Chapter 17

I just loved riding around in cars with a bunch of guys.

Not that all the male peer groups were such good company down home.  Probably the worse I’ve seen were my uncle  Clete’s band of hound dogs.  All with the same kind of car, which changed every two years, hanging out at gas stations!  with short crew cuts and big ole sideburns they combed  all the time.  And talking shit so southern even I couldn’t understand it.  Never use one syllable when three will do.  Cousin diddlers, niggerknockers, trainpullers, chugaluggers.  I’d love to be able to scoop up a dumptruck full of them and drop them into some Valley girl party over in NoHo.  See who got devoured.

But that’s the extreme case.  By and large guys were good company, and lots more fun than girls.  With a few exceptions, I was more comfortable around boys than girls, men than women.  I like playing cards and pool or shooting hoops or playing in some bar league.  Talking about cars or sports or elections or dirty jokes.  Instead of sitting around talking about clothes and guys and kids (especially) and just rattle-head gossip.  I had team mates in school, and maybe a gang of mean girls, maybe somebody who wanted to stand really close in the showers, but no real friends.

On the other hand, I had male friends that I just loved–without any privileges–guys I’d literally have died for.  And damn near made it a time or two.  I remember this fight in a bar one time.  The guy I was with was slender, kind of Bambi-eyed, looked about half girly.  Hung like a horse thief, though.  And a martial arts devotee, since he could stand up. It started over him, but of course it was over me.  Typical ratpack, except these wore nice suits and manicures. God knows what they were.  But it got nasty really quick, and as soon as I jumped into it, it was past any ladies’ courtesy thing, just a down and dirty donnybrook, four on two.  They hated it.  Darren was like “Bruce Lee Lite” and I was coming off All-State honors to a full Class AAA ride and working out three days a week in a boxing gym. I socked this one asshole in the throat and he commenced to dying, right then and there.  Fully occupied his mind.  Then some other guy came running in.

Darren was so cool.  He won the fight, no doubt about it, but I’ll take some major assists.  But then he kind of faded back so here’s these tough guys that obviously ruled this yuppie/dealer bar down on their knees or lips and I am kicking the ever-loving mud out them and jumping on their ribs and heads.  I got a little worked up on that one.  That’s what gets you, that big adrenalin shot right behind your eyes, more than anything you get from sports.  Finally he kind of came up and grabbed my shoulder and said, “Let ’em live Cams.”  I looked around, shaking, my hair and nostrils probably dilated the size of Mammoth Caverns, fists clinched with blood on them and the big thing I noticed, the other dudes in the bar looked spooked, most of the chicks looked like getting up a ticker tape parade for me.

Then I looked down at those dorks and I realized it:  within 48 hours it would be all over that they got the tar whaled out of them by a girl.  Darren kind of scooped me up and walked me to the door.  Turned around and pointed at all this dress-for-success meat on the carpet and said, “Our friends will pick up our tab.”  Waltzed me out of there like Gene Kelly.  I had his fly down before we made it to the car.  I figured he had privileges coming, by then, and anyway I was hornier than a three-peckered billy goat.  You just never know about some guys.

Or.  I could have been sitting around a sorority house playing hearts and doing each others’ hair.  Know the best way to do your hair?  Bend down and shake it out, then flip your head back.  See what I mean?

 

But in high school I’d generally be driving around with a bunch of guys in a car.  Bad for my reputation because I guess the old biddies and wannabops  figured I was entertaining the whole bunch with all openings and both hands and feet or something.  The real deal was, if you got into something sticky with one of them, you weren’t one of the guys anymore.  You were a girlfriend, or stuff, or something, but not in the clubhouse.

And it didn’t dawn on them that a little harmless humping and bumping didn’t hurt anybody, but what we were really doing was like picking drags and shotgunning mailboxes and jimmying coin machines, and stealing wheels.   Some of my best times in school.  I used to skin out of my panties sometimes, though, attach them to the aerial like a flag, let everybody think the worse.

Being in a car with people who just plain don’t give a damn is a real barrel of monkeys, sometimes.  And doesn’t always end up like you’d figure.  I remember once we slunk up behind this very cherry ’94 TransAm (with the stripe) that Dewey had seen sitting there three nights running.  Spider’s black mustang, no lights, no chrome.  Sitting there figuring out how to de-accessorize this car which wasn’t exactly on a main drag, but neither was it exactly out on the boondocks trace.  Drinking malt liquor and listening to Stevie Ray while scheming before the fact.

And suddenly this  beat-out old Monte Carlocomes flying up, rocks us as it zooms by, brakes in front of thePontiac, backs up and bumps it.  Couple of Hispanic guys hop out, run back.  We thought they were checking for damage and laughing about what a couple of idiot wetbacks they were.  They hopped back in and just literally patched out…dragging the Tranny with them!  They’d hooked it up and absconded, right under our noses.  We just sat there and stared.  We could have caught them, easy, and Dewey had a pistol under the seat, anyway.  But we just sat and google-eyed those bandidos driving away with our designated prey.  Finally Spider said, “Getting so you can’t even park your car safe in this country without some beaner comes along and takes it off.”  We laughed fit to die, drank some more forties.  Spider put on a Santana album, said “Hell, might as well join ’em.”

So what were you doing your junior year summer?

 

It’s not like I’m some sort a freak.  You get guys who’d rather hang out with women. I don’t mean horndogs, that doesn’t work out.  I mean, hairdresser types.  Just find the girls more congenial than rockin’ around with a bunch of hard-ons.

And I see other women who prefer the company of men.  I was playing poker at a party one time and there was another woman at the kind of table you usually didn’t see many of the girls hanging out at.  Serious poker, for one thing.  Rough talk, for another.  Maybe even kind of dangerous.  Just my style.  And hers too, you could tell.  Damned good player. Burned my ass for a pot or two.  The first few times she took one down, the guys all laughed and carried on about it, but then they got used to it and she was just another player they had to figure out.

There was a break, but she didn’t get up, just kind of looked at me like she was trying to figure out my part number or something.  Maybe five years older than me, maybe a few more.  She kind of pointed her chin at the guys at the sidebar and said, “See anything you like?”

I shrugged and said, “I just like poker.”

She looked awhile, then said, “Me, too. Wanna go hang out with the debs for awhile?”

I laughed and said, “I’ve never been too girly.”

She said, “Honey, if I looked like you, I’d be so girly you couldn’t find my cunt in the crinoline.  I’d be dimpling and eye-batting for all I was worth.  Just sucking them in.”

I was thinking, so how much are you worth, per suck, girlfriend?  But that didn’t fit, so I was going to say something, then it hit me, she was just bumping me, poking her hips into me under the rim.  I said, “If I looked like you, I’d probably be married.”  Not bad-looking at all, actually.  Not “hot”, but she caught your eye and looked like she was dug in.

She sort of chuckled.  She said, “Don’t take this wrong, but are you in the life?”

I said, “Not what you’d call.  I model step-ins for the discriminating. Climb a pole now and then.”  That being the case at the time.

She took a deep drag on this big cigar she had and looked over my shoulder.  Then right at me.  Said, “You could do very well.  But I don’t think it would be worth it to you.  Just a snap judgment.”

The guys were coming back over so I said, “You want to get a drink some time?  Cup of coffee?”

She smiled and said, “I think I’d get a kick out of you, kid.  But there are worse influences than me right here at this table.”

I never saw her again.  Wondered about her a bit.  Wish we’d had that drink somewhere.