THE BUSINESS TRIP
I've always attracted
psycho chicks. One wanted to show me the razor cuts on her calves. Another
called and hung up repeatedly the first month I knew her. That same
one sprayed perfume all over me in an argument. A different one had
me fuck her in dirt once, and then really hard on a seawall. The ex
put a tail on me when we were together. Most of these chicks were in
therapy. Two were therapists. Iıve never been able to shake this karma.
Even when I landed a spot at a reputable firm and they sent me on a
business trip. It wasnıt so long ago I swiped an LA Times off a doorstep,
drank coffee at Burger King, lived with my mother. But I wear suits
these days, and ties. I charge drinks and meals to the company. The
hotels offer turndown service, with candy. A valet I never see collects
my dry cleaning. I sign my name everywhere I go, thatıs all, just sign
and go. It gives me a kind of immunity. Iım bolstered by perks, insulated
by corporate connections, excused for long lunches, saved by do-it-all
But my status change hasnıt freed me from this peculiarity I have. I
just attract more expensive lunatics now. She came up to me in a DC
pub and asked for a cigarette, but said she doesnıt smoke. My mother
smoked for fifty years. This one had almond eyes and carried a suitcase.
She pulled legal papers from her purseparts of a lawsuit, crumpled,
wrinkled, lipstick and food smeared. A judge would have laughed them
out of court. She was suing her husband. He had tried to have her committed.
She had fled her apartment and was staying with an Arab record producer.
She said her father was a legendary songwriter who had willed his lyrics
to her. My motherıs will was a small scribbled note that said, ³take
There was ice on the sidewalks outside. We took several taxis to clubs
that would not let her in. My mother took me to bars as a kid, put me
in a booth with a soda. A man with tattoos on his arm and beer on his
breath used to come around on Saturday nights. The psycho chick wanted
to run away to Sierra Leone. I mentioned they were beheading people
there. She stopped the cab to call an animal shelter and plead for custody
of a cocker spaniel. Most of the drivers seemed to know her. I gave
one a hundred dollar bill for a ten seventy-five fare. She carried a
painting with her into a restaurant, one of hers that she felt close
to. She spoon-fed me tortellini at a cheap bar. At the next stop she
ordered a sixty-dollar bottle of champagne. We toasted my company. She
asked a maid who was better looking, me or a photo of her husband. She
unloaded her suitcase on my hotel bed. In it were a Muslim rug and a
belly dancerıs belt. We had sex once on the toilet and twice on the
sink. I closed my eyes rather than look at myself in the mirror. She
stayed up until three a.m. singing. Her audience was a snow flurry and
lights from buildings twenty stories high.
My mother had entertained the troops during the war. I saw her once
in the bathroom, wearing garter belts and applying makeup.
The walls shook and the TV came on by itself while I slept, the psycho
chick said. I had a hard time shutting her up. I was scheduled for an
early morning meeting, the kickoff to the entire project. I have an
internal clock and never need a wake up call. The men at work wear the
watch and the ring; itıs a tribal thing, Iıve decided. She heard pounding
on the ceiling from the room above, she said. I have never missed a
deadline. My mother held my hand and said she wanted me there the rest
of her life. I have tried every drug except crack. Someone is trying
to reach you, the psycho chick cried. I used to be unable to imagine
twenty years at the same place. Lately I eat lunch at my desk. There
is no longer a number to reach my mother. I am surrounded by co-workers
with capped teeth. They know where they will be tomorrow, and the next
day, and the following months, and for years, until the end.
The psycho chick had demos, killer songs, she swore, guaranteed hits,
locked in the apartment. Coffee has become the most important ingredient
of a day. It bothers me that the little thin strip wonıt stay put behind
the wider section of my tie. She demanded cash for breakfast and settled
for eight dollars. My motherıs voice was only a whisper at the end.
Iıd tried to calculate how much time she had left from its sound. I
was wrong by two days. I used to hate flying, but now I believe the
middle of the sky is where I belong. I had always shirked the nine-to-five
routine, ridiculed that way of life. Iıd resisted conformity in my clothes
and attitude, was not interested in clocking in or climbing the ladder.
Now I have accepted my metamorphosis into a good, middle-class citizen.
There is nothing dangerous or unpredictable about me anymore. I have
gained a few pounds and donıt have that lean, hungry look. Iıve become
comfortable, dulled my edge, cleaned up my act and gotten in line, merged
into the masses, moved on to the kind of life that others understand.
G.N. Harrisı novel ³Connecting
the Dots² is available through Barnes&Noble.com
email:G N Harris
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