Tuesday, January 27, 2009

January 27, 2009

I hear them trying the door. I hear futile beeping as student I.D.s swipe hopelessly against impotent entry swipers. I hear shoes against metal door frame, deep-throated groans. I am not sure where my moral responsibility lies in this matter. The residents of my dormitory ("Courts Hall" as they refer to it in university-issued marketing material) have been locked out of our most convenient points of entry for days now. The result of either a computer glitch or the hyper paranoia of a secluded campus in Tennessee facing Code Orange security status, these "swipers" allowing students dorm entry after 10:00 PM provided they possess the appropriately coded key card just don't work. The doors stay locked both day and night. Mine is the room closest to the door. The noise I hear as I sit at my desk attempting to prove the validity of certain logical mathematical arguments is unpseakably annoying. At the premier sounds of disgruntled Courts residents, I popped up from my spot and allowed them in (doors will open for exiting purposes only). But days later I sit, hardened. I ask these folks silently to read the Crayola marker text on a large piece of orange construction paper taped to the door they so feverishly battle: "USE FRONT DOOR."

I don't know what this says about my progress with that thing called peaceful coexistence.

Friday, January 16, 2009

January 16, 2009

It is silent in my room. From my ever-cracked window I hear keys jangle as someone approaches a car in the parking lot outside. I am pleased to be relieved from hearing the same girls wailing karaoke-style in the room connected to mine by air vent. They have been singing the same songs from High School Musical over and over again every day, prompting my roommate and I to stand on chairs, reach the vent with our mouths, and scream, ladylike as possible, "SHUT THE FUCK UP, MOTHERFUCKERS!" We have discovered that the air vent allowing obnoxious, suicide-inducing sound into our rooms is, in fact, one-way. No matter how offensive we become, the women continue to sing run-on lyrics: "We're all in this together / Once we know / That we are / We're all stars / And we see that / We're all in this together / And it shows / When we stand / Hand in hand / Make our dreams come true."

The note hit upon reaching "true" is held to an excruciating length, allowing for the wobble and crash of the singers' tone there at the end.

Six hours later, I go to the Delt house with my roommate and her boyfriend. The house is already smoky. It's nearing rush time and propsective pledges are milling around, trying to decide which friend group they feel like aligning their personalities with in a public, greek-lettered manner. A puppy is atop the pool table struggling to open his furry mouth wide enough to hold the 7 ball. The women and men gathered 'round egg him on: "Get it! Get it!"

Upstairs a trash can in the closet is full of what is termed "Delt punch." Though the recipe is nearly always different, the result is definitely always the same: it gets you fucked up. This version of the infamous liquid is a deep purple hue. I dip a plastic cup in. I taste cheap vodka. "And PGA," a brother tells me as I try to identify the liquor combination, "and a handle of rum."

Two hours later and I'm not even feeling the three cups of Dimetap-like liquid I have consumed. I sit on the floor in the penthouse, listening to half-drunk, coked out women joke: "Sorry for partying," elongating every syllable Valley Girl-style, "So sorry for partying." The room dissolves into wild laughter. Cigarettes ash themselves on the carpet.

Downstairs there is music. Boys and guitars and popular tunes we all know but can't recall how or when or why. A girl in a puffy yellow jacket and furry boots brings her face close to mine, here bangs falling over wide-open eyes. She grabs my hands in hers. "Don't just stand there!" she commands, "Dance!" I try to, I really do. The song seems endless as I try to force some sort of artificially enthusiastic rhythm on my limbs. Music stops for a brief period, the girl collapses on an unsuspecting guy whose lit cigarette, reacting, rakes the back of another kid's jacket. I take this as my cue.

As I descend the frozen porch steps I catch three men taking respective pisses. One right, one left, one near my car ahead. I wait for the lattermost pisser to zip his fly. I approach my car, climb in, peel out.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January 13, 2009

I am choosing to live my life in a constant state of transition. I realize this as I open the trunk of my car to dig for oversized bottles of shampoo and conditioner. I shove my hands into piles of clothes, some folded but most just crumpled, that I threw in when I left Nashville for Sewanee. I find, during my incredible trunk odyssey, rambling notes and To Do lists, a half-full bottle of Diet Coke, and a handful of bobby pins, among other telling indicators of my own inability to commit to a situation of permanence.

There is a possibility that if I stop living out of my car I will stop trying to live in three places at the same time.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

January 8, 2009

We reek of gin and tonic. She had bought a triple at the club, dividing it messily into two to-go coffee cups in the elevator on the way down. We sip our drinks as we walk out of the elevator, waving "goodnight" to the building's security guard, stepping out into the chilly night, warding off unwanted attention from panhandlers at the corner, and walking aimlessly around downtown Nashville. "Down your drink," she says as we near another street corner. An undercover cop sits in the alleyway between an apartment building and a parking garage. I make eye contact. I blow on my gin-filled coffee cup, as if to cool its contents. I drain the cup and toss it in a nearby trashcan.

As we edge past the aging bouncer, he boasts of the crowd's large size. This is early on at Lonnie's Karaoke Bar, a smoky, seedy establishment located in the heart of Printer's Alley. A man in a too-tight western shirt, a black cowboy hat, and sunglasses stands behind the TV monitors scrolling lyrics to god-knows what god-awful country song. The "karaoke hostess" sways from side-to-side in an absolutely unenthused manner. She is showing leg to her upper thigh in her short, black button down dress. That's all that fucking matters. A blonde in a pink t-shirt tied in a knot at her lower back approached us and asks us what we'll have. As we survey the "big crowd tonight," we change our minds about Lonnie's. We decline drinks. Three men sit to the left of the karaoke stage. Two to the right. The one woman at the bar lets her cigarette ash grow long. We leave.

We continue to walk through near-empty Printer's Alley, den of debauchery, where one can buy hot dogs, beer, and cigarettes from the same fast food-style window, find a cheap or free blow job on good nights (this detail is pure speculation), smoke inside every establishment in the strip, and find:

"Nude karaoke!" she squeals, yanking my hand, I assume, northward. I follow her. I catch sight of the place's name as we slip through a low wooden door: "The Brass Stables."

The place smells like a small explosion at the Yankee Candle Company production center. Candles burn atop the podium facing the entryway. A redhead stands behind it, curling her hair with an iron plugged in beside tasteful photos of semi-nude women in their late 20's and early 30's. She greets us pleasantly, engaging in small talk as we pretend to be out-of-town visitors with tourist curiosity. Two small tables sit in the corner. One supports a baby pink guestbook with feather pen accessory. The other offers two miniature chafing dishes with contents heated by votive candles. As the woman chats and curls her hair, she muses, "It's pretty obvious that this place is woman owned and operated, huh?" I nod as I surveyed the tassels hanging from every knob of the bureau behind her, the light-colored scarves draped over feminine lamps on the mantle of a faux fireplace beside that...

My companion for the evening asks if we can take a look around. "Is there really nude karaoke?" she asks. The redhead nods. "There's nothing really going on right now," she says, "but go on in and check it out. See what you think." We thank her and head down a long corridor. As we leave the lobby, the lighting begins to shift from light pink to darker pink, a sort of strange fuchsia to a deep purple. A room full of empty tables. Full-length mirrors on every wall. Individual votive candles, lit and aromatic, on each table. The mirrors make the emptiness of the place much greater. The candlelit stillness of them all seems like a vigil. Two women sit together at the DJ booth toward the room's back. One slouches forward in a thigh-length terrycloth robe. They se us enter and glance quickly at one another. The two of us weave in an out of the tables, observing black leather chairs and handwritten notes under the glass tabletops reading, "Two drink minimum." We mov into the bar area, still able to spot the other mirrored women from eyes' edge. The one in the robe stands up, teetering dangerously on platform stilettos. She approaches the stage in the middle of the room and sheds her robe. The other woman begin to speak over a sound system, her words tumbling out so quickly I can only catch the last bit, "Give it up and don't forget, our ladies dance for your tips and your tips alone."

I try not to look. Somehow I am suddenly standing alone in this low-lit place, clutching the purse of the woman I was with as she visited the ladies' room. The formerly terrycloth-clad woman squirts Windex onto a paper towel. She, slowly and sexually, runs the dampened towel up and down the pole fixed in the center of the stage. Beneath her robe she had hidden her attire: sheer pink boyshorts revealing the curved cheeks of her buttocks and a rhinestone-encrusted bra of the same pink tint. She is slightly overweight, and might have had children in the past based on the curious distribution of fatty deposits across her abdominal area. She discards the paper towel alongside her terrycloth robe and begins to dance. She sways her pelvis dramatically, shake her breasts, runs her fingertips up the cellulite most every woman has on her thighs. I rub my eyes to stop myself from watching. When I look up I catch a mirrored image. The woman is upside-down, sliding down the pole head first with her legs wrapped awkwardly around the upper part of that Windexed brass pole. Standing on her feet again, she claps her butt cheeks together, moving them rapidly, rhythmically. I look at the bar's selection of alcohol. I look toward the ladies' room entrance, hoping for my companion's swift exit. With uncontrollable curiosity, I look up again and as I do the dancing girl spins around the pole and looks at me, her chest now bare, breasts exposed and smaller than my own.

I don't know what to think as I walk, beside my mother, away from the strip joint and through Printer's Alley and toward 4th Avenue. It was clumsy and strained, that dancer's performance. The actions were also directed, for the most part, solely at me, a seeming customer of the establishment. This is a side of sexuality I have never really seen. Heard about, but never witnessed first-hand.

After finding mom's car in the first level of a nearby parking garage, we drive around. The radio scans for appropriate background noise:
faceless preachers: "...is going to be a reflection of your faithfulness here."
bass-heavy rap music
Smells Like Teen Spirit
"It's free! Just call 800-289-3639. What do you have to lose?"
country duet

A pair of cheap sunglasses slide across the dashboard. The scanner stops and we are listening to "The Joker" by the Steve Miller band. Mom gropes the dark interior of the car for her cell phone. Rings on speakerphone. A gruff voice answers and said my mother's name, slowly and strangely. She turns the car stereo volume up. "I'm a picker, I'm a grinner, I'm a lover, and I'm a sinner," Steve Miller sings. "Remember this?" mom yells over the music. "Yep," Gus, her high school sweetheart and ex-husband replies. The sunglasses slide across the dashboard again as she makes another hard turn. She turns the music down. "You know," she says, dropping her voice low-like, "you used to be one sexy motherfucker." Gus clears his throat. "T'ain't like that no more," he says simply.

My eyes blur at the lights on Nolensville Pike: taillights, used car lot lights, signage at the Food Lion, late-night taco stands, street lights. The song ends. Gus' third wife gets home. Cops pull a guy over to the left. I spot a family gathering on wind-down through the picture window of a ranch-style brick home. There is nothing on TV.