Fallon took her car on the wrong way down Storrow. It seemed fine at the time, because the music, her choice, was so sweet with the R&B and I was pretty sure I was getting laid. She had put her hand like three times on my thigh at the bar. Once for emphasis, because she was a talker, but twice just to squeeze it there. Things went wrong when the first pair of headlights capped the overpass and came right for us. I might have grabbed the wheel. She definitely squealed, and everything went to shit.
We both managed to get out of the car. It didn’t have airbags and it was canted onto the divider at a 45° angle. The seatbelt choked me and glass was everywhere. She kept swearing, “That motherfucker. That motherfucker!” Because it was obviously his fault.
And I said, “Hey. Hey. Fallon, Are you OK? This is bad.” I was ashamed to be bleeding.
But it was bad. The other car was hissing and Fallon’s car was leaking fluids and smelled like robot cancer. More cars were coming. The other driver fell out his door, saying, “What the fuck.” He had blood paintballed all across the bridge of his nose. He was on all fours with one hand cupping all the blood. It was a comedy routine. Fallon said, “Run.”
I said, “Fallon. Your car.”
“It’s my boyfriend’s. You retarded? Let’s go.”
So I went. Against the headlights backing up and the scene lit across the overpass, with traffic going blissfully underneath as drunk drivers wove their way home. We jumped the off-ramp divider, and I watched as Fallon, in her big sweats with her big rump squished on the concrete, looked back at me and smiled. She had blood on her teeth. We ran again into the oncoming traffic of cars eastbound, towards Charlestown and Quincy and every waiting wife or empty house that each drunk would mourn or treasure. It was wonderful, all of them honking at us. Maybe it sobered them up. We could have saved a life.
There were sirens, but we were far enough that she stopped running. Then we became a couple. First she sought out my hand, and when that wasn’t enough she pivoted. She had round pointed eyes, like an Armenian, but everything else was Irish, or Italian, North Shore. We called them scuppas. Scuppa bitches from the North Shore used their nails in fights at Denny’s when everyone was getting breakfast at 3 a.m. They were opposite day buttaface, as in ‘she has a nice body, buttaface’. Their bodies were lumpy, but they had these sweet, animate faces. The girls I went to school with had designer windshield covers, their faces expected things.
I mean she fucking kissed me. I was making $15 an hour as a summer job. This was the shit I was supposed to be educated out of. Her tongue was Jacques Cousteau. It was like she was exploring my mouth to unearth the wreck of my accent. She didn’t touch me until I put a hand on the back of her head, and then she grabbed my neck, and then my ass, like it was etiquette.
She pulled away first. “You look like a boxer.”
“You’re bleeding.” The corners of her mouth were smeared with it.
“Oh yeah? You’re fun.”
She led me by the hand down Boylston, and when the sirens rose behind us I took her to the Fens, by a neighborhood where I had friends who worked in finance. We played Frisbee here on the mornings after Saturday Sox games. My buddy’s Volkswagen diesel was parked two blocks away.
“Let’s go to the bar,” she said.
I said, “Let’s get high.”
So there, by a footbridge that led to the Museum of Fine Arts, in marshes frequented by the gays so I heard, I took out my dugout, my little wooden box and my little fake metal cigarette, and I passed her the fresh hit two times.
It was peaceful there by the bridge. Only one road cyclist and a hipster couple passed us, and they all recognized that we were there, and they all smiled. Fallon ignored the couple, scowled at the biker. She had worn her sweats out to the bar because she had worn her sweats to work. She had been trained in layout by Sandra, who had shown me a picture of her, Sandra, with Brett Michaels in the early 90’s. Her hair and shoulder pads enormous. She looked like dry sponge Sandra if current Sandra was wet sponge Sandra. Fallon was layout and I was proofing. They normally didn’t mix, but she had asked me out for a drink and by God I said yes. You only possibly could imagine looking at the tax documents for Bernes & Bernes and trying to make sure, after 150 pages, that this 5 was supposed to be left-aligned by 1/8th instead of 1/7th. And Fallon, juicy saucy little Fallon always talked about how hammered she had been the night before, every night before. She wore sweats every day, and her ass was at such a peak of ripeness that old woman would have knocked it, smelled it, and then bought it. I wore sweaters. I had one on now. It was argyle.
“So you’re fucking smart,” she said. I said I was wicked smart and she blew smoke in my face.
“Don’t make fun of me.”
“I’m not,” I said. “But I’m wicked fuckin’ smart, and you better recognize.”
“Yeah, I’ll try.” She said, and when I offered a third fresh hit she refused. I took it, and she took the remainder. “Sandra told me you were smart, and I was like, ‘whatever, kid’s here’, right? I mean, Ray’s at Tipsy,” being Technical Publishing Solutions Incorporated, “but Ray was in Vietnam, so even if he is Ivy League, he’s not a pussy.”
“I’m a pussy.”
“Yeah, but you’re nice,”
Her skin was full like an olive, I mean it felt like she was about to pop. There was so much strawberry in her hair and her lotion and her clothes that you could have floated me down the Fens on the smell of it. Was that a North Shore thing, all that fragrance? I didn’t at all know. She stuck her hand down the back of my pants and once there, she just ran her fingers up and down the fine hairs. I was so sick of girls who thought too much. I fingered her next to the bridge. It was like someone had popped a water balloon in my palm.
I said, “Let’s go to a bar.”
“Let’s go to a titty bar. I want to see titties.”
“Fallon,” I said. “We’re like five blocks from the nearest Green Line stop, and then we’d have to transfer to the Orange.”
“You’re right,” she said. “We’ll take the green, get off, and stop at a bar on the way. Stop being such a pussy.”
Fallon sat on my lap on the T. It wasn’t full, the train, but as soon as I sat she sat right on me and the whole weight of that scuppaness ground into me. “You’re bony as shit,” she said. “Jesus, fucking move over.”
I did, and she sat two seats away. There was a group of Asian kids down the train, and she said to me loudly, “Fucking ching-chongs think they can math the train.”
“What?” I said,
The Asian kids looked over at us. One of them, who had a pool cue case slung over his shoulder and looked like one of those guys in the movies who rides a really expensive bike, sucked his teeth at me.
“Fuckin’ what?” I said, and he slow turned to his friends. Fallon slid over next to me and yelled, “MIT’s the Red Line, dickheads.”
I have many Asian friends. Not so many that I’ve gone in their houses, but they’re good kids, not all of them smart. I would have disowned them to a man to get Fallon back on my lap. Those sweats hid all sorts of wonders, her vagina foremost, which I imagined tasted salty and not at all like lentils. I made like I was scratching my lip and smelled my fingers.
“I want a drink, like, now,” she said.
“Little patience,” I said. “Thank God you’re not driving the fuckin’ train.”
“What?” She said, and then, with her hand on my knee, “You sure you’re from Belmont?”
Fallon’s boyfriend wasn’t a bouncer at the titty bar, but he was a regular. We had stopped at an Irish bar on the outskirts of Chinatown, and Fallon had flirted with the bartender and almost gotten me into a fight with a crooked-nosed house painter who she said was eyeing her and what was I going to do? I had a buddy who had been a pretty big high school football player, and he said that certain girls were like standing near the pile, you never knew when someone would come flying in and snap your knee, end your career. It was thrilling.
Her boy’s name was Travis, and that was warning enough.
We sat in the strip club for about twenty minutes, enough time for me to buy us both $10 beers and throw a few dollar bills at the girl on stage, separated from us by the bar so I had to reach forward while the dancer, vaguely Central American looking because she was kind of square-shaped and had no ass, tapped the indentation in her panties and then pulled them aside. She had a dainty belly. Of the two strip clubs that Boston boasted, this was not the classy one.
Travis sat five seats down. I didn’t know at the time his name was Travis, but I knew he kept looking.
“Darling, you are so sweet,” Fallon said, crumpled a five and tossed it at the stripper’s cleft. “Travis, what the fuck’s your problem?”
So, the issue of the car came up.
“Yeah I fucking wrecked your car!” She said. “That shitbox.”
“You’re a fucking disaster. A fucking cunt disaster.” He had one arm full of tattoos, and one on his face, a small shamrock by his left eye.
“Hey,” I said. “Hey.”
“Hey fucking what, pussy?” He said. “This kid?” he said to Fallon. ”Really? He pay by the hour?”
God she had such nails, like from a kung fu movie. The bouncer pulled them apart. I got between them. I’m not a fighter.
“Hey,” I said. “C’mon, enough.”
“OK, Harry Potter,” Travis said. “Let’s go.”
I went outside. As much as inside was close and smelled too much like Glade plug-in outside smelled terrifyingly clean. Travis stripped down to his wifebeater. I knew going out the door that if I didn’t fight it would haunt me the rest of my days. This was medicine.
“You having a good time in that fag-ass sweater slumming with my girlfriend?”
“You want to smell my fingers?”
Fallon stood to the side, and she said, “Kick his fucking teeth.” I didn’t know if she was talking to me.
For years my plan was this: head-butt to the nose, kick to the knee, then take advantage and just wail. I thought people would pull us apart and then, say, ‘Johnson, you win. Let it be’.
Travis stepped up. He had black, tribal tattoos disappearing from his shoulder down into his shirt. I said, “wait,” and threw the top of my forehead right into the bridge of his nose and felt it mush to the side. That’s something I can take with me.
I think I threw a fist going down. Travis had actually fought people. I don’t think I made any noises as he hit many aspects of my face, though I know I put my hands up thinking, stop, this should tell you to stop. Every shot made a noise like a kazoo in my skull. When he hit me in the face again it wasn’t so much things breaking as broken things singing out
Travis got up and I said, “please,” and he stomped me in the gut. I made noises that will haunt my days and he kicked me again.
Fallon put her hands on my face. The concrete felt so pleasantly cold. Travis went inside, and everyone else followed him, except Fallon, who rubbed my hair and told me she was so sorry. She went inside. I would have gone home, but my jacket was on the back of my chair. It was a J. Crew pea coat. I had gotten it for Christmas. It took every last bit of the shame I had to stand up.
The titty bar smelt like my own snuffling. Travis and Fallon sat together, her rubbing his knuckles and pleading forgiveness. His nose was red and two runnels of blood had crusted on his lip. I sat at the bar with my back to them and pretended like I had just stopped in to settle my tab. First Fallon, then Travis called me over to their table. I could see how, in certain situations, he was a good guy. He had bought me a beer, though he had drank some of it. “I didn’t know if you were coming back,” he said, “How’s your face?”
I said, “Pretty,” and when he laughed I put that in my pocket. The Nicaraguan stripper sat with us, and I gave her twenty dollars to rub my leg.
“The car was stolen,” Fallon said. “I took the T to work.”
“You’re a fucking cunt,” Travis said, and he kissed Fallon on her eye with his hand gripping the back of her neck. “I’m never loaning you shit again. You take a ride with her?”
“Nope.” I said. The stripper rubbed my leg so the back of her hand grazed the tip. “I don’t know you people.”
[BIO]: Christopher was born and raised outside of Boston and currently teaches at Northeastern State University in eastern Oklahoma.