Prison Bitch


He was less polished than most of the men that July 4th.  He had a swagger that stank of public housing, messy divorce settlements, and out of wedlock children. 


“That’s my buddy over there,” he said cocking his thumb to the left.  “We met in prison.”


I nodded.  I found this is the best response to such an unexpected declaration.


“It’s funny,” he said.  “There are no women in prison, so you end up fucking guys.  And you think, when I get out, I’m gonna bang so many broads.  You make lists in your head.  Old girlfriends.  Hot friends of your mom’s.  Crazy lists.  But when you get out, it’s harder than you think to leave fucking a guy’s ass behind.”


I nodded again, thinking about him fucking a friend of his mother’s.  “I can imagine,” I said.  ”What can I get you/”


“Two Bud Lites.”


I stepped away from the bar and turned to get the beers out of the cooler behind me.


“Whoa!  Hold on,” he said.  “Let me look at that ass.  Back up.”


For the record, my ass is nothing extraordinary.  In fact, it’s falling faster than the Dow during the crash.   However, I have found that if you wrap even the most mediocre wares in something tight, someone is bound to appreciate it.  Someone like an ex-con.  On vacation.  Ordering two Bud Lites.


I did as I was told.


“If we were both in prison, and you had that ass…,”  he said.  I smiled, popping the beer tabs.  ” I could get 15, n0, 20 cigarettes for that ass.”


This was a shock.  While it’s true my out of prison moral compass can be a bit rusty at times, it had always been my plan to rely upon the strictures of monogamy for protection if I were to find myself in the big house.  My intended strategy was to approach the meanest motherfucker in the joint and offer up my ass to him, but to him alone.   I mean, consensual sex with one person, no matter how violent or undesirable, it better than rape by multiple undesirables, right?  And now I’m finding out that I may not be able to even make that deal.  That my ass might be more valuable on the open market that as a protected commodity.  I took a chance.


“C’mon,”  I said.  “Wouldn’t you rather have this ass all to yourself?”


He looked down longingly and cocked his head.  “It is a nice ass, ” he said, “but 20 cigarettes….”  He shook his head. 


“Thanks for the beer,” he said

Best Bar Ever

Anyone who knows me knows I am no stranger to mental illness.  My family tree, although far from dead, has been known to bear if not strange, then at least curious fruit.  Schizophrenia, developmental delays, depression, autism have all hung heavy on my ancestral bough, ripening in the leafy recesses among the less extraordinary offerings that comprise the bulk of the harvest. We never hid our peculiar family members.  We weren’t refined enough to feel the well-bred shame of difference inherent in many WASP homes.  Difference is as fundamental to my family as success is to the Kennedy’s, which is why it was surprising I was so shaken when the two people with Down’s Syndrome walked into the bar. 


“We want a drink,” she said.


I panicked.  How old?!  How old!?  Do people with Down’s have driver’s licenses?


“What are you thinking about?”  I asked. 


“I don’t know,” she said, turning to her companion.  “Do you know?”


He screwed his face up like a cartoon of someone trying to think.  “I don’t know,” he said.


“Do you two like chocolate?” I asked


They both nodded emphatically.


“How about Mudslides?”


“Yeah, Mudslides!” he shouted.  She smiled broadly, as did he, thrilled with their success.


The blender whirled and I could feel the crowd shifting, trying to figure out how to be.


“So where are you two visiting from?” I asked.


“My boyfriend and I are visiting from Connecticut,” she said.


“How long have you been dating?” 


“I don’t know,” she said.  “Do you know,” she asked her boyfriend.


“’I don’t know,” he said.


She sighed, taking his pudgy hand in hers.


“All I know is that I love you,” she said


We had all been listening, and we all melted, just a little.  Why not love?  Why not them?  A second round of Mudslides followed the first, and soon he and she were chair dancing and fist pumping.  “This is the best bar EVER!” she exclaimed, and in that moment it was.  Not just for them, but for all of us.  Their happiness was so infectious, so basic, not in a developmentally delayed way, but in a germane way – a way I’d imagine we all could be if we didn’t pay attention to all the reasons we are told to be unhappy. 


They were my favorite customers of the year.


W is easily overlooked in the summer.  It is the fate of many year round residents.  Eclipsed by the strollers and the muscle tank tops,  there is an entire community that only becomes visible in the dark of winter when star frost is on the sea grass and the surf  freezes on Herring Cove.


“Hey, come here for a minute.”  He was crouched in front of Big Vin’s.  “What are you up to tonight,” he asked.


“Not much,” I said, downplaying my dinner plans and the bottle of wine in my gym bag.


“Do you have any money I could have,” he asked.  “Anything.  My SSI check doesn’t come until the end of the month.”


I reached into my pocket and pulled out a crumpled dollar.  A nickel fell to the sidewalk and rolled towards the cars at the curb.  I handed W the dollar and went after the nickel.  I imagined every penny counts when your SSI check is in the mail.


“I get to watch you bend over?” W asked eagerly.  I bent my knees and scoped up the nickel off the bricks.  “You squat like a girl,” he said, an accusation as I handed him the change.


“How’s Sophie,” he asked.  “I heard she’s married.”  I assured him she was not.  I could think of no one I knew who was less married than Sophie.


The door to Big Vin’s opened and closed.  The cold wrapped around my legs and fingers.


“I have to go,” I said. “You have a good Thanksgiving.”


The bricks were already moving beneath my feet when he called me back.  “Hey,”  he called.  “Hey!  Hey!”


I reluctantly turned around.  He was still crouched in the dark.


“Come here,” he said.  He started rocking back and forth on his feet while opening his mouth in a wet cold “O” .


“Behave yourself, ” I said.


“You’re such a lesbian,” he replied.