Julius likes show offs, and Dahlia was a show off. He doubted her real name was Dahlia. She was already drunk at 5 pm, half slid off a bar stool, challenging Newton's thoughts on mass and gravitational force by stopping her total decent to the sticky floor with one toe, albeit her largest. It had blossomed red under the nail from it's effort, like Sisyphus's cheeks must have done. Her sandals had long given up, and had folded themselves off to the side, bearing the dark, identifying imprints of her feet like name tags on children waiting for their parents to pick them up from school.
Julius had seen the empty stool beside her immediately, and knew the score a second after that. All the other men had their caps pulled down or their shoulders shrugged up high, elbows pulled in close, their beers resting on their lips, perpetually taking or about to take sips, so that no one could expect them to speak. They were all trying to make it to the bottom of the seventh so that they could go home to what would, ironically, seem like peace compared to this brash woman.
Julius slipped quietly onto the stool next to her, and as her attentions were turned to shouting at the guy closest to the jukebox five stools down, it took her several minutes to light on him, but when she did, the evening rolled real quick from there. She didn't so much speak as overtly breathe her name, and she did this trick of leaning back and extending her pudgy little hand only so far, making the gentleman move forward to take it and try to shake, but she only held on, a little limp and soft and lewd. Her lips were coated with lipstick, an off color of red that didn't suit her, and she kept pushing them out, showing the wet pink that was meant to be up against her teeth.
By 7, he had an arm around, or nearly around, her waist and was helping her out to his car. She leaned more on him than he felt was necessary, but again Julius likes show offs. They'd settled into play fighting to flirt - he kept trying to get her to tell him her real name, and the most should would give was a cute, shortened nickname for Dahlia, which was Doll - and when that back and forth got boring they reckoned they ought to move onto something else, which is when Dahlia or Doll - Julius guessed it was really Darlene or Doris - mentioned she had tickets to see Lost Kerosene Container at the Marble Street Theater that night.
Heavy metal. His favorite. So he put her in his car and didn't mind when the passenger door gave it's long, loud creak as he closed it because she didn't seem the kind to mind. She had her pocketbook - where had that come from? - set on her lap and she had dug a cigarette out of it, was lighting the cigarette with a tiny little decorative lighter that made her thumb look like Paul Bunyan wearing an acrylic nail.
During the name game play fight, he'd kept trying to find a sincere, inoffensive way to ask her if she were a prostitute, but the concert tickets put his mind at ease because prostitutes don't regularly go see a show first.
At the concert, she became even more drunk, started taking bottles off of strangers when their last dregs got too warm and they were going for a fresh one. She kept trying to hold the bottles up to Julius's mouth like he were a baby, knocking the glass into his teeth. She titled her head back and hollered the words to the songs as the band was singing, hollered words to the songs they had just sung, words to songs they had yet to sing, and words to songs of other bands not present. At one point, she howled, and another concert-goer from a group of guys that had been watching and making fun for a while, mocked her, howling back, which Dahlia, Doll, took as friendliness and encouragement, so she started howling over and over, then got tickled and stopped howling because she was laughing, then she sat on the ground and announced she had to go to the bathroom.
Julius took this as an opportunity to get her back to the car, and home. By the time they made it to the lobby, only partly because of his efforts, mostly from the inertia of the pushing crowd, which seemed to want them out as well as he did, Dahlia was falling down drunk, slipping out of his hands like a fish - a large, dank bass, but he kept her up with quick hands. Dahlia forgot all about the bathroom and Julius got her out the door, fifty feet from the car when she dropped in one soundless movement, falling comically like Charlie Chaplin, and Julius's lucky catches were up like a cat's ninth life. Julius let out a rush of air from losing her and then there was silence, not even a note or boom came from the insulated theater in the distance, and there was no one milling about in the parking lot. Ridiculously, everyone in the universe was attending closely to Lost Kerosene Container while Julius stood over Dahlia's inert body.
He took her arm at the crook of the elbow and gave it a tug, felt the pain he knew would shoot down his back, into his knees. He dropped the arm with another puff of breath, tilted his face up to the street lights, one a duller yellow than the other.
Dahlia was simply more woman than he was man. She had him by nearly ninety pounds, which would be no bother except that he was chicken shit, always had been. He'd been chicken shit at school, chicken shit at track and weights and baseball, chicken shit at vocational training, chicken shit at his last five jobs, chicken shit at everything except finding the one woman in the room that most lacked for being listened to and then shutting his mouth, letting her talk until she let him do a few things he liked to do in turn.
Even if someone came up within earshot, he wouldn't call out. He was too embarrassed. He saw her pocketbook, magically appeared again like a wizard's broomstick, and picked it up, pulled the clasp apart then rooted around until he found a tiny zipper at the back, where her cigarettes and lighter were packed. He took a cigarette, lit it and was smoking when Dahlia made a noise, a groan, angry and helpless at the same time, and he tossed the cigarette quick, grabbed her arm in a flurry, acted like she had just hit the pavement that second.
She came to enough that he could get her to the car, but he expended just about all his energy doing it and sat in the car beside her, holding on to the steering wheel, mind-numb from exertion, not turning the keys or attempting any of the other little maneuvers that would get them started toward down the road.
She slumped all the way over, ass up in the air, sandals kicked off and shoved over like at the bar. Her dress was up and he saw her thighs all the way up to her hips, the indention of the buttocks flattened out by her position, her underwear a chaste slit of white that a young boy will stare at like a laser pointer for hours on a poster of a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader for no good reason because he's seeing about as much as he would if he were staring at the crotch of a Barbie figurine.
Still. That ought to be enough to do something for Julius, always has been, but tonight he finds himself disgusted, a little nauseous. Drunk, sloppy, and half passed-out has never been a problem for him, in fact he's done his best work when the girls are too far gone to really be watching, but tonight Dahlia is starting to feel like his sister, and he's wanting to pull her skirt over her flank, get her home, meaning to her house, where she can go to her own bed, wake up later and walk herself to the bathroom to finally pee or puke.
But he doesn't know where her home is, so he drives to his own home, the home where he rents a room with some other guys, college guys that laugh at him and fake politeness to his dates, going red in the face from trying not to burst into laughter at the women, which they call "Julia's whores," Julia's instead of Julius. It's all a big joke. He's a big joke to them. He parks out on the street, and here he's faced again with what to do with Dahlia, who still sleeps, her face washed with trust.
He can't get her in the house. It's a warm but pleasant 86 degrees out, night, cooling, so he rolls down the passenger window halfway and leaves her in the car.
He goes in the house and stays awake all night, listening for the passenger door to creak open and shut, to either hear her bang on the front door or watch her stumble down the street. Finally, he drops near dawn, sleeping hard, drooling on the naked mattress. He vaguely registers the house waking up, the tin sounds of spoons and mugs and coffee, deep voices being necessary and gruff with each other. Suddenly, one shout after another, he hears each of them calling up the stairs in turn, "Take the trash out, Julia's! Take the trash out, Julia's! Take the trash out, Julia's!" Three calls, and there are four roommates not counting himself, so Andrew must've stayed out all night, still gone. Julius thinks nothing of it; they were all animals, lived like animals, but would randomly rail on him about some stupid chore. He grunts and rolls over, drops back asleep. A half hour after everyone has left, he wakes, remembers. He assumes Dahlia has gone, found her own way, probably a way she's walked before in one way or another. Girls like that tend to figure it out, make do.
He goes downstairs, walks out the front door. He sees from the front step that his car is empty, but he walks up to it anyway. The window is still rolled down. For some reason he thought she'd roll the window back up. He doesn't know why he thinks that.
He gets a few feet from the car when he sees a crumpled fast food bag. The bag is on top of a pile of loose garbage, mostly fast food detritus, but also household stuff like an egg carton, coffee grounds, waded paper towels, even a used tampon from a female visitor. Looks like she'd been near the end of her cycle. In the back seat, there are two Hefty bags full as well.
The trash in the front seat moves, and Julius starts to scoop it away, scared to use his bare hands because of the tampon, also thinking it's a raccoon scavenging for food causing the movement, then he sees blond hair, then nails, smooth pink nails and he notices for the first time because it's day now and the light is pure and the world is clean and wholesome that there's tiny specks of glittery silver in the polish, like what a little girl would wear if she wanted to play princess.
© 2016 Amber Shockley