Monday, March 21, 2005

Many, many years ago, I'm sitting at the corner table of Ol' Zan's Place, a bar in Colorado City (which consists of said bar, a convenience store, a doctor's office, and nothing else), about an hour southwest of Pueblo City, Colorado. Why? Because it's only 40 minutes' drive from the Scout Camp where I'm working this summer. And it's my night off.

On this particular night out, it's a small crowd. It's just Matt, who runs the mountain man outpost program, John, the program director (i.e. my boss), and a handful of cowboys. John's haranguing me about the weekend before, when damn near everybody from camp went to a party over in Gunnison, while I drove down south into New Mexico.

"To what? Go to a play? Dude! This party was. Insane. Free beer. Great weed. Hot chicks. What were you thinking?"

John had been on this track for 20 minutes, and I was getting sick of it. I tried deflection. "Why are you hassling me? What about Matt? He didn't go, either. What did you do this weekend, Matt? Work on the cabin?"

Matt grinned at me through his Sam Elliot mustache, now flecked with beer foam, and shrugged. John's focus flickered over to him, and finding no purchase, locked back on me.

"Seriously, man, what were you thinking? A six hour drive? For what?"

What could I say? That it was True West, the best play written in English? That a decent dinner was well worth a six-hour drive after a summer of camp food and stoner cuisine? That a six hour drive was itself a worthwhile opportunity to roll down the windows and let the wind and mountains and silence blow the chaff out from between me ears? And what about the girl? We'd had an on and off thing last year, when I was busy scraping my heart off some girl's shoe, and I'd been so out of my head that I treated her like...well, like I don't treat women. That she'd helped me find my feet, and I showed her the door? That she used me right back, and I was still trying to figure out how I felt about that? That this weekend was a chance to see if we were missing out on something, and we both decided we weren't?

How could I capture that bittersweet clarity, the scent and flavor of a last weekend between two people changing from lover to friend? Specifically, how could I communicate it to a guy who had a half-dozen "scrog tapes" on his shelf, labelled "hippie chicks", "sorority girls", "business major", etc., each designed to increase his chances with a particular female stereotype? I flipped through the cards in my mental deck, looking for one that would get John off my back and let me get back to enjoying my beer. Nothing.

Except. In the corner, behind the sofa, dust-covered and smelling of stale beer, there was The Guy Card, never before played (and rarely since).

The waitress brought another pitcher, and John started in, again, as he filled his glass. "I mean, what is there in New Mexico that we don't have here? It's a fucking desert! What can you even do down there?"

I poured myself a glass, then let slip two words before taking a drink: "Got laid."

"Ah! Enough said. So, Matt, how's the cabin coming?"

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