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By Reid Wright

God damn it’s hot here. The heat waves penetrate my skull and broil the tender meat within.

Almost a week I’ve been here — sweating hope and bleeding money — trying to corner a managing editor that doesn’t seem to exist. I’m used to sources blowing me off, but it’s different coming from one of my own people.

Meanwhile, I’ve had my feet in the dirt, trying to get a feel for local cultural vibrations. The locals are friendly, but a bit more complicated than Idaho folk. They’ve had an equally hard time wrapping their heads around me.

In one night, one bar and one hour — I was accused of being gay, Mormon, a heroine dealer, and a perfect husband for someone’s daughter.

I was hunched over the bar, sipping Red Stripe and wondering where the post office was, when a thirty-something couple plopped down next to me. The woman was clearly plowed. She introduced herself as Jill and her “man” as Glenn.

Jill staggered to the bathroom. Glenn apologized for her.

“She has a big heart,” he said. I realized later it wasn’t so much an apology, as it was a warning.

I wandered off to ask some older ladies where the post office is.

“You don’t need a post office,” one woman slurred after much muddled deliberation. “You can get stamps at the super market … I’ve got one right here.”

She reached for her purse and it flopped uselessly to the floor.

“That’s alright,” I said. “I’ll get my own.”

I returned to my seat and talked to Glenn about the mechanical problems with my van and how much precious money it was going to cost. I asked him where the post office was, but he was from Fruita and didn’t know.

After what seemed like a half-hour, Jill stumbled back from the bathroom. She sat down and looked at me for a moment.

“Are you gay?” she asked.

All I could do was laugh.

Glenn apologized, explaining that this used to be the gay bar. I said it was fine and explained to Jill that God had cursed me with heterosexuality and an insatiable lust for women that caused me to behave irrationally — often resulting in awkward situations that I’d rather not talk about.

She stared at me.

“Are you sure you’re not gay?”

I sighed and looked down. It must be the shirt. My fashion consultant (sister) had talked me into buying a pink shirt. It had a rather masculine design and the front and she assured me girls liked that kind of thing.

“Actually,” I said. “I reproduce asexually, like a flatworm. Every time I chop off a limb, it grows another person.”

She shook her head and looked a little hurt.

“I guess I deserved that,” she said, then lit up again.

“Are you Mormon?”

My head dropped to my hands. Maybe it’s the haircut, I thought. Please God, tell me it’s just the haircut.

“We’re Mormon,” she said.

I looked doubtfully at the nearly empty pitcher of beer in front of them.

“Well,” Glenn said. “We’re not practicing.”

Clearly. They whispered something between them and giggled as I pretended to be interested in the faux Eskimos bouncing around on the TV screen.

“Are you looking for a mate?” Jill asked with a sly smile.

It was an interesting question. After a long winter hiatus, the sunshine and exercise had stirred up long-forgotten hormones in me. I was still grappling with how to cope with it.

“My daughter is really cute.”

“I believe you,” I said. Oh God, here it comes.

“You should marry the girl,” she slurred, slamming her hand on the bar for emphasis.

“Excuse me,” I said, standing up and taking off for the bathroom.

On my way back, I approached two attractive girls. One of them bore a remarkable resemblance to Drew Barrymore.

“Hi. Do you ladies know where the post office is?”

“Hey I remember you,” said the blond. “You’re that guy who ran from the cops the other night.”

That’s why they looked familiar. It was Saturday night and I was standing behind them in line to get into a crowded bar. They were trying to make conversation, but I was preoccupied with the hostile exchange going on between a drunken girl and the bouncer.

Suddenly, she reached out and slapped the bouncer across the face.

“Oh that’s it,” he said menacingly. He grabbed her by the wrist and had someone call the cops.

The vibes were getting scary and my inner Ritalin kid was getting impatient with waiting in line.

“I’m sorry,” I said, prying myself away from the girls. “I can’t be seen by the cops.”

I walked off into the warm summer night and ducked into a sketchy looking club. It turned out to be one of the biggest skullfucks of the year.

Inside, techno music throbbed and neon lights flashed. On stage, a girl wearing neon green gators and what looked like matching underwear jerked mechanically to the music next to a guy in rock-star makeup, silver pants, a fishnet shirt and nine-inch platform shoes.

The DJ bobbed behind dark glasses and young people in assorted anime-like costumes bopped to the beat. I stood awkwardly in the corner — wanting to leave, but too fascinated with the phantasmagorical spectacle to pull myself away. It was like one of those Japanese cartoons that you can’t pull away from until you have a seizure and drown in your own saliva.

Girls in skimpy tops, micro skirts and furry leggings took turns skillfully dancing on stage — gyrating to showcase their mesmerizing ass motions.

The whole thing reeked of sexual sleaze, but there was fearlessness in the dancers I admired. Besides, it looked like they were having a genuine good time.

“No body runs from the cops unless they have a really good reason,” Drew Barrymore said eyeing me suspiciously.

I explained to her my overly-paranoid tendencies and the fact that I was homeless and living in a van — therefore prone to police harassment.

“No body runs unless they have a REALLY good reason,” she repeated. “You probably deal heroine.”

These days, the truth is the only thing people won’t believe.

I tried to re-assure her that I wasn’t a heroine dealer, but she wouldn’t buy it. I never got a straight answer as to where the post office was. They were probably afraid I’d blow it up. Finally, the blond snubbed me and dragged her friend to another part of the bar.

I sat back down by Jill and ordered another Red Stripe. Glenn had wandered off.

“You think I’m stupid,” she said. “I’m actually more complicated than you think.”

“I believe you,” I said.

“No you don’t.”

“I don’t tell many people this,” I said. “But my underlying is that all people are essentially intelligent and essentially decent inside. That’s my hope that I stubbornly cling to.”

“Then look me in the eye and tell me you believe me,” she said.

I sighed, looked up, and reading the lines on her face — proceeded to tell Jill her life story, starting with a complicated childhood, rocky adulthood and uncertainty with her job and course in life.

“I guess that’s everyone these days,” she said after a long pause. “This might sound strange … but I love you. Is that strange?”

“Yeah, a little,” I said. She reached out and started to stroke my back.

“I have a big heart,” she said. “I love my man … but I have a big heart.”

I sat there anxiously waiting for Glenn to come up and smash my head into the bar. But he walked up smiling and seemed unaffected. They eventually left. On the way out, Jill gave me a lingering hug and kiss on the cheek.

I ordered one last beer and pounded it down. I was just about to leave when a girl walked up and handed me a drink. She said her friend had bought it for me and she wondered if I would care to join them.

Finally, I thought, some normal female interaction.

Her friend turned out to be a guy named Mark. He probably liked my shirt.

While Mark was a perfectly polite and decent guy, I had had my fill of awkwardness for the night. I thanked him for the drink and left after a brief chat, explaining I needed my rest for the job hunt.

Never did find out where the post office was. I think next time, I’ll just Google it.

(The names in this post have been changed out of respect for my fellow drunks.)

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