Dispatch 28 (Dec. 6, 1998 Part 1)
Am I completely wrong to think that sex has to be more
than a salve? Something more than lubricated skin against skin on a lonely night?
The popularity of strips clubs and adult video stores in
Austin, Cinemax and Showtimes after-8 p.m. programming, and the
variety of options at the condom rack in any drugstore make me believe Im in the
Ginas actions had thrown
me for a loop because I assumed that she had set up guidelines for herself that
when she couldnt be with Juan and loneliness consumed her, she might end up fooling
around with some guy. But that, at least, seemed to have boundaries like a virgin
making split-hair distinctions between this act and that. Sex, it seems, is a whole other
beast one that requires a whole other set of rules and commitments than a drunken
If she could so easily deceive the person she was supposed
to love, what chance did I, an outsider, have in breaking through her veneer and seeing
who she really was?
The day after I found her in bed, Gina called me twice --
she left short messages asking me to call. The next day, I didnt hear from her. I
kept myself busy cleaning my apartment -- I vacuumed, I bought groceries, I even organized
my CD collection alphabetically, an activity even I found excessively anal.
When I couldnt stand the homestead any longer, I
went to Book People next to the Whole Foods supermarket. Side note: some of the
people I see shopping at Whole Foods look like the most sickly, unattractive, gangly
people to walk the streets of Austin. You would think that with their diets of tofu,
sprouts and ginseng, theyd be golden-skinned Adonises and Madonnas. Instead, they
look like the grown-up versions of the kids in elementary school who couldnt eat
anything at the cafeteria and brought special nutritious home-packed lunches in plain
brown bags because they were allergic to nearly every substance not prepared in an
airlocked home kitchen.
At Book People I went to contemporary fiction Tom Wolfes novel is out and while I loved Bonfire
of the Vanities, I always get the feeling Mr. Wolfe is way too fucking full of
himself. (A Man in Full may be
a self-reference, if you ask me). He writes fully aware of his own cleverness, his own
charm. If he were hosting a dinner party, hed make sure to let you know where every
piece of exotic and expensive dishware you were eating or drinking from originated.
I bought an old Jean M. Auel paperback
Id never gotten around to reading in the Clan of the Cave Bear series and
some magazines a Writers Digest
and In Style. (Yes, In Style is
a fluffy piece of turgid, rancid heroin-chic bullshit, lower in nutritional value than
even Us magazine, but I like the pretty pictures of the pretty people. Sue me.)
I returned home with enough lazy Sunday reading material
to keep me entertained when I saw the double-light blinking of my answering machine. I
looked on the Caller ID and one number was Ginas co-op. The other I didnt
recognize and it was in the 956 area code south Texas, where Ginas
I checked the messages. The first was from Soo, and her
voice sounded worried, almost panicked.
"Hi. Ive been calling people to see if
theyve seen Gina." She pronounced the name, "She-nah" "She
didnt come home last night and her parents called looking for her. I thought she
might be with you. Tell her to call."
The sound of the receiver hanging up was followed with the
beep of the next message. I didnt recognize the familiar voice until she announced
herself by name.
"Heather, this is Angie, Ginas friend. Her
parents just called me and said she hasnt answered her pager and her roommate
doesnt know where she is. Theyre kinda worried and I thought you might know
whats going on. Call me," she said, giving me the number, "or call Soo or
Ginas parents. We thought she might be coming home again, but nobodys heard
from her. Anyway, thanks. Bye, Heather."
The double beep signaled the end of the message, and the
machine clicked, then whirred as the tape rewound and set itself for new incoming
I didnt know what to do I hadnt heard
from Gina since yesterday and if her roommate and best friend didnt know where she
was, why would I have any better idea?
I ignored the messages, feeling only a small bit of guilt.
I skimmed through my In Style and then set to reading the Jean Auel volume. I
opened up the blinds and used the late afternoon sunlight for my reading. I thought about
studying for finals, one on Tuesday, the other Thursday, but I can never get myself
motivated to study up until the night before. I wasnt worried they were both
classes I felt comfortable with, despite my preoccupation with Gina for the semester.
I was about to open up a bottle of red wine and enjoy a
solitary glass with my Cave Bear adventure when the phone rang. I debated letting the
machine pick up, but since I was on my way to the kitchen anyway, I picked up the
"Gina, everybodys looking for you," I
said. "Where are you?"
"Heather, I cant talk right now, but can you
pick me up? I need your help."
"I dont even know where you are. Nobody does.
Gina, you should call your parents."
"Are you coming or not?" she asked, angrily. I
could hear music in the background. I looked at my Caller ID unit Intech Inc., it
"Gina..." I began.
"Are you going to come pick me up or not? I need your
"Where are you?"
Gina gave me the address. It was an apartment building
near Riverside and Pleasant Valley, a side of town I wasnt too familiar with.
"Will you be there?"
"I cant leave," Gina said. "My car
"Ill be right over," I said. I put my book
away, closed my blinds and left the peace of my Sunday afternoon to see what Gina had
gotten herself into this time.