heart of an awl.


it was saturday night, and i was at this girl jessica's apartment, and she was dressed as a used car salesman: fake mustache, slicked-back hair and all. her friend, adam, wearing a sheep costume his mother made, smoked me out. to my left, princess leia, and to my right, a nurse with a dead baby hanging outside his front pocket. there was also another girl wearing something slutty, and she was running around looking for lipstick or something. per our request, jessica was singing a song of hers that may or may not have been called "bitterness," and we were just sitting there, watching her.

after she sang two songs, we were supposed to go to this halloween party at this girl corey's house. who was corey? i didn't know, but laura knew her, or else knew somebody who knew her. everybody in coeur d'alene seemed to know somebody who knew somebody else. see, there's this coffee shop called java right in coeur d'owntown, and all the cool kids in town drink there, work there, or have worked there at some point.

this girl emily currently works there, and the first thing she said to me was, "what the hell made you want to come to north idaho?" i said i had nothing better to do, and she said, "obviously!" she was a loud little one, and i thought she looked a lot like ellen page. i thought it would be a lame thing to bring up, as she probably got it a lot, but at some point, i got drunk enough to. "does anyone ever tell you that you look like ellen page?" "wait," she said, "yeah, isn't that the girl from juno?" "yeah," i said, "she was also in hard candy, and she was really creepy in that." "well, you know that i am creepy," she said.

the thing about emily was that she was a felon. as told by laura, emily was made an example of by george w. bush's felon crackdown. underage and driving drunk, she crashed her car and, in doing so, broke her friend's ankle. how that made her a felon, i wasn't sure, but she was one, and that was that. a few years after that, she fell out of her apartment window, and dropped sixteen feet to the pavement. "what the hell," i said to her, "you're like mid-twenties, and you've had every life experience already." "yeah," she said, "but i want the good life experiences."

the crazy stories didn't end there. at the party, i got talking to this other girl. she was saying stuff, and i was halfway listening, and then my ears perked up when she nonchalantly said that her parents were heroin addicts. "did you just say your parents were heroin addicts?" i asked. "yeah, they have been pretty much up until two years ago." this other guy, this older guy with a big belly, he just chimed right in. "i just got clean. have been for about five years now," he said. the girl got up, and she said, "i just need to give you a big hug right now." i watched them hug. were these people real, or was there something in that flask i sipped from that the what about bob? guy wearing an orange life-vest gave me?

this other girl, this hip-looking twenty-two year old dressed as a sexy geisha, she just pointed at me, and she said, "i took your order! raspberry italian soda!" and drunk as she was, she got that much right. she was amber, and i was raspberry italian soda. and because i'm curious about such things, because i've read that guys like me are supposed to just ask open-ended questions when approaching strange women out of our league, i asked what the hell she was doing in life. she sat sprawled out on the floor, and she told me her history.

she was orphaned, then adopted. the people who adopted her weren't very nice. her adoptive mother or father was abusive or something, but she wouldn't get into it. instead, she described it as, "fuck that." somehow, maybe or maybe not because of the abusive people who took her in, or maybe it was her stepmother (a mixture of beer and wine made it hard for me to follow the story), she inherited 40 acres of land. the land was used for timber, so she had $70,000. she needed to raise another $10,000 to buy a bigger piece of land in montana or oregon. "i'd really want it to be in oregon," she said. she said that she'd like to have a community, and anyone who wanted to help her garden could live there. i was one bottle of wine away from writing her a ten thousand dollar check and living in her future hippie garden utopia. a woman standing behind her, who may or may not have been amber's coworker, mocked her as she told me her vision.

it was halloween in coeur d'alene. the first and maybe the only time i'll ever see that place. the leaves were bursting with color: orange, yellow, green and fiery red everywhere, all over the streets, all over the hills, on the sidewalks, in the water. there were antique shops, thrift stores and bars like any other town. there was a skate plaza, a toy store called figpickels, a super one grocery store, a couple of zip's burgers, a veterinary office where laura's dad worked, and a breakfast place that served amazing duck sausage with orange liqueur.

i stayed at mariah's parents' house, which felt like a giant log cabin. her dad collected printing press stamps and marbles. her mom was really into politics. i thumbed through photo albums, trying to figure out who this family was, what they were about. they adopted a filipino boy who ended up having a mental disability, and now he lived in a group home. her older sister had gotten married, and now she had two kids. there was a wood stove and her mom made a blueberry pie. there were chickens in the yard and wild turkeys that would yelp yelp yelp in the morning. there used to be a barn but it didn't make it through last winter's snowstorm.

and then, after all that, it was time to go. we drove off in the sunlight, me falling asleep in the backseat against mariah's big bag of clothes.

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