Shielding Palin is an act of dishonesty, of supreme egotism. It denotes a frightening condescension towards the voting public, and a disturbing peek into John McCain's psyche. What it comes down to is that even he doesn't take her seriously. And why should he? McCain is a hero in his own mind, a survivor of unspeakable atrocities who believes he will live a very, very long time. Palin, he is convinced, will never really get close to the presidency, so why worry if her knowledge of economics, foreign and domestic affairs, diplomacy, technology, etc., is at best minimal. She will never be asked to step up to the plate. McCain has given us an American Idol candidate--cute, perky, and for all I know a good singer, too--who knows how to engage the crowds and can divine God's will, essentially a piece of religious 'arm candy.'
Which brings up another issue. Should the unspeakable occur--McCain keels over while addressing the Vietnamese-American Citizen's League--and Palin ascends to the big chair in the Oval Office, we will have as a leader a person who really does believe this is the End Times, the day of reckoning when good Christians such as herself get to climb the golden stairs while the rest of us go--literally--to Hell. This, among Pentecostals, is something to look forward to! They've been groomed from childhood to prepare for the day when the righteous (them) get their rewards and the wrongeous (us) get the shaft. Personally, the thought that such a person has access to the Big Mushroom Cloud button does not fill me with confidence. What if she suddenly decides that God's will is to nuke the other guy?
What we've seen in the past weeks is a cold demonstration of what the big guys--bankers, mortgage holders, Wall Streeters and Republican politicians--see as business as usual. Get rich, screw the little folks, get bailed out when the crap hits the fan. Now we're seeing a version of this from McCain and co. Get elected, screw the voters. I, for one, am not as confident as I used to be in the country's ability to survive yet another clueless duo in the White House.
Here's installment 4 of Wasted Miracles.
Colin drove home over the Roosevelt Bridge and cut over to 66. The ashtray in the 924’s console had three butts in it and the entire car smelled like McDonald’s. He turned the radio on, punched in WGMS. A Latino station came in loud and strong, which meant the parking lot attendant had taken his lunchbreak in the Porsche and hadn’t appreciated Colin’s taste in music. Another good reason not to come into DC.
In his apartment he checked his voice mail, retrieved two messages. The first one was from Catherine. He heard, “I’m still angry, and I’m disgusted. I don’t have to tell you that this completely changes the way you and I are going to be. There’s still no word from Josie. Please call me.”
The second message was from Joe the Cop and it was longer. “Colin, there was a body, I thought it might be the girl. The description fit so I went to the morgue, except the description was wrong and it turned out to be a guy wearing a dress and a wig. Which I guess is good news but doesn’t say much for the quality of police work around here. If you change your mind and want me to check out the dancer, call and leave a message. Bye.”
No need to call Joe back. Colin picked up the phone, began dialing Catherine’s number, hung up. He hadn’t really learned anything substantial from Mollie Catfish. The dancer knew Josie, but only slightly and the information she’d provided on Josie’s boyfriend Herbie was at the most conjecture. She’d quickly surmised the truth, that he was a dealer, but that had already been established by the Senegalese limo driver.
Which meant that any conversation with Catherine would come to focus on his brief liaison with her daughter. And what was there to say about that?
He hadn’t really noticed the girl. It was late, chilly, the parking lot of the Serenity Club still bore patches of ice from the winter’s final snowfall. The last of the parking lot people had either gone home or retreated to the IHOP a block away for one final cup of coffee.
Colin’s pigeon hadn’t shown up at the meeting. He was a young man, less than a month sober and they’d arranged to see each other there after the boy got off work pounding dough at the nearby Pizza Hut. Except that the boy hadn’t shown up. Colin had not been surprised though he was annoyed at having to wait in the cold. He hadn’t particularly wanted to be a sponsor, Orin G. has prompted him to it and the pigeon had been both shaky and defiant, barely out of detox, still full of anger and wary of the program. Colin would give it five more minutes and go home.
The girl, though he didn’t know it was a girl at the time, leaned against a wall some 20 feet away and seemed to be waiting as well, chain-smoking and rubbing her gloved hands together to keep warm. She wore jeans, a heavy parka and a ski cap and every few seconds glanced at her watch, straightened, took a few steps, scanned the parking lot. Once, when the headlights of a car pushed through the gloom she picked up her knapsack and walked quickly in that direction but the car swept past her.
A few minutes after that she threw her cigarette down, stepped on it angrily, slung the knapsack over her shoulder and disappeared around a corner. Less than 10 seconds later Colin heard the sound of a scuffle and a woman’s voice yell, “Lay off, motherfucker!” A man’s voice, muffled, followed. “Hey! Hey! C’mon, babe. Quiet, now! Nothin’s gonna happen, c’mon.” Then there was the sound of fabric ripping and the woman’s voice rose in pitch. “Get away from me, asshole!”
Later Colin would decide once again that there are no coincidences in life, that everything and every moment has its own reason for being and that the links between moments were there for a purpose. He moved quickly, saw two indistinct shapes of different sizes grappling. He grabbed the bigger shape, yanked back sharply. The shape said, “What the fuck?”, swung wildly. Colin ducked. It wasn’t a very good blow and its momentum turned the man around. Colin took a step, braced himself and threw one short very hard punch that hit the man just below the solar plexus and lifted him off the ground. The man fell with a dull thud, coughed, retched, threw up on himself. The night air was suddenly suffused with the stink of warm booze and digestive fluids.
Colin moved to the woman. Her ski cap had been knocked off and the front of her parka was torn. The flap of her knapsack was open, her belongings spilled in a puddle. Without looking at him she dropped to both knees and started picking them up. A few feet away the man crawled off, rose to his feet, fell again, mumbled, “I wasn’t gonna hurt her. I jus’ wanted to fuck her...”
Colin knelt beside the girl, saw she had close cropped blonde hair kept in place by a yellow headband. Her eyes were brown or green, very round. There was a small cut on her right cheekbone and a drop of blood was bright red against her pale skin. Her breathing came in short gasps. He said, “You all right?” She nodded her head but he knew she wasn’t.
He helped her gather a bottle of Advil, a hairbrush and a pocket edition of the Big Book. She grasped his hand and rose to her feet. He felt a thin arm quiver, caught her as her knees buckled. He said, “Do you want me to call someone? Get the police...” but she shook her head. “Don’t.”
She leaned against him and there wasn’t much weight there. She brought a gloved hand to her face, touched the cut, in a very small voice said, “Shit. I’m bleeding.”
Colin said. “It’s a scratch. You’re OK. Are you sure you don’t want me to call...”
She shook her head. “Fine. I’m fine. Gotta lie down for a second, that’s all.”
So he did as she asked, took her to his apartment. During the ride there she didn’t say anything but her fingers touched the cut repeatedly, wiped at the blood so it made a small dark circle like the exaggerated makeup of a mime.
In the building’s elevator she leaned against him and in the apartment she seemed to know where the bathroom was and headed for it, shedding parka, headband, sweater, bra. She closed the bathroom door and Colin heard the shower run. He busied himself in the kitchen, boiled water for tea, found a Band Aid in the junk drawer.
She was in the bathroom a long time. He heard the toilet being flushed twice, then the whine of the hair dryer he never used. When she opened the door, steam billowed out.
She was wrapped in two towels, one from the shoulders to the knees, one around her head. His toothbrush was sticking out of her mouth. He handed her a cup of tea and she took it, nodded. Then she said, “I’m gonna lie down. You mind?”
She was tall and very slender and he couldn’t tell her age, thought she might be in her 20s though her walk was older. He followed her to the bedroom, holding the Band Aid and feeling silly. She dropped the bottom towel, lifted the cover from the bed, crawled in. “You coming?”
He thought maybe she just wanted to be held, he really thought that, it was a common reaction to physical stress, and for awhile that’s all he did until her trembling subsided. He asked her name and she said, “Jane. Now shush,” and pressed against him. He still had all his clothes on.
After awhile he thought she was asleep but then felt her lips against his neck. She whispered, “Thank you.”
Then she moved so his hips and hers were in line and there was a subtle tension, a barely rhythmic pressure. She was breathing evenly now and her face was turned half against the pillow. Her arm snaked out, found the switch to the bed lamp. She got up, pushed the door shut. Now the room was in complete darkness save for a strip of light filtering through a gap in the doorway. She undid the buttons of his shirt, slid it off, unbuckled his belt, kept removing clothing silently.
He said, “You don’t have to...”
“I know.” She took his hand, moved his thumb to her lips. “See? I’m smiling.”
When he was entirely naked she kissed his Adam’s apple and moved down, lingered on his nipples, traveled to his navel, then lower. She took him in her mouth and he held her head lightly in both hands as it moved insistently. When he was hard she sat up and straddled him, moved two fingers to her mouth and made herself wet. She let him enter her very slowly though without hesitation and only when he was fully in did she allow her weight to rest on him. She stayed there without moving for a while, then leaned down, placed her hands on his chest and began a slow purposeful thrust that was more horizontal than anything else. He matched her, heard her gasp slightly. She shifted her body so she was leaning back, slight breasts thrust to the ceiling, hips still moving forward and back with measured regularity.
Then she swung off, got on her hands and knees beside him. “This way.”
She guided him and he entered her from behind, pushing at him, squashing her cheeks against his pelvis. He took her slim hips in both hands, pulled her against him and she grunted softly, said, “Yeah, like that,” so he did it again and again, felt himself surge. She reached down and back between her legs, held him between her thumb and forefinger. Her touch there was the trigger he needed but didn’t really want yet. He tried to hold back, couldn’t, stopped trying. The bed trembled beneath them and he heard her smile.
A little while later he tried to talk again but she held her palm against his mouth. She said, “It doesn’t matter.” Then she got up.
He moved to stand up but she pushed him back. “Stay there. I’m going to call a cab, and I don’t want you to come with me, OK?”
He started to argue but she said, “Please? I know what I’m doing. Really.” She pulled her jeans on. “Just say, ‘Yes.’”
So he did. She walked to the bedroom door, closed it behind her. He heard her dial the phone, stood, had the door half opened when she said, “Please don’t come out. It’ll ruin everything.” So he didn’t. She finished dressing in the living room and after a while there was the faint click of the latch thrown, the door opened and softly closed.
In the morning it was more like a dream, less like a fantasy. The bed still held her smell, a faint melange of sweat, soap and shampoo. He found a couple of short blonde hairs on his pillow. Her teacup was still full on the night table.