by R. E. Bearlee
3:::Dancing In The Moonlight…
Victor always thought he knew better than us. I guess it is because he’s older. I swear sometimes he thought he knew better than our folks too. The day he said he was coming over I cleaned up. He still said the place looked like shit when he walked in.
“Hey bro. What’s been up?” Victor shut the door behind him after calling my place messy. I walked over to the couch but then turned and went into the kitchen.
“Nothing much. I quit my job and then found another one.” I poured myself a drink. Gin and juice because it was the afternoon. The sun was half assing it but it didn’t matter because the blinds were closed.
“Still shitty restaurant jobs? Why are you drinking so early?”
“It is my day off. I applied to the bank and the incinerator too. Just didn’t hear from them. We all didn’t have mentors that owned accounting firms Victor.”
I was having a drink because my brother is annoying as fuck. I went back to the couch and my annoying brother was on the seat across from it.
“I’m still there because of my hard work. Mr. Pellagra gave me a shot and I earned my keep. Don’t be mad at me cause you never learned how to network. Fuck it give me one of those too.” Victor gestured while talking a lot. It was annoying.
“Make it yourself. Earn your keep.” In that moment I heard myself talking and knew I sounded like a bitter bitch. As Victor let out an exaggerated groan and pushed himself out of my chair I resolved to be nicer.
“Its your fault your life is like this. All this hostility is stupid. You’re young you can make some changes and turn things around.” He spoke slowly as he talked into the refrigerator.
“What is my life like? We don’t hang out that much.”
Victor returned from the kitchen with a smiling smooth face and white collared shirt neatly ironed and tucked into khaki pants. His short black hair was gelled and combed back.
“You’re a loser bro. You’re a decent guy and all but facts are facts. You can go get a certificate in something. Get a job that isn’t shitty.”
“You aren’t a certified accountant!”
“This isn’t about me Tom. Its about you. You are not thriving. Every other month you ask Mom and Dad for money. Yet you always have dope and booze don’t you?”
“You don’t know what I have. You don’t know what I do Victor we don’t talk like that.” I said in a tired voice. Talking to my big brother always bummed me out.
“I don’t need to read you a story every night to know what you’re up to. You’ve been the same since you were 15. You’re stagnant.” Victor had that know it all voice on and it made me want to deck him.
“I’m not the same. I’ve changed a lot in 10 years.”
Why did I feel a need to explain myself to my brother? Because he was talking out of his ass about me to me.
“Look I’m not here to argue.”
“You’re here to shame me into getting my act together.”
“Someone should. I just don’t get why you’re making it so hard on yourself.”
I didn’t even understand what he was saying. He was talking to me as if I had some golden ticket to a great life that I threw away or pawned for drug money. As if I always knew what the hell I was doing; as if I chose to live in this shitty world. The anger welled up inside. I wanted to scream at him but I didn’t. It never helped; just like with Mom and Dad. No one understood and I learned to stop trying to make them. So I just sat there.
“I don’t get it either. Maybe you should give me some positive advice.”
“I already did. You know I’m here because I love you and wanted to come visit you. See how you were doing.”
“I’m fine thanks.”
“You should give me a call more often.”
“I will.” I lied. Why would I volunteer for that shit? He left a few minutes later. After I shut the door I stared out the window for a bit; just sitting there in the chair for I don’t know how long. I was wondering why I felt so worthless.
Violet entered dressed in a long black dress that was light and sheer. It had no sleeves and the buttons only went halfway down her chest. I had on some jeans, a white t-shirt and a black leather jacket. It had been a few days since I had seen her last and there she was picking me up.
“Hey Tom. How are you tonight?” She asked sweetly.
“Alright. How are you?”
So I let her fang me; a casual bite on my arm and a few quick slurps. I guess it was pregaming. Then we went downstairs to her car and drove off. While driving she turned to me and said:
“Did you smoke before I came over?”
“Yeah. Why did you want to? We can go back.”
“No no. I was asking because I’m high and I didn’t smoke. Was wondering what the feeling was.” We both giggled.
She parked really high up in a casino parking structure; the view at the surrounding flashing lights and buildings always made me feel powerful lucky for some reason. I guess it is because you’re looking down at all that shit. While deciding where to go I got to thinking about how Violet doesn’t go out in the daytime. How Violet was a vampire and that vampires were real. Out of nowhere a peck on the cheek made me turn around.
“Whacha thinking about?” She asked while putting her sunglasses in her purse.
“How you’re a vampire that doesn’t go out in the daytime.”
“Let it sink in.”
The wind was blowing every few minutes while we were hanging our with all those tombstones that night. The spicy smell of dead leaves was kicked up into my nose. I felt a little anxious but I tried to ignore it. Sitting on top of a wall from some unfinished monument with the night all around us felt good. The chilly night air seemed appropriate as I looked at the rest of the neatly arranged stones in the moonlight. I couldn’t see much beyond that.
“It is a big world out there.” I was still just talking to be talking.
“Yes. What parts do you plan to see?” Violet asked in a sweet voice. I hadn’t given it much thought. When you don’t have money like that you don’t give things like that much thought. Why torture yourself?
“I’d go anywhere at this point. I haven’t seen shit.” Yeah I’ve been to Windsor and Cleveland. I’ve seen Cincinnati and Chicago. Run of the mill stuff. Not worth mentioning at the time.
“No really….where would you go next if given a choice Tom? Anywhere in the world. What would you do?”
“Well I’d wanna go to an English speaking country for starters. Being somewhere and not knowing the language kinda freaks me out.”
A deer strode out slowly; it knew we were around and was curious about it. A couple more showed up a few seconds later. Then they just slowly walked around aimlessly together.
“I’d go to Glasgow.” I blurted it out. It got me thinking of moss covered castles.
“You know I’d love to go there too.”
“What places have you visited?”
“Oh lots. Mostly just criss crossing the great 48, draining chumps dry.” She chuckled after and it kinda freaked me out. That didn’t stop me from asking her about more creepy shit.
“So as a vampire you can’t have children.”
“Nope. Oven doesn’t work.”
“You don’t need food or water.”
“No just blood and air. I’m never hungry anymore and I’m only thirsty for one thing. You know I think I could go without air if I were in a really deep sleep. Like beyond hibernation. I haven’t tried that yet.”
“I’ve seen you eat and drink. Was it just for show?”
“Basically. Yeah food tastes good but but if I have more than a few bites I feel sick. Just not hungry like that.”
“Do you get drunk when you drink alcohol?” Do you get high and stuff?”
“Yeah! You’ve seen it! It isn’t as strong with me though. I’d really get drunk if I had a drunk person’s blood. Drinking from a high person gets me high. But I do feel it from the old fashioned way too.”
“What happens if you don’t drink blood?”
“I get pissed. Then I get weak. Then I run out of energy and go to sleep.”
“When you sleep do you dream? Do you remember them when you wake up?”
“No to both.”
“I don’t remember my dreams either. It’s because of all the pot mostly.”
“I never remember my dreams because I don’t dream.”
“So what can kill you?”
“Exposure to direct sunlight. Stakes through the heart. Getting my head chopped off.”
“Can you turn into a bat or a wolf? Turn into mist?”
“Are you writing a book? That’s some Dracula shit. I can’t do any of that.”
“Can you fly?”
“If I could fly believe me you’d know. Let me tell you what I’ve seen. I’ve seen older vampires read minds, float in the air, walk on walls and ceilings. I’ve seen em hypnotize people and keep them hypnotized. Keep the victim blank eyed and willing to do whatever even when they are away. You’ve got to be hundreds of years old for those powers to kick in.”
I shivered suddenly. It was a knee jerk reaction. Violet laughed.
“What’s the deal with you guys and garlic?”
“It is gross but it doesn’t hurt me.”
“Holy water? Crosses?”
“They’re gross too.”
“Violet ever since I met you things haven’t been the same…”
Yes I actually said that lame shit to her. We were sitting in an empty cemetery under a bright full moon. I was feeling a bit anxious about it but wasn’t showing it. Oh wait I was stammering and stuttering the whole time we were there. Saying lame generic things while looking over my shoulder. The funny thing is I like cemeteries. They’re peaceful, a good place to put shit in perspective. My grandpa used to say:
“Think about it. All those people in the ground would do anything to trade places with you.”
Whenever we were in a graveyard. It used to scare the shit out of me. I’m getting sidetracked. I like cemeteries but I’ve only gone in the daytime.
“You’re nervous. Your heart is beating really fast and you’re looking around all the time. You said you liked cemeteries.” She laughed at me. In the moonlight her giggling at my nervous mortality once again reminded me that Violet was not human. She was an undead fiend that already died and slept it off; so being scared in a cemetery at night was just funny to her. Everytime I forgot she’s a monster she did something that made me remember. I’m over that now obviously. Anyway:
“I’ve only gone in the daytime. None of my friends would go at night.” I said it flatly.
“Don’t make excuses Tom. It is ok to be scared. What are you scared of? Ghosts?”
“I’ve always been scared of ghosts. I only sort of half believed it….but now I know there are fucking vampires why not ghosts?!” I blurted it out in hot shock. I heard a squeak from behind me and turned around to see an owl rising back into the air after swooping low to grab something on a tombstone. It looked like a rat I could tell by the tail. The fat bastard squealed and thrashed but the claws had him. Violet watched the owl fly away in gentle arcs with a quiet fascination.
“Are ghosts real Violet have you seen one?” My voice had calmed down a bit.
“Yes they are real but it isn’t what you think. They’re different kinds. See a lost soul can haunt a person, place or thing and there are varying degrees. Some are just re-enactments stuck on loop. Residual energy and whatnot. Some are conscious of what’s going on and either they want out or they wanna feast on souls and torment the living.”
She paused to look at me face with a slight concern. As if she was wondering if she should keep going. I was scared so I imagine I looked scared. I was in an old cemetery deep in the old city at night. I just saw an owl snatch up a fat rat among a field of graves. I was surrounded by death. Yes I was scared!
“Oh! Sorry for being so negative.” She paused and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
“Some hang around to look after people, help out in some way. A very select few. Eitherway you become a ghost when you run from the light of judgment. The light shows up when you die and you’re supposed to go toward it. Most don’t get a second chance.”
“Jesus Christ you’re scaring the fuck out of me.”
“I’m sorry! I could be wrong Tom. Believe what you want.”
“Haven’t you died before? Don’t you have to die to become undead?” A cloud passed over the moon and I couldn’t see her at all for a second. It scared the shit outta me.
“I don’t think I was dead long enough for that. Or deep enough? Its different for us.”
“For black people?” She howled in laughter right when I said it. When I could see her again she was smiling at me and stroking my arm.
“Good one. I’m so glad you were willing to take this risk with me.”
“I’m very happy I did. I feel so lucky to be with you Violet.” I started with the lame shit again.
“Can I drink your blood now?” Her voice sounded like she wanted me, needed me. It was a plea. She stroked my hand and looked at me with those big almond eyes bordered in black. Like I could see her eyeliner in the dark. But I knew she could see me because she wasn’t human.
“…yes…” I figured it would take the edge off. I woke up an hour later in the passenger seat of her black Buick as it sped north on the freeway.
There we were, the two of us laying on the clean white sheets of her hotel room bed. We had exhausted ourselves. From the night running around the city, from the sex and the drinking after. I remember feeling for my neck to see if I had messed up my bandage. I hadn’t gotten blood on the clean nice sheets.
“Does all the stuff I told you freak you out?” Violet asked with a clear and pleasant voice after a long while of quiet cuddling. I looked up at the ceiling and struggled to lie.
“I don’t remember all of it and we were pretty drunk.”
“You were drunk. I wasn’t drunk.”
“You were drunk after you sucked my blood.” It just blurted out. Violet raised her head with a knowing smile.
“Liar you do remember.”
She drifted toward my thigh as I was laying there on the bed. There was a still curiosity about her as she stared at my leg. Cat like for sure. There was only a light in the kitchen and no music. No tv, nothing was going on. Just sterile white walls and clean empty tables. Crisp sheets and flowery comforters. We were just laying there talking.
“What is it? Ultra hearing picking up an intruder?” I watched her finish off this crackhead under a bridge across town earlier that night. She just left left him on the bus stop bench; a fucking dead body. There must have been something heavy in that fiend’s blood cause it had been a few hours but Violet was still spaced out. Talking slow and staring off.
“Your circulation. The blood pumping through your veins is like that music we heard.” She was licking her lips. I could see her fangs under those wonderful lips like chocolate clouds. Longer than usual canine teeth between her incisors and premolars. I could see the hunger in those wide almond eyes.
“Go ahead.” I laughed when I said it. I still found the whole thing so funny then.
Right after my chuckle I felt the bite. A sharp piercing feeling then a slightly cold numb feeling. She was tugging hard, I could feel her drinking just behind my heartbeat.
It feels kinda icky but it is really intense. The cold feeling spreads and you get dizzy. You get sleepy. It is comforting somehow.
“Ok.” Violet suddenly stopped and pulled away. She wiped her mouth in a daze and mumbled “that’s enough” to herself. There was uncertainty in her voice. I looked at her through tired unfocused eyes and she was tight lipped, staring at me pretty hard. She had turned her head for further inspection.
“Tom? You there lover?” She asked like someone walking through an unlocked door to an empty apartment.
“Whoa…” I closed my eyes and it felt like I was falling while spinning. I remember hearing a sigh of relief as I tumbled.
When I woke up she was watching tv on the couch. After fanging me she took me home. When I walked in I fell asleep on top of the bed with my clothes still on. I woke up a few hours later and cleaned the place up a bit. I noticed my sister had been there. She had ordered a pizza and some of it was left in the frig. She had washed dishes but didn’t take the trash out. I then took a shower, got dressed and went down to wait for the bus to work.
Work was the same old shit. It was a slow day so being tired didn’t matter much. Then things got weird.
I saw this guy following me home from work. Dark suit, glasses like all the others. Conrad’s lackeys of course. After talking to Violet about it all I felt different about the whole thing. Suspicious were confirmed and now it was time to take action.
It was raining pretty hard that night so I figured I could throw him off. Dive into crowds and come out without him. That didn’t work at all. I went well out of my way and the guy was still a noticeable distance behind me. The lackey was staring straight forward and ignoring any attempts at conversation from other people close to him.
Eventually I decided to confront the guy. After I was deep in a neighborhood I didn’t go to much I finally turned to face the guy. After an aimless low speed chase for a few miles I finally decide to man up. I walk up to the guy. We were alone in the middle of a shitty neighborhood.
“You one of Conrad’s guys?” I blurted out.
“I didn’t know you were on such friendly terms with Mr. Hegira. A worm like you would do well showing proper respect.” His voice was flat and loud. Low and even. His voice was so loud but his lips were barely moving.
“What? Look Violet isn’t going back with Mr. Hegira. She’s doing her own thing and wants you all to fuck off.” Looking back I’m not sure why I took that moment to drop nuts. I was feeling myself as they say. I didn’t quite believe all what Violet was saying either but while staring at that asshole I wanted to protect her.
“You speak for her now worm? How absurd. Whatever she has told you was just what you needed to hear to make a good puppet. This is bigger than you realize. It would do you well to leave her alone.” He smiled at the end of the last line, a slow creeping smile exposing rows of chalk white teeth. His voice was without warmth. He had that cold snob thing going.
“You leave her alone! She wants me with her. She wants you to tell Conrad Hegira to find someone else.”
“You’ll tell me where Violet is?”
“Why the fuck would I do that? Look I’ve had it with your fucking-“ I took a swing at the guy and missed horribly. He simply took a step back and ducked a little and I hit nothing but air. He hit me though. Before I could even see it he knocked me right to the ground. Distant laughing in the rain brought me back up. I lunged in again and just crashed into a trashcan. I suddenly realized or remembered that I was dealing with undead creatures. Vampires with powers and shit. I got up and turned around just to eat a right hook and I was done. I woke up later with the guy gone and all my shit gone. Like pockets inside out and no sign of my shoes. My work uniform was dark with blood. I was bleeding from fresh bite marks on my neck. The fucker dined on me.
About 3 days later we were in her car driving to some party in the newly redeveloped part of downtown. Violet said she knew the people well but they didn’t know much about her. It got me thinking.
“So do you do that thing where you encourage people to talk about themselves so much that they don’t realize you haven’t said much about yourself? I do that too.”
“So fun right?! People love to go on and on as long as it is about them. Not that there’s anything wrong with going on and on.” She was driving 30 miles over the posted speed limit with a casual smile and both hands on the steering wheel. Cars just whizzed by in the night air. She kept her eyes on the road while she was talking though.
“Do you dislike talking about yourself? Cause I do. Especially with people I don’t know.”
“I don’t dislike it. More fun to listen.”
“Violet any conversations we have about you or your past are very short. You keep them short and you always throw in a bunch of weird jokes to deflect. You don’t like talking about yourself.”
She moved right into the next lane and slowed down just a little bit. She used a turn signal and everything.
“My jokes aren’t weird they are perceptive. What do you want to know Tom? I’ll tell the truth. Just don’t get all flaky when I do.” She sounded slightly annoyed.
“Why is Conrad Hegira after you? Did you steal his jewels or something? Why won’t he just let you do your own thing?” I had wanted to bring him up again since that guy kicked my ass. The first time I brought it up I just got empty sympathy but no answers.
“I did take some valuables when I left, but it is the sort of stuff he wouldn’t notice until way later. I needed some money for my adventures.” She changed lanes again, slowly and with a signal. She hadn’t looked at me since she got on the freeway.
“He thinks I’m doing it wrong. That I’m not careful enough. That I’ll expose all of us to the modern world. He says he wants me near him for my protection. I think he just feels like he owns me. He’s the one that turned me and makers can get weird about it. Conrad thinks I owe him something. He thinks I should be devoted to him forever.” Violet spat the words out like stale coffee.
“He’s very old and very powerful. He used to run this tiny island in the Bahamas.”
“So those are his guys in the suits following you? Following me?” I asked sheepishly.
“Yes. I don’t know how they found me this time. I’ve been using all my fake names and dummy credit cards.” Violet sighed.
“How long ago did you leave him?”
“Over ten years ago this time.”
“You’ve left before?”
“Of course! A bunch of times over the years. The guy’s a wet rag Tom.”
“Your last name wasn’t originally Hegira?”
“No no. I’m pretty sure Conrad made that name up. My family name is….was Baumfree. You know after Isabella Baumfree. Soujourner Truth’s name before she changed it.” She paused for a minute and exhaled slowly. We passed by a park with grass growing over the swingsets and monkey bars. I had forgotten all about Sojourner Truth for what felt like years and the feeling hit me suddenly.
“I used Hegira at first because he liked it and then I kept using it because my family name meant even less to me than Hegira did.” Violet sighed and shrugged after saying it.
“How many humans have you turned into vampires?” I nervously asked that one. I didn’t want to hear a huge number because then turning me wouldn’t be special. Violet exited the freeway a couple miles from our stop. We were in the dark ruins of the east side now. Busted streetlights and guys standing in front of gas stations with phones to their ears.
“12. You’ll be 13 if I decide to do it. Don’t get your hopes up.”
Being number 13 didn’t sound too bad. The woman is 86 for Christ’s sake.
“So do you guys love turning humans into vampires? Increasing your numbers?” I had so many questions and the breeze through the windows felt so nice.
“Actually it is frowned upon. The elders are very suspicious about being exposed. Have been for a while now. Everyone agrees: the less witnesses the better.”
“So how do you multiply if no one is doing any converting?” We passed by a liquor store I used to meet an old dealer at. I didn’t mention it to her.
“Well we live for a long time. Of course quite a few individuals break the taboo and turn regular folk. It is frowned upon but only at first. And really only the really old snobs are keeping track of who’s who and how long they’ve been one of us.”
“How old are you? How long have you been a vampire?”
“I’m 86. I’ve been this way for almost 60 of those years. We’ve been over this.”
“Will you ever go back to Conrad?”
“Eventually. But not today and not tomorrow.”
We were passing by the familiar spots. Liquor stores, pawn shops and beauty supply stores. Abandoned buildings that are only good for the scrap heap now.
“Don’t you ever wonder if you have a soulmate? A perfect match? The one?” Violet asked in a sweet voice as she flicked the radio on.
“I don’t believe in fate. Either you have a loving relationship that is worth a long term commitment or you don’t.” I was very satisfied with my answer. I had thought about it the night before. And years before too.
“That is so boring! It is circular too. In order to have a relationship that is worth a damn you have to first decide that the relationship is worth a damn.”
“Reality usually is.”
Violet parked half a block away from the house and she put a club on her steering wheel when she mentioned:
“I won’t fang anyone at this party. I know they’re friends of yours.”
“Acquiantances really but ok.” I replied as I opened the car door. We stepped on the sidewalk as stray brown and red leaves floated through the air around us. The air was windy and cold and I couldn’t see the moon.
After a few steps I started to hear the music coming from the house; the booming and snapping of rap from a generation ago. As we got closer we saw people hanging around trying to talk alone, going to and from their cars and smoking whatever. One guy was laying out on the front lawn softly moaning. The neighborhood was mostly young people so it was ok. There were only a couple busted up houses on the street.
We walked in through the front door and the heat hit us instantly. Rowdy people with red cups in their hands crowded everywhere laughing, dancing and flailing around. It made me feel old honestly. Most of these guys had to have been from Wayne State. It was just down the street.
I saw John heading into the kitchen and we followed him. When he turned around and saw us he seemed a bit relieved. You’ve met John right? He’s that mixed guy that dressed nice all the time. Likes to wear ties and nice slacks. I’m not sure I think he’s black and Filipino with some white in there as well.
“Oh hey guys.”
“John this is some party. These kids are gonna trash the place.”
“Eh I don’t care. We got all the furniture, lamps and shit from Salvation Army. I didn’t buy it they did.” John shares a house with his little brother and the little brother’s friends.
John reached in a cabinet and pulled out an unopened bottle of whiskey and motioned us to follow him upstairs. We eventually waded through the wasted people 5 years younger than us and got up the stairs. People were there too; lounging on the stairs and making out in dark corners. It reminded me that even when I was that age shit like that didn’t happen to me. Yeah I dated but never hooked up at parties.
John jangled his keys as he unlocked his bedroom door. Once he got it we rushed in and he shut the door and locked it as if something were chasing us.
“You know those guys downstairs are only a few years younger than us.” Violet paused before she said the word ‘us’.
“Yeah I know. I just don’t feel like all that tonight.” I didn’t feel like all of that ever these days. Hella would have had a ball though.
“Every few weeks Jonas and his friends throw parties like this. I’m used to it. I’d just rather hang out with people I know well.” John’s back was to us as he spoke. He was looking for something in a dresser.
“Why don’t you get to know your brother’s friends?” Violet asked sweetly.
“I’m not sure. Just not interested I guess.” John turned around with a tray that had some fluffy green nuggets and a multicolored glass pipe on it.
Sitting on the dark carpet of John’s bedroom floor I looked around at his neat room. He had a made bed and his posters of old jazz giants framed and hung at the same height. I thought about Conrad’s guys being after Violet. Being after me to get to her. I wondered how much they knew and if Violet had run into them. She sounded like she hadn’t seen em. I thought about what to do in a fight with them when the lit bowl was was passed to me. I took it and hit it, feeling the smoke open me up. John was going on about the government shutdown.
“It’s just a matter of time before the Republican party splits up. There’s a business wing and an evangelical wing. This shutdown is making them look so stubborn that they’re in the way of things. Making us all…”
Violet looked like she was paying attention and she looked beautiful doing it. With her focused wide eyes and tight mouth. She caught me staring at her and gave me a playful shove that was harder than I expected.
“I figured there would be more chaos but I’m glad there isn’t. Just closed federal offices, parks and shit like memorials.” I said something to be in the conversation but I wasn’t really interested in the topic.
“If it goes on long enough there will be more problems. You should have seen Abdul. He was yelling at the tv.” John chuckled and then coughed. Violet took a swig of whiskey from the bottle and passed it to him.
“You wanna come with us to this show tonight? Going to see Bottle Brunette and some other bands.”
A chorus of cheering and yelled erupted downstairs as I was talking. Some girls must have started making out with each other or something.
“Nah. Believe or not I do have fun at these things. In a couple hours it’ll mellow out down there.”
We didn’t stay for a couple hours. We hung out with John for less than an hour then we left to go to the show. The place was rowdy when we walked in. While the second band was playing a group of guys started arguing near the stage. Then their girlfriends joined in. I looked around; no one was making an effort to stop it. On stage the music was fast and hard but no mosh pit had formed. Then the guys started shoving each other. Something told me it would be time to go soon.
As soon as I heard the glass bottle shatter I grabbed her hand and dove for the exit. The fists started flying and people started running but we were going the other way. All the tough dude and chicks wanted to join the brawl. Speckles of liquid sprinkled my cheek as the fight mushroomed and more shit started getting smashed. Who knows why those guys were fighting.
“Start the car I’ll be right there.” She laughed with delight as she tossed me her keys and darted back into the club as more people stumbled out.
Later that night we sat in the dark corner of the club while the trance music mumbled on the overhead speakers. It was almost 2 so maybe the soft techno was a clue to leave. I looked around at the people stumbling to the bathroom or slowly putting their coats on to say goodbye. The crowd laughed and leaned in close to whisper to each other around us, the music low and the lights dim. I watched Violet slowly turn her head as she looked around; her eyes scanning the scene with silent approval. We stayed put.
“Tom I’ve seen a lot but there’s a whole lot more to see. You know most of the people I run into remind me of people I’ve met before. Their faces look familiar. Their voices remind me of some other time. But you don’t remind me of anyone. I really like that.” She smiled as she finished; taking a casual sip of her drink as I thought about what to say next. Only stupid thoughts crowded my head as I realized how drunk I was.
“You have no idea how much of a hassle it was to get my money before ATMs.” She chuckled at the thought of it.
“You had to go to the bank right?”
“Right. And banks are only open in the daytime. I had to wait for rainy days, set an alarm and wear a bunch of clothes. I still had to use sunblock with sunglasses and a hat!” She was laughing full on and I just stared at her. Her smiling open mouth revealed her fangs; two longer than usual canines under black lipstick.
“So what would happen if you went out in the sunlight without all that stuff?”
“I’d burn up really fast. Within minutes. Very serious stuff.”
“Yeah I’ve been around a while. I remember the days when no one gave a fuck about fundamental rights. When you could get dragged out of your house and beaten up over a rumor. When you could lose your job over who you voted for. Things are better believe me.” Violet stared out into the crowd and sighed.
“You were alive when things were really tough for black people.” I said it as if I had just realized it. I didn’t know what to say after.
“Yes. And then that was the best it had been. Most of these people have no idea how suffocating it was. The folks on top wanted us to be exactly what they imagined us to be and nothing else. Anybody trying to come up, be different or stick up for themselves was a target. I saw a lot of bullshit. Saw a lot of people leave everything because of it. As a kid I remember wanting to leave with them so badly.” I studied her face as she spoke; she had a far away look as she remembered.
“I would watch the trains going to Chicago or California until I couldn’t see them anymore. Then I’d turn around and look at everyone at the train station and I’d feel so mad.”
“You’ve heard of that shooting of the unarmed kid in Florida? By the security guard?”
“Trayvon Martin? Yes. I’m surprised it has gotten all the attention it has. I know it sounds bad but horrible shit like that used to happen all the time and nobody gave a fuck. Nobody outside of the family and community of the victim. Nowadays there’s outrage. Things are a lot better than they used to be. I was surprised that guy got off though.”
The thoughts about America’s ugly past made me sad. How we could say one thing and do another over and over. In spite in of that hypocrisy still be shocked when horrible things happen. I was beyond buzzed and didn’t want to say the wrong thing. I just stared at her with a glum face. She looked back at me with the same face.
“Remember! Brutal honesty! You want to say something. Say it.”
“Do you think race will always be a factor in our society” I blurted it out.
“Yes. Just like gender or class. It is a part of a person’s identity. This is a society with a lot of different cultures and viewpoints. We shouldn’t act like differences don’t exist. We should accept people. We’re doing more of that; all of us. I’m telling you now is the best it has ever been. Even if everyone is lonely as hell.” Violet smiled when she finished. We smiled at each other.
“Everybody’s lonely. We’re all alone in our heads. Maybe one day they’ll be some technology that can join minds psychically or something.”
“One day there will be. All our thoughts are just electrical signals when you get down to it. I’m sure they will find a way. I’ve seen so much in my time here. Computers, heat seeking missiles and lasers. Tiny cameras that can go into veins and arteries. It is amazing.”
“Having someone else inside all the time would change everything. People could really know each other’s thoughts and feelings if they wanted to. Technology like that would really bring us together as a species.” I downed the rest of my drink in one long gulp. The warmth tumbled down my insides as I watched others do the same.
“You’ll still be around when they make that mind breakthrough. You’ll get to see the end of loneliness.”
“Humans want to be together and separate at the same time. They want responsibilities and heap obligations on themselves yet scream for freedom. It is so funny.” Violet shrugged as she leaned back to pour the rest of her drink down the hatch.
I turned to look at her. Her brown face was still studying the crowd with a look of distant concentration. ‘She used to be human and she wasn’t anymore’ I told myself silently. Was she more than human or less?
“You’ve seen a lot of new technology come around haven’t you?”
“Yes. I remember when radio was fairly new. When television came out. Miniskirts and birth control pills. I was just out of high school when the atom bombs were dropped on Japan. Now that was crazy. You know I was sure more of those would have been used by now. Glad I was wrong.” Violet stood up and put on her coat. I did the same with images of mushroom clouds and showers of ash going through my head.
“I wonder what will come next?”
We walked toward the door while bartenders tried to convince a wasted old man to take a cab home.
“I think they’re going to plunder the oceans. Then fill the stars with garbage.” Violet said matter of factly as I held the door open for her.
“We’re doing that already I think. No aliens?”
“They know better than to fight us on our turf. We’ll find them and they’ll know we’re coming.”
We were walking down an alley deep in the east side; a ways away from the splendor and surveillance of the happening downtown. We had just left another club; this time a techno place called ‘Lepton’. It was dark but the strobe lights flashed frequently.
I was stumbling along back to the car when I heard the quick approach of someone else. I turned around to a gun in my face and an order to empty my pockets. The guy had gloves and a mask on. All black, even the gun and the hoodie. Half of the streetlights were out so there were shadows all around. No one but us and the robber.
“Give me everything! Hurry up motherfucker!” I had my hands up as he roared in a voice that was trying to sound extra tough. I was being robbed by a kid.
“You don’t have to do this.” Violet muttered to the side of me. She was digging through her purse to stall as I tried to think of a good opening attack. Rush a gun, run from a knife that’s what Jimmy Hoffa said right?
“Just gimmie the whole-” as the masked robber reached for the purse I decked him. A right hook to the side of his head. It didn’t do much and a moment later I felt the hard thump on the top of my head from his gun and saw his arm swing around. I stumbled back with blurry eyes. I went at him again when I heard the gun click. I wondered if I was about to be shot. Didn’t stop me from coming at him though.
Before anything else could happen Violet swooped in. She swatted the kid’s gun away and by the time it banged against a trash can and hit the ground Violet had bit the fuck out of the kid’s neck. He choked and struggled for a few seconds then froze. Violet held his skull with both hands as she inhaled deeply and drank. It looked like they were making out; like she was giving him hickies on the neck. That’s irony right? A minute later she abruptly let go and a limp body flopped to the damp pavement. Violet smacked her lips and her eyes seemed to roll in pleasure as a dim yellow streetlight flickered above in applause. As she strolled over to me her body swayed like a freshly tipsy person.
“Was it a kid?” I swallowed hard before asking. My hands were shaking and the left side of my face hurt from being pistol whipped. Violet shrugged and walked back over to the still form on the ground. She leaned over and casually pulled the mask off. A dead teenager with a butterscotch face stared back. The kid barely had a moustache on his open mouth, with wide eyes frozen in fear. Couldn’t have been older than 17. I had never seen Violet move so fast or bite so hard. I didn’t need to ask if the kid was dead.
“He’s dead. That’s what he gets for fucking around.” She said it coldly and simply. I looked at her face under those streetlights and she stood up and walked back over to me. It wasn’t the face I usually saw; her eyes had a distant, dopey look and her mouth had a slight frown. She licked her lips and I could make out her fangs on the sides of her mouth. She seemed high off some heavy shit; detached and unable to care. Quickly she stopped and reached into her purse to pull out a handkerchief. She wrapped the handkerchief around her hand and walked back over to the dead kid. She used her wrapped hand to search his pockets and pulled out two wads of cash from two different pockets. She quickly stuffed them into her purse and jogged back over to me. I thought she had plenty of money but I guess anyone could always use more.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here.” I mumbled quickly as I checked to make sure I still had my keys and shit. I did and I was still shaking. Violet chuckled as she took my hand and we ran off. A lifeless ‘haha’ that sounded condescending. It sounded sarcastic. The root of sarcasm is insincerity.
“I was really thirsty. That was like fate or something. I love this town.”
We jumped in the car and Violet drove too fast through the sidestreets. Like she was beyond the law. Like she was immortal.
Eventually I went home and went right to bed. I woke up from the nap sluggish and wanting shadow. I walked to the bathroom. While I pissed I thought about what I wanted to do for the next few hours. I decided on cleaning first as I flushed. In the blurry mirror a pale scruffy face stared back at me blankly. The hair on the sides of my head was starting to grow back. The scab on my neck was almost gone but the ones on my arms were just starting to form. I looked down at the bandage on my thigh and felt glad that Violet picked different spots. I checked drawers for bandages while the image of Violet’s teeth and lips flashed in my mind. I found one and proceeded to change bandages. On my thigh the same sigh was underneath; the two puncture marks and a dark bruise. Looking at it made me want to hold off and let it breathe for a while. I walked out of the bathroom and went to the kitchen. The air was chilly on my bare chest and uncovered legs; fall was in full effect. I grabbed a beer from the fridge and as I took a long drink I noticed the rain outside. The dark grey sky was what I wanted. The misty air and the soothing pitter patter on rooftops, windows and pavement was something I always enjoyed. There was no lightning or thunder but it looked like there should have been and would be soon. I remember not being sure if I worked that day.
I found the little scrap of receipt paper I wrote my schedule on and it told me I had the day off. Week to week it is different so I lose track. So I went about cleaning in my undies. Cleaning sinks, organizing dirty clothes, sweeping the kitchen and getting the bathroom straightened out. I opened windows and played trance music and let the rain soaked air give the place a different smell. The whole while I was drinking bottles of lager someone had left over and it was pretty ok. When I finished cleaning I capped it off with a joint in my bedroom by the window. I looked out at the people coming and going and I saw the cars zooming through puddles on the street. I didn’t want to call Violet. I knew I had been too wrapped up in her. I needed some space; all that vampire shit was too much. So I called my sister and I texted Galba.
Later we were sitting around watching Robocop on a Thursday night with pizza and beer. Galba and Hella were chomping and guzzling away. I was there too but distracted; I kept losing in Street Fighter because I was replaying us fucking in my mind. Now it was a blunt and Robocop, us sitting on the couch.
“Open a window.” Galba muttered as a snarky boardroom meeting played out on the screen.
“No, fucking cold.” Hella blurted out in a cloud of smoke.
I remember getting up and opening a window. It was my place after all.
“So how are things with Violet going?” Galba turned from the screen to face me with a shit eating grin. A knowing smile.
“Things are starting to heat up.” I smiled big back at him. Hella gasped in hyperbolic shock without looking away at some urchin being blown away on the television screen.
“Good to hear you’re getting laid. Maybe you can finally get off Romi’s nuts. I mean you’ve fucked like twice since you guys broke up. It has been years bro. I bet she’s fucked-“
Yes she did say that. She rambles when she is really high.
“Shush Hella! Pass the blunt. Don’t remind your brother of previous episodes.”
I hate it when Galba sounds all responsible.
Did my friends and family like her? It is hard to say. The next night she came over uninvited. I was with Hella, Galba, Ruth, John and Abdul in my place just hanging out. It was a little after 8 when the door knocked. I checked my phone and no one had called. I was high as fuck so the paranoia chimed in. I ran to the stereo to turn the aggressive music way down. I quickly placed the bong and other contraband in a hidden nook in the corner. I head a quick “Dude chill out” from one of them as I heard the knock again. This time it was quicker and harder. Was it the cops? My shitty landlord? That basehead from the down the hall? Only one way to find out.
I approached the door and through the peephole I saw it was Violet staring back at me looking annoyed. She had a giant black sweater with white lines intersecting in a argyle pattern all over it. She had on snug black leggings and her laced up black boots. Her hair was puffy and free. A halo of thick black curls. I opened the door and she smiled. The sweater stopped just short of her knees.
“Oh! You didn’t call or nothing.” I mumbled as I ushered her in. I wanted to give her a peck on the cheek but she moved too quickly through the door as if she wasn’t expecting one. I felt dumb for being so anxious before as I caught the smell of coconuts in her wake.
“Is that a problem?” She was looking at me with that secret grin of hers. It made me smile. She then gave me a peck on the cheek with everyone around and I just had to hug her.
“What are you doing here? Did I leave something?” I was so high.
“Just keeping you on your toes.”
Violet waltzed in and comically looked around. The gang looked at her wordlessly looked away. Rufus, Hella and John stood up and walked over to introduce themselves. I thought enough to offer Violet a drink. Instead I walked over to Violet who was shaking hands with Rufus. They both had a shit eating grin on their faces. Just then I noticed their difference in skin tones. Galba was a bit lighter with more red undertones than Violet had. There were only like 7 people there. The windows were open and that cool fall breeze was in effect. The living room reeked of smoke and burned cookies. The Strokes were on the e-jukebox now. That ‘Hard To Explain’ song. I like that one. It is that old now?
“Hello Rufus. It is nice to finally meet you under more visible circumstances.” She nodded and smiled. I was surprised she mentioned the club. She told me not to tell anyone about it. Maybe she knew I did already. Or maybe things just changed.
“Violet. Yes it is great to see you again. Those bums over there are Abdul and Ruth.” The bums managed to nod and sort of wave.
“What do you guys usually do on nights like these?” Violet asked as she moved toward the kitchen.
“This is it. We might watch Conan the Destroyer later and order a pizza.” With that Galba turned away to hit the blunt and Hella stepped into the kitchen. Violet was pouring herself a drink. She saw me looking.
“Would you like me to fix you one Tom? What about you Helena?” She was grabbing more red disposable cups and not looking at us as she spoke.
“How’d you know I’m Helena?” She was wasted and her words were slow and sassy.
“Your brother has good things to say about you. I like that shade of green.”
Hella didn’t look like she knew what Violet was talking about at first. When you have green hair maybe you get used to it and forget you have green hair. Violet handed us both drinks.
“Her hair reminds me of that anime Macross. Robotech same thing. That alien race had green hair. What were they called?” John muttered from the couch. I sipped my drink and tasted mostly bourbon.
“Zentradi!” Abdul yelled from the bathroom.
“Tom hasn’t said much about you but you seem nice.” Hella’s eyes were low but she was smiling like an idiot.
“Things aren’t always what they seem. I’m Violet Hegira pleasure to meet you.”
They both chuckled.
We were sitting on the couch watching Conan and it was getting late. Abdul and Galba were complaining about something. Everyone was complaining probably I wasn’t really listening. I was pretty messed up by then and Violet was sitting next to me. She was in the conversation but I was barely there. I was staring off into space smelling coconuts. I don’t know if it was her lotion or shampoo but it made me want to get closer to her. To put my arm around her or lay my head on her lap. I didn’t because that would have been too much.
“I don’t get what I’m doing wrong!” Ruth mumbled as she gestured with empty hands.
“Wages haven’t kept up with inflation for decades. Eventually not enough people will have money to buy those non essential goods that make up a majority of our economy. Things will change because they have to.” John muttered from the couch; his long brown hair in his face.
“But what can we do about that? Nothing. Just work harder at these low paying jobs. Downsize our dreams and plan vacations years in advance.” Ruth spoke with venom as she sipped from her glass.
“How the fuck are we going to be a world class city without a decent public transportation system!” Abdul spat.
“Hey we have buses. Yeah they do take forever though…” Hella trailed off.
“Guys the city just declared bankruptcy. We gotta get out of this debt first.” Galba said.
“Things are changing so fast. Magazines are folding and bookstores are closing up. Those are jobs drying up. Those are buildings that are gonna stay vacant. What’s going to happen to them? I just see more and more empty buildings.” Ruth frowned.
“Someone will buy those buildings or they won’t. That’s what happens when you overbuild. When you expand outward endlessly. Shit’s gotta reset.” John muttered with closed eyes.
“Maybe they’ll knock some vacant buildings down and we can get more public parks. If physical stores are on the outs then what else would you do? Schools? We’re closing down schools. Maybe job training centers.” Galba smiled as he thought of the possibilities.
“Knocking the shit down takes money. Look around at all the shitty houses and old abandoned factories still standing! No one wants to pay to demolish. Especially to build a park you can’t make money off of.” Abdul grunted.
“Maybe you could make money off a public meeting place. I’m sure it is possible.” Ruth waved her finger at Abdul as she spoke.
“You gotta have individuals willing to take the risk. You gotta be flexible. It doesn’t do any good to be afraid of the future.” John shurgged.
“Life ain’t fair we know this. You gotta just keep at it.” Galba nodded as he said it then took a swig of his whiskey.
“My goals are stupid. The band…the art all of it won’t go anywhere.” Abdul grimaced. It seemed like everyone was wasted. I thought they’d cheer up after that last blunt.
“It won’t go anywhere with that attitude.” Violet sternly looked at Abdul as if she’d known him longer than an hour.
“My attitude is based on experience.”
“We just gotta enjoy life more you guys. Live in the present moment more. We’re wasting the present dwelling on the past and the future. I’m going to enjoy now!” At least Galba was being positive for a change.
“Rufus is right. Now is the only real thing we have…” Ruth nervously refilled her glass and looked down at it as she spoke.
“Well now sucks that’s why we think of the future. So it won’t suck too. That’s why we think about the past to figure out how things got so shitty.” Abdul stood up and almost shouted. He looked around confused and then went into the kitchen for ice.
“Yeah it’s awful but there’s good stuff too. It is all mixed in. You just have to decide not to let the negative shit get to you. Appreciate the good things. Like this.” Hella smiled big as she pulled a big bag of pot from her purse.
Violet was digging in her purse as she began: “Life is struggle. You expect someone to just hand you a dream come true? Uncertainty is what life is made of. You’re destined to die regardless of if you get that show or that job or that whatever.”
“What’s death have to do with it? I’m talking about life in this fucked up society.” Abdul roared as he sat back down with a full glass of brown liquor; perfectly chilled unlike him.
“Life is existing in the midst of death. You’re alive and death is all around you.” Violet pulled a pill bottle out of her purse and tossed it on the table. John and Ruth both reached for it at once.
“Death is behind you and in front of you. It is all around you and it is inside you.” Violet was not smiling as she stared into Abdul’s eyes.
“Life is so fleeting and precious. So why do some people make it so hard for others?” Ruth whined as she inspected a pill on her hand. “What kind of pills are these?”
“Because everyone is for themselves and their little groups. It isn’t that they’re trying to make your life hard. They just don’t give a shit about you!” Galba said the words with distaste as he carefully worked on rolling a blunt.
“Ok so we know that employers don’t want to invest a lot in training employees. They expect experience when you come in. So how do employers know a worker is skilled? By various credentials and certificates. How come no one tries a less expensive way? Like just testing an employee?” Galba licked the brown stick to seal it when he finished speaking.
“Galba you gotta take things as they are not as they should be. There’s no one doing this to you. The market is bigger than all of us. If what you produce no one wants to buy there’s no one to blame but yourself.” John muttered.
“Bullshit. The market is too complicated to generalize like that. If no one’s buying it could be an issue of not promoting enough. It could be stores not carrying your product because they don’t like your personal politics.”
“Or the product itself. It’s about individual firms having the freedom to use their own discretion. That’s what makes a strong economy.”
“Even if those firms make individual decisions that are unjust? We’re just supposed to chalk it up to freedom?”
“Who determines what is just?”
“The universal culture! The public!” Abdul blurted out.
“If you disagree with how a firm operates then don’t buy their products or services. It is that simple.”
“It is not that simple. What if the methods of operation are secret, or knowledge is deliberately covered up! What if that firm is the only firm that provides the service?” Abdul roared.
“If you don’t know about it how can you disagree? If you’re so offended and they’re the only game in town then you should be content to sit on your high horse and do without that particular good or service.”
“Not good enough!”
“Every individual is responsible for all of their choices. How far you go in life depends on the choices you make. That’s what they say. Yet at the same time market forces and scarcity are bigger than individual choices. So how can anyone say that people get what they deserve?” Abdul wailed.
“Most people don’t give a shit about me so why should I give a shit about most people?!” Abdul always got a little rowdy while drinking. Hella shushed him and cleared her throat.
“You can’t help it. You’re a caring person. You’re mad because you feel like we’re all playing a rigged game. You just gotta find an outlet for your frustration.” She said it calmly as she handed Galba a lighter. I was getting pretty annoyed with this conversation because it wasn’t going anywhere. I struggled to think of something to change the topic with.
“Some people spend their whole lives chasing vain hopes and dreams that they don’t take the time to enjoy life. Some people spend all their time trying to recapture what is lost they don’t appreciate what they have.” John mumbled with closed eyes from a corner on the couch. I thought he was passed out.
“Don’t you ever get angry thinking about how unfair life is?” Galba asked John.
“When I do I remind myself that fairness is a human concept. Each human has a different idea of what’s fair. There’s no universal rule.”
“That’s not comforting John.” Galba spat.
“Results of your hard work don’t come instantly. You can’t be too concerned with what other people are doing. You are only in charge of yourself in the present moment. What else is there? What are you going to do give up?” Violet looked around at everyone as she finished. Some shrugged. Galba lit the blunt and puffed on it to get it going.
“What would be giving up?”
“I dunno. Not trying anymore. Being a bum.” Ruth muttered.
“What I like to do is ask myself: What do you want the most right now? Whenever I’m confused or bored or mad. A few things come to mind and I pick one that’s in reach.” Hella chimed in. After speaking she inhaled for a good while and sat there smiling; letting the smoke drift out of her nose.
“What do you want the most right now Abdul?” Violet asked sweetly.
“Some studio time. A better amp. Sex with Lucy. Some candy.” Abdul grunted.
“Lucy Gigan?! What does everyone want her so bad?!” Hella laughed.
“There’s jello in the fridge.” I finally contributed to the conversation.
“Just think of the possibilities. Eternal life, super strength. All the shit you’re worrying about now won’t matter anymore. And we would be together. Not forever, but for a long time. As long as we want.”
“It isn’t that simple. I’ll crave blood all the time. Undead. Won’t be able to go into the sun.” I muttered something like that.
“The last one isn’t totally true.”
“Sleeping in coffins? Draining innocent people of their life force?”
“You’ll find you enjoy it. And who says they’re innocent?”
Violet narrowed her eyes at me and began to speak in a low and even voice.
“You keep telling me about how you’re sick of the rat race. I’m offering you a chance to drop it. You say you’re not satisfied with your existence and I’m offering you another one.”
“I’m not saying it’ll be a piece of cake. If you want an escape from everything you should shoot yourself. What I am is something different. Its tough to explain being set apart like this. When dealing with humans you feel like a puppeteer a lot. Pulling the strings, it comes naturally. Most of the time you feel like a beast. Don’t you feel like a beast already Tom? Don’t you want to run wild? We could tour the west.”
I thought about becoming a vampire. Having weird powers and drinking blood. Roaming across the west draining truckers and cashiers of their life force and chump change.
“Listen Violet I don’t know if you’ve been zonked out in the dirt for too long or what but they’re cameras everywhere nowadays. Your little spree wouldn’t last long.”
“That’s what you think. You’re right though. If you take this chance there is no going back. That stuff about working for a nice company, raising a family while watching football, golf outing crap is out of the picture.”
“It seems out of the picture already.”
“Oh stop. This is serious. As long as you’re alive you have a chance in the world of the living. It only feels hopeless cause you’re right in the middle. But once you become like me….” Violet paused to look up at the clouds passing over the moon, fluffy dark shapes flowing by.
“Once you become a vampire the living world doesn’t have the same weight it used to. The priorities are different or something.” Violet had a slightly angry expression on her face and spoke very slowly while keeping her eyes far out on the sky as we sat on top of a stone wall next to each other.
“What do you care about more than blood?” I yelped it out, sounding like a teenager. The whole thing was very suddenly creeping me right the fuck out.
“Do you remember life as a regular person?”
“Yeah I still do. My life wasn’t glamorous but it was ok. Your life is ok. Just keep living it!”
“But it is so useless! I’m programmed to want what I can’t have! I’m duped into believing I’m someone special and I’ll rise to the top if I just work hard. I’m not and I won’t!”
“There you go whining again. Everything is so damn impossible for you isn’t it?! Would you rather live your life as a janitor? How about 30 years in the coal mines? Is that challenging enough for you?” Violent was grimacing and pointing her finger in my face. I swear her glossy black nail polish reflected some moonlight.
“Miners got good pay..” I trailed off, staring at the clouds passing in front of the moon. An owl hooted in the background.
“Shut up! How about sharecropping huh? That worked out great for my folks.”
“You’re exaggerating-“ I was stuttering. I also dreaded going on racial tangets with my hypothetical black girlfriend.
“No you are exaggerating! You’re acting like the fight’s over and you lost. Your fight is still going on. As long as you’re alive the struggle isn’t over. Life is struggle. Would you rather be dead!?” She calmed herself down a bit as she stared at me. A cold, accusing stare amongst the oblivious passerbys and dim streetlights. For some reason it set me on the defensive.
“Then you’d lose your Rust Belt Boy with the good circulation. A strong pulse. Your midnight snack! That’s why you won’t turn me isn’t it?! You want to keep me as your fleshy juice box!” I was being mean about nothing for no legitimate reason and it was pissing her off.
“That is so unfair. You lazy fuck.”
“I wanna hunt with you! I want to be your partner not your prey! I know how you feel about the general population.”
“You idiot! Wow you’re dumb.” She sighed and starting digging through her glittery purse. She said nothing as she pulled out a cigarette and lit it without looking at me.
“Why don’t you just take all my blood Violet? Why even keep me around much longer huh?! There’s so many cute guys!”
“Shut up. I like you! You unappreciative motherfucker you don’t know how much I wish I could be human again. Like you. With you! I like you for the caring person you are. The human you are. It is so fucking easy to drink a person to death you have no idea. I’ve been so careful with you. You have no fucking idea.” She wasn’t screaming at me anymore. We were just sitting there in silence for a second. Then I put my arm around her.
“You have the nerve to ask me to make you this way? As if it is some waltz in the park for me? As if it is something I want? You don’t know what you’re asking for. I liked you just the way you were and you want to make such a big change. You didn’t even ask me about my feelings. We’re talking about permanently altering the course of your life! I don’t want any more blood on my hands than I have to.” She stared out into the night sky as she took a drag from her cigarette. I didn’t know what to say at that moment. I felt like a wishy washy teenager. It was me who first suggested becoming like her. She was against it at first. I felt silly. She was 86 years old she didn’t have time to babysit silly boys.
“First you want me to turn you then when I get used to the idea you want to back out. Make up your mind Tom.”
She was pretty distant the rest of the night. We went to the movies and then back to her room. She drank from me and we watched movies. As the sun rose I let myself out of her room and caught the bus home feeling like shit.
An idle afternoon. Waking up early because I passed out early feels good. Listening to music and making tea knowing there’s a whole day ahead of you feels good. Hearing people rush off to work around you while you don’t have to. The morning after I quit I sat at a chair by the window with my tea and didn’t think much about anything. I stared out at the sky and the parking lot as my thoughts drifted. I felt blank; depleted but in a pleasant way. Scattered but not caring about it for once. A vague feeling like I’ve lost it instead of losing it. It feels better. There’s no desperation and no guilt. Real life doesn’t have a plot. Things just happen and it all doesn’t mean very much. I sound defeated? Yeah I wanted out. I wanted to convince Violet to turn me into a vampire. Why’d I ask her to make me a vampire? If I were a vampire I wouldn’t see the sky in the daytime again. I knew she was asleep so I put on my shoes and went for a walk. While feeling the breeze I thought of what I’d say to her. None of it sounded very convincing.
Abdul and Galba came over later. With their black clothes I barely saw them walk up to the apartment building through the window. By nightfall the rain had stopped.
They walked in complaining about society as usual.
“They tell us to give our all to what we love. Don’t get distracted and push no matter what and you’ll see results. On the other hand other people tell us about not putting all your eggs in one basket. That it is all about a diversity of skills. Which one is it?” Abdul muttered to Galba as he took his jacket off.
“Dude there’s no one right answer. Everyone has different circumstances.” Galba rolled his eyes as he said it.
“I’d rather have a wide set of skills even if I’m mediocore at all of them. I’d rather be ok at several things than really good at a couple. You gotta be flexible; it’s a better long term strategy.” I chimed in as I handed them beers.
“Whoa this place is really clean. Is Violet coming over later?” Galba seemed surprised.
“Man that girl’s cool.” Abdul muttered.
“No she’s not coming by. We sorta had a fight.”
“You cleaned to get your mind off of it? Aww you poor baby!” Galba pinched my cheek after mocking me. I wanted to deck him for a second.
The next few days were boring. I went to work, came home and didn’t call her. Then on the morning of the 3rd day she called me. She said she was on her way to my place to sleep. When I opened the door she looked tired and sluggish. Her white t-shirt had bloodstains and her plaid skirt was torn and dirty. I asked what she had done that night and she admitted she “went a little crazy.” I apologized to her and she shrugged it off. We talked before she drifted off to sleep in my bed. I played with her hair and kissed her check before I went to work and when I came home she was still there. Still asleep in the same position; the sun hadn’t gone down yet. So I watched tv.
I was watching Valley of The Dolls when Violet woke up and stumbled into the living room. The sky was a deep purple with the coming nightfall and the light rain sprinkled the windows. Yeah it’s a old movie from like 1967. Sharon Tate is in it. Patty Duke too. Such a shame Sharon Tate is going to be remembered as a victim of those Manson fuckers.
Anyway the lead female said to the lead male “when you fall in love you belong to someone else” and it made me turn to the still groggy Violet and ask her:
“Do I belong to you?”
She was standing at the mirror in her rumbled black nightgown combing her curly hair. She answered without turning around:
“No I wouldn’t say so. Do I belong to you? What’s that Valley of The Dolls?” She stretched a bit and walked over to the window. She put her hands on her hips and stared out at the city with an unreadable face.
“You can’t belong to anyone.” I answered back as I watched the lead male make excuses for not wanting to get married.
“That’s fucking right Tom.” She nodded and then turned to me with a smile.
“What do you want to do tonight?” I asked from the couch. I imagined she wanted to go out; for blood and for fun. She slowly made her way to the couch and sat down.
“Let’s stay in tonight. Movie marathon. I’m tired of that hotel. Your place is comfy.”
“Aren’t you thirsty?”
“Yes. Are you ready? I don’t really feel like going out to find someone. Can I use you?” There was a sense of urgency in her voice.
“It would be my pleasure.”
It didn’t last. We went back to her place to change after a couple hours. Then we hit the town.
It was almost 5 in the morning yes, so her in a long evening dress embracing a dirty bum in the middle of the sidewalk still seemed a bit odd. He jerked a little as V drained him. He didn’t make any noise after that first grunt. When she was done Violet carefully carried the man to a covered bus stop a few feet away and propped him up in a corner. Then she turned and started walking toward me; stumbling and holding her arms up to steady herself. She shook her head slowly and blinked slowly. I held out my arms to catch her as she leaned into me and opened her mouth to speak.
“I usually get a bit dizzy…but this is too much. That guy was messed up on all kinds of shit. I can’t feel the alcohol but I can’t place this…something else…” She trailed off as we locked arms and I started walking away with her leaning against me.
“Come on V let’s go home. Almost sunrise. Is he dead?”
“Yeah he’s gone.”
“Are you ready? First I’m going to suck your blood to the point of near death. Then you drink my blood. As much as you can.”
She said it slowly as we sat on the couch in her hotel room. I had just showed up and I asked her about the process.
“Will you die?” I asked like a newbie. She laughed in a quick burst.
“No. I might pass out though. Are you ready?” She was smiling a goofy smile, looking at me expectantly. I was excited. I felt like I was losing my virginity or something.
She looked at me, then her smile slowly faded into a frown. Then my giggly face turned into a confused one.
“What?! What is it?! Dig in! Suck me dry!” I didn’t know if she was fucking with me or not.
“No not yet. I’m not ready.” She sighed and walked to the bathroom.
“What do you mean?! You were so certain before!”
“I still am!” She shouted back. Then poked her head out of the bathroom, makeup half applied.
“This is a big deal. Let’s not rush it. Once we do it there’s no going back.” She sounded like a teenager talking about sex too.
“Let’s go out. You should see one more sunrises as a human Tom. Am I not merciful?”
So we went out.
Just a few days later I was with Galba in a park. Sitting on a bench during a pretty bright day for fall. The sun was shining and the sky was that vibrant blue with puffy thick clouds. It got me thinking about how much I’d miss the sunshine and daylight if things went according to plan. I didn’t tell Galba any of that. We just sat there chatting about big topics. Politics stuff. We don’t gossip like hens.
“So how’s the new job going?” Galba asked as if he wasn’t very interested. He was staring out at the blue sky.
“Eh. Okay I guess. How’s Mia’s? That new manager still there? What was his name?”
“Dylan. Yeah he’s still there and he’s still afraid to get dirty. What kind of a restaurant manager sucks at cooking? I don’t get it. He’s more of a front of the house kind of guy I guess.” Galba shrugged, still looking out.
“Yeah I couldn’t stand that. Its like they pick their managers out of a hat. That’s why I left.”
Eventually he did bring up Violet.
“You haven’t been around much. Are you guys in love or something? Usually you’d be wanting space and alone time by now. Or rather she’d be wanting space.”
“First off I haven’t even been dating or hooking up in a year. And it has only been a few weeks Rufus. No I don’t want any space. I want to be closer to her. I can’t get enough.” Yes I actually said that. I had such a big grin on too.
“What?” He turned to look at me in genuine confusion.
I don’t know why I quit a days ago. I got all the sleep I wanted the night before and I had breakfast that morning. I didn’t set out to quit; I didn’t know it was going to be my last day when I walked in.
Everyone was the same; half smiling faces and compliants about their home lives. I listened while working like I always did. Nodding my head while peeling potatoes. Listening to the other guys bitch about what the boss made them do the other day. Listening to servers complain about only being tipped 10% on a $25 bill. The muffled radio edit of a newish rap song in the background; underneath the clattering of dishes and sounds of running water.
“Your job isn’t that hard. You smile and ask them how their doing. Take their order. Refill their coffee, or pop, or water or whatever the fuck they’re drinking. You bring their food out to them. You ask them if they need anything else. Then you take their money.” Ramon sounded annoyed as he chopped lettuce. He knew how much servers made in tips compared to his wages. He has listened to them complain about only going home with $100 after a few hours of work for too long. It would take him working 12 hours to make as much and he wouldn’t see it for 2 weeks. Ramon was a heavy set light skinned black man in his early 40s. He had 3 kids and a 20 year old car that needed fixing.
“You kitchen guys don’t get it. We need those tips. You guys make an hourly wage. We do too but it is less than $3 an hour because they expect us to make tips. Whether it’s busy or slow you guys make the same. We don’t.” Sylvia was a short white woman in her mid 30s with obviously dyed blonde hair and a bit too much makeup on.
“And people tip don’t they?” Joey the kid came around the corner carrying a rack full of clean, hot dishes. He was only 18 so he still smiled a lot.
“For every table that tips 10% there’s another table that does 20%. At least you’ve got surprises like that. Never know what you’re gonna make at the end. We always know.” I was muttering but I said it loud enough for Sylvia to hear.
“And there’s always a few tables a week that don’t leave anything at all. Your surprise is my uncertainty Thomas.” With that she huffed and walked away to check on her tables. I thought about how if I was doing her job I wouldn’t make as much in tips as she did. Why? Well men just don’t as much I’ve noticed. Also I’m not pretty and I can only smile so much. You’re right Laura; people expect men to have real jobs. Jobs that don’t depend on tips. If I’m out eating and I run into a waiter I feel sorry for him. Even if he does make more money than me at the end of the night.
That’s the kind of shit I was thinking about at work that day. On my 30 minute break I sat in a corner booth of the dining room in my dirty chef coat and clown pants kinda sulking. I smashed on my cheeseburger thinking about how fucked up the game is. Staring at the laughing customers with an evil eye they wouldn’t notice. Fighting the urge to deck my manager for calling us slow when he never helps out with prep. I looked across the dining room at him near a printer. He was reading a long receipt with a scowl on. Another middle aged authority figure getting it coming and going. He’s watching sales and food costs. He’s checking inventory and labor percentages.
As I finished my burger I reminded myself that he wasn’t an asshole. The business is just fucked up and will make an asshole out of anyone if they do it long enough. Working every weekend. Working every holiday except Thanksgiving and Christmas because that’s the busy time. Working because no one gives a shit if you have friends or family. You’re always off when they’re working. You’re always working when they’re off. That’s the kind of shit I was thinking about at work that day. Usually I save it for when I’m coming home or going to sleep sober.
I was thinking about other stuff too. Yes like Violet. I hadn’t seen her for a few days but we did text every now and then. Yesterday at sunset I sent her a “good morning beautiful” and she responded with a smiley face. I thought it was funny. Things were fine; she just wanted some time alone. I did too kinda so it worked out. I felt dumb asking her to turn me into a vampire and then being a baby about her not doing it. She said she’d consider it. I needed to get back to my own life; recenter things. I was reminded how lame my job was because I went in with a clear head and a good night’s sleep for once. I’m not always fucked up. Just most of the time.
When my break was over I got up to clock back in and a thought floated in my head that made me stand still by the trashcan. The statement grew larger the more I thought about it.
‘What if I just walked out right now?’
It made me smile and dart my eyes around as if I had said it out loud; as if the bosses could read my thoughts. I felt like a traitor thinking like that. A traitor in a good way; like betraying a group that betrayed you. The shit eating grin of one on the verge of revenge. The job hadn’t done anything wrong to me. The thoughts were crazy but I didn’t care. Which is crazy too.
I had enough for rent already. I’d get another check in a week. Then a smaller one two weeks later. I stood at the trashcan still holding my balled up wrapper while I did the mental math. The bartender looked over at me with a curious face.
You ever get to a point when you realize you can’t win? I’m not talking about in life; just certain situations. You realize you can’t win so the details just don’t matter so much anymore. That’s the mode I was in as I looked around slowly. I wouldn’t say it was giving up. It felt like keeping a piece of myself. Does that make any sense? The thought was a dare in my mind now; clear and cocky.
‘What if I just walked the fuck out right fucking now?’
So I just turned around and walked out.
I ignored the high pitched “Tom where are you going?” from a college bound waitress as I kept walking. I went out the front door that workers aren’t supposed to use. 10 minutes into walking down the empty street I got a call from the owner’s son. We’re the same age but he drives a BMW. He’s full of smiles and I’m out of fucks to give.
“You’re just gonna quit like that? Come on man don’t do this. We’ve got a 40 top coming in at 3.”
“It’s already done. Thanks for the opportunity but I’ve had enough.” The words came out before I was ready for them. They came out in a dull voice that was mine. He muttered a quick “fuck” and hung up. I called my dealer; the one with pills because I already had weed. I wanted some more of those downers. My life was a downer and I wanted to go all the way down.
When you grow up without you appreciate the things you do have. When you grow up with everything you just want more. You knew me back in the day. I was always whining about something. All I could see was doors being slammed in my face. We didn’t grow up rich or nothing but it was stable. What did I want back then?
I wanted to be somebody special but I didn’t know what for. Vague ambition. Was it the T.V.’s fault? But lately I’ve just wanted to drop out. The vague ambition dried up a few years ago. It got replaced by the urge to survive and get a few kicks before I went to the scrap heap. I mean look at you Laura you knew what you wanted and you went after it. You kept at it through the hard times and came out the other end. I guess I never really knew what I wanted. So I wanted to try anything.
But I’m excited now and I haven’t been excited about much since you left. Yes I mean that. It isn’t something I just go around talking about.
Thanks for letting me in I know how late it is. I just wanted to tell you about all of this. Not just anyone Laura you. I know we don’t talk like that but when we do talk it feels natural. Like we have an understanding. We’ve always had that connection and believe me I’ve been missing it. I know I talked your ear off. I just had to tell you all this wacky shit just to make sure it’s really happening.
Do I love Violet? Yeah. But not like I loved you. I just wanted to see you before things got crazy because I love you. I know you don’t get it and you don’t feel the same. No big deal. Thank you so much for listening to me tonight. You’re the most pleasant…..I’d just better go. I know you’re moving again so I don’t know when I’ll see you. That rain’s still falling hard huh? Oh well. Yeah you too.