I had already made myself a gin and tonic when Blanca called with a last minute idea to take Janet and Nia to a strip club for a bachelorette party in advance of their more formal wedding shower.
It was March sometime. 2002. I hadn't begun drinking in the morning yet. I could still hold out until four or five in the afternoon.
"It would be so good for you to come, " Blanca said slowly. She knew I rarely went out. Grief topped with booze was keeping me in. By that time, all pretensive attempt was gone. I was no longer socially polite.
"I'll think about it," my voice was flat, but Blanca's voice remained soft and caring.
"Oh do, Robin. You don't have to stay long, I'll pick you up. Call me back in a little...."
I got into a hot bath, and the G&T began to have the effect I so desperately wanted. To let go. To sob uncontrollably. I got out of the tub, made another drink, and got back in. I should go. They’ve been there for me. Make yourself go. Get out of the bath, dry yourself off, and get dressed.
I put on trousers, shirt and tie, and called Blanca.
"Don't drive all the way across town to get me, I'll take a cab." I sounded warmer, the gin softening the edges.
"Oh, I'm so glad you're coming! Get in a cab now, call now!" Blanca already knew better than to insist she come and get me. By the time she got there, I would likely be unwilling to leave.
Once in the cab, I couldn't wait to get to the strip place . I wanted a drink. Badly. I handed the driver twice the amount I owed. No change. I was in a hurry.
I didn't see anyone when I walked in. I slid into the first available chair at a small table. That's when I met Kendra. She was wearing a bikini and lucite platform heels. She was gorgeous and I didn't notice.
"Hi, my name is Kendra," she leaned against the table. "Can I bring you something?"
Rebecca. You can bring me Rebecca.
"Gin and tonic, please. Double. And...could you bring two? Save you some steps. "
"You're sweet," she looked over her shoulder as she walked away.
I saw Blanca walking toward me.
"Oh, it's so good to see you," she hugged me tight. "Come on, we're over there," she pointed to a table across the room.
"I'll be right over, I'm waiting for my drink...I don't want her to have to hunt me down."
And where is Kendra? What is taking so goddam long?
Blanca stood there as my drinks arrived.
"Oh, are you with the party? I'll take your drinks to the table." Kendra touched my arm. "What's your name?"
"Robin and I can take the drinks."
Kendra, I need those drinks to get across the room.
"Hey, you're smart, " Blanca said. "You won't have to try and track her down to get another drink."
I'm self destructive, Blanca. I’m not even here.
I made it to the table where my friends were laughing and talking. They all got quiet as I approached.
Hi Robin! Hello Robin! Hey, good to see you. Hi. Hello. Let's all hug you. You look good. Glad you decided to come tonight. We miss you...and...
You and Rebecca. You miss me and Rebecca. Say it.
I sat there silently. Kendra came and went. Brought drinks. Touched my arm. I handed her my credit card. Charge all of this to me.
To love. To the happy couple.
I drank and drank. Kendra was selling lap dances. How much? Thirty dollars. Here's thirty dollars. No dance. No, it's not that. You're beautiful. Tell me, tell me what your life is like. Tell me if you go to college. Tell me what you plan to do. Say anything.
I dropped out of college because I make so much money doing this. Pre-law. I'll go back. Some day. My girlfriend and I broke up awhile ago because she hates what I do for a living. I hate men. I didn't used to, but working here....I want to be a public defender. I feel sorry for people without money. They get in trouble. They can’t get a fair trial.
Pardon my presumption, Kendra, but I would have pegged you as one with an inclination for anthropology. You’re intelligent. I like you. Bring Rebecca back to me in every drink you bring. Yes, Kendra, I’m sad. It’s nothing. It’s everything. She’s gone. Forever gone. I don’t want to talk about that. I can’t talk about that. Please keep talking.
I needed a job. I look like this. I have a two year old boy. I like it when women come in. You’re always nice to me. I was really in love with my girlfriend. Thanks for giving me a break. Thirty bucks and I get to sit down.
I look at you. Kendra. I don’t know what to say. You are blonde and petite. Curvaceous. You have an ethereal quality. You’ve been so kind. I should go. I need a cab. Can I slip out of here without any farewells? I detest saying good bye. Help me, Kendra. Get me out of here without anyone knowing. The cab is here, just say you’re going to the restroom. I cry in the stall. I push through doors. I get outside.
“You’re so sweet," a hand touched my arm. Kendra hands me a piece of paper with her number written on it. "Call me. Come back and visit me."
I kiss her hand. Don’t give your number to strangers.
I call the next day. Careful girl, who you give your number to. I’m a pathetic drunk. I’m a grieving widower. I have seen you nearly naked, and I feel no desire. I am dead. Talk to me. Ariel. The Tempest. What I wouldn’t give for a cold sprite.
Hello…it’s Robin from last night. How are you? Have you eaten? We have, we had, I have a book by Jane Goodall you might like. I’ll bring it by work. Second thought. If you want, meet me at the LA County Museum. Lunch. Yes. Lunch. Bring your little boy. I’ll be there. With the book.
I wonder if I can get a drink at the LA County. If not, there’s a place nearby.