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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thomas Wolfe never dies, he just slowly fades from memory part 8

#24 Wal-Mart part 4

Here's how I ended up at Wal-Mart even tho I long ago made a pact with myself (which is why I have bad eyesight and hairy palms) not to ever go to a Wal-Mart again: I needed a reliable location to pick up some Murphy's Oil and Armor-All, I needed to be quick about it, and I didn't want to go to more than one place to do it.

So. Wal-Mart.

I wasn't sure where to find Murphy's Oil. Would it be in the paint and wood-treatment section near the back of the place, or would it be nearer the front, close to the household cleaner section? I attempted a systematic approach and stormed through the household cleaner aisles, but half the aisles were blocked off by large men and women, ill-parked buggies, and round children screaming about how they wanted the latest Twilight DVD (seriously). Confronted with this, I decided instead to track down the Armor-All.

Unforgiving florescent light. My god. So much antiseptic, bleached whiteness--the customers and the light.

I found a main aisle artery which allowed me to shoot past the bed linens, the electronics and the womens' clothing sections. When I saw Truck Nutz on a high shelf beside light bulbs, I knew I'd made it to the automotive section. Once there, it only took 20 minutes to figure out where the Armor-All was.

Searching for the Murphy's Oil proved a bit more problematic. I mean, near the automotive section was the household care section--the place with wood stains and furniture paint and floor tiles--to me the logical place for a product oft advertised as a way to preserve, to care for, your household items. Weirdly, these household care aisles were mostly deserted--the highest concentration of Wal-Mart shoppers seemed to be near the food and cleaner aisles.

Meanwhile, I kept thinking about Greg's previous phone call of rage ("Come get me. Now. I'm never coming back here again.") and the fact that he was in full control of his mom's pain meds (not that he would, you know... But I assumed the quicker I got to Greg's mom's house, the less likely he'd be to, you know...). With some urgency, I asked a Wal-Mart employee where I might find Murphy's Oil.

The employee, an elderly man in overalls, with a nametag on his bib (seriously), scratched his head. "Well, let's see...." He pointed in few directions. Each point was less sure. "Now, I mostly work over here, and I know it's not over here."

"Yeah. I thought it'd be over here with the wood stuff."

"Well, you'd think so. In fact, I been telling them this would be the logical place for it. I get 100 people a day asking me if it's over here. 'No,' I have to tell them. And they always look so disappointed! Just the other day, this little old lady--I mean old, you know--" he mimed a stooped-over crone, complete with arthritic claws for hands and apparently fangy teeth "--came up to me and said, 'I've been looking for the Murphy's Oil for an hour now and I can't seem to find it.' And she told me she had this lovely, I mean lovely, old table gave to her from her own mom, you know how old people like to pass things down," (and I thought Yeah, they love to pass down psychosis and genetic disorders--get to the goddamn point) "and she just needed some good old Murphy's Oil to give the wood some life."

We stared at one another for a moment. He was grinning.

"So the Oil is....?" I prompted.

"Cleaning aisle. Don't know the number. Head that way and you'll come to it."

So. Back to the cleaning aisle.

#25 Amanda Hugandkiss part Whatever

While I hated to, I had to say goodbye to Amanda, which we did on street corner next to a Walk/Don't Walk sign. Because, you know, 'Annie Hall.' I even broke out my Woody Allen impression and told the joke about eggs, except it turned out that I didn't actually remember the joke. I just remembered the punch line, which seemed fitting since everything in life is a punch line.

[The punch line is: I need the eggs.]

I was sad to say goodbye. Even tho I try to pretend, when meeting up with old friends for the first time after years of not meeting up at all, that I'd seen them only a few days ago, it doesn't mean I'm not aware of how much time has passed and how much time might likely pass again before seeing them. Know what I mean? Ten years since I'd seen Amanda, and a lot had changed in our lives, and still we tried to make it seem like we were still in high school, that we both were and were not different people from way back when. I'd gone gay. She'd gotten married. She'd battled a life-threatening illness. I'd moved to New York. She'd gotten divorced. I'd gotten a civil union. She'd survived. I'd survived as well. She'd survived more gracefully. She was still surviving. I'd gotten a call from Greg apologizing for not meeting Amanda.

We hugged once while standing on the street corner, the Walk/Don't Walk sign cycling thru mundane suggestions ("Walk..... Maybe don't walk just yet.... DON'T WALK FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.... Eh, go ahead, Walk"). I accidentally grabbed her right breast. "Oh shit, I'm sorry," I said. "That reminds me of the time we were making out on your mom's living room floor, and you shouted at me, 'For the love of god, you can put your hands under my shirt!' I felt so awful--it hadn't even occurred to me."

"Jesus," Amanda said. "I was so subtle back then."

"I didn't need subtlety, obviously."

"You didn't need breasts either. Obviously."

We hugged again. Then I walked east and she walked west.

#26 Prologue

The weekend before Greg and I left for Alabama, we had a friend over for the final episode of 'Lost,' a show I'd been watching from the beginning and that Greg had just caught up with.

The afternoon before the airing, we'd bought coconuts (seemed appropriate), and I spent the hours leading up to the finale trying to work out how to do something--anything--with coconuts. Turns out simply drilling a hole in the husks and draining the liquid does not, in fact, produce coconut milk.

As I worked on the coconuts, Greg tested the blueberry-infused vodka we'd been, ah, infusing for a week or so. Farm-fresh blueberries dropped into a bottle of Absolut vodka, because why not.

"Why blueberry?" I asked Greg. "Who the hell wants to drink vodka flavored by blueberries?"

"What the hell would you suggest? We could've done bacon instead."


Greg, who was standing by the kitchen window, grimaced. "That's so common," he said.

Our dog was sniffing around our feet, completely unaware how disappointed he'd be if I accidentally dropped some hoary, hirsute coconut husk on the floor, or how quickly confused he'd become should Greg accidentally spill some blueberry-infused vodka. Outside, an ice cream truck was moving down the street, its terrible interpretation of a Scott Joplin classic clanging over and over again like a Mobius Strip of Hell.

"Oh. Hey, have you gotten the laundry yet?" I asked Greg.

"No. Not yet."

"Pick it up tomorrow, for the love of christ. Otherwise we'll be in Alabama naked, and that might make everyone uncomfortable."

"Or more at ease," Greg said, and sampled a shot of blueberry-infused vodka. "Mmmmm, by the way."

Then we welcomed our friend into the home, and sat around the living room, watching 'Lost.' And the dog slept in my lap, then moved to Greg's lap, then moved to our friend's lap.

Then the next day we began packing for the trip back to Alabama.

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