By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
Sometimes it's like being tied to a post opposite a firing squad, the squad members pulling their triggers while I stand there watching as the bullets move slowly toward me, taking a miserable continuum of time to arrive. But other times, my drunken nights and hangover days are so rich with melancholia and sentimentality that there's a perverse joy in being alive. . . . Go figure.
The Southwestern stucco-meets-rec-room decor of La Fronterzio bar is my new preferred constant, with its unsightly but comforting mix of worn barstools, nicotine-layered brown wallpaper, and fringe-dwelling drunks whose sad tales are a direct result of hitting the bottle for so long the bottle finally hit them back.
There's George Jones on the juke, Old Style on the tap and a spot at the far end of the bar reserved for me, where sotted and inconsequential verbal battles arise nightly with La Fronterzio's broken and jaded inmates. And it is in this place--in this unlikely scene--that I saw her, sitting there, with a drink and a bottle beside her, looking like an angel. She was distressingly beautiful.
I found a stool opposite her at the other end of the bar and sat down. Maverick, the bartender, came over. I don't trust him. He jet-skis, plays volleyball, drinks Lite: One of those.
"Beer, Bill?" he asked.
"Yeah, and a shot of whiskey," I answered.
He acknowledged, moved away, then returned with my chosen anesthetic and set it down in front of me. "How's the trailer park holding out?" he asked, snickering to himself, no doubt.
"Ah, it's the usual cast of meth-heads, militia dorks, unwanted kids, Bible-dependent retirees and me with my punk rock . . . ya know," I answered.
"Man, I feel for ya," he said, feigning concern.
"It ain't so bad, Mav." I worked the beer. I noticed the angel and the bartender were the only ones there. It was only 2 p.m., though.
Maverick nodded his large head toward the angel and asked, "Do you see her?"
"How could I miss?" I answered, looking at her in awe.
"She came in and ordered that bottle of gin an hour ago, and now it's almost gone and she don't even seem lit," he said, still staring in her direction.
"Jesus, my kind of girl," I said, downing the shot.
"Yeah, no shit."
I ordered another. A double. I was going to need it. The new drink arrived with a fresh beer to replace the empty. "Thanks, you're ace."
Maverick was giving me a look, his head was slanted. Then an unsolicited stream of two-bit bartender counsel ensued: "Don't try it, Bill, don't even say hello to her. She's in a class we couldn't begin to understand. You'll only be let down." He moved in closer to emphasize his point, giving me a whiff of the booze rotting away his guts. "You don't have a chance."
Yeah, it was then I knew he wanted her. I knew his tricks. The bastard was gonna get her walking sideways on her pumps from the booze, then move in. I finished the drinks, got up and went over.
As I got closer, I had to gasp. She was completely removed from anything familiar: There were no holes in her stockings, no chipped teeth and no lines or scars carved in her face from a history of cruel men. She was, in fact, in possession of perfect ivory-hued skin. And she was curvy, in lovely zaftig form, the way women should be.
Her slightly cherubic face was matched with a reddish flapper bob and lovely round eyes. Her clothes, picked with a sense of style arcane to this decade and entirely nonexistent in a hell like Apache Junction, were an incongruous but killer concoction of Grace Kelly, Jean Harlow and hipsway sex. She was half goddess, half tart, and an instant source of profound longing and physical pain that, as I had learned long ago, is the only agony that lasts.
I braved the stool next to her. She didn't bother to look at me. Can't say I blame her.
"Got a name, doll?" I asked.
"Clarice," she answered, taking a shot and turning toward me. "Men bore me, mister. If you're going to sit here and converse, then don't put me to sleep, okay?"
"I'll do my best, baby."
We boozed it up for another two hours. We talked and talked, about writers mostly: from Henry Miller to D.H. Lawrence, from Dorothy Parker to Dorothy Allison. She held her own. She spoke in sentences. She's an educated woman. A challenge. Her use of the language had rhythm, her English was spot-on, her voice was soothing and hypnotic. I was up for another heartbreak.
Besides, Maverick was fucking livid 'cause I got the girl. And the best part was she could drink. Like Myrna Loy. It's all too perfect. I fell in love.
Later, and by some miraculous fluke, we were at my trailer door. She didn't mind the riffraff. A slumming angel. I opened the door and she stepped in. I followed and admired her magic from behind. Glorious. I closed the door behind us. The sun dropped into October gold, and the angels spoke.