finding the rhythm

Friday, April 12, 2002

     “What do you want the Israelis to do to solve this?” Brian asked me in the midst of a loud debate over the conflict in the Middle East in John’s livingroom. It was Brian, Mike, John, and myself — with John abstaining from the majority of the debate — sitting around John’s house Friday night with at least one beer behind us and a mug of sake in front of us.

Earlier, just before I left work, the Australian girl, Tonya, had come into my office. After an awful day spent in a haze (for no particular reason), I just didn’t care any more. This is a good thing. Rather than freeze up and doubt my every sentence with her, I was able to talk to her relatively normally. Our first real conversation, I think. I found out that she’s from Brisbane, followed her boyfriend over here, they broke up, he moved to New York, and now she’s stuck in Austin with its awful mass transportation and incoherent growth scheme. Two years she’s been here, she says, and has only made two good friends. So I invited her to John’s place for our sake party that evening. I’ve got two other engagements tonight, but next time, she says. Blown off again, I think.
After work, I finally make it through the traffic down to John’s house to find him not there. The bathroom window is cracked, though, so I climb through and unlock the door. Perfect. Shortly after, he returns from Central Market with the sake.

“I want them to pull back to pre-1967 borders,” I replied to Brian’s enquiry.
“Good, then. We agree.”

We’d been talking about this for a while now. I hadn’t kept up with the news during the latter part of the day, and when Brian arrived at John’s from Hunt, Texas, he informed us of Powell’s cancellation of the meeting with Arafat. Then I told him of the Georgia Democrat’s proposal that the Bush Administration be investigated to see whether or not they might have been complicit in the World Trade Center/Pentagon/PA terrorist attacks. There are a lot of people close to and in the Bush administration who are going to profit a great deal from the war on terrorism, the politician had said. We agreed.

“Somebody’s giving the orders,” John said, “Who do you think it could be?”
Brian shook his head and looked away.
Mike spoke up, “They’re all crooked.”
“But who could be behind it all? Who could that person be?”
“I know what you’re getting at, John,” Brian said, “and I’m not going to let you.”
“What? What am I getting at? I just want to know who could be behind it.”
“I know, I know, Eric Clapton,” Brian finally submitted.
Exactly. Eric fuckin’ Clapton. Look at it: Jimi Hendrix, dead. Stevie Ray Vaughan, dead. Clapton’s one bad motherfucker.”

The night progessed toward its deepest point and we took a cab up to Ruta Maya. The town’s South by Southwest hangover had lifted and the Spring air had attracted the masses onto the streets. In a haze of beer, sake, and pot (and for Brian, Xanax) we walked down to Lovejoy’s just off Sixth Street where we ordered Long Island Iced Teas. At the bar sat John’s crush, Erin, with her boyfriend.

In what has become a tradition among us, John said, “God be with us,” as the first toast of the night. Our glasses clinked sharply against one another as we laughed at the irony of such a statement but still inwardly believed that an otherworldly power might yet be the only force that kept us alive on these nights.

The crowd slowly broke up over the evening. We hadn’t hit the correct stride. Mike theorized that it was because we began the evening by talking about the heavy topic of the Middle East, but I doubted that because we usually talk about such things on these nights. Something else was off. John left from Lovejoy’s when he tired of Erin’s boyfriend shooting eye-daggers at his back.

Later, at Ruta Maya, Brian decided to walk the 2 1/2 miles back to John’s house. Mike and I stayed to drink. We talked to Nick, who said he’d spent one evening at Lavaca Street Bar trying to get into my ex-girlfriend, Stephanie’s, pants. She had placed 50% of the blame for our failed relationship on me. Though it happened months upon months ago, the prospect that it was partly my fault still held my drunken interest. While it’s always a diplomatic gesture to assign equal amounts of blame to both parties, I don’t know how honest it is in this case. Either way, she apparently did not elaborate on the subject to Nick.

Outside at 2 AM, we tried to hail a cab, but they all passed filled with other smart-enough drunks.
“I told you it would be hell to get a cab at 2 AM,” I said to Mike.
“Hey, it’s just a fucking cab. Don’t get all stressed out about it. I know what you said.”
I looked at him.
“I mean, fuck, calm down. Just stop talking about the goddamn cab.”
“I have stopped talking about it. You’re the one that’s still talking about it,” I said.
“All right,” he said, and walked off.
I kept watching the full cabs pass down Fourth Street and onto Lavaca headed north.
“Hey, idiot!” I hear Mike yell behind me. I figure he’s gotten a cab. I turn around. Australian Tonya stands near him with a pretty friend.
“Hey, Will!” she says.
“Hey. Tonya!”
We hug and she says, “I thought you were going to a sake party tonight.”
“Oh, we did. Then we came out and drank many other kinds of liquors.”
“Good. I’m glad to see you out.”
“I’m always out.” And it’s true. I’m out at least four nights a week.
“You should come to the next sake party,” I follow-up.
“I will,” she says in her liltingly wonderful accent.
“Well, we’re going to go home,” she says.
“So are we, if we can catch a taxi.”
Tonya and her friend walk away just as an empty cab passes us. I wave for it and we climb in.

Safely seated inside the cab, I say to Mike, “Damn. I knew I got that vibe when we got downtown that I’d see her tonight.”
“Yeah? I yelled ‘Hey, Soft Skin!’ at her when I saw her,” he said, “because that time she touched me in Empanada Parlour she had the softest skin I’ve ever touched.”
“You yelled ‘soft skin’?”
“Yeah.”
We couldn’t help but laugh.

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