Saturday, January 21, 2012
Damn, the cramps were starting again. Kari hated driving with them. As her stomach tightened, it reminded her of her boss. “Charlie Cramps. A fitting nickname”, she thought. Only he was messy and a pain 24/7, not just once a month. Always grabbing and wanting to fuck her. And a tampon in the mouth didn’t shut him up. She had just told him shove the job up his ass after flipping him over the bar. She had spent the rest of the night with a bottle of Smirnoff she took on her way out. Another swallow and Charlie Cramps would no longer be a memory.
There was a bang and the VW Bus died as she pulled into the empty lot. “Oh, God”, she thought. What was it this time? Rain soaked her bright red hair as she opened the engine bay and saw the missing belt. “It’s 3:00 fuckin’ AM. Shit, what I am gonna do?” She looked up and saw the lights of the all night diner. “Maybe I can borrow a phone.”
The door of the diner was clear glass and cater-cornered to the street. The only customer was a small blond woman seated at the end of the counter. She sat on her perch like a butterfly trapped in a bubble, a fuzzy image reflected on the misted window behind her. Fragile and vulnerable, piercings dangling from the scarred face, she touched Kari’s heart. She had wanted company with her misery and this looked like her only option. There weren’t any bars on this block. She settled into the stool next to the woman and drunkenly tried to strike up a conversation.
Butterfly stared silently into her coffee. It was like talking to a statue. Kari brushed her wet hair out of her eyes and tried again.
“I said it was a bad fucking night. I got fired from my job and I beat up my old boss. My roommate moved out two days ago. I’ve used my last tampon and I’m cramping like crap. And to top that off, my camper broke its fan belt for like the fifth time this week. I don’t have a spare and it’s 3 in the fucking morning. I guess I’ll just park it for the night a take a cab home.”
The waitress behind the counter looked up when she heard. She was going to throw Kari out but the blond head tipped upward with a sad smile and said “But you are on the right side of the ground and breathing. Sorry to be rude. I’m Randi.” She held out her hand. Kari shook it and replied.
“Kari. You alone? ”
“Sort of. I’ve only been here a couple of days. It’s hard when you don’t know anyone. By the way, an old pair of pantyhose will work for the fan belt. I had to do that one time down in Florida. I was lucky I had one. I hate wearing those things. Anyway, I’m just killing time until work.”
The waitress brought coffee and asked if Kari would like anything to eat. She said no and went to the jukebox and put in a couple of coins. Indigo Girls poured out of the speakers and the mean night melted away. They talked for hours, bitching about jobs, men and life. Randi noticed a bunch of balloons that had been left by a birthday party. She gave one to Kari and both giggled and danced . The waitress was watching. They weren’t too loud, so she just let them go on. It was better than being bored. Finally, Kari asked Randi if she had a place to stay for the night. Randi said “Is that an offer or a come on?” Kari laughed as they left the warmth of the diner.
The rain had begun again. Kari touched Randi on the shoulder and said “Tag! You’re it!” They ran and chased each other through puddles, dipping behind poles and cars. Children of the night at playing against the dark anti rainbow. As they approached the camper, Kari slipped on a leaf and brushed her hand up against Randi. Time stopped and she stared in shock. “Things are not as they seem, are they?”
Randi flushed and said no. He opened his mouth to say something else, but couldn’t. He wanted to tell her of the loneliness and the pain. About his stepfather. About the foster homes. . But no sound would come. The silence mixed with the rain as the makeup, hair dye and illusion rinsed out of them both. They were left with only each other. Kari brightened up.
The gift wasn’t what she thought and it didn’t matter. “I came in tonight looking for a friend. I still have one. Come in the camper and get warm.”