Oct 16, 2008
The Blind Leading the Pantsless
Most of our lives are haunted by various ghosts and some are more welcome when they arrive than others. It’s a tricky business to be sure and I’m certain that you can all peer back into your own pasts and see which ones are which. And I feel relatively safe in saying that there are some ghosts that are better left in the grave.
That’s what ran through my mind when I had unexpected visitors this morning around 2:00 AM.
I leapt up from a peaceful slumber when I heard the sound of what I took to be maybe a wild pack of hyena or possibly rabid werewolves rattling my door and trying to shatter every window in the house. Neither of these assumptions will calm your mind as you contemplate them, naked in your living room, as you curse your general lack of effective fire-power or even silver bullets.
But these fears were quickly assuaged when I heard the voices on the other side. Then…new Fears erupted. I opened the door to two “Old Friends,” Lyle and Hector, the much-maligned and equally misunderstood and detested Gorch Brothers.
They fell into the house laughing and stumbling; reeking of cheap liquor and the home-made speed for which they were so notorious.
“Where the hell you been man?” Lyle shouted at me as Hector clamped me in a bone-clenching bear hug and tried to kiss me on the lips.
I struggled free of his grip and half smiled. “I’ve been around, you know. I don’t get out like I used to.”
“You got that right,” Hector said, collapsing on my haunted couch and opening a bottle of blended whiskey. “Most of the bartenders in town seem to be under the impression that you’re either dead or in jail.”
“Yeah,” I said, for want of anything else. I was trying to think of ways in which I might be able to diffuse this situation. Here I was, trying to be very domestic in my new life and now I had to find some way to deal with these heavy-weight loonies from days gone by without waking Her up and maintaining some kind of convivial attitude at the same time.
The Gorch Brothers then launched into a grocery list of all the crazy things that had transpired between us and how we had narrowly escaped Death and serious Incarceration too many times to count. But I was in no mood to re-hash all those memories. I was trying to forget them; to settle Down, as it were.
“Enough of this morbid shit,” Lyle said. “Get your stuff, we gotta roll.”
“Roll?” I asked.
“That’s right,” Hector put in, capping his bottle and getting up to move for the door. “There’s a show in town that we all gotta see.”
“Show?” I asked.
“Sure,” Lyle told me. “There’s this Welsh cabaret singer doing some shows down at (NAME DELETED). You’ll love it man. She comes out and sings all these songs wearing only a man’s dress shirt. It’s weird man but you gotta see it.” He laughed. “She doesn’t even wear shoes man!”
“Really?” I asked, already deep into various lists of reasons that would prohibit me from attending with them.
Lyle came close to me and showed me a picture of the singer that had been autographed. She was an attractive girl of indeterminate age and she was, indeed, wearing only a man’s dress shirt. I noticed the name she had signed: “Pantsless Alex.” There were X’s and O’s beneath the signature. Admittedly, after seeing the picture, I was intrigued…against all my better judgment.
In what is now to my mind only a blur of half-remembered flashes and strange snatches of conversation, we ended up at a table near the stage in a dark, smoke-filled theatre where there was, apparently, a nine drink minimum. I had found myself right back in The Trenches with these two freaks and I knew that, later, I would pay the Price. I was wondering if She had woken up by this point, only to find me missing and I tried not to focus on the horrible scene that would erupt when/if I arrived home again.
But the whole place went silent as Pantsless Alex took the stage to the opening strains of “Fever” and I fell into a rapture of blurred vision and stupefied grinning as she trod the boards and proceeded to tell us, in her raspy-voiced way, what it all Really meant.
In all honesty, I have little memory of the entire affair and I can only recall the clear and intense focus I found as I stared mostly at her legs; watching the muscles bunch and work as she flexed and moved about the stage in the swirl of music and odd, red lighting while the musicians behind her seemed to be playing a slow-motion groove from deep in a well of junk-sick lethargy.
She slithered and snaked her way through the motions and moved in a sly strut as she gave us the lilted words that we had heard too many times before, but the meaning was fresh and glistening as the phrases seemed to drip from her tongue in some new, unused way as if spoken for the first time.
I was enthralled and never took my eyes off of her, well, except to take new drinks off the tray whenever the middle-aged waitress made her regular stop at our table. This Pantsless Alex had something to say and I wanted desperately to hear it, but now, looking back through the fog I had entered, I can’t honestly recount what it might have been, precisely, but I sure know it seemed important.
The night stretched out into a steaming, sultry dream as the place became even more filled with smoke and Alex was onstage; holding us just at the precipice of Desire Released, but she held us there for eternity; never letting the catharsis come.
I sank deeper and deeper into an alcoholic fog as I watched her and I felt all the longing that hung in the air and drifted off to wonderings of my own fate and the road I was taking and all the irrevocable decisions I had made.
“Let’s kidnap her man,” Lyle whispered in my ear. “I bet we’d have a great time and just think of all the twisted things we could get into.” He chuckled maniacally and sat back. I just grinned and nodded at him. It was just talk; the bravado of the guys we used to be. But the idea did have a bent appeal that I couldn’t deny and I was just glad that we had learned to think better of our more licentious plans.
I went back to drooping over my drink and watching Pantsless Alex through my lid-heavy, blood-shot eyes with a renewed sense of desperate misdirection. I knew I shouldn’t have been there; that I belonged at home. But it had been a long time since I had been out like this; and since I had taken my fill at the trough, so to speak.
Alex wound up her set and I watched her as she groaned out the last notes of some mysterious song I didn’t know but she floated the last mellifluous notes into the air and I saw, for the first time, the genuine sadness in her eyes. Her mascara had started to run and she was spent with the effort of her night’s work and I wondered what made her do this night after night. And I knew, somehow, that she was looking for Answers just like the rest of us. I could see the actual tears welling in her eyes and threatening to spill out and run down her rouged cheeks, but she closed the song and our eyes locked for a single instant in which her gaze told me that hurt was hidden there and confusion and the unhealing pain of Love gone wrong.
The stage lights went out and we all started moving for the exits. Lyle had made up his mind to get backstage and get his hands on Pantsless Alex but we managed to get him out of there before the Bouncer had to get too interested in us.
We shambled out into the night and, as if by that Old Magic, I made it home in a blurred daze with only the vaguest of notions how it had all happened.
She was tapping me on the shoulder when I came to on the couch and She was demanding to know what it was I was clutching against my chest. I looked down to see the autographed picture of Alex wrinkled in my arms.
“Oh,” I said. “It’s nothing.”