I’ve been staring out this window for two years. Every morning till a month ago watching for the bus I rode to work. Every night for the past six months watching for the bus that brings Mona home from work. Almost nothing else happens out there. I did watch one old junkie die. I thought he was sleeping. His spot on the sidewalk was taken over by a heavy-set hooker. Mona thinks it’s a guy in drag. I’ve never gotten close enough to tell for sure. This afternoon I’m watching out the window again, not for a bus, but for Sean’s old Dodge Coronet. I’ve been waiting for this trip for weeks. Mona is on the bed reading some magazine. I thought she’d be at work, but she traded shifts with someone. She’s pissed at me for going away. I told her she could go, but she said no.
Mona looks up at the clock, then at me. “Is this the week you go back to the doctor?”
“Two weeks ago.”
“I'm sorry.” She looks down at her magazine, but I know she isn’t reading.
“They never called. I forgot all about it.”
“Can you call them?”
“Not till I get the insurance cleared up.” Thankfully Sean’s car turns the corner. “There he is.” I’m not in the mood to discuss why the insurance thing hasn’t been cleared up yet. I get my keys and wallet off the dresser and head for the door.
“Bring me a Sprite when you come home.”
“I won’t be back till Monday morning.”
“I can wait.”
I don’t have time to figure this one out. “Seven-Up OK?”
“I'd rather have Sprite.”
I swear she changes that every time. It seems like no matter what I bring her, it was the other one that she wanted.
Mona closes her magazine. “Do you have the cell phone?”
Words that always make me cringe. The worst invention ever. “You won’t be able to call me there.”
Mona stands up and gets the cell phone out of the top drawer of the dresser and hands it to me. “In case you need to call me.” She kisses me quick and opens the door. I guess now that I that have the electronic umbilical cord it’s safe for me to leave. As I head down the hall I hear the deadbolt lock.
Downstairs Sean is yelling at the doorman that he does not want to buy any speed today. The doorman doesn’t really work for the building but opens the door and asks for change. He doesn’t sell speed either, but knows people who do. I put my hand on the doorman’s shoulder. “Dude, get a real job.” He gives me his usual phony angry crazy stare and heads for the door. I get in the car and Sean pulls away.
“Why do you live in that hole?”
“All I can afford.” Sean thinks that he can shame me into going back to a normal life. “I love this car.”
“Steel, vinyl, what more do you need?”
“Not if I can help it.” Those are his code words for getting serious. “Does she know you're not coming back?”
“I think she does.” That’s not really a lie.
“Did you tell her you were leaving?”
“No, I couldn't. I left her a note, and some money.” Well it was her money to begin with.
I stare out the window to keep from having to talk about this. I’m surprised that Mona didn’t find the note when she got me the cell phone. Maybe she already knew it was there.
I’m so thinking busy about Mona that I don’t notice where we are going. We should be on the highway by now, but we are stopped in front of a very nice home in the suburbs. Sean beeps the horn.
“I wish you told me she was coming with us.” I was hoping for a quiet weekend.
“No. You are coming with us.”
“Does she know that?” Lisa has never been as interested in Sean as he is in her.
“I think she does.”
I hate it when he’s clever. “Does she know I'm coming?”
“Yes she does.”
“Mona's gonna think I left her for Lisa.”
“Does it matter why you left her?”
“It will to her.”
Lisa comes out carrying a backpack. She opens the back door and jumps in. “Woo guitar dude!”
Sean looks at me, then at Lisa. “Which one of us is guitar dude?”
“Neither, unless one of you has a secret life as a roadie for Macy Gray.”
“Not me.” Sean turns to me. “How about you George.”
“Maybe that's what happens to me when I'm stoned.”
Sean laughs. “No when you're stoned you just lay still and hum the Muppet’s theme.”
Sean and Lisa start humming the Muppet’s theme.
Route 5 is flat and straight and boring. The novelty of farmland on a sunny afternoon wears off quickly. There is nothing on the radio but oldies stations. There is no new music on this highway. I stare at the radio for a long time, then reach over and turn it down. I take the cell phone out of my pocket and hit speed dial. “Hi it's me.”
Mona sounds like I just woke her up. “Hello me, aren’t there yet, are you?”
“I need to tell you something.”
“I found the money, and that stupid note. Why didn’t you just talk to me?”
“I didn't know what to say.”
“You’re such a coward. I should have let that biker kill you.”
“You don't mean that.”
“You lied to me.”
“I didn't know what to do.” I try to think of something comforting. “I'll miss you.”
“I'll call you when I get settled.”
Mona starts crying. “Where?”
“I don't know.”
She cries harder. A few times she tries to say something, but I can’t make out what. She hangs up. I just stare at the phone for a while, half hoping she’ll call back. Hoping she’ll say something that will make we want to go back. I knew she wouldn’t fight to make me stay. I shut off the phone and toss it out the window.
“You OK?” Sean asks.
“Sure, why not.”
“Really, how you doing.” Lisa puts her hand on my shoulder.
“Empty. I thought I'd feel free. I thought I'd feel sad. I just feel,” I look for some word other than empty, but fail, “empty.”
Lisa smiles. “Would it make you feel better if Sean gave you a blow job?”
I try not to laugh, then look at Sean who is glaring at Lisa, and I crack up. Lisa and Sean start laughing along. I stop laughing and look at Sean. “You know, maybe that would help.”
“That's not funny.”
I lean towards him. “You sure got a purty mouth.”
Lisa leans back grinning. “Have ever noticed his ass? Very fuckable.”
Sean’s face tightens, “That is not,” his eyes soften, “you've noticed my ass?”
Lisa looks forward and says, “Drive Fontaine, drive.”
The motel room is wonderfully ordinary. Brown and orange interior. Twin beds equal distance from each other and the walls. Landscape paintings on the wall by someone who watches way too much PBS. Lisa is the first through the door and runs for the bathroom.
Sean follows carrying his and Lisa’s bags. “I call the bed by the window.”
I follow Sean. “I call the bed not by the window.”
Lisa yells from the bathroom, “That’s not fair!”
Sean goes to the bathroom door. “That's what you get for having the bladder of a little girl.”
Lisa says something, but we can’t hear.
I say to Sean. “This is how you try to get women to sleep with you? Now wonder you never get any.”
Lisa comes out the bathroom. “I heard that”
Sean glares at me. “Well we know the bathroom isn't soundproof.”
I go to turn on the TV, but there is none. “There’s no TV!”
Sean says to Lisa, “He's just kidding.”
Lisa sits down at the head of the bed I’m on. “Is that why you asked me on this trip?”
“No.” Sean is trying not to look at Lisa.
“Look me in the eye.” Sean does. “Oh my God, you do want to sleep with me.”
“No. Well yes, but that's not why you're here.”
I turn to Lisa. “Lisa. Look in my eyes.”
Lisa does. “You just want to fuck me.”
I laugh. “It's a guy thing.” I turn to Sean. “However, there is no TV.”
Sean looks at Lisa. “Yeah. A guy thing. ” Then at me. “There is no TV.” Like I didn’t already know that.
I turn back to Lisa. “And yes, neither of would turn hesitate if you offered us sex.” I turn back to Sean. “What do mean there is no TV?”
Lisa slides up to the foot of the bed. “Men are pigs.”
“Yes.” I say. “Men are pigs.”
“But, You just broke up with Mona.” She says.
“I'm a pig.” I reply.
Lisa looks at both of us. “So where do I sleep?”
“Take your pick.” I look at her, then at Sean. “I promise you that whichever one of us you sleep beside, nothing will be tried.”
Sean glares at me again. “I can't promise that.”
I try again. This time yelling. “There is no TV!”
Lisa sneers. “Good. I hate TV.”
“What are we going to do with no TV?” They don’t seem to understand how serious this is.
Sean lies down on his bed. “I don't know. Sleep maybe.”
I stand up and walk to the window. “It's only eight o'clock. The sun is still up.”
Sean sits up. “What do you do at home when there is nothing on TV?”
“I have sex with Mona.”
“What do you do when Mona isn’t there?” He’s trying to be clever.
“I think of Mona and jerk off.”
Lisa looks at me. “I’m not sure if that’s really sweet or really sick.”
Sean closes his eyes and thinks for a second. “Ok, no Mona, no jerking off, what do you do?”
I turn and sit on the windowsill. “Drink.”
Sean stands up. “Sorry only one bar in this town and we can’t go there.”
Lisa “Why not? I could use a beer.”
“I don't think you'd like this bar.” He says to Lisa.
“Why, is it full of assholes like you?”
“It's a bar for men.”
I stand up. “You're not dragging me to another gay bar.”
Lisa laughs. “He means it's a tittie bar.”
I smile. “Really? Let’s go. I haven't been to a tittie bar since before I met Mona.”
Sean looks surprised. “That was over ten years ago.”
“Do they still touch you if you give them money?”
Lisa looks at her self in the mirror. “Yes” She frowns and tries to flatten a lump of hair above her right ear. “But it costs a lot more these days.”
Sean looks at Lisa. “How would you know?”
Lisa gives up on her hair. “I don't live in a cave?”
Sean thinks for a second. “Maybe we could find another bar.”
I lean over to retie my shoelaces. “No. Titties.”
Lisa turns to Sean. “Oh lets go. George wants titties.”
Sean is worried. “You don’t mind?”
“I'll find some way to amuse myself.”
I head for the door. “Yeah, she can laugh at us when we think the strippers don't just like us for our money.”
Sean sits down on the bed. “I'm not sure they let women in.”
I open the door. “I bet women get in for free.”
Lisa follows me out the door. “Cool.”
Sean comes out the door mocking me. “I bet women get in for free.”
Truck stop strip clubs are all the same. The middle of the room has a raised runway with a pole at one end for the dancers to swing on. The runway is lined with a row of seats on either side. The bar is in the far corner. That’s where all the truckers sit. There are small tables scattered around the room. On one side of the runway there are two men that look like used car salesmen. Straight across from them are three frat guys. A dancer in a silver bikini dances back and forth between them.
Sean pays the cover charge. A dollar each for him and me. Lisa gets in for free. Sean points to the corner of the room. “There's and empty table in back.”
I follow him. “Good plan.”
Lisa grabs the back of my shirt. “No I want to sit up front.”
I pull her along. “Why?”
Lisa pulls harder. “Because the closer to the stage you get, the more I can make fun of you.”
Sean comes back, takes Lisa's arm and leads her to the table. Sean sits in the chair closest to the wall. Lisa and I sit on either side of him, both turning our chairs towards the stage.
Lisa looks disappointed. “She's not naked.”
Sean waves to the waitress. “They start off with clothes on.”
I pull a pile of dollar bills out of my pants pocket. “And then they strip. Hence the name, strip club.”
“Oh ha ha.”
The waitress walks up to the table. “What can I get you.”
Lisa looks up. “Beer and tequila all around.”
The waitress is not having fun. “Do you want those in separate glasses?”
“If that's possible.”
The waitress goes away.
I put my pile of ones on the table. “Don't piss her off, she'll spit in our drinks.”
Lisa grins. “If all I come away with is a little saliva, I'll be happy.”
The dancer that was on stage when we came in suddenly appears, now topless, in front of me and starts rotating her hips at me.
“Not right now thank you.” I need a few drinks before I can take part in this. I pick up a dollar and point to Sean. “But I'm sure my friend here could use some attention.” I put the dollar into the side of the stripper’s bikini. She smiles and kisses me on the cheek. She walks behind me and sits on Sean's lap facing him.
“So what's your name?” She asks.
Sean glares at me, then looks over at Lisa who has a huge grin on her face. He lies to her. “Carl.”
“Well Carl. Do you like it when I do this?” The stripper starts grinding into Sean's lap.
Sean squirms uncomfortably. “Yes.”
“Would you like a more private show?”
“I don't think so.”
The waitress brings the drinks. “$12.00”
The stripper moves as low as she can then runs her breasts along Sean's body up to his face.
Lisa pulls a twenty out of her shirt pocket. “I got it.”
She gives the waitress the money. The waitress hands her the change in ones, she gives two back to the waitress and adds the rest to my pile of bills.
The stripper slides her hand down Sean's chest to his crotch. “Are you sure there's nothing I can do for you.”
Sean pulls a five out of his pants and puts it in the stripper's bikini
The stripper gets off of Sean and squeezes his cheeks with one hand giving him fish lips and kisses him. “Well just flag me down if you change your mind.”
The stripper steps behind Lisa. Sean leans over to say something to me, but I don’t hear him. I’m too busy watching what’s happening beside him. He turns to see that the stripper is now grinding in Lisa's lap.
Sean’s voice cracks. “Lisa. What are you doing?”
“It appears that I'm getting a lap dance.”
The stripper does the same body rub she did to Sean. Sean keeps looking back and forth from Lisa and the Stripper, to me. Lisa is smiling politely at the stripper, but she looks very uncomfortable.
“Why don't we get some privacy?” The stripper leans over and whispers something in Lisa’s ear.
Lisa grabs a one from George's pile and holds it up for the stripper to take.
“Ah, No thanks.”
The stripper stands up and pulls open the front of her bikini. Lisa looks away and drops the dollar in. The stripper grabs Lisa's cheeks the same as she did Sean's and kisses her, then moves on. Lisa picks up her shot of tequila and swallows it.
I laugh. “Well she seems nice.”
After several rounds of drink, and several dancers stopping by the table, we are drunk. None of the other dancers pay any attention to Lisa. She is taking turns being relieved and pissed off. The pile of bills is almost gone.
The waitress comes over to the table. “Closing time folks. Which one of you was supposed to be the designated driver?”
I hit myself on the forehead with the palm of his hand. “I knew there was something we forgot.”
The waitress is still not having fun. “Sit tight I'll call a cab.”
As the waitress walks towards the bar, the first stripper approaches her, points at us and says something. The waitress walks away. The stripper walks over to our table. “You guys have a car?”
Sean looks worried. “Yeah, outside, but I don't think I should be driving.”
“You staying at the motel?”
“OK, I'll drive you. I live near there.”
“Cool.” He says.
The stripper turns towards some other strippers at the bar. “Sandy! You can go. I got a ride.”
We get up and follow the stripper towards the door.
Back in the car, the stripper is driving. I’m next to her. Lisa is behind her, looking out the window. Sean is next to Lisa, watching her.
The stripper looks at each of us, then says to me, “So what's the deal here? Are the three of you like a couple or something?”
I’m confused. “What do you mean?”
“Well I'm not used to rejection.”
“I just broke up with my girlfriend. We were together ten years.”
“Well then it's time for a fling.”
“I left her today.” I look at my watch. “Or yesterday.”
“That is kind of soon. What about you doll.” She says to Lisa. “Never been turned down for a freebie before.”
Lisa does not turn from the window. “Just not interested in women.”
“So then what's your story?” She says to Sean.
I jump in before Sean can answer. “He's in love with Lisa.”
“I don't blame him.” She is looking at Lisa in the rear-view-mirror.
Sean is pissed. “I never said that I was in love with Lisa.”
“That's right. He just wants to sleep with her.” I add.
Lisa looks forward. “I'm not into men either.”
No one knows what to say for a minute. Then the stripper turns to Sean. “So I guess you're free then.”
I put my hand on the stripper’s shoulder. “And I hear that he has a very fuckable ass.”
Sean is more pissed. “Shut up!”
The stripper turns back to driving. “Really? Should I stop at home and get my strap-on?”
Now Sean is worried. “What?”
“I would love to fuck you in the ass.”
“That was just a joke.” He whimpers.
“Hey whatever you like. It's been a long night, and I'm horny as hell.”
I’m surprised. “I would think that kind of work would put you off sex.”
“No, I spend the whole time getting other people off. I never get to get myself off.”
Lisa goes back to looking out the window. She seems to be crying.
Sean looks at her. “Can we talk about something else.” He says.
The stripper shakes her head. “I don't believe this. I'm in a car with three single adults, and none of you want to fuck me?”
“Sorry.” I say.
“What's wrong with you people. Sex is life.”
Lisa breathes deep. “Not for everyone.”
“It is for me. If I don't get it I go crazy.”
Lisa turns forward. “Me, I just don't get it.”
“With your looks. I find that hard to believe.”
“I mean I don't understand it. Never felt any desire for it. Male or female.”
“Never met the right person?”
“Whatever it is that makes people want sex. I just don't have it.”
We ride in silence for a while.
Lisa looks around. “Sean. I'll give you the rest of George's ones if you let me watch her fuck you in the ass with her strap-on.”
Everyone laughs but Sean.
I ‘m woken up the next morning when Sean opens the motel room curtains and the sun comes pouring in.
Sean is standing there in his underwear. “Wakey wakey!”
Lisa is in bed next to me, still fully dressed. She throws her arm over her eyes and groans.
I look around for the clock, but can’t focus on anything. “What time is it?”
“Noon. I thought you were going to sleep in the tub?” He says to me.
“I don't think you need to worry.” I throw the blankets off. I’m fully dressed as well.
Lisa sits up facing away from the window. “When did you get into the bed?”
I try to think. “I have no idea.”
Lisa guts up “I need a shower. When's check-out.”
Sean is putting his pants on. “1PM, but they don't really care.”
Lisa grunts, grabs her bag and goes into the bathroom. After a minute the shower starts.
It takes me another minute or so to sit up and get focused.
“How long have you been up?”
“A couple hours.”
“An amazing skill. Does drinking have no effect on you at all.”
“But how do you not sleep?”
“Effects me backwards. It puts me to sleep like everyone else, but it makes me get up early.”
“Why didn't you wake us? No, I mean thank you for not waking us.”
“No problem. It gave me time to think.”
“About what?” I immediately regret saying that.
“She's not interested in you.”
“I know. I used to be in love with her you know.”
“I know.” Then I realize what he said. “Used to?”
“Yeah I gave up a while ago. I thought this trip would make it happen again.”
“No.” Sean half grins.
The sound of the shower stops.
“So why didn't you go with the stripper last night?”
“I was too drunk. Next time.”
Lisa comes out of the bathroom drying her hair with a towel. She is wearing the same jeans as yesterday, but has a new shirt on. “Who's next?”
“I already had one.” Sean says.
“I don't need one.”
“Do we get a vote on that?” Lisa looks to Sean for support.
I defend myself. “No. I don't think so. When I get depressed I don’t like to shower. It's comfortable.”
Sean laughs. “OK, but you ride in the backseat with the windows open.”
“Fine with me.”
Lisa grabs Sean’s keys off the dresser. “I get to drive today! Called it no changies!”
Sean tries to grab the keys. “Nobody drives my car.”
Lisa does not give them up. “You let the stripper drive.”
“Busted!” I say.
“I was drunk. I had to let her drive.”
Lisa raises her arm. “Let's take a vote.”
I raise my arm “Yeah.”
“This is not a democracy.”
I lower my arm. “Boo.”
Sean turns on me. “Do we get to vote about you showering?”
“Wouldn’t do any good. I don't have any other clothes to change in to.”
Sean thinks for a second, then gives in. “OK, you can drive. Just don't go over 60. The front wheels pop off.”
“Cool.” Lisa does a little skip step. “I get to drive.”
We are on the road again. Lisa is driving. Sean is next to her. I’m laying on the back seat with my eyes closed trying to fall asleep. I can’t really sleep when I ride in cars. I get stuck at that point where you are almost asleep, but can still hear everything. I guess the motion of the car keeps the deep sleep away from me. Sean and Lisa have been quiet. I guess they’re trying not to wake me.
I hear Sean say. “He's still asleep.”
“I know.” Lisa replies.
“How can he sleep like that?”
“If you want to turn on the radio. Turn on the radio.” Lisa sounds like Mrs. Driscoll, my first grade teacher.
“I don't want to wake him up.”
“It won't wake him up.”
“It would wake me up.”
“But, if it was you, you'd already be woken up.
“But I would be pissed if I was asleep and someone woke me up.”
I hear the radio come on.
A few seconds later Lisa says. “I told you it wouldn't wake him up.”
The radio shuts off.
Sean asks, “Why did you turn it off?”
“I'm not the one who wanted it on.” She replies.
“You want me leave it off?”
“I don't care. But, if you want to listen to the radio, you should turn it on.”
“But it was on.”
“But you didn't turn it on. I did.”
“But... Never mind.”
“Oh be a man.”
The radio comes on loud.
“What do you mean be a man?”
I open my eyes and sit up.
Lisa turns to Sean. “The one place you never grabbed me, was the one place that would have done us any good.“ She pauses. “Now it's too late.”
“How come you guys let me sleep?”
“It's not too late.” I don’t think he’s talking to me.
“Yes it is. Maybe if someone made me have sex, I could have learned.”
“Are you saying I should have raped you?”
“It's not rape if I want you to do it.”
I try to interrupt. “Now I'll be up all night.”
“What about that barbecue? I actually jumped on you.”
“Yeah, but you jumped on me badly.”
Sean turns away from her. “This is not my responsibility.”
Lisa thinks for a moment. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean that it was. You were just too nice. I always hung out with guys who were too nice.”
“Have we passed Fresno yet?” I ask.
“We're not going through Fresno.” Sean says.
“No the bus junkyard.” He knew what I meant. “Remember the old purple bus out front that had Fresno for a destination.”
“The junkyard is gone.”
I look out the window. “Maybe they finally made it to Fresno.”
Lisa says, “I was in Fresno once. Our car broke down. We were going to Bakersfield to see Hoyt Axton.”
“The mighty Hoyt!” I scream.
“My father loved him.”
“Biblically?” I ask.
“Who knows. He repressed everything else. Could have been a closet fag.”
“Yeah, but Hoyt Axton.” I try to act disgusted. “That's weird.”
Sean is staring out the window.
I finally manage to get the motel door open. I drop my bag and run into the bathroom. Finally, relief. I can hear Sean and Lisa talking, but can’t make out what they are saying. I’m sure I’ve been doomed to sleep in the tub again. I look over and there is no tub, just a shower.
I come out of the bathroom and Sean and Lisa are grinning at me.
“So he's sleeping where?” I ask.
“You decide.” Lisa replies.
They are up to something. “Neither of you picked a bed?”
“We were waiting for you.” Sean says.
“OK, what's wrong with the beds?”
“Just pick a bed.” Lisa says.
Both beds look ok. “Ah, the one by the window?”
“Cool.” Lisa throws her arms up. “Bed to myself.”
“I want a recount.” Sean yells.
I’m confused. “What just happened?”
Sean points to the bed by the window. “We get to share.”
“I think I want a recount too.” I say.
Sean sits down on the bed. “Don't worry, I won’t try anything.”
I notice the TV on the dresser. “Well at least there's a TV.”
Lisa is looking at a map. “So how far away are we?”
“About twenty minutes.” Sean answers.
“So we can sleep in the morning?” Lisa sits on her bed.
“The gates open at 8.” Sean says.
“But when does it start?” I ask.
“10 I think. But we should get there earlier”
“OK, I'll set the alarm.” I go over to the clock radio between the beds to set the alarm.
Lisa picks up the remote and turns on the TV. On the screen two well-dressed oriental women are screaming at each other.
Sean yells. “Cool. Chinese soap-operas.”
“All Right!” Says Lisa.
It's going to be along night I think.
We are sitting on a grassy hillside. It’s hot, but there is a nice breeze. The racecars zoom around the track below us. From up here you can see most of the track. Down in the stands you just get the front straight. Lisa has a pair of binoculars, but she can’t seem to get them focused right. She has the look of a roller coaster rider. Shaking gently but quickly. She is vibrating, making low-pitched noises in her throat. I’m not sure if it’s a moan or a mantra.
Sean keeps closing his eyes. He imagines himself and his Dodge out there with the racers. His awesome driving skill and mechanical wizardry overcoming twenty years of advanced, and very expensive, racecar technology. The people in the stands cheer as his old heap slipstreams into the lead. I swear he has a boner.
For me it’s the spectacle. The sensory overload. The bright colored cars bombing around the black pavement. The noise of thousands of horsepower screaming up and down the hills. The screeching tires. The smell of burning rubber and unburned gas and octane booster. The feel of the ground as the cars rumble past.
Then the race is over. Two hours of chaos come to an end. The engines are shut off, and everything is still again. Still like a foggy Thursday morning on Cape Cod long ago. Still enough to think clearly again.
I hug Sean and Lisa, then watch them drive away. I can’t get back in the car. They are going to drive all night because they both have to work tomorrow. The highway east looks promising. I start hitching. I think of Mona for some reason. I’m sure she’s glad I’m gone. My sister has a place in Arizona. I’ve always wanted to live in the dessert. Someplace quiet.