Weird shit always happens when you’re waiting around in a car. Like — it never matters why you’re sitting in there — some sort of chicanery always occurs when you’re idling in the furthest corner of a darkened and foreign parking lot, or even right out in front of the 7-Eleven under those brighter than the sun lights.
Cars equal action in many different ways.
Back when I was working at that ice cream parlor — the one that got robbed and I was a stupid shit and couldn’t keep myself from fucking with the robber — I befriended the other dishwasher kid. He was a couple of years ahead of me in school and had himself a car. Way more connected in the little punk rock scene I was trying to jimmy my way into, especially when it came to girls. This motherfucker knew every girl in the goddamn city. If a girl even had a haircut that remotely looked “new wave,” or even resembled a grown-out Chelsea, he knew them.
I spent a lot of time in his car that year.
Whether we were driving around aimlessly looking for another house party or going to the mall or whatever — his big U-boat of a car felt like the center of The Universe. He didn’t even have a tape deck, so he’d play cassettes on some little tinny-sounding radio he kept on the seat next to him. We’d drive around passing joints of Mexican dirt weed back and forth while he would put in cassettes of shit I didn’t want to hear at all, but somehow I innately knew this was his way of connecting with all of these girls — like I gave a fuck about Bauhaus or Alien Sex Fiend or any of that kind of shit at this point in my life? I wanted to listen to Black Flag or Black Sabbath — nothing in the known world sounded better to me when I was high — but he would always pop in some fruity Goth shit that I would somehow end up understanding was muy importante through some very primal form of Stoner Osmosis.
That fruity Goth shit was the secret handshake into the club. That fruity Goth shit was the gateway to make-out sessions in laundry rooms. That fruity Goth shit would lead to having girls come knocking on my window when the moon hung up in the sky. That fruity Goth shit would get my fingers in a lot of different pies.
Sitting in a car while people you barely know go inside of a house in a really shitty part of town to connect to get drugs you know you should not be doing with money you took out of the cash register at the place where your friend works is always an awkward thing. The car is running and you sort of keep on having these feverish ideas of sliding over to the drivers’ seat and taking off with it — it isn’t like these fools know you in any way, so you might be able to get pretty far before they send their dogs after you.
The drugs are worth the wait. The drugs are worth the awkwardness of this. The drugs will make all of this feel better.
You keep on looking over at the doorway to the house, hoping to see shadows moving as people, foaming at the mouth at the thought of the bounty they will have on their shadowy person as they slither and amble back to the car. You also keep scanning the block for any interlopers — you know this neighborhood is notorious for strong-arm robberies and low-level thugs who lurk behind hedges who like to pop out and rob white boys to teach them a lesson. Your fingers feel fat with anticipation and skinny with hunger while you rub them on your pants. You can see your breath in the car and you can smell that stale smell coming from the ashtray.
Full of stubbed-out roaches, you take two of them, and after carefully emptying out the tip you shove them into the end of your cigarette and figure “what the fuck?” and fire it off to ease some of the itch you have going on while you wait for the drugs you came here for.
The smoke fills the inside of the car so you crack the window and that is when you hear the yelling coming from inside the house. It sounds like someone is being beaten, and you hear someone screaming about money. You go to put your head in your hands because you know this means you will probably not be able to get what you came here for and when you move your head everything around you drags and wheezes. Dusted.
You realize you are fucked and start calculating in your head how you can navigate your way back to where you started without having to get dragged from the car by the people in the house who are angry about something that has nothing to do with you.
You realize you are fucked and you are not going to get the drugs that you came here for, so you open the glove compartment and see that within it is a small brick of marijuana wrapped in paper and a small caliber handgun inside of a dirty sock. You shove both of them into your pants, realizing you will never see the money you stole that you gave to the people you barely know that are inside the house — possibly being beaten, possibly running a game that you will end up being punished for — well, you’ll have to weigh this theft as a leavening agent and call it a night. For a moment you think about selling the things you’ve just found in the glove compartment for the same amount of money you stole from the register to balance everything out as best as you can.
You leave the car as quietly as you can and slink down the block in the direction your dusted mind thinks will get you home.
These two girls I went to high school with had this weird secret life thing going on. They would get into the smaller girl’s car and drive up north to Black Canyon City one night per week and hang out in this little biker bar that never carded them. Black Canyon City was about forty miles outside of Phoenix in Yavapai County. It was a town totally run by Hells Angels. The bigger girl was way into this whole scene — she was always talking in quirky code-speak about how she had “boyfriends” who were in “a club” and how they lived outside of the city.
One night they took me and my closeted gay friend up there with them. We were in the back seat of the car, and the girls were acting like we weren’t even there. Forty miles of them playing Whitesnake songs really loudly on the stereo and lighting smokes for one another. It felt like some weirdo field trip — my friend and I kept on looking at each other and shrugging.
We pulled into the dirt lot of a bar and the girls just got out of the car and went inside without waiting for us. When we went inside, we realized these people had probably never seen punk rock kids before. The place was pretty quiet — maybe only a dozen folks inside at all. There were four pool tables, so my friend and I immediately went and occupied one of them, trying to pick one furthest away from where everyone else was.
The girls came back with a couple of pitchers of beer and we all started to shoot pool. The funny vibe I felt when we had come in had started to dissipate a bit. The four of us loosened up a lot, and I could kind of feel the room loosen up as well.
At one point, this massive biker — he must have been at least 6’7” and easily over three hundred pounds — shuffled his way over to where we were and started flirting with the bigger girl. It was kind of cool to see her outside of the control group of our school, letting loose and smiling for real. She seemed happy and seemed to enjoy the attention she was getting. The other girl kept on smiling at the two of us, trying to clue us in that this was just how it went with them. I started to play connect the dots in my head and realized this was her way of going along for the ride to make her friend happy, and I felt pretty good about it.
That’s around the time the biker started to talk shit, though.
“I see you girls like to hang out with a couple of fags.”
I didn’t weigh more than a buck and a half. I wasn’t afraid, and the beers I had been drinking probably helped me feel a little tougher than I was — but I was damn sure not going to get into a brawl with a biker in his bar. I knew better than that.
“We’re not fags. Why do you have to be a dick?”
When my closeted friend said it, I could see he was pissed. He had those really long skater bangs at the time — the kind that only fell over one half of his face — and he swung his head to the side so they swept up and over to uncover his face. He just glared at the big biker and then went back to lining up his shot.
“If you’re not fags, well then what the fuck are you? You look like a couple of fags to me.”
The bigger girl he had been flirting with looked hurt but still smiled at him as she put her hand around his waist and sort of led him over toward the jukebox. He kept on looking back over at us, but she was doing her best to distract him. I watched her plant a big sloppy kiss on his mouth and he grabbed at her pretty hungrily. My friend and I kept on shooting pool and the other girl sat on a stool smoking and nursing her beer.
After what felt like a long time, I looked over toward the jukebox and saw that the bigger girl and the massive biker were gone. I asked the other girl where they went, and she just shrugged her shoulders, smirked, and went back to flirting with my closeted friend. I went to go empty my bladder in the bathroom. The inside of that bathroom was a horrorshow — nothing but biker memorabilia and racist graffiti/jokes crudely scrawled all over the place in marker. In the urinal was a Mexican flag, as some sort of target to aim at. Fucking lovely.
Coming out of the bathroom I heard some old timer at the bar mumbling something to another one about “getting his turn to ride,” and the other one sort of slapping him on the back with a guffaw. The first old timer winked at me and then they both started cracking up. I looked over by the pool table and saw that the smaller girl was trying to work her magic on my closeted friend — she kept on trying to kiss his face and he kept on laughing and taking big swigs of beer.
I always knew she loved him.
The front door to the bar was open, so I went out into the parking lot to have a smoke and to let the cool air hit me and clear up my head a bit. As I stood out there I could hear the squeaking of the car and then I looked over and saw the back door open with four really big legs sticking out of it — the bare ass of the giant biker pumping up and down on the bigger girl and she kept on trying to wrap her legs around the back of him. I was transfixed, really — I couldn’t help but stare, nor could I help feeling good for her. That’s around the time I realized that this was her thing. Her secret life.
When we were leaving to drive back down to the city, I reached under the seat and put a towel across the bench seats in the back. My closeted friend was drunk as hell — alcohol always hit him really hard and fast and he would always get loud and kind of crazy when he drank — so I leaned in and tried to whisper in his ear what I had witnessed. His face turned into a ruby and then he tried to kiss me on the mouth. I laughed at him and kind of hugged him a little tighter than usual and he let go of the idea and slunk back into his seat, belting out “Here I Go Again” in all its glory.
I can’t even hear that goddamn song now without picturing that huge bear of a biker pounding away on her. It forces a smile across my face no matter the circumstances.
I fell asleep drunk in my car one Christmas Eve in front of my high school English teacher’s house.
This was after I had already served my country and come back. We had been drinking beers, scotch, and smoking a lot of weed while listening to The Stooges at ear-destroying levels all night long. He had sort of hired me to help him do a bunch of work on his house with him — which was really nothing more than an excuse to hang out and get loaded together. We shared the same birthday and the same taste for literature, destroying brain cells, women — all of it.
He was really my first and most influential mentor.
After a day of bottomless beers and stucco, I was wiped out. He had passed out in the middle of his living room floor, so I covered him with a throw blanket and came to the ridiculous conclusion that I was okay to drive home — my apartment wasn’t far, and it was so late I figured there would not be a soul on the roads. As soon as I sat down in my car and turned the key, one of those waves of fucked-upness hit me so hard that I swooned and wobbled in my seat and immediately turned the key into the off position.
I wasn’t going anywhere for a while.
In my half-lidded state, I decided to drop my seat all the way back and try to sleep a little of it off before trying to resume my journey. December in Phoenix is not very cold, so I was fine sleeping there in just a jacket. I remember looking up at the light coming off of the streetlamp and thinking it sure had a pretty halo around it, and then I was gone.
I’m not sure how long I was out before I heard the tapping on my window. I just know it was metallic, loud, and it startled the fuck out of me to open my eyes and see a cop shining a light in my eyes.
“Roll down your window.”
“I can’t — they’re automatic.”
“I asked you to roll down your window.”
“I have to turn the key to roll it down, Officer.”
“Do not turn the key — just open the door and step outside.”
He took a couple of steps to the side and I did just that — I opened up the door and unfurled myself from the position that felt pretty good into one of being upright, which did not feel good at all. He asked me if I had been drinking and I told him that I had. He asked me why I was sleeping in my car and I told him that my friend had passed out on the floor in the house right behind me and I thought I was okay to drive home, but realized I wasn’t, so I was going to try and sleep some of it off.
“You know I can take you to jail right now for sitting in that car with the keys in the ignition when you are drunk, right?”
“No, I didn’t know that. Merry fucking Christmas to me, right? Sorry, Officer.”
“How far away do you live?”
“About two miles or so. I can get there without using any of the busier streets and it’ll take me less than five minutes.”
“I’m going to make you a deal, okay? I’m going to follow you home — is that alright with you?”
“Yeah, that’s really awesome of you. Thanks.”
“Merry Christmas. Let’s get going.”
When I got back into my car to start it up and head home, I noticed I had left what was left of my bag of pot on the passenger seat right next to me, along with a small one-hitter. I must have thought about smoking a little bit to ease me into sleep before I passed the fuck on out. There was no way that cop didn’t see it — it was right in the middle of the seat. Fuck.
The cop followed me all the way back to my apartment, even following me into the parking lot and waiting for me to get out of my car. I walked over to his cruiser to thank him, and then he said to me —
“Be careful with all this driving while fucked-up stuff. It’s one thing if you want to wrap your car around a pole and kill yourself, but don’t go killing innocent people, especially on Christmas, you know? Be careful.”
“I will, Officer. Thanks for following me home and making sure I got here safely.”