The Tragic Hero
I was 19 when I encountered him the first time. The details linger through the haze of a wild night’s bad dream.
Three years escaped from adolescent reformatory, struggling to get by as the Floor Manager at the local Woman’s World; too smart to have thrown my life away on a degree that wasn’t going to advance my future anywhere but further into debt. Halfway through the evening shift I took the bimbette buddies to the hole for a pint, called it a morale boost. Not because they needed it… that would have got them Jose, all glitter and googly eyes. Tonight was about quality time with Jack… they just happened to be in the way of me getting there, so they got to come along for the ride.
I hadn’t been carded since I was 14. Something about a set of lungs that looks like it was paid for by the local cathouse club tends to make most gatekeepers forget what the concept of bouncing had originally been intended to mean. The doorman raised an eyebrow at the twittering twinkle twins behind me, but lowered his head like a guilty mutt when I shot him THE look… that one that every man knows – feels – somewhere between his gut and his loins, that communicates to him in the language he understands – that unspoken dialect of machismo women are not supposed to know of, much less bandy about – and held the door for me without a word, the giggling duo trailing in after, feeling like they got away with something. They’d be sitting in a patrol car right now headed back to Mom & Pop’s if I wasn’t there. I couldn't care less. But I remember my role, and plan to leave the hat of propriety on for a while, at least until I can load them both into a cab and smack a gallop into it.
I see him watch me order my second round – the one that comes after I’ve paid my dues to lay the foundation that will convince my employees, no, really, I AM just like one of you – before I move on to the stuff that makes them choke into the kitchen sink. I watch him size me up, thinking he knows me.
But he doesn’t know… I know him…
better than he knows himself.
It’s not so much that he’s so much older than me as he is so much older than his age. He has outlived his life’s role models, and its achievements, and now sits, hunched, crippled by self-loathing, trying to convince himself that he wants to believe some part of the world still makes some sort of sense, in some way he can live with – or at least he hopes to someday find a reason to live with – but most days barely manages to get out of bed in the morning.
He refuses to blindly accept that which excludes, and yet, he is not generally included, nor does he have any desire to be, in most cases. He isn’t buying what anyone is selling. So, he finds himself alone on a Friday night, dipped better-judgment-deep into the great liquid equalizer, whisked away down a river of oblivion.
I pretend not to notice as he studies me, taking me all in. He is contemplating his move now, as if all I’d have to do would be to hold steady in his presence and act like I was trying not to tremble with anxious innocence while he whips around a handful of flashy topics he imagines are beyond me, in the hopes that in my youth, I might be impressed. He doesn’t know I have no more youth… that it was stolen long before I knew what it was, and that I gave up longing for it long ago, back in a time when he was still a boy, even while the world told him he'd become a man. He does not realize that he wants me because he sees himself in me. He cannot fathom that I am him. I just carry my balls on my chest, not in my pants. I am testosterone with tits, and too much pride to hate myself.
And that is what separates us.
I don't bother to look at him. I can see the entire dance in his head without a glance at the question on his face. He is struggling, stuck somewhere between his demons and desire. This internal dialogue can go on fine without me… it’s not really so much me he’s afraid of corrupting, even while he so desperately wants to… it’s his impression of me, created by the space of the moment, and the shadows of a handful of women whose lives he’s tortured himself into believing he ruined. I could have avoided the whole scene just by ordering a Mojito, and he’d have looked past me like I wasn’t there.
But, he still isn’t really seeing me.
I don’t even have to so much as turn my head in his direction to see him.
He doesn’t hate himself because he should. He hates himself because he looks at the world without blinders on, ripped raw and bleeding and broken, and he sees it for what it is… damaged goods. And he knows he’s part of it, just a speck of decay in the rotting stench of destruction. He has no idea that I would chew him up and spit him out in boot heeled sized pieces. I would have to. He is dangerous, and I know it.
Because he would destroy me.
Not in the way that he might think, but because I would let him... Him alone, I would let get close enough.
And I just can’t go down that way.
So I remain still, quiet.
Tonight, I will let him pass me over. I will let him be the hero, because he needs to believe he can still at least hang on to the idea of thinking he’s a decent human being, or else he would wither into a dessicated walking corpse, too shattered to live, too stubborn to die. I let him play out the fantasy in which he is my savior, because I can’t let him see me without my cloak of invisibility, shrouding my vulnerability to his. I keep my hat on, until he shames himself out of any action, and stumbles out.
I would encounter him several more times over the next couple decades. He is always lurking just around the corner at each next phase of my development, in some form that would catch me mid-motion, stifle my breath, holding me still… waiting…
But I’m not thinking of that right now. Right now, I’m scanning this hovel for a Shimmer Dream of my own to get me through this bleak night. I’ve kicked the diva darlings out; it’s time to indulge an old abuse of substance for myself.
After a few moments, I spot him in the corner on his own; a lone wolf cowboy studpuppy.
I put on my best come-hither sizzle, hitch up my giddyup, and saunter over to his booth. He sees me coming and flashes his pearly whites, props his pointed toed boots up on the back of the chair in front of him.
“Get me outta here.” I murmur, soft and low. My eyes trail to his lap.
“Beg pardon?” he stammers, tipping back his 10-gallon hat.
Dumb, too. Just the way I like em.
I lay a five-piece on the table, take the half-empty bottle of piss from his hand, and set it down on top. I lean across the space between us, my walking fingers trailing up his neck, my lips almost to his.
“Take me someplace quiet and fuck me til dawn.”
“Yes ma’am,” he says hastily as he gulps down the last of his swill, grabs his coat, and skitters to the door, following behind me as I lead the way out into the night.
LJ Idol | Season 8 • Week 17 - Topic: COMMUNAL INSPIRATION
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