Meet the guy relegated to the further corners of my brain -- the corner, apparently, where one is free to ignore the No Smoking signs! -- a guy fond of slogan tee-shirts and lighting one cigarette with the butt of another. You may have seen this before, but I took a rather nasty fall yesterday -- not down the staircase of my third-floor home!, but from a rain-slick deck... Offers of back rubs and liberal doses of internally applied margaritas are being taken in the comment section.
The squat, bald man in my head has a louder, and sometimes opposite view of life than I do.
He’s the one cackling with glee when the young XL woman in the M pants struggles to lift her own body weight up the steps of the bus, the guy who looks me in the eye to make sure I notice her, the one who lifts a knuckle-y finger to point out a possible gravy stain on her chest.
He’s the guy who mutters questions under his breath related to the state of our country's educational system, just loud enough to hear but not loud enough to make out while standing behind the man with 14 items in a 10 Items or Less line at the grocery store. And sometimes he meets that guy’s eye, then shoots an imaginary weapon at his gallon of two percent, grinning.
He’s the lout yelling at the guy playing the flutophone and irritating the lunch crowds down on Nicollet. Trilling madly and playing with a flourish seen infrequently since Liberace's death, Flutophone Man's upturned hat is at his feet, implying that your change would be the reasonable response to the audio assault hurled in your direction. “Would you shut up?" he bawls at him. "For cryin’ out loud, you have no skills!”
All said in good fun, of course.
The squat, bald man is not a violent man – necessarily – but he wouldn’t mind watching.
And he likes me.
“Oh, oh, oh,” he says, sitting down on the couch, square elbow to my ribs. “When you run to the store, get me a pack of Marlboros.”
“I’m not running to the store.”
“Yeah, right, but when you do,” he says, lighting one cigarette with the glowing end of another, lips curling and uncurling around the words, “get me some smokes.”
“I thought I told you I don’t want you smoking in my head anymore.”
There is an uncomfortable moment of silence as we stare at each other.
“Whatever,” I say, turning away. “Just don’t blow it into my sinuses anymore. I hate that. Blow it out my ears.”
I can hear him smirking. He leans against me. “I’m gonna need the car Tuesday night.”
I sigh heavily, turn back. “OK. One, why does everyone think they can use my car; and Two, where the hell do you have to go on a Tuesday night?”
He lifts his chin, blows smoke toward the front of my head, catches himself, and turns toward an ear. “The less you know – pffffffffffff – the less you can tell.”
I don’t like this, but like the cat, the squat bald guy in my head has a way of returning the car with a full tank of gas, a sure way to my heart. I worked at a full-service gas station for half a year in my late teens and have a love/hate relationship with the pump.
“Fine,” I say. “But leave the seat the way you found it this time.”
The smirk leaves his face and he draws himself up in a show of false dignity. “A man’s posture is his own,” he says, indignantly.
He grins. “You allow me full adjustment rights on the front seat, and I won’t tell anyone you had three cigarettes Friday night on that freak-out you girls called an evening.”
I lean back on the couch, rub my eyes, press my fingers against them until they explode in a Byzantine disaster of black and red.
“Fine,” I say.
At least I'll get a full tank of gas out of the deal. Plus my cigarettes from the other night are still a secret.