Dispatch 15 (The Trip, part II)
"No, Gina. Uh uh."
Shes smiling, but its
the serious smile, the firm one that doesnt invite dissention.
"Heather, come on! Whats the matter with you?"
"Theres nothing the matter
with me. But Im not going in." With that I sit, arms folded
over chest, determined.
"What are you afraid of? Are
you offended by it?"
She still doesnt get it. Why
would I want to go? "Gina, Im not offended, Im just
not interested. What am I going to do there? Buy stuff?"
Gina laughed. "Ill buy
you something if you want. Something flavored?"
I laughed too, in spite of myself.
"Youre really gonna go?"
"Why not? Its not like
anybodys gonna know us here," Gina said.
Her logic, however flaky and flawed
it has been in the past, was holding together pretty well considering
where we were parked. "Five minutes," I said, my tone all
"Itll be fun," Gina
said. She rushed out of the drivers seat, closing the door behind
her. I got out and caught up. We walked through a large set of heavy
double doors to enter Star Adult Video, a convenient haven for all
your pornography needs, located right off the highway in Dallas.
Damn you, Gina.
* * *
Just inside is a kind of alcove and
then an entrance to the left and right. I saw signs to the left as
Gina began drifting that way. "Gina!" I hissed, trying to
keep my voice low. "Those are dancers!"
"Oh," she said, smiling,
and came back. "I didnt know."
To the left, I assumed, were the live
strippers who I guess have fallen off the Gentlemans Club food
chain to end up here. To the right was the actual video store, instantly
bonded to my mind with the scent of lingering antiseptic.
Gina made off. (Insert kid in candy
store analogy here). She browsed videos, occasionally bringing one
to me to peruse. "Big Black Mommas!" she proclaimed, holding
a box up to my face.
There were three individual men wandering
around with intent looks on their faces as they browsed the way yuppies
might search for their favorite vintage of wine. Their brows were
furrowed and they would inspect a video by turning it over, examining
it just a few inches from their face and putting it back on the shelf,
apparently not satisfied that the selection had passed their in-store
You know, theyre not even clever.
I grew up hearing names of pornos and they always sounded, at least
to my virgin ears, like they were Naughty Hollywood. But nary did
I see at Stars a single clever title like I was expecting. No
"Shaving Ryans Privates," or "The Joy Suck Club,"
or even an X-rated version of "Good Will Humping."
Instead, there was "Oriental
Tails 7," and "L.A. Hookers Undercovers." All the pictures
of out-of-focus or glossed-over flesh started to make me feel nauseous,
like standing too long in the meat aisle at the supermarket.
I turned to look for Gina, to tell
her that the five minutes were up. She was already in another section
of the store, one that sold condoms, toys and leather-wear. Gina was
looking at a French maid corset.
She turned it over and looked to me.
"For a private party?" I
She turned it over again, looking
at the front. "The breasts are cut out," she said. "Id
have to wear something under it."
She wandered over to a counter full
of assorted colorful what-nots (my inventory listing duties wont
be needed here). Gina got a clerks attention and pointed to
something I couldnt make out from where I was standing. I came
closer and Gina turned, waving me away.
"Ill be done in a minute,"
she said. "Ill meet you outside."
More than happy to be out of there,
I headed for the door. One of the men in the video section, a tall
guy in a moustache wearing a John Deere cap, stared at me with glassy
eyes as I walked by. He was holding a tape box in his hands. "Shaved
Sluts," the box said. I walked a little faster.
I waited next to the car, afraid for
my safety even though it wasnt dark yet. The rain had stopped,
and the air seemed charged by static. Gina came out, smiling hugely
and carrying a tiny bag.
"For you," she said, handing
it to me.
She unlocked the doors and we got
in. I took out my treat.
A condom lollipop. Thank you, Gina.
* * *
We drove back
south toward the collection of skyscrapers, parking lots and restaurants
that make up downtown Dallas. Maybe it was the gloom of the day, but
things seemed less than lively. We drove through some of the main
avenues of buildings that looked like shiny tombstones for the abandoned
We arrived at West
End, parking for a few dollars. Inside Planet Hollywood, we had
drinks at the bar (recommended to get you drunk fast: The Terminator)
and entered the connecting mini-mall. Gina stopped at the magic shop
and toyed with buying a wand ("Could I turn men from toads to
princes without kissing them?" she asked the overweight clerk).
We had candy at The Fudgery and finally left near closing time.
In the same area is a building with
three floors of clubs. We paid the $8 cover and stepped inside The
bottom floor was 70s and 80s music without the charm of Polly Esthers.
The décor was Meat Market Circa Late 80s with lots of neon and mirrors.
Across the hall was a piano bar with somebody playing "Piano
Man," as customers swayed along.
Upstairs was a little more promising
some techno music and an R&B room. Gina pulled me onto
the dance floor in the techno area and soon I was sweating, closing
my eyes and forgetting myself in the music.
A guy in a frat shirt and baseball
cap got behind Gina and began doing the bump and grind. Gina, looking
disinterested, danced with him for a bit, then led me back to the
bar for tequila shots.
"I could never live in Dallas,"
Gina said, after the first shot. "No salsa music, no gente. I
would get so homesick."
We left a few minutes later, more
out of boredom than anything else. We ate at a Dennys off the
highway. Gina seemed happy. She kept pointing out people at other
booths, speculating on what their conversations might be. A young
couple to our right was having what looked like an argument. The woman
stared at her mate with eyes of fire as the man shifted uncomfortably
in his chair. On the other side of the room a couple in their seventies
ate eggs together. Every few minutes, the woman would help her husband
when the man had trouble, placing food in his half-open mouth. Two
teenaged girls smoked and talked and smoked and talked, giggling every
"Theres so much energy
in a room full of people eating," Gina said. "Have you ever
"Its food," I said.
"Food is energy."
"The act of eating together is
pretty primal," she said. "Hunting together in packs, providing
food for the collective. Its really powerful."
"It would be more powerful without
the grease," I said, pointing to a slimy puddle that had collected
beneath my sausage links.
"You dont see that?"
Gina asked. "You think Im just being stupid?"
I chose my words carefully. "No,"
I said slowly. "You just might be reading too much into it."
"Maybe youre not reading
enough into it," she answered. "Youre supposed to
be the writer. Arent you supposed to be observing?"
"Fuck you, Gina," I said.
The anger had flashed momentarily, but strongly, and I didnt
Gina didnt respond. She just
"Im sorry," I said.
"I didnt mean it."
"Yes you did," Gina said.
"Of course you meant it. Dont apologize."
I couldnt say anything. I poked
at the last of my food, and washed it down with my small cup of orange
juice. My head was starting to pound.
"Lets go," I said
when we were both finished. "Im getting tired."
We hunted for a hotel room along I-35
and found a Motel 6 for under $40. I took the bathroom first, undressing
and showering in silence. When I came out, I could hear the TV in
the room as Gina channel surfed, settling finally on a rap video.
I got into one of the two beds, slipping
under the tightly tucked covers. When Gina came out and slipped into
hers, Id already turned out the lights. The hum of the rooms
air conditioner droned on, blowing lukewarm air. I breathed deeply,
trying to lull myself into sleep.
"Did you have fun at least?"
Gina asked from her bed.
"Yes," I said after a moment.
"I had a good time."
Sleep came soon.