"So what do you want to do?" TEd asked.
Do? I thought. What else is there to do? We'd broken curfew, we'd smoked weed, we'd shot Canadian geese and we'd scraped a struggling writer off the floor of a stage-1 heroin user's worst nightmare; we'd gone from suburban central Mass to the pitholes of Boston, and he was asking me what else I wanted to do?
"I dunno, what do you want to do?"
"I was thinking we could see a movie," he said. "Maybe we could catch the matinee."
"Very funny." Then I realized he might mean let's sneak into the back of a porno theater; I quickly decided I didn't know him that good.
"No, seriously," he said, "let's go see a movie."
Oh, why the hell not. Handsome Dan had given me fifty bucks. I had enough money for a ticket and a pot of black coffee to keep me awake till intermission. And as for time ... the night was still not over. You figure the movie'd be two and a half hours, the ride an hour, for us to find the theater half an hour, that puts us at eight o'clock back home and time to spare.
So what the hell, let's go see a movie.
I was about to say "sure, why not," when there was a bang from Handsome Dan's direction. Ted and I shared another one of those instant nonverbal communications, same message as before, let's get the hell out of here.
We found a decent theater after half an hour, as predicted. The only picture it was playing was "The Matrix," of all fucking things. I hate those sci/fi shows. Of all the things in movies that kill me, it's computer-drawn animations and shitty acting backdrops that's worse. I mean, sure, go ahead and render me down a CG movie. What's inside the characters? Flesh and blood? No. Just second-rate wireframe put together by Disney or Pixar or Miramax primarily for the reason that it's cheaper than paying an actor and a director and a crew that will respond to stimuli ... And at its core, what does all this technology used in making these programmed puppets stem from? Video games, an industry so rooted in vanity that the gods of CG in their searing flames do not even attempt to cover it up ... "Toy Story" almost gave me a fucking heart attack, man.
The tickets were six-fifty apiece, which is amazing for Boston, or anywhere at all. They didn't have that coffee I was aching for ... literally aching for; I'm a coffee fiend. It's gonna stunt my growth. I'll be a midget. I'm totally addicted to coffee. If I skip a day I get symptoms of withdrawal.
The theater was a dirty place, despite its clean pictures; there were bits of popcorn all over the floor and the trash cans were a little overfilled. The carpet was sticky in some parts and an ugly red and purple pattern; it reminded me of vomit.
There were two girls leaning over the counter, looking for the clerk.
Ted saw them too, because he nudged me and called the one on the right. This one had on daisy duke shorts, and peered over the counter with one bare calf lifted off the floor ...
We walked over to them. They looked our age, which was extremely odd on this particular night; what business would two girls have in a Boston movie theater at four in the morning ... seeing "The Matrix," no less.
I guessed you could have asked us the same question, and I gave them the benefit of the doubt after they turned to face us.
The one on the right was pretty. They were both pretty good-looking. Taken into account that they were in a movie theater at four in the morning, that they were the only girls we'd seen all night, and that they were drop-dead gorgeous, and we were the luckiest guys in Boston.
"There's nobody there," Ted said. "House is too lazy to pick up the floors. You figure they don't give too much a shit about the popcorn."
They both turned with expressions of shock on their faces.
"Oh," the girl on the right said. "Well, the guy outside said there'd be people in here."
"The guy outside," I tried to explain, "is so angry at his job that he doesn't care if the Shah of Iran is inside serving popcorn and mescaline to minors, if it means he still gets to get paid to do jack shit all night and sleep all day."
The girl on the left (mine by default) smiled; I guess that wasn't a shitty joke, enough for her to smile at; Ted wasn't quite cracking up, and the girl with the daisy dukes looked at me like I had grown a third head. She didn't know the Shah from the Ayatollah, as it turns out.
"The Shah's dead," the girl said.
"The Ayatollah, then," I said. "Same difference."
She gave a little giggle at this, I guess that's actually disarming with some people ... I don't know how the hell dropping the Shah's name can get you laid, knowing that "Shah" even is a word automatically makes you Jon Stewart to some girls, but I guess I shouldn't ask questions.
I told her mine.
"That's a nice name," Allie said.
"Thank you," I said, for lack of anything better to say.
Ted had somehow talked his way into going into "The Matrix" with them. I was more interested in their reason for going ... not that that was any of my business of course, but if these girls had had a weirder night than I had, I'd be glad to hear about it.
Ted and Daisy Duke were sitting in the row in front of me, and Allie was sitting next to me. I had never double-dated, nor will I ever again ... that was probably the worst movie to bring a date to. Just about the first time they stole a line from Casablanca in the middle of an action sequence was plenty of times for me.
It was good to be with other human beings for a little while. Allie seemed cool. The little she said made sort of an impression on me; I could tell by the look on her face while she watched the movie that she thought it was total crap, too; she eyed Ted and Daisy Duke, who were both necking in the row before us at the time, with an eye of contempt, similar to my own, that asked them without really asking why we needed to hear the sound effects ... She seemed alright. I began to wonder if the two of them, Ted and Daisy Duke, would eventually cut the shit and do it in the row ahead, save us the discomfort ... all the power to him, I guess.
I don't mean Allie seemed nasty or anything. She didn't seem cruel at all. It was just that Ted and this Daisy May were really going at it ... it was quite uncomfortable.
The picture shorted out and the sound died just as I started thinking if this was a double date, then that meant I had some obligation to Allie, too.
Ted and I probably could have gotten the hell out of Boston, gotten home and avoided arrest until a later date, if Daisy Duke hadn't suggested we all go out for breakfast. But she did, of course. Just my luck.
Ted said sure thing, we were hungry too, and I wanted to tell him to speak for himself when I noticed that his hair was ruffled and Daisy Duke's shorts were on crooked.
Holy shit, I thought, don't I look like an asshole.
Allie and her friend found a Dunkin Donuts just around the corner, and I began to suspect that they were city kids. I mistrust city kids. I think every suburban kid mistrusts them. Something about their manner, their little tolerance for bullshit and demand for hard work, strikes us as frightening. Strikes me as frightening, at least. Ted seemed perfectly at home in Boston, I don't know why.
The Dunkin Donuts was deserted, except for the midnight shift. I could see two people behind the counter. The minute I sat down at one of the plastic benches inside the place I realized that I was bone-tired and starving. I ordered a large coffee and a blueberry muffin, not daring to get more than a muffin, for fear of scaring Allie and Daisy Duke.
That other girl, I have no idea what her name is. Neither does Ted. He says she probably told him, but he can't remember. She didn't talk to me at all outside a few confused questions about what Allie and I were talking about, and those were pretty basic questions; what is theme, what do you mean messianary, and finally who cares about what it means, it was just a stupid movie.
Ted and Daisy Duke were on one side, Allie and me on the other. I took a gulp of my coffee and instantly regretted it; I burned half my tongue and got a bitter taste of blood.
"Coffee a little hot?" Allie said.
"Not just the coffee."
"Shut up!" she said, giving me a shove.
There was a short, awkward pause, which Ted and Daisy Duke filled with loud smacking noises. Apparently, Ted had found my side of the bench a little dull.
"It looks like they're eating each other," Allie said. "Doesn't it?"
My God, they looked tacky, four in the morning in a Dunkin Donuts sucking their faces off ... we were both more than a little embarrassed by it.
"Come on," I said, "let's take a walk."
"Where do you want to go?" she asked.
"I dunno. I don't know the city too good."
"You don't know the city too well. That's -- uh -- that's how you're supposed to say it."
Her cheeks were going red. God, she looked adorable.
"Not to tell the doc his business."
"I'm not a writer." Ha-ha.
"What do you mean, sure?"
"Well -- I don't know, let's just go for a walk, alright?"
Finally, I thought.
There was a little sun on the streets, and I could see where Allie was going pretty well. She was headed down the way we came by the Dunkin Donuts. Once a big black dog with a white patch of fur like a cross on his chest walked right passed us, and Allie jumped and grabbed me ... that was sort of sexy. The dog walked away. Wherever he is, I owe him one.
I had brought along my coffee, and I took another swig of it shortly after the dog walked by. Allie was hanging onto the arm with my coffee in it, and I guess it was a stupid thing to do, because the coffee was still burning hot. She might have slipped or something, she shook my arm and I took a mouthful of boiling coffee. I didn't burn my tongue, but one of my fillings got sore as hell. I swallowed the coffee too early and I was coughing and swearing for a little while, and Allie just laughed like it was the richest thing in the world.
"Tongue again?" she asked.
"No ... my filling's a bitch and a half."
"Oh, my God, I just got one in my third molar you could see from space ... "
"They had to put me on painkillers, it hurt so bad."
"I've got one on my front tooth, hurt like a bastard when it got drilled, looked like I had a baseball in my mouth for weeks, the guy drilled too deep."
"Yeah, and the worst is he screwed up the colors. The filled in part is snow white, and the rest is, well, you know, white."
"Well, I haven't noticed anything."
"Nothing big. Just a little white blotch, like an upside-down 'U.'" She bent forward to take a look, although who could see by this light, and I lifted my lip. "I don't know if you can see it ... "
She leaned up close and looked hard, and after she found it she figured out it didn't matter if the filling was here or anywhere; what mattered was that she was inches away from me, and the coffee on my breath still had a hint of cigar and marijuana, and that she had on light apple perfume. We kissed for a while. I don't know how long. I didn't know what day it was, for Christ sakes.
When we were done I took a sort of inventory, where the hell I was, where my hands were, where my hands were on her.
Also lucky was my lack of memory of our walk back. I imagine it was a little awkward, at least when we weren't, you know, but I don't remember any of it.
We paid our bill and Allie gave me her number on a gum wrapper. I stuck it in my pocket and hoped I would remember it later.
Ted was looking a little tired, and he had a layer of sweat on his skin. Daisy Duke now wore her hair in a ponytail, and her makeup was a little smudged ... my God, I thought, the man is a genius.
We got in the cab. The man up front was a young guy, supposedly a friend of Handsome Dan's. How Dan arranged for this guy to drive us back is beyond me.
We rolled our windows down to vent the smell of the pot. The air on my face was freezing at first, and breathing it hurt my sides. After a while I got used to it. The fresh air cleared my head out nicely. I felt confident about the impending lie I'd have to tell to my parents.
It was a long, heavy, and quiet ride back to Ted's house. I kept thinking about Handsome Dan, now miles behind us, whether he was in a pool of his own shed blood or just throat-deep in a drug highball. And Ted's dad, slumped in the backseat of the old Navigator while one of Dan's employees ferried him back to the same broken house we were now headed towards, with hell's own hangover floating over his head like a water balloon about to burst. I wondered if their hearts were still beating and felt mine was still poking along. Ted stuck his hand out the window and tried to slap the highway signs. Never made it.
... To be continued ...