexley Kent, an anonymous sliver of aspen that had been sticking in Vics side since the two of them were boys. They remembered each other more than either of them were willing to let on, and soon enough found their trails zigzagging around each other like it was just a matter of time before the only thing that got the better of them was the last of a bottle of Everclear.
No getting the better of Bexley, and his eyes showed it. Nothing could save him from the way hed stretch out his arms and wonder if there was anything that he didnt already know. Poor bastard was too wrapped up in it all to see anyone shivering, let alone Vic, whom he had always seen at kith, or at least kin, for some reason.
Over the years Bexley would always shrug Vic off, then call him in fright, then shrug him off and now he sat at Vics side grinning madly at the entertainment of a fellow Kingfisher dying of thirst.
"Not much," Vic volunteered, "I dont think Ive ever seen you in here before."
"Nah, someone at work recommended it. Not really my type of place I guess," he said looking around, "But this girl at work said that they had great potato salad here."
"That they do." Vic replied taking a cigarette out of his jacket pocket.
"Still smoking, huh, Vic?"
"Yeah," he said lighting it, "its company."
Bexley started to say something but noticed the bandage on Vics hand.
"Christ, what happened to you?"
"Ahh, I had to crawl through some briars this morning."
"You HAD to?"
"Well, they were in the way."
"So, what are you up to these days? I think the last time I saw you you were on your way to Alaska."
"Yeah, that was a couple of years ago. I went to Alaska. I came back from Alaska."
Bexley listened to the silence couching Vics encapsulement of his arctic trek and remembered how hed never quite understood the way Vic wasted his life, deliberately avoiding money, achievement and respect.
Bexley had always waffled between everything. Colleges. Mountains. Tides. All he had to do was try and it was his. He was currently running a string of Mexican restaurants and had a brand new Jaguar with nothing in it but a football on the back seat.
If Vics eyes were volcanoes, Bexleys were craters. Craters of the purest despair he could so perfectly laugh away. His laughs were numbered, though. Numbered like how many minutes it would be before hed ask Vic for a cigarette.
"Ill never understand you, Vic. I mean, I always knew that you had it, even back in school. I may not have really, uh, talked to you, but, you know no one really talked to you, but I always knew that you had it. And I cant really understand why you want to live like this, you know? I was always amazed how none of it ever got to you, that you just did what you wanted to do, but...."
Vic rolled his cigarette in the ashtray from side to side and tipped his head to one side.
"Well, we all heal at our own pace."
Bexley listened to Vics words but stared through him and noticed that just like when the two of them were in school, Vic didnt feel like explaining himself to someone who hadnt been through what he had.
"Well, yeah, but why do you do it?"
Vic took another drag of his cigarette.
"I do it for me. Well, mostly for me. and a little bit for her."
"Her? Whos her?"
"Aaah, just someone."
"Yeah, that was always the thing about you, Vic. You always let the women get to you. I mean, Im not saying its wrong or anything, but, like all those years that you hungered for my sister when she was going out with my best friend. I guess you two knew each other a long time before I did, but..."
"A little bit." Vic offered.
"I guess I just never saw a guy get so hung up over a girl. It was years before you guys even did anything, wasnt it? Or DID you guys ever do anything?"
"We didnt need to. I was given more access because I wasnt her lover. We needed each other a lot more than we wanted each other."
Bexley let what Vic said sink in before continuing.
"I dont know. Maybe there IS something that you need, Vic."
"Kent, have you ever just spent hours and hours and hours and hours and still not ever gotten cold? With her hands in your hair and just scratching where she tells you feels better?"
Bexley just stared so Vic kept talking.
"Do you remember Casey Gates from school?"
"Casey Gates? No, cant say that I do."
"Casey Gates was always frightened of his father. You know, the whole endlessly violent changing of the guard thing that all fathers and sons go through, until one day he just ran away. Lived it up, partied all the time. Made a lot of money. Answered all his own questions, never needed anyone. Tore up the world on his own terms. Finally he got all he ever wanted, and what is he doing now? He sits at home after work pushing the buttons to the television with a bottle of Jim Beam in one hand and an old Luger in the other. He decided to go home one day; hadnt seen his father in years, and found his father flicking the buttons on the television with one hand on a bottle of Mad Dog and one on a skin magazine. Theyve been the best of friends ever since. They dont do anything, except sit around watching people get killed on television and talking about guns. I mean, its too late for them to be interested in the outside world, but at least they found each other again. and I guess theres a certain kind of victory in that."
Bexley watched Vic snub out his cigarette and decided to change the subject.
"Did you go to the races yesterday?"
"Yeah, I was there."
"Did you see Eden Sweep run?"
"Yeah, I had a hunch about old Eden Sweep. Didnt bet on it, though."
"Who did you bet on?"
"Maiden Bidder. I bet ten bucks in the first race on Blatant and Brown and made a hundred. Put the hundred on Curse The Rose in the second and made a thousand. Laid down the entire thousand on Whisper of Scarlet in the third race and made ten thousand. Then in the fourth race I put it all on Maiden Bidder to win."
"Aah, no big thing. I only lost ten bucks."
"Well, at least the weather was decent."
"Yeah, pretty decent weather, actually."
Bexley excused himself to go to the bathroom just as Charlene came up to ask him if he wanted to order something. He muttered Budweiser and some potato salad and walked away. Vic turned around to chart the progress of the two in their own separate booths behind him. He still gazing at her, she still ignoring him.
Vic noticed Bexley had returned from the lavatory and turned to ask him about his new car and found instead that it was Estrelica. A surge of current jolted him as she started to speak.
"Vic, Im tired. Im very tired. Im tired of myself. Ive reached the saturation point where I know too much about me, and I cant get out of my own way." She looked in his eyes like she swore to herself that she wouldnt. "And, I know that I dont have to say anything when I talk to you, that youll just listen, so just listen: You remind me of someone I know, someone I know who isnt going to be around for a while. Youre not exactly him, but then, hes nothing like you. And, uh, by the way, you owe me for all the food."
"But, wasnt the coffee mine?" Vic asked.
"But, I got us more beer last night."
"But, that was just a smile at all of the right faces."
"No, that was just a smile." Estrelica smiled.
Bexley had returned and sat next to Estrelica, wondering if this was the her Vic was talking about.
"I want to see Europe." Estrelica said quietly.
"I want you to see it." Vic nodded.
"Do your feet always stink?" she asked.
"Not if Im not there."
"To hell with it. Heavens not getting any cheaper. I mean, the riches of the poor have never nailed my feet to the floor, and if I could just tread upon ancient ground again, I think Id just take the last piece of land there is and march it through town in a wheelbarrow, and guess what? Ive got wheels again."
"Bexley, this is Estrelica."
"Hi," he said offering his hand.
"Hello," Estrelica returned putting her hand on his arm, then turned back to look into Vics face. She put her hand in her pocket and went over to the jukebox. Bexley peered into Vics eyes as he watched her walk away. Vic whispered "You show me a guy who has the guts to look a woman in the eye, and Ill show you the strong man in the circus."
Bexley looked at her ass and shrugged. "Shes not that special."
"If you seriously believe that then you know nothing about anything and I cant help you. See, theres a plan here that I keep seeing that I just dont like. Something about concrete and dice. It makes me long and dark and shivering, and all they ever talk to me about it the warmth of the ice. and what you see before you, hopefully one day youll actually get a chance to meet, and she wont just be another page with a lot of addresses, shell just be there inside reminding you of heat."
Estrelica sat back down on her stool.
"Bexley, huh? Vic hasnt told me about you."
"Yeah, weve know each other for years. We went to the same school."
"So, what was he like back then?" Estrelica asked.
"Pretty much the same."
"Well, no one really changes, do they? They just sharpen." Estrelica replied.
Charlene brought Bexley his Bud and his potato salad and he started to dig in. Estrelica turned to Vic.
"So, when does the justice of the peace close?" she asked.
"Probably not for a good few hours." Vic replied.
"A few good drinking hours, if you ask me."
"I would never ask you."
"Not even for a cigarette?"
"Come to think of it, you do have those Black Russians still, dont you?" Vic asked.
"Um-hmm." She said spilling the last one out of her pack in his direction and lit it for him.
"Did you get everything done that you had to?" Vic asked.
"Of course not, but its not even noon yet."
"Oh, its well past noon."
"No!" She said looking around for a clock. "Okay, look, Ive gotta run; a friend of mine is waiting and Im late, but meet me at the Gibson House in an hour and a half."
"Gibson House in an hour and a half."
She put her hand on his leg and smiled good-bye as Vic watched her walk away. Vic went to the bathroom as Bexley finished his potato salad and began washing it down with his beer. Vic came back to his stool and noticed that both the girl in her booth and the guy in his booth had both left.
"You know, Bex, my patience isnt getting the better of me. In fact, no ones been getting the better of me. My neck feels like a four by four and...I need to be bathed. Did you like the potato salad?"
"That was really good. Needed a little bit more of something, but I liked it."
"Well, Im off. See you here again?"
"Or else the Frontier Room."
Vic collected his things, left a little something for Charlene and stepped out of the 5 Point narrowing his eyes, thinking of what had to be done. Bexley swirled the remains of his beer around in his glass and thought of Estrelica with Vic, raised his eyebrows and tipped the backwash down his gullet.
Estrelica & Vic, Chapter 15
Forever hold your peace