Scary Monsters by David Banyai
When the phone rings, I am picturing Kimmy a brunette at school who is always good for a casual roll in the sheets. I quickly waddle across the house and trip over the dog to answer the phone. (Not very dignified, but not completely unfamiliar.) On about the fifth or sixth ring, “Hello”. “Is Del there?” I recognize the voice immediately. “You got him. Hey Rick, what’s up?” Rick is the closest thing to what some people may call a best friend. He is not really reliable enough to be called a true friend, since he suffers from a debilitating case of narcissism. Still, he is fun to be around, smart and always seems to call me when he needs something. “You got anything planned tonight? I have a favor to ask.” Here it comes. Last time these words were spoken Rick needed a chauffeur to pick him up because he got shit-faced at an underage party. A party, I may add, that I had not been invited to. It was the night I was dubbed “the great ally”. Rick has many friends, so being distinguished from the rest as an ally was pretty close to a compliment. “What do you need?”
“Listen, I know you have a way with women,” he is opening with flattery, it is cheap and another bad sign, “well, I met this guy and he has this ex who is always hanging around. Could you come into the city with us and distract her so I can spend time with him?” I love going into the city and he knows it. We both talked many times how we planned to move to the city after graduating. He has a fondness for New York. I have teased him, a gay writer in Greenwich Village is extremely cliché. My preference has always been Philadelphia. Unlike Rick , I prefer cities that do not smell like piss in the summer time.
“Sure, I’ll be over and we’ll leave from your house.” I hang up the phone. Shit, did I just agree to a double date? Double Shit, I think I green lighted a blind double date. This is guy rule number seventy-three, never agree to a blind date. I throw on a clean black undershirt and grab my cheap leather jacket and after taking a moment in front of the mirror to muss up the hair a little, I am out the door and in my car.
About ten minutes later I am in Rick ‘s driveway. The three of them are waiting for me. Rick is standing shoulder to elbow next to some guy. Rick is not overweight but he does hold many of the other defining characteristics of a typical “bear”. In short, he is hairy and likes pretty boys. The strange newcomer standing next to Rick looks angelic, tall (real tall), blonde hair (real blonde) and a body that could earn him a quick buck in gay porn. Hovering close by like a pissed off hawk is an attractive girl in a button down blouse (buttoned all the way up), tight tapered jeans and tennis shoes. She is also blonde but showing signs of a need for a touch-up. She would be smoking if she were only smiling. I am relieved. She is not dressed in dating attire and is not wearing any makeup. This is going to be casual.
Introductions are brief. “Del, Donny, Donny, Del, Del, Jenny, Jenny Del” I interrupt before he has a chance to do the whole Rocky, Janet, Janet, Dr. Scott routine. Rick is a big fan of Rocky Horror and such greetings always lead to that particularly tiresome bit. “Cool, nice to meet you. Rick has told me absolutely nothing about you.” The three of us laugh. Jenny just grinds her teeth and continues raptor like stare directed toward Rick. “Who’s driving?” Before the words leave my mouth three car doors slam. Rick and Donny are in the back and Jenny is in the drivers seat. To no one in particular, “I got shot-gun”.
She drives fast on the back country roads, with one eye on the road and the other looking in the rear view mirror. Periodically I slam my foot down on the passenger invisible brake and brace against the door. No one seems to notice the assertive driving except me and I start imagining myself sailing slow motion through the windshield and kissing a tree at 80 miles per hour. After we hit 422 the reckless driving is less noticeable.
I avoid subjects like “how’d you guys meet” and “you guys make an interesting couple”. (If I anticipate a ride back, it is best to be cautious in my conversation choice.) Rick lights up a joint and we pass it around the car. Jenny refuses the toke. I can respect that. Of course, I have no such reservations.
“So, there is this guy and he decides to throw it all away and move to Alaska. Now he has never been to Alaska, but he heard it is an untouched, beautiful part of the country, so he is resolved to go. He sells everything he owns and moves north. He gets to the state’s border and there is the official looking guy standing there. He says to the official, excuse me sir, I am moving to this state and I want to be the best damn Alaskan I can be.” I take another hit. “What do I need to do to be called an Alaskan? Well, the official looks at him and says – Sir! There are just three things you need to do. First, drink this gallon of whiskey. Drink it fast and don’t blink an eye. Second, you must kill a Polar Bear with you bare hands and finally you must make love to an Eskimo woman.” The joint comes around to me once more. “The man takes the whiskey and son of a bitch he drinks it down in one gulp. He is swaying and lisping. So, where do I find this Polar Bear? The official points at a stony path. Just follow this path until you come to a cave. You will find him in the cave. The wannabe Alaskan stumbles up the path and is gone for six hours! When he comes back he is covered in scratches and gore. His clothing is shredded and bloody. He comes up to the official -” Another hit, I hold the smoke longer this time. “ He comes up to the official and says,” I exhale, “so, where is this Eskimo chick you want me to kill?”
The joke kills and we laugh our asses off. I look over at Jenny. She is smiling, exerting effort not to laugh. The girl is pretty when she smiles. Why would a girl want to tag along on a date with her openly gay ex boyfriend? She takes a deep breath. Her breast momentarily stretch out her blouse. What man (gay or otherwise) in his right mind would cast aside a piece of ass like this? What is wrong with her?
We turn off of 422 and exit onto the Schuylkill expressway. We follow the river into the city. The lights from Boathouse Row reflect off the water. Just down from Boathouse Row, the art museum is lit up like a refurbished Parthenon. The Rocky statue was moved down to the Spectrum, but it is hard not to expect it to still be on display at the top of the museum steps. Jenny turns off on the Vine street exit and after the first underpass we start looking for a parking spot. All of us want to hit South street, but parking there on a Friday night is not the best idea, so we agree to walk the extra blocks. “If we get separated let’s meet at Tower Books.” I look at Jenny . I am fairly certain getting separated is not on her itinerary. Her soft smile has long evaporated and is once again replaced by a clenched jaw and predatory gaze.
Rick and Donny are a few feet ahead of us. I came to have a good time and my promise did not include trailing behind two guys on a date like lonely puppy. We are about to pass Zipperhead, “Screw them Jenny. Come on.” Grabbing her arm we go into Zipperhead. Her resolve is momentary but she concedes still craning her neck to follower the two men as they walk through the crowd. Her anger melts into worry, which significantly improves her personality. Exene is screaching Breathless over the store’s cheap ass speakers. We look out of place among the pierced purple haired freaks, but the nice thing about Punks is that they don’t give a shit about anything but their own angst. Browsing the racks of leather studded mini-skirts seems to mellow Jenny. She holds up a Sex Pistols shirt and lays it across her chest, “What do you think?” I raise an eyebrow and say suspiciously “Do you even know who that band is?” She flashes me a grin and flips me off. I am developing a new appreciation for this girl.
We leave Zipperhead without buying anything. Donny and Rick are long gone. “Trust me, they don’t even know we ditched them.” I smile. “You like Italian ice?” We hit Rita’s for Italian Ice and a slice. As we walk, sharing our mango and pina-colada ice, she starts venting about Donny.
They were engaged in high school until he came out after graduation. For three years he carried her books, sat next to her on the bleachers at football games holding hands and confessing his unending love to her. Until he (with a significant amount of begging on his part) accepted the gift that only a young girl can offer. She blames herself and insists there was something wrong with her. “That’s bullshit Jenny. If he’s gay, he was gay before he even met you. If you ask me, he is a prick for stringing you on. He probably deprived you of a great senior year.” We walk quietly. She is looking forward, pretty much avoiding any additional conversation. I start laughing. “What’s so funny?” I look at her and say, “sounds to me like Donny is a self absorbed ass-hole. Knowing Rick the way I do, I give them two, maybe three- Ooh cookies!” I pull her into the crowded cookie shop and we leave with a bag of hot melty chocolate treats.
We walk with our cookies down New Market and she tells me about her school. She is going to Albright College whose most distinguishing feature is that it is on the same boulevard as a preschool, elementary, middle and senior high school. You can quite literally spend your entire educational history on one street. The girl needs a friend. I pretend to be interested, but to be honest I am imagining myself licking the melted chocolate off of her cheek. I hand her napkin instead.
By the time we hit Chestnut street she is holding my arm. I don’t mind. Walking down a quiet city street with a pretty girl is considerably more fun than what was originally planned for the evening. She talks less about Donny and more about herself. The adage “out of sight out of mind” seems appropriate. We step around a homeless couple sitting on a steam grate. Seeing a homeless “couple” is a pretty rare sight even in the city. Homeless people always appear solitary. The man is a big black grizzled smelly brute with more layers on than can be possibly comfortable on a summer night. She is a dim looking white girl, maybe in her mid twenties. From the way she is sitting you can see she is not wearing any underpants and possibly a natural blonde. We turn off the dark street and meander down Sansom street. The block is lit by the neon sex from the adult book stores. Suddenly, Jenny pulls me into a brightly lit store. This is not where I expected to wind up this evening. She is obviously testing me, but what she doesn’t know is that while I may be easy to surprise, I am damn near impossible to shock. I shrug, “why the Hell not?”
Bowie’s Scary Monsters is blaring over the stores speakers. “I love this song and how strangely appropriate.” Life size inflatable dolls hang from the ceiling like pinatas. Sex toys line the shelves. “Shit, I have seen Ikea furniture come in smaller boxes.” Jenny laughs. There are about five other customers in the store with no one guarding the register. “Jenny you think they have a return policy?” She smacks my arm, “ Eww, that’s gross.”
I thumb through the movies, Jane Bond 0069, I saw this on 30 mm three months ago. There is a lot of Traci Lords. She is more cute than slutty. Watching her is like watching your sixteen year old baby-sitter fuck. (Now that I think of it I probably would have enjoyed watching my sixteen year old baby-sitter fuck.) Jenny is not far away thumbing through tapes like there were records in a second hand shop.
The back of the store has video booths for patrons who need to get their “porn-on” right away. “Let’s check them out.” Jenny is still testing my freak tolerance. “Well first of all, ick. Second, they only allow one person in at a time (don’t ask me how I know this little fact) and third, oh why the fuck not?” She looks surprised. “Here, give me some quarters.” She thrusts them into the slot and we both disappear into the booth. The film was grainy and black and white. A bunch of guys stood in a circle racing to climax. Any possibility of arousal from me just flew out the door.
When we exit the booth, “Was it everything you ever dreamed of?” She looked disappointed. “That was stupid. It was just a bunch of guys standing in a circle jerking off. You have any more quarters?” I laugh. Which probably is a mistake. So, I fish out more change. “Knock yourself out princess.” The second movie was vintage 70’s porn. The girl had excessive hair and the man looked a little overweight with a Keith Partridge haircut. I could feel the heat off of Jenny’s body as she sat on my lap. I shifted my body slightly so as not to embarrass either one of us. “I am ready to go. Did you want to buy anything?” Jenny looks flush. “No, I’m good. We need to get going anyway. It’s getting late. Donny and Rick are probably waiting on us.” She frowns at the sound of the names. “Come on.” I take her hand and lead her out of the store. When we are outside we are still holding hands.
After a couple of blocks Jenny complains about her tired feet. “Hop on. I will give you a piggy back.” She does a small vault and wraps her legs around my waist. “Had I known this was a possibility I would have bought a riding crop back at the store.” I reach behind my back and pinch her bottom. “Flirt.” She has a cute scream. I lean back and she wraps her arms around my neck to compensate. It is amazing how often that move seems to work.
I carry her most of the way until we stop at a pharmacy for a Tastykake and Sprite. On the way to the bookstore she stops, faces me and gives me a quick little kiss. “Thanks, I had a nice time.” Her lips taste like Butterscotch Krimpet. I resolved to ask her out properly. “Me too.”
It is after one thirty, but there are still a few customers in the store. We look around around the store and finally find Rick and Donny snogging among a bunch of religious books. “Are you guys trying to get God to go Old Testament on your asses?” Rick looks up and flips me off with a smile. For years I thought flipping someone off was meant as an insult. Tonight, I get the impression it is just another way of saying “I love you”.
Jenny did not take the sight of them kissing well. With one kiss the evening flushed down the crapper. On the way to the car we walk quickly and far in front of Rick and Donny . Jenny has a painful death grip on my arm. At least she isn’t throwing a tantrum. Upon reaching the car, she jams the keys into my hands and says loudly, “I am too upset to drive.” I unlock the car and Donny and Jenny quickly climbs in. Rick hangs back just long enough to mouth “Thank you.” I smile and flip him off. He laughs and we both get in the car.
I never like driving other people’s cars. It makes me uncomfortable to be handed so much unsolicited responsibility. After adjusting the seat, fiddling with the mirrors and other stall tactics, I start the car and we leave the city the way we arrived, from Vine street to the expressway. Jenny sits on her side of the bench looking out the window. I reach over and pat her hand gently. She rewards me with a smile then turns on the radio. WYSP is featuring Bowie and they start belting out Scary Monsters. “Christ, is it his freak’n birthday or something?” Jenny chuckles. “I’m tired. Do you mind if I lie down?” She lies down in the front seat and lays her head in my lap. It is nice. I stroke her hair and think about her riding on my back through the side streets of Philadelphia. The car is quiet except for Bowie droning about the super freaks. Other cars pass and lights from oncoming traffic illuminate the cab. Black trees and rocks blur as we barrel west on the expressway. I will never understand what she hoped to gain by torturing herself by tagging behind her ex lover as he moves from one guy to the next. Maybe she thought by driving him around he might appreciate her and hopefully fall back into her arms. With so much invested in her first relationship would another guy ever measure up to her expectations? There is movement from Jenny and cool air washes over my groin followed by the warm wetness of a gentle kiss. Oh, shit! A surprising panic come over me. I am not thinking great I can’t believe this is happening. My thoughts are focused on the dangers of the expressway. This is dangerous. I am going to crash this car and they’ll find me mangled with my pants down. Do Donny and Rick have any idea is going on? Oh my God! What if they are doing the same thing?
Suddenly the evening has evolved into a Penthouse Forum moment and before I realize it the car is cooking at 95 mph and I am passing airplanes. This girl has succeeded in shocking me to my core! She must have sensed her victory over me because she sat up and placed her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes.
I pull the car into the driveway and adjust my pants before we enter the house. Rick’s parent are home and asleep. It is about 2:30 am and even the crickets are silent. We walk up the stairs and Donny and Rick quickly disappear into Rick’s bedroom. My assumptions of Donny being a prick are confirmed. The bastard expects his ex-fiance to hang around while he has sex with his boyfriend. I am about to go ape-shit when I feel Jenny’s hand in mine. We sit down together on the couch and I start to apologize for Donny’s behavior. (I hate apologizing for the stupid things other men do.) I’m cut short by her kiss. I taste myself on her tongue. The thought of her making a man turn gay is absolute bullshit.
Kissing leads to petting and petting leads to the floor. (Mrs. H would kill me if I stained her sofa.) Fumbling with her blouse leads to a lacy demi bra. She is amazingly natural, one breast larger than the other but each perfectly shaped. I love variety. She use her nails on my skin and it leaves me drunk. There is the taste of salt, the sticky feel of sweat on her lower back and the smell of spent baby powder. We trade positions and she finishes what she started in the car. Prolonging the pleasure is painful and there seems to be no alternative but to release. She clamps gently and rocks slowly to the rhythm of my body. When I am still she lays on top of me. One hand is over my heart, resting on the damp black shirt. The other hand is gently delivering caresses. She says, “Next time warn me before you do that.” I am embarrassed by my lack of control but I know there will be a next time. I tell her to get dressed. “Why?” she pouts as though she were being rejected again. I smile. “Trust me, they won’t even know we ditched them.”