Sunday, July 25, 2004

PART 20 - Is It Love?

This is right for so many reasons. I can't hear this song without remembering cool sea breezes and tasting the salt on the rim of Tiffany's margarita glasses.

Mr Mister
Is It Love

I say I love you
And hold you near me
You say I scare you
Well that's your fear
I know the message
My heart is sending
But you don't read it
You keep me guessing

Is it love is it love you're after?
Is it love?
Is it, is it love?

The broken record
Goes round and round
Within a circle
Without a sound
I'm under water
In overdrive
You hide in laughter
What's on your mind

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

When I was a kid, my favorite movie was Wizard of Oz. Hands down. No matter how many times I saw the movie, I would wait with breathless anticipation for Dorothy to open the front door of her crashed house and step into the vibrant colors of Munchkinland. It was hard not to make the comparison when I stepped out of the car and into Daytona Beach Spring Break 1986. I was wide-eyed, and completely out of my element, and excited for the adventure. Tiffany cooly surveyed the surroundings and proceeded to carefully unload her oversized suitcase from the back of her Camaro, cigarette held precariously between her lips, eyes squinted against the sun and the swirling smoke.

We had followed the directions the guys had given us and ended up at a delapidated, sunbleached 2 story walkup seaside motel. The glass-walled office downstairs was full of tropical plants and had its somewhat faulty neon sign working overtime alerting all who passed that it had "No Vac c es". We walked past the office terrarium and up the cement stairs, passing happy partiers leaning on the bannister with toxic colored drinks in plastic cups, and finally arrived at Room 214. One timid knock on the door later, and the door was jerked open from the inside to reveal a shabby excuse for a motel suite and 4 shirtless, drunk, gleeful guys hooting and catcalling our arrival. Tiffany looked over at me and with a smile drawled, "Aww, aren't they cute at this age?" We entered, dragging our suitcases behind us. As I shut the door, Charles announced with great fanfare "Let the debauchery begin!" "Too late, asshole . . ." somebody bellowed from the back room.

The guys had been busy. Beer was icing in the kitchen sink, the kitchen table was transformed into a poker tournament, an impressive boom box was broadcasting the local radio station, and the living room was stockpiled with grocery bags of junk food. One of the guys was helping Tiffany with her rather large suitcase. "Goddamn, Tif, what in the hell did you pack in here?" he complained as he dragged the suitcase into the bedroom. "Oh, just some essentials, " she said with a coy smile, unzipping the suitcase and producing a blender, bottle after bottle of Bacardi rum, margarita mix, and lastly, a salt well. "I might be slumming it, but I'm not drinking that horse piss beer those guys always buy," she advised me confidentially. Wasting no time, she blended a tropical perfection for she and I and told the guys to deal her in.

"We thought you two wouldn't be here until tonight . . ." Charles said, between bids. Tiffany piped up, "Yeah, well, we had to get Rita out of town a little quicker than we had planned. She finally dumped that shitkicker, so it seemed like a good time to ride." Everyone laughed and drank to my newly minted freedom . . . and to pretty much everything else for the rest of the evening.

Within the first 48 hours of the trip, I had ingested more alcohol than I had ever drank collectively in my lifetime. I had played my first game of quarters, ever, to the delight of my friends. I had won a few games of poker, met a few cute guys on the beach, weaved my way in and out of countless motel room parties, and had had more fun than I could remember having, ever.

On the third morning of the trip, the phone rang, jangling the nerves and the sleep of all 6 of us. We had all given our parents the number to the hotel for emergencies, and we had passed the number to a couple of new friends after we arrived, so either way, it was probably an important call. I was the closest, and I answered it. It was my dad. "Rita, I just wanted to tell you that your boyfriend has called here several times, looking for you. He's pretty upset, and I told him I would ask you to give him a call, it's the only thing I could do to get him to hang up." Unfazed, I told him that I had no intention of calling and that I would be home the following week. Problem solved. I hung the phone up and went back to sleep.

We all went to a concert on the beach that afternoon. MTV had been down all week, peppering the beach with their vans, stage setups, and giving out tshirts and visors to every man, woman, and child within shouting distance. Mr Mister was on the main stage, and we were part of a fairly small crowd that seemed to have ever heard of them. They were on rotation in the Atlanta market pretty heavily, but it was early days, and they hadn't really hit, so they weren't pulling in a big crowd. They gave an excellent show, and afterward, we all went back to the room to shower and go out for some seafood. We had been living on chips and alcohol since we got to the beach, and we were all ready for something decent to eat.

When we got back to the room, we found Brian laying on the sofa, still trying to recover from the binge the night before. "Man, Rita, your dad has called here 2 or 3 times, saying that dude keeps on calling him. What the hell?" Pissed off, I jerked up the phone receiver and called to leave him a message to stop calling my folks. My anger turned to surprise when I heard him answer the phone. What was he doing home in the middle of a workday? I wondered momentarily, just before I launched into a full scale attack. "STOP calling my house! LEAVE my parents alone! Leave ME alone! Got it?!" I could hear him talking as I hung up the phone. Mission accomplished.

We all decided to go to a seafood restaurant that looked like a shipwreck, I can't for the life of me remember what it was called. It was PACKED and we were all starving, and waiting for a table, when we saw a group coming in the door. It was Mr Mister and crew. No one seemed to recognize them but me. "Hey, look who it is . . ." I said to my friends. No one really reacted, so when they approached us, I stood and spoke to the lead singer "We saw your show earlier today, it was great! Are you going to perform again while you are down here?" He smiled and thanked me and said that they had only been scheduled for one day show on the MTV stage. Funny enough, they had to sit and wait on a table just like us, so we continued to chit chat while we waited to be called. I told them that I heard them alot in Atlanta, and they asked us which stations they were being played on, and what college did we go to. When I heard the hostess tell her manager that she had two parties of 6 waiting, and only one table for 12 available, I suggested that they share our table. Much to my surprise, they took me up on it, and we dined with Mr Mister that evening. I couldn't help but think of LP and GB (my brothers) who had studied so hard for so many years, while I heard them talk about their new release and their tour schedule. All in all, it was pretty cool.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel to rest and gear up for the late night festivities. Gear up of course meant drinking. We were all 3 sheets to the wind when the phone rang. Brian, who had taken my dad's calls earlier that afternoon, insisted on answering it. "Hello?" he giggled into the receiver, and tried to put a mock serious look on his face as he listed to the caller on the other end. "Rita? Yeah, I think she's here . . . can I tell her who's calling?" He got an excited look on his face as he covered the receiver and stage whispered, "It's HIM, man!" Clearing his throat, he uncovered the receiver and said with no hint of humor, "Hang on man . . . Hey Charles, are you and Rita through fucking yet? This guy's on the phone for her." We all screamed with laughter, and Brian, who was enduring a violent verbal assault via long distance, began to yell, "Fuck YOU, asshole! Fucking pussy! Leave her alone man, damn!" and hung up the phone to gales of laughter across the room. This began a series of ever-escalating phone tag, and each time he called back, another one of my friends had their turn telling him how they were currently violating me. One told him in great detail how I had, in the throes of passion while riding atop him cowgirl-style, announced that I had NEVER had anything close to that pleasurable in my many years with him. It got way out of hand, and even drunk, I knew that this was a terrible turn of events. I finally stepped in and took the phone, ready to end the little game and get some sleep.

His voice was strangely calm. He asked me if I was alright, and I assured him that I was, that my friends had been nothing but gentlemanly and had just gotten a little out of hand with him on the phone. I asked him how he had gotten my number, and he said that my father had relented and given him the number upon finding out that I was sharing a motel room with 5 college guys. It took my pickled brain a moment or two to make the connection, but when the realization hit, I was immediately sober: if he had the number, he knew where I was. The switchboard. He could be here. As if he read my mind, he said, "You tell your little friends that I will be there in 8 hours. Let's see how fucking funny it is when I get there." I was terrified. What had I done? What harm had I brought upon my friends with this bullshit? I came up with the only thing I could think of.

"You can drive down if you want, but I won't be here. I'll take a flight out of here tonight, and I will tell my friends to have the cops here waiting for you . . . You are not going to get anywhere with this temper tantrum," I warned him, praying that he would bow to the bluff. My friends were quiet, taking this all in, and realizing the enormity of what I was facing.

He was sobbing by this point, "Please . . . I can't sleep, I can't eat . . . I can't work . . . you are my whole world, and I am so scared that I have lost you. Please, tell me that you still love me. I want to come get you, please let me." I began to feel waves of sadness wash over the anger. Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it was the previous 2 weeks of putting on a strong face, but I began to crack. I was worried about him, I was convinced that it was my parent's will that he come get me, I was worried that my father had the wrong idea about this trip, I was scared for my friends, and I was becoming more and more convinced that I had thrown away 4 years for a one week beach fling. Disarming this situation was my first priority; I figured that I would think about the ramifications later. This was my fault, and I was going to do what it took to fix it. Alone. It was a split second decision that would change the course of my life. "When you get to town, call the room. I will meet you outside. DO NOT come to the door of this hotel room. If you do, I will call the police. You WILL NOT speak to my friends, or do anything to hurt them," I lectured.

I packed my things while my friends gathered around me, begging me not to go. The guys repeatedly said, "Let him come! We'll kick his ass!" I was touched that they wanted to help me, but I knew full well that it would be a bloodbath.

One by one, my tipsy friends dropped off into a sound sleep. I sat quietly in the dark, calculating how long before he arrived, contemplating what the next few hours would hold for me, and wondering if there was any way that this could end peacefully.

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