I walk up and open the passenger door of the car—it’s like a flashback to the ‘50’s when fistfights and Mustangs were cool and I should put my life on the line to win ‘the girl’. But who wants Carol, she’ll kiss anyone when she’s drunk.
I expect silence and then Rick climbing out of the car like a demon to kill me. . .but Donnie and Rick are talking and fucking around; they don’t stop when I swing open the door. I sit down and try to ignore Carol behind me. My adrenaline is fading. I glance over to Rick and Donnie but they don’t seem to notice me. I look between my feet and there’s that half-drunk bottle of beer; it looks so foreign I can’t remember it at all.
"Where the hell were you," Donnie shouts over the radio. The Mustang doesn’t run, but we use it for the radio and heater. It’s the only place to get drunk in the winter.
"I was taking a piss," I say.
"With your head in the snow bank?" Donnie says, trapping me in my excuse. They were watching me, probably laughing about it the whole time, but they don’t know what happened. In a stupor, I realize Carol hasn’t said a thing about our kiss.
"I got thirsty," I say, sipping from my warm beer.
"Well you can always drink in here!" Donnie laughs, taking a chug from his bottle. He rests his beer somehow on the rim of the steering wheel then shifts his large ass in the seat. He’s only 26, but he’s going on 60; he’s crazy, like someone coming off a mid-life crisis but still hanging around teenagers.
I look over my shoulder to Rick; he has his arm around Carol’s neck. He has the body of a stalk-thin rock ‘n’ roll star, you can even see it through his trench coat. The first time I met him he pulled up his shirt—"Here," he said, "punch my stomach." I tapped him: yup, it’s hard. "No, really hit me!" After a second, I pulled back and gave his stomach a decent punch. Rick sucked in his breath a little then said, "See, I told you. Pain don’t hurt."
The seats of the Mustang are made of some blue vinyl shit that you can tell would stick to your thighs in the summer—if the car was working and if you were driving around under the sun. But in the winter, at night, the seats don’t make a difference, especially when everyone’s wearing three layers of clothes. I want to put my feet on the dashboard but I can’t get my legs to bend in the right way, so I give it up. There’s really nothing for us to do in the car. I turn around to Rick and Carol; I look at Carol and she looks at me. She cut her hair a week ago and now she looks like a dog, like a cocker spaniel. I remember the kiss and how her upper lip was rough like my dad’s unshaven face when I was young. Rick is whispering something in her ear; she wears a blank smile and stares at me. I want to hit her through those eyes.
"Donnie, gimmie a beer," I say.
"None left," he says.
The radio hammers out Guns ‘n’ Roses for a while. "Hold on a sec," Donnie says, rolling out of his car seat into the snow, then slamming the door. I’m alone with Carol and Rick. I get afraid again. What if she did tell Rick? What if she tells him right now? Rick is looking at me and so is Carol.
"Yo, Ben," Rick says, planning his words, "you got a girlfriend, right?"
"So why didn’t she come along?"
"She doesn’t drink," I say.
"Oh, that’s funny."
I turn to look at Rick. He looks back: "Carol just told me you had a girl. I never knew."
The radio blares and fizzes. I turn it down and look for a better channel.
"So dude, is she hot or what?"
"What?" I say, adjusting the knob.
"Is she hot?"
"Yeah," I say, "she’s hot."
Donnie comes back to the car with a half-full bottle of whiskey. Some import or economy brand that I never heard of—I can’t tell the difference. We pass it around counterclockwise: starts at Donnie, back to Rick, over to Carol, up to me. Carol tries to touch my hand when she gives me the bottle and I try to avoid it. Rick watches us.
What am I doing? I chug the whiskey every chance I get; I’m beyond numb. I look down at the vinyl seat: it looks like a dirty mirror that shows you shapes but no clear picture. I can almost see myself in the reflection, but the light in the car is too dim. Our only source is Donnie’s porch light, which isn’t very far away but has a weak bulb.
Carol taps my shoulder. The bottle again. I suck on it, like sucking a lemon. My stomach tightens, driving me to action. "Let’s go to McDonald’s," I blurt out, "My treat."
McDonald’s! We tumble out of the car and realize how drunk we all are because we’re now standing up. McDonald’s is a half-mile walk. Outside it’s snowing faintly and the roads are covered in inches of gray mush. We start walking; Donnie carries the bottle.
How fucking beautiful! This is winter at night: Everything black with rainbows hidden inside the white snow. The darker it gets the more beautiful I can imagine what I can’t see. I want to run down the street and bellyflop on the mush, but I don’t. Carol is walking with Rick and Donnie is off to the side, yelling about his itchy balls. I walk with him and try to get into a conversation. We’re both too drunk to talk; I’m crying at times but I don’t think anyone notices.
We pass a number of houses, some of them turn their lights on as we pass—we’re not very quiet. I run ahead of everyone and give up a big bellyflop, but not into the mush; I jump in a snowbank. Donnie joins me. His snow angel is fatter than mine, but I roll out of mine sideways, so his ends up looking much better. Fuck Carol and fuck Rick, I’m here with Donnie. We walk down the street and he starts talking:
"I was down in Danbury with my cousin for a week and we go over this lady’s house for the day. Man, she was fucking huge. She must’ve been topping 400 pounds, dude."
I see what’s coming. . . "No way, man," I say, believing every word.
"Dude, I saw her and I thought, man, I just gotta tag that. So my cousin and his wife leave to go pick up cigarettes and we walk up to her room. . .I did her right then and there, all 400 pounds!" Donnie smiles proudly.
"So how’d you fuck her?" Rick shouts from behind us. He’s following twenty yards back, with Carol hugging his arm.
Donnie stops to let them catch up; I want to keep walking. "Well I couldn’t get inside from the front; I would’ve had to lift up her stomach then try to slip it in. . .there’s no way, ya know? So we had to do it doggy-style," he says, watching Rick’s reaction.
A pause. Then Rick: "That’s some sick shit, dude."
Donnie laughs in triumph and I try to imagine it: 400 pounds of woman. It’s still on my mind when we round the corner and hit Main Street—we have to quiet down because here there’s still some traffic.
"I’m gonna eat five Big Macs, no shit," Rick says.
"Fuck you, five Big Macs. . ." Donnie says, sipping from the bottle.
I want to puke. I feel it so bad I want to force my fingers down my throat. As we walk, I watch Carol in front of me, holding Rick’s arm. If things were different, if I had broken up with Heather tonight. . .it gnaws on my mind. I want Carol to tell Rick about the kiss. I want my girlfriend to find out. Everything would be opened up. In the back of my head, I know I shouldn’t say a thing.
We make it to McDonald’s, and the first thing I see is, no shit, a 400-pound woman waiting in line. She’s wearing a blue overcoat, red sweatpants, and a skiing hat. The florescent lights make everything surreal.
"Is she the one?" I say to Donnie, and everyone in line turns around.
"Shut your ass," he whispers to me.
We go to the back of the dining area to claim a table, but first I take a side trip to the bathroom. I stand in front of the toilet, pressing my hands against the wall trying to vomit, but nothing happens. When I return to the table, Donnie and Rick want money, so I give them my last twenty. They walk up to the register, happy as clams. I sit down at the table with Carol. The only noise in the place is a dull hum from the lights.
"So are you going to kiss me again?" she says.
"Why not?" she says, putting her hand on my thigh. I want this, I want to fuck her, but I don’t see how anything can happen tonight. Tomorrow I know I won’t want her. I know she feels the same way about me. We look across the table at each other, we’re both bundled up in our shirts and our coats, and the heat of McDonald’s is making my frozen skin burn. I reach my hand under the table to hold her hand; it’s colder than the snow outside.
"I already told Rick," she says, looking into my eyes.
I drop her hand back to my thigh. Everything looks strange under the lights. Carol rubs her cold hand against my thigh and I feel pissed off but horny. I close my eyes and try not to puke. I should go home now. Right now. Go.
"Give me your hand," I say, extending my arm over the table. Carol takes her hand off my thigh and gives it to me, blindly. I wrap her fingers in both of my hands to warm them. She looks at me with that same blank smile. I look behind me, but Rick and Donnie are still waiting in line. The 400-pound woman is now walking towards us with her tray: the side pom-poms of her hat bounce gaily as she walks. I need to go home.
Carol squeezes my hand with hers. I turn and look into her eyes.
"I’m gonna go now," I say. She doesn’t say anything.
I bend over the table to kiss her. I imagine we look like a couple in love.