A few streets away, I awoke in a state of startling panic. Shaking all over, I took in my surroundings. I was in my own home now, the humble Rat Infested Heights, so different from the moon drenched darkness of the Tomato Cemetery. Here I was safe from the vengeful wrath of the Redheaded Slut. The rats had gone, but the pain had not. I heard church bells crying from afar and I gazed out broken windows at the brick street that had ruined every single pair of expensive heels I owned!
In that dusky yet transparent moment, my memory drifted back to a summer before the rats had come, before they had invaded my dwelling. I thought for a second that maybe the rats could have saved me- Master Danger would not have sought solace at my lonely manor had it been overrun w rats. Not in a hundred years.
But the rats did not come until winter, they hadn’t even been there when the leaves fell. The rats had been confined to the walls before the stupid, stupid Europeans downstairs had started lighting raging, demonic fires in the ancient fireplace without a chimney. They filled the house with smoke almost every day, causing the unwelcome visitors to emerge from the walls for air.
Before long, those rats had the run of the home. The wretched devils.
But they were too late. I first met Master Danger in late April, though he wouldn’t request I call him by this ridiculous name for some time. He was just Jakobha then and his reputation had preceded him. I’d been dressed as a pirate for whatever reason and had been talking to LaTish, the greatest bartender in the town. I hadn’t seen LaTish in awhile and I had missed her plucky and spirited Irish ways. She was asking me about the wedding of Flanelle, an old roommate of mine. Alas I could tell her nothing. Apparently I was the only person in all of St. Septemberstine not invited to this mysterious wedding. I couldn’t tell her a thing.
I laughed haughtily and began telling LaTish how the last time I’d heard from the bride to be was months before when she’d called out of nowhere to tell me about this super old guy she wanted me to go on a date with. It was so random, I hadn’t heard from her in forever . . . and then she wants to set me up with some loser? She’d not yet been engaged at this time, but she told me all about this quirky fellow and she described him, though the person she was describing sounded frightfully ridiculous. She said he was “old . . . just so old” with long dark hair and stone washed jeans, said he looked like Smash from the band Nuns ‘n Moses. She then assured me he had enough money to pull it off.
Once she realized his money meant nothing to me, Flanelle went on to tell me he was looking for someone to “travel the country” with. Traveling the country (even with someone thoroughly asinine) sounded wonderful, so I said sure- I’d go on a date with him. Then she was silent a good thirty seconds before she added softly under her breath, “Well, he *was* married, but . . .”
She trailed off and didn’t finish her sentence, but I was hardly listening at that point; I was already picturing myself in fishnets and ripped t-shirts, with crimped hair and giant hoop earrings, traveling the country with Smash in a great stonewashed camper! I was more entertained by the thoughts of what I could wear than I was by the prospect of actually meeting this absurd sounding guy, but this “date” would never take place- months went by and I never heard from Flanelle again.
As I was relaying all this to LaTish, I didn’t notice a homeless looking vampire join us at the bar and ease his way into the halfhearted conversation. He was personable enough, but when my eyes met his cold gaze, I fought the urge to offer him spare change. He was thin and scrawny, I found myself wondering if he was getting enough to eat! He seemed chiefly interested in this mysterious wedding of Flanelle and Chark, he told me he’d run into them at Mall-Mart and they’d invited him. I didn’t have much interest as I was no longer friends with either of them, hadn’t heard from the chick since she wanted to set me up with that frightful loser, so I went into the story again. The homeless vampire laughed and asked a few questions about the fellow I was describing, speaking in some atrocious accent I couldn’t identify. I rolled my eyes . . . I was going to be stuck with this idiot all night, I knew it. He just kept talking and talking, blah, blah, blah . . . he was trying to prove to me that he knew Flanelle and he showed me a piece of scrap paper where she’d scrawled her phone number above the word confusion.
It was an eerie, spine chilling moment and I recognized both her phone number and her handwriting, but I shrugged it off~ I was so distanced from whatever situation was at hand by then and I was far more concerned with trying to figure out where he’d picked up that god awful accent. However in that moment, I finally noticed he had long hair and was wearing [gasp!] hideous stonewashed jeans. I was stunned! In shock! Bowled over! Taken aback! Staggered all to hell and ripped with fright at the mere realization that he was the one! The mysterious Smash!
“It was you!” I gasped, trembling in horror! I couldn’t believe how NOT attracted to him I was and I started to laugh- he was younger than I’d expected, only thirty six, but he was still disgusting; under normal circumstances, I’d never have given this loser another glance. In my youth, maybe I’d once held a soft spot for destitute looking fellows with shaggy hair and wrinkled jeans, but after years of dating yuppies, that damnable weakness had been beaten out of me- now my laughter continued. Madwoman laughter. Hyena laughter.
Could it be?
After LaTish closed down the bar, I dragged him to the Burrito Shed on St. Porridge Street and offered to buy his dinner- I was still convinced he hadn’t eaten in many days, he was so waif like and dirty! We ended up at a dive bar, drinking beer which *he* paid for, as a huge surprise to me! He’d looked so penniless, so wildly impecunious. I made sure to invite him to my twenty sixth birthday party the next weekend, not really because I wanted him there or anything, but because I was boldly giving myself a party and was afraid no one would come. One more guest couldn’t hurt and I gave him my phone number, if only to ensure that I wouldn’t be the girl who gave the party that NOBODY came to. When the night ended and the bar booted us out into the rain, I told him to go his way and I would go mine, but the bastard insisted on walking me home. The nerve!
I shuddered as he grabbed my hand and I looked into the shadows to see if anyone was around to witness me holding hands with this disheveled vampire. I was already known for my wickedly atrocious taste in men, but if people saw me with THIS guy, my reputation would be forever tarnished. I scanned the shadows frantically, fearing the worst. If only I’d looked a little closer, I perhaps may have spied a forty year old Suspicious Woman hanging from the live oaks by her sharp, demonic talons, kicking her sizable legs in her ugly Mom Pants and spitting at me through her horse gums. Perchance a Redheaded Slut, who leered at me through a shadowy bay window, a fat old biddy who looked like she styled her hair every morning by pissing on an electric fence.
But I saw no one. Thunder clapped, a cluster of bats flew by a street lamp and the wet, murky mists swirled behind us in the pouring rain. He squeezed my hand as we walked and I was so unbelievably uncomfortable that I did the only thing I could thing I could think to do in this reprehensible situation:
“I’M SINGING IN THE RAIN!” I shouted daringly and he joined in my song as we walked hand in hand through the foggy downpour. He knew all the words and we began to laugh madly, singing all the way home! It was then that I realized I was having fun! Oh, no! How could this be? Then I invited him up for a beer . . . like an idiot.
We climbed the winding stairway of my Rat Infested Heights, sat down on the couch, popped a few cans of brew and that was it. He reached down to pet LilyPad, the Great Sheepdog and when he looked back towards me, he had a familiar look of longing in his eyes. He looked at me as though he were a starving beggar child and I were an elaborate birthday cake in the window of a heavenly smelling bakery. Or one of those animatronic clowns in the windows of FAO Shwartz- you know, the ones your parents could never afford to buy you. He then pulled me close and kissed me as though he hadn’t been kissed in a long time, as though he spent too much time sitting in front of a tv with a tub of Vaseline and a bag of popcorn, watching movies with names like, “A Tale of Two Titties” or “Shaving Ryan’s Privates.” I shivered with revulsion.
At first I shrank back timidly, my vision hazy with all that cheap beer this Jakobha character had poured down my throat. He did not back away and he obviously wasn’t deciphering the messages of disgust I was sending him, so I shrugged and figured: “What the hell? No one is here to see me kissing this mangy bum, I may as well . . . as long as I don’t sleep with him, it doesn’t count. I never have to see the bitch again, so why the hell not?”
On the couch turned into in my bedroom, underneath a leopard print bedspread. After that, I swear- I remember nothing.