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Thirty-two

Things reached sheer desperation backstage during the final performance. Here were Althea and Jerry, tucked away in a dark corner, embracing each other like, like, like it was a final performance! A hubby going off to war! High school lovers parting for different colleges in different states! A play coming to an end!

Please…spare me the drama.

The strike party, which began in the wee hours and was destined to last until sunrise or beyond, was also dramatic. With plates full of food and glasses full of drink, Jerry Baker had a hundred silly cast awards to present. Each one brought the house to its feet.

I left, walked home in the early morning mist, heard a sad ballad playing in my head as I strolled the sleepy streets. I have often walked, down this street before. I hummed the words and they came true. I had often walked these streets before. I strolled by the theater, by Gracie’s restaurant, and would have walked by Althea’s house but it was too far away for this purpose: to affect the drama, to make the song ring true.

I was smitten, though. Absolutely star struck, like everyone else in town. Taken in by the theatrical powers of Althea. However, unlike everyone else, including Jerry Baker, I knew her first. Jerry was through with her anyway, now that the show was over. The problem here was how Althea would react to this development. Certainly, she knew it by now. That’s what all the backstage hugging was about. She was getting a bigger dose of it now, as I walked.

Lana’s car arrived, pulled up beside me. She had tracked me down – an easy thing to do on these empty streets. She got out of the car, reached for my hands.

“Listen,” I said. “I don’t feel so great. I’m going home.”

“I’ll take you,” she said.

“No.”

“Really, I’ve had enough of the party.”

“I can walk.”

“C’mon,” she said. “Let’s go. Let’s get out of here.”

“I’d like to be alone, walk around and sing a song or two on the empty streets of Templetown. You know, I have often walked, down this street before. But the Earth has never moved before my feet before. That shit.”

“You’re hurt,” she said. “But you don’t have to do that. You’re not a dreamer.”

“Yes I am.”

“But you don’t need to be. I can make it better.”

So we went back to my apartment, did our thing, stayed there the night, woke up at dawn when Althea came in, got right in my bed. She slipped in there between Lana and me, put her arms around me and rubbed against me, got me hot instantly.

“Eliza!” I said. “You’re back. Get me my slippers.”

She whispered in my ear, “Are you still my show fuck?”

“I will be,” I said.

Understandably, Lana gave Althea a real push, hard and sudden, and this resulted in me falling off the bed, my feet caught by covers, and landing hard, my shoulder and head striking the floor.

“There’s another option,” I said. “It could be kinky.”

Lana was out of the bed now, wearing absolutely nothing. She grabbed Althea’s feet and tried to pull her out. Had she succeeded, and not let go, Althea’s head would have hit the floor hard. But Althea freed a foot, and before Lana could jerk her off of there and complete the body slam, she kicked Lana in the face. Althea wore jeans and a pair of black hard shoes with a point. Her kick stopped Lana, cut her lip and her cheek, made them bleed. Now Lana, naked and bleeding from the face – all this after having a bit part in the play and being overweight – was humiliated. She began to cry.

“Let’s have some breakfast,” I said. “Let’s all go out.”

“Fuck breakfast, you asshole,” Althea said.

My best bet was to stay on the floor, wrap the cover around me, shut my eyes, and wait.

You know better than I do, I’m sure, how these things go. They both left. I called to Althea, “You’re coming back later, Althea, right?”

No answer. Door slams. Drops of blood on the floor.

So it’s funny what can trigger what, when you can’t figure out what’s going on. When life becomes a puzzle.

I took some pills – mild shit: Tylenol, Naprosyn, Tegretol, a heavy duty night time cold pill – just enough to interact, make me sick and knock my ass out for awhile. Washed it all down with a beer. I added a few more drops of blood to the same floor, cut the back of my hand with a razor. Made two big slices back there, wrapped it with a towel, got back on the bed and waited for Althea to see me this way.

Oops, you think, I ended up back on the fifth floor again – Psychiatric Inpatient. Nope.

When Althea found me there, knocked out, cut, sick, lying sideways on the bed, she didn’t do a damn thing. She had been up all night partying. Previous to this night, she had been hyped up over the play for two months. She was an exhausted zombie, just came in, flopped beside me on the bed, and crashed.

I woke up, saw her there, and let her sleep. I took my hand, which wasn’t still bleeding but looked awful, to a doctor for stitches. Told him I cut it while I was underneath the kitchen sink, doing a little do-it-yourself plumbing.

He gave me something for the pain. I took it, came back home and crashed again, beside my sleeping beauty.

Finally, we were together again.

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