What Are You Looking For, China White?
Kyle Bradley Cassidy
Sure, as a general rule it's good to get out of the house, leave behind the mundanity of those four walls you're so accustomed to. But sometimes, it just might be best to stay at home...
She looks like she's dead or maybe now she's singing for The Cure. Her hair is orange and knotted like she's been buffing it with a carpet remnant, or more likely using it to stick balloons to the ceiling. Her eyes are long and flat and black, curved downward at the ends, cloaking her beauty with an absurd mask of drunkenness.
"Oh... my... god," she says, lurching to her feet and careening towards us, falling into me, her arms wrapping around me awkwardly like parts of broken candles still held together by the wick. "I can't believe you came, oh my god. Let me look at you!" She reels back and starts plucking at my hair. "You're beautiful. You're fucking beautiful." She tries to kiss me on the lips, but I turn my head because I can see her boyfriend, Visconti, sitting despondently behind her, a worried look on his scruffy face. He's seen this before. He stands up, holding onto the back of the chair.
"You guys sure took your time," he slurs. "I called you at one. What time is it now? It's like nine or ten or something."
"It's five-thirty," I say. He turns his wrist to look at his watch and beer spills from the bottle out onto his feet. He doesn't notice.
"We're all fucked up," he says. Kristin is still holding onto me, or more precisely, I am holding her up.
"Where were you last night? For the party?" asks Visconti, his voice viscous. "We've been up for forty-eight hours, straight, and we're the only ones here. Everyone else left -- they couldn't take it, and they went home -- but there's still beer. There's still a party. There's us. Right?"
"Right," I say. Then, pointing: "Everybody, this is Alden. Alden, this is everybody. This is Kristin and her boyfriend Visconti. And that's the Lobster asleep on the floor over there." Kristin takes a step back from me and inspects my roommate drunkenly, with a squinting, uncertain, sneer on her face.
"They call me China White," she says.
"That's right," I assure him, "they do."
"Because I look like an oriental princess." She hiccoughs, snorts, and laughs.
"That's beautiful," Alden is assuring her. Kristin does look remotely Asian, although she's far too tall. She takes several stuttering half steps toward him, her eyes riveted on his left shoulder. He looks uncertain of what to do, as though he is being introduced to some slavering monster of a relative -- drooling, senile and a million years old, smelling of piss -- that he is expected to hug. She holds her arms raised limply in the air like a murderous puppeteer, and finally she embraces him indelicately, crashing around his neck like a tumbling house of Lincoln Logs.
"Oh, do I get a hug?" he asks.
I have always wanted to introduce Alden to Kristin. She is the girl of his dirty dreams; six foot one, smooth pale skin, blond (most of the time) hair, centerfold body, and most importantly, she is irresponsibly and irrepressibly insane.
But now that I look at his face peering over her shoulder, his hair plastered down by her grip and the evening humidity, his features reveal none of the enchantment and instant, staggering devotion which I had expected. Instead he looks befuddled and amused, some crazy simian grin on his face. She releases him and steps back, then paws at his hair.
"Oh god," she moans, "you're beautiful too. You're so fucking beautiful. You're so fucking beautiful and you don't even know it. You don't even know how beautiful you are."
She looks down at the floor now and I come to the realization that for perhaps the first time in my life I am completely sober in a room filled with people so drunk that they probably don't even know that I'm there.
I look at them and feel that I might now move about among them as a ghost, surrealistically, or ectoplasmically, and they would not see my actions. That I could pick their pockets and steal their secrets and that no one would be the wiser.
"Grab yourselves a beer," says Visconti, suspiciously eyeing Alden. "Help yourselves." I take a Miller ten-ounce from the open case on the table and set my coat down on a chair. Maybe two hundred empty bottles are growing like a forest over the table, leaving no space for anything else. A slice of pizza stands there, wedged between bottles. I pick up the slice and start to shove it into my mouth, making loud smacking noises -- trying urgently to appear as deranged and careless as the others.
"Who else is here?" I say, loudly again so that they can hear me. I imagine them deaf as well as blind. I walk into the living room where I see Nora Laura -- a beaming, flirtatious, and vexatiously annoying woman of 27 who, during one summer, Alden and I had both briefly dated. Neither one of us ever expected to see her again in our lives.
She was a petulant and disarming artist with a round face and almond eyes. Someone had once enigmatically described her to me as a "moist and anal person with a sort of long underwear quality about her humor." At one time she possessed in her shabby and dark apartment, draped in scarves and smelling of cabalistic Egyptian love oils, a cat named Calamity Bitch as well as a crucified mannequin nailed to her living room wall which she surreptitiously referred to only as "The Guy."
But I haven't been to her apartment lately. In my head I catalogue the list of words that come to me when I see her: charming, winsome, provocative, perilous, obnoxious, ostentatious and blaring. I also tick off her various crimes against culture, mostly fashion-related, though many of them have to do with singing. She is sitting on the sofa, naked from the waist up, watching an X-rated videotape on Visconti's huge color television.
"Hey," she says, looking up and pointing the remote control at me and pressing a button, as though to increase my volume or perhaps contrast. "What's up?"
I shrug. "We just got here. I came with Alden. You seem to be all set."
"I'm just trying to cool off," she says, briefly fanning herself. Then coquettishly lifting one of her large, round breasts in one hand she proceeds to lick it while looking salaciously at me out of the corner of her large, dark eyes.
"My nipples are hard," she points out needlessly.
"I can see," I reply. Then, turning into the kitchen, I say loudly: "Hey Alden, you'll never guess who's naked in the living room."
Alden extracts himself from the kitchen delicately, as though he is in a maze of razor blades constructed by the glances of Visconti and his obfuscated girlfriend.
"It's Nora Laura," I say, pointing as he steps carefully in his worn boat shoes down the two stairs into the darkened room. On the screen Samantha Strong is giving a decidedly uninspired blow job to some short hairy guy wearing only tall, white sweat socks. Alden's eyes flit first to the television and then down to Nora. He seems startled at first and I watch his eyes change size.
"Nora," he says in a deep voice, "hey, hey."
"Show him that trick you just showed me," I say.
"What? This?" She takes her breast into her hand again and sucks hungrily on the small, brown nipple.
"What does she need us for?" I say.
"I need a cock," she croaks, and her mouth gapes in a screaming laugh. Her huge white teeth are like prophetic tombstones. "I'm hungry for it."
She laughs again, opening her mouth wide enough for me to lob a grapefruit down, if I had one. I realize suddenly that everybody is speaking in boldface.
"Hey Kristin," shouts Nora without turning her head. "Hey Kristin, come in here darling, come in here."
Drunkenly Kristin responds from the kitchen like a herd of clumsy rhinos, leaving a piqued Visconti with his back up against the fridge, sipping from a beer and flapping a sandal against his otherwise bare heel. Kristin staggers down the steps and Nora says: "Isn't Kristin beautiful? Aren't you, Kristin?"
"Sure," says Kristin, and her eyes are like heavy slits. Her mascara is running as though she's either been crying or sweating.
"Show them your tits," commands Nora. She reaches out and puts her hand on Kristin's leg, "Kristin has beautiful tits." Kristin grins and her eyes disappear while she pulls at her top with both hands until her breasts fall out like fruit from a grocery bag. They bounce and come to a stop.
"Oh, Christ," says Alden, covering his eyes.
Kristin smashes her breasts together and rubs them.
"Kristin is so beautiful," says Nora.
"We're sisters," adds Kristin, pulling her top back down and smiling a perfect orange-wedge of a smile, "we're going to be sisters because we're the same."
"We have the same breasts," Nora points out, and it is true that their breasts are very similar.
"I'll lick you to make you mine," Laura goes on, projecting her face at Alden and me, "because love is like a squeegee and sweat will make you shine."
"What are you doing?" I shout quickly, directing my comment at Visconti, who looks forlorn and abandoned. "Is this a party? What the hell kind of party is this? I thought you said there was a party! Naked women and pornos?"
"You should have been here earlier," says Nora. "Kristin and I were dancing on the hood of the car and we were naked and all the little neighborhood boys were standing in the street watching us and we kept going like this."
Here she illustratively grabs her breasts and aims them at me like a pair of crazy bazookas.
"And their little peckers were getting hard and they were saying, 'Ooh, what's this in my pants?' And I said, 'Do you like it?' They won't be getting any sleep tonight!" She cackles again and shakes her head so that her long brown hair covers her nakedness entirely. Kristin is still grinning like an idiot and leaning up against the stereo now.
"Why don't you put some music on?" says Visconti from the kitchen and I push Kristin gently aside and kneel down in front of the CD player and shove something in. And when it starts Nora jumps up and starts thrashing her head around. I notice for the first time that she's wearing a pair of jean shorts and that her hair is so long that it hangs down below the ragged cut of the denim, swinging.
"What's this?" asks Kristin.
"It's Pearl Jam," I say. "Pearl Jam. Where do you live? Under a rock?"
"Huh?" she groans quizzically and I rap on her forehead with my knuckles a few times, like I want to get in and she laughs and goes to push me away but she's so drunk that when she pushes me, she loses her balance and falls down onto the sofa.
"I'm laying down now," she giggles.
I follow Nora out into the kitchen and the last thing I see in the living room is Alden and Kristin sitting down together on the sofa, watching the porno movie. Kristin is leaning across Alden's lap, touching his hair.
"We should wake this guy up," says Visconti, poking at the Lobster with the toe of his sandal. The Lobster, beet red and two hundred and twenty pounds, is laying in front of the speaker, arms folded across his chest and a smile on his face. "He's been asleep since noon," invokes Visconti disdainfully, poking him again. The Lobster, however, remains inert and oblivious.
I finish my beer and fish another one from the box on the table. For a moment, as I am opening the bottle I think that there is a Marine Corps emblem on it and I wonder if it is some Desert Storm commemorative beer or something, but then I read the label and it only says "America's Quality Beer," so I guess that it's only a coincidence.
"Doesn't that look like the Marine Corps logo?" I say, holding the bottle out to Nora, like she's really going to be able to tell. She takes the bottle from my hand, and instead of looking at it, she shoves it slowly into her mouth, bobbing her head up and down suggestively a few times, taking almost the entire length of the bottle down her neck before tilting her head back and drinking from it, maybe an inch of glass rising vertically out of her mouth. She hands the bottle back to me and squats over the Lobster, allowing beer to dribble from her lips onto his face. He grunts, rolls over, and looks up disgustedly.
"What the fuck are you doing?" he demands, wiping beer from his face.
"Waking you up," says Nora.
"When the hell did you get naked?" he remarks, observing her dangling breasts.
"When you fell asleep and I knew that I'd have to satisfy myself, sailor."
"I'm going outside," I say, setting the half-filled beer down on the window sill and getting a fresh one from the box. "Things are getting entirely too weird in here for me."
And somehow I'm sitting outside on a lawn chair and Visconti is sitting on the grass next to me, and there is a six-pack between us and I've a broken, unlit cigarette shoved between my teeth, drunk, and trying to look like Franklin Roosevelt.
Visconti is saying: "The only way I can deal with it is to pretend that it isn't happening. I mean, I know that she's beautiful and I know that guys look at her all the time."
"But she's drunk," I say, "she doesn't know what she's doing and she won't remember it in the morning."
"But tell me I'm not feeling it now," he says, "I know that she's in there, making out with your roommate -- I mean, it's hardly fair to say that since she's going to get drunk and fuck other guys I might as well get used to it. I mean, this sort of shit happens four or five times a week, every time she goes out, she gets fucked up and she gets fucked. You know? And the next morning she doesn't remember any of it, but it hurts me man, you know? It hurts me right here." He thumps his chest.
"But you know," he goes on, "the only thing that matters is this, is the air, is walking outside and being able to breathe the fucking air. I mean, some people just don't know what they've got. I travelled the world, I travelled this country. I used to be in the Navy. I travelled across this country from New York to California maybe five times and I always said: New Jersey sucks, I hate New Jersey. I don't want to live in New Jersey. And you know what? It's taken me a long time to realize this, but it's not New Jersey. I mean, look at this place. It's beautiful. That tree over there, just look at that fucking tree. People who say that they hate New Jersey just aren't paying any fucking attention to what's going on around them. You know? This place is beautiful, and the Pine Barrens, they're amazing, but you've just got to go outside and look at them, you've just got to see them for what they are. And that's the only thing that matters, fucking living. It's not about you, or me, or her, it's only about this. This fucking world that's out here, and if you can live at peace with this fucking world, then nothing else matters and it doesn't matter who the fuck Kristin is fucking. It's the grass between your toes. I used to be a glider pilot; for five years I was a glider pilot; and I'd sail around and the only sound you here is shhhhhh, like just the air and shit, and it's completely silent and all you can feel is the plane moving up and down in the air, like it's catching you like your mother and holding you like it loves you, and that's nothing:-- flying is nothing -- the real feeling is when you land on the ground and you step out and there's just grass under your feet and you're back on the planet and you know that it loves you and that you're part of it. You know?"
Then suddenly, with a crash, the door swings open, banging up against the side of the house, and Kristin pours out like a wave of determined uncertainty. She is crying and there are tears deluging down her face, making it shimmer wetly in the moonlight.
"There you fucking are," she says, looking violently down at Visconti. "Here's the fucking asshole." She turns her head and addresses these words loosely to Nora, who is standing behind her with her top still off and the swell of her breasts only hinted at in the dark air.
"What's up, hon?" he says.
"You know what's up, you fucking bastard," she slurs. She mumbles something and drops the beer that she is carrying. It crashes to the patio beside me and there is a white spider growing across the concrete, foam hissing.
"Careful of your feet! Stay right there!" Visconti warns, getting up and stepping over me. He puts his arms around her and goes to lift her up, to carry her back into the house.
"Get off me, you fucking bastard," she shrieks, swatting him on the shoulders. She wriggles from his grasp like a greased sausage and comes down hard on a shard of glass. Then she is screaming. Visconti picks her up and carries her to the car and sets her down on the front seat. With the door open I can see that there is blood on her foot, not much, but a thin red trickle slicing down from the ball toward the heel. Kristin is laying back on the front seat and crying as Visconti pulls the sliver out. He gets up and is headed to the house when Alden comes out.
"What's going on?" he asks.
"Kristin stepped on some glass," I say.
"I'm gonna get a towel and wash it off," says Visconti. "She's done this before."
"I have to go to work tomorrow," says Alden, and I nod. Visconti nods too.
"Thanks for coming over, guys," he says, and shakes hands with both of us. His hand is dry and cold. "Don't be strangers."
Alden and I walk over to the car, where Kristin's legs are dangling askew from the driver side door, looking white and false, like Marilyn's protruding from the vault. She is passed out and Nora is sitting in the passenger seat with Kristin's head cradled into her lap, slowly brushing her bare breast across Kristin's mouth and face.
"Good night," says Alden, leaning down and looking into the car, "It was nice meeting you, Kristin. Good to see you again, Nora."
Neither of them make a sound. As nothing more than a formality, I twist my hand in an insincere wave to these people who don't really care anyway.
"What do you want?" I say as we are walking down the driveway towards the car.
"Huh?" asks Alden.
But I am not talking to him.
Kyle Bradley Cassidy (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives in Philadelphia with his lovely wife Linda and her 28-pound cat Thunderbelly. He has been a frequent contributor to InterText. He also has a great collection of fountain pens. (Bio last updated in 1996.)
InterText stories written by Kyle Bradley Cassidy: "Circles: A Romance" (v2n6), "What Are You Looking For, China White?" (v3n2), "The Nihilist" (v3n3), "The True Story of the Gypsy's Wedding" (v3n5), "Bread Basket" (v3n5), "The Monkey Trap" (v4n5), "This is the Optative of Unfulfillable Wish" (v6n1).
InterText Copyright © 1991-1999 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 3, Number 2 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1993 Kyle Bradley Cassidy.