It was a pretty quiet night. I was cruising in the Portmobile, alone. It was a strange feeling, really. Usually, the damn thing wouldn’t go anywhere without Arnie sitting in the passenger seat beside me, saying all kids of stupid stuff. I don’t think that he was required to say stupid stuff to make the Portmobile go, but come on, man—it’s Arnie. Tonight, though, I was by myself. Arnie had done that “Override” thing, and it had actually worked out in my favor for once. He sent me out by myself, and that was the first time that had ever happened.
“Man, he was really mad.” That was Mandy. She was at wherever she’s always at, talking through the internet. She was talking to me, and still trying to get Arnie to talk to her. He was at home, but because of wonderful advancements in science and technology, she was able to communicate with both of us at the same time. Arnie wasn’t communicating back, though, and it had her all kinds of worried.
“Of course he’s really mad,” I told her. “If you had done something like yank me away from three gorgeous women who just wanted to have sex with me over and over and over again, I would be really mad at you, too.”
“They KIDNAPPED him!”
“Oh, please. Everyone on our team has been kidnapped. It seems to be some weird sort of right-of-passage or trend or something. And the only one who has been in danger has been me.”
“Would you quit with the whining already? ‘Ooh, I got kidnapped by people who wanted to kill me.’ ‘Ooh, my kidnapping is the only one that counts.’ ‘Ooh, poor me.’ I’m tired of hearing about how none of the rest of us get kidnapped the right way.”
My shift was almost over, thank goodness. This kind of thing had been going on all night. I swear, man, if Arnie isn’t around to annoy me, it’s like Mandy steps up to fill in for him.
“Let’s get back to the subject. There were three gorgeous women who wanted to screw him to death. Do you understand how often that chance comes along in life? Never! That’s how often. That’s the kind of situation that every straight male in the world dreams about as soon as he learns about sex. And some guys dream about it before they even know about sex.”
“Guys like you?”
“Of course guys like me! What the hell is wrong with you, that you would even have to ask that? So, yeah, Arnie’s pissed at you. No sympathy from me, devil-girl. I told you it was a bad idea, I told you he would hate us for saving him. But you had to have your way, and now you deal with it. I’m going home.”
I drove into the garage, slid the top back on the Portmobile, and waited until it had lowered down into the Drunk Tank. Arnie wasn’t there, so I changed into civilian clothes and went to find him. It wasn’t very hard, really. He was in the same place he had been since I “rescued” him—on the couch, in the living room, talking on the telephone.
“Come on, baby. No, don’t talk like that. No, listen, I’m sure he’ll just pay you off next time. And if he doesn’t, I’ll make sure he doesn’t rescue me. No, don’t hang up, no don’t han-“ He looked at the phone for a second, then pushed the “off” button. “She hung up,” he said to me.
“Yeah.” I sat down beside him. The booze smell was really oozing out of him. If you had asked me a few days ago if it was possible for Arnie to drink even more than usual, I would have laughed in your face and told you that it most certainly was not.
Somehow he had managed it, though.
He was still pissed at me, too. I didn’t blame him a bit. Even though I hate Arnie most of the time, he’s my best friend. And I had crossed a line when I took him away from the group of evil (but super-hot) women who wanted to kill him by having sex with him.
“Listen, man,” I said to him. “I’m sorry. I know what I did was wrong.”
He took a monstrous gulp from one of the bottles in his hand, then took a monstrous gulp from the other. “I’m not talking to you,” he said. His voice was all slurred and all the words were melting together.
“Understandable. The thing is, we’re friends, man. I screwed up, and I admit that.”
“You let her talk you into it. Man, Howie, you aren’t supposed to listen to what chicks say. I mean, you’re supposed to be my anchor, man. You’re supposed to be the one constants that I can count on, you know? Like the constant anchor that holds the boat of…” He took another few gulps. “You’re like the anchor that holds the boat of…um, cynic…lifestyle. Or…I don’t know, man. But you’re the one who’s always runnin’ around, talking about how everybody’s stupid and chicks don’t make any sense, and the world’s full of assholes. And you’re a dick, man, but you always call it like you want, and you aren’t really a hypocrite, I didn’t think. But now…now, I just don’t know.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
He handed me a bottle. “Drink this.” I took the bottle and finished it off. There was about a quarter of a bottle left, and I knew it was going to send me to Smashedland, but I felt like I owed it to Arnie. I’m not too good at this whole repentance thing, and I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.
“What I’m talking about is a very good question. And I wish I knew the answer. But what I’m saying is, if you can’t count on the most cynical bastard in the world to ignore pseudo-advice, then what can you count on?”
“I’ve told you about a zillion times, bro’. You can’t count on anything.”
“Yeah, that’s maybe why I’m sad.”
“You’re sad?” I was a bit startled by this.
“Yeah, I’m sad,” Arnie said. “My best friend in the world has let me down, when I needed him the most, he-“
“I didn’t know you were sad, man. I thought you were pissed off.”
“Well, yeah, that, too. But I’m sad, too, because-“
“Well, as far as being sad, man, I have just the thing to cheer you up. And here it is.” I reached deep into the pocket of my jeans. I acted like I couldn’t find what I was looking for, at first, and then—aw, here it is. I pulled out my hand, with my middle finger sticking out. “Here it is, dude—a big fuck you!”
“Wow, that wasn’t what I expected at all,” Arnie said.
“Well, there you go. What the hell is wrong with you, placing some kind of value system on me? Are you insane, or did those girls who wanted to screw you to death start by killing your brain cells? I’m a bad person, Arnie, and it’s not like this is some kind of surprise. I would understand pissed. But being sad because I let you down as a friend? Sheesh, man. Quit your bitching and hand me another bottle.”
He handed me another bottle. Then he started laughing. “You know what? You’re right.”
“I’m sure I am,” I told him, not really remembering what it was that I was right about. That bottle of booze I had finished off a minute ago, that was whiskey. And the new bottle, I tried my best to finish it off, too. And it was fighting back hard. I took another deep swallow. “I’ll tell you what else!” I remember saying that. After that, not so much.
I woke the next morning, hearing all kinds of swearing, at a very high volume. There was music blaring from somewhere, too. At first, I thought maybe I had passed out in some club, but that theory didn’t hold up for long. When you pass out in a club in this city, they usually just throw your ass out onto the street. I was on some sort of a cushion—it felt a lot like the couch down in the Drunk Tank—and I wasn’t quite hung-over enough to confuse the feel of freezing cold asphalt with the feel of…well, with whatever it was I was on.
I opened my eyes, real slow, because my eyeballs were aching. Yep, the Drunk Tank. The yelling, that was Arnie and Mandy. The music, I wasn’t sure exactly what that was—some kind of techno-mix, super-bass bullshit that was killing my head.
“Drunk Tank! Override!” I yelled. I don’t know if I was expecting anything, really, but I was hoping it would turn off all the noise. Nothing happened. “Shut the hell up!”
The music turned off instantly, but the screaming continued. I decided to give it another try. “Arnie! Override! Shut the hell up!” He kept on screaming. “Drunk Tank. Turn off the computer.” Mandy’s voice stopped instantly. Arnie kept on yelling for a couple of seconds, and then he realized there was no one to argue with.
“Oh,” he said, “Good morning.”
“No it’s not, you asshole. It’s a terrible morning. You know how I can tell? Because I’ve been up for something like ten seconds, I’ve already got your crappy music blaring in my ears, and you two lunatics screaming at each other. I’ve got a wicked hang-over, and I think I’m going to puke.”
“Wow, I could see how you would think that that’s a pretty lousy morning.”
“Yeah, well, I really appreciate your empathy or whatever, but you know what would be better? If you would get the hell out of here and let me get back to sleep!”
“Hey, man, I will. But you want to hear something awesome?” Generally, when Arnie thinks something is awesome, it means that it’s going to suck for me.
“No,” I said. “I’m not in the mood.”
“I taped up pictures of vaginas all over the house,” Arnie said. “But you don’t want to hear about it, so I’ll just go on my way.”
Generally, I would have let him just go on his way—getting rid of Arnie is actually one of my favorite hobbies—but even I can’t let something like this remain a mystery. “Wait, what? You taped up pictures of vaginas?”
“I knew you would be. See, the thing is, it’s just like you said last night.”
“Ah.” I didn’t remember telling him that it would be a good idea to tape up pictures of women’s genitalia all over the house, but you never can tell—I was pretty drunk. “How so?”
“Well, like you said, about Mandy’s latent lesbian tendencies.”
“Oh. What, now?”
“Anyways, so I got this idea. I went around the house and taped up pictures of vaginas in front of all the webcams this morning. As soon as Mandy logged on this morning, trying to tell me that really she had just saved my life and stuff, she just got pissed and started yelling.”
“Yeah, so I told her all about your theory.”
“Refresh my memory?”
“Oh, you know: about how she wasn’t jealous that those girls got to have me, but rather that I got to have THEM.”
I searched the back of my mind, hoping to catch at least a glimmer of understanding. Instead, all I heard was laughter. My brain hates me, plain and simple. It tries to kill me, I try to kill it, it’s a constant battle of bad decisions and drinking entirely too much.
“Okay,” I said. “I’m going to need a bit of clarification here. Let’s pretend like I don’t remember anything about last night.”
“Okay,” Arnie said. “Last night, we got to talking about how Mandy had ruined my life—that was mostly me that got us on that thread. And I was complaining about how she had ruined my life and maybe she just did it because she was jealous because I was having sex with those other girls and how she wanted to have sex with me.”
“Who did? Mandy?”
“That’s ridiculous, man. Mandy doesn’t want to have sex with you.” Probably she did, but I would never tell him something like that. Over the years, I’ve noticed how all kinds of girls want to have sex with Arnie. I’m not sure why they want to, but they do. There is all kinds of irrefutable proof all over his website. So what I’ve done is, I’ve kind of taken to inflicting a passive/aggressive sort of cock-block thing by hammering at his self esteem..
“Yeah, yeah. That’s what you said last night.”
“Oh.” I started wondering exactly how drunk I still was, to be agreeing with the me from last night, the me that I remembered absolutely nothing about. “Okay, then what?”
“You told me, that’s ridiculous, man, Mandy doesn’t want to have sex with you. She wants to have sex with THEM.”
“Yeah, that’s what I said,” Arnie told me. I wasn’t sure if it was any better to be saying the things that I had said or saying the things that Arnie had said. It’s like when you’re really drunk and you fall down a really long flight of stairs, and when you stop at the bottom, you’re kind of unsure if you’ve finally hit the floor or if you’ve gone and landed on the ceiling. “So then you told me about how women are more prone to same-sex experimentation than men.”
“Yeah. You went on this whole tirade about how men and women spend their time together differently. It was really profound.”
“Like what? Examples.”
“Like how women will go shopping, they’ll look at each other for long periods of time, trying on different outfits, stuff like that. Men will watch TV together, never looking at each other.”
“How is that profound?”
“It was just an example. The point was, women enjoy checking each other out, men do everything they can to avoid that kind of thing. What you were saying was, women have a natural understanding of how beautiful they are, just as men have a natural idea of how each other aren’t.”
“Wait. Was that even a sentence?”
“Women are soft and sweet-smelling and pretty!” Arnie was pacing around the room, really caught up in things. I was trying to follow what he was saying, but really I just kept thinking that if I ever started some weird religious faction, this is the guy I want as my recruiter. “Men are course and stinky and kind of harsh-looking. And although there may be an animal attraction there, like an instinctual thing…oh, how did you put it? ‘Although there is a primal urge to bang a man for the reproductive factor, the intellectual side of woman recognizes the beauty of other women.’ So basically, they screw us because they have this need, this need for seed. But the smart side of them knows that other women are better. Better looking, better smelling, and better feeling. That’s why it’s easier to get a straight woman to kiss anther woman. Easier than to get a straight man to kiss another man. Because men also have this intellectual side that realizes that we’re all just a bunch of hairy, smelly bastards.”
“What about gay men?” I asked.
“When I asked you that, you just told me that you had no idea about gay men. You go, ‘I have no idea what would make one man appealing to another. Perhaps it’s because they crave the approval of another man. Inasmuch as they didn’t have a close relationship with the dominant male of their tribe.’”
“What an odd thing to say. I said ‘perhaps?’”
“I said “Inasmuch as,’ too?”
“And how does all of this tie back into the pictures of vaginas all over the house?”
Arnie just stood there, looking all confused. “What?”
“You woke up this morning, you searched through all of your porno mags, and you pasted pictures of woman parts all in front of the web-cams. Why?”
“Oh, yeah, that. I thought it would help Mandy discover that side of herself.”
“Are you insane? Vaginas? Out of porno magazines? To represent the beauty of the woman?”
“Seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“Take ‘em all down, dude. That’s not the pretty side.”
“I find it wonderful.”
“That’s ‘cause you have a part that fits. Hang up some pictures from Playboy or something. Something all artsy and pretty, that’s the way to go.” I just wanted to go back to sleep. I figured if I had Arnie taking down all the pictures of spread vaginas, Mandy would quit all her screaming, and maybe I could get a little rest.
“That’s a good idea, man. Something beautiful. Okay.”
“Okay. Now get the hell out of here.”
He ran up the stairs, fell back down, and then ran back up. A minute later, I heard the steady ripping sounds of magazine pages.
I went back to sleep.