May 3rd evening
Arrived in Newport, KY, after mistakenly taking bridge over the Ohio river, ended up in the recently built mall that overlooks Cincinnati’s skyline. A rough-whiskered and capped bartender tendered a solid Jack and Coke, then a Classic Burger, Swiss cheese and mushrooms.
Had considered going to Hooters (for the first time, decided on not), where I had parked the car. Sketched Cinci’s nightline. Two Af.Am girls and a Caucasian guy come in. The hat! It has done its magic, when worn in backwards beret fashion.
The (slightly) prettier one comes to my table, says it’s her birthday, her sister likes my hat, would I care to join. With pleasure. D, St and K (not sure they would want their full first name here, eventually perhaps).
Tell them I’m from HI, on a road-trip. “You’re an inspiration,” – hear it over as the night goes on, get more drunk. They’re real friendly.
D’s a good guy, though presumably older, makes good job of putting me at ease. Owns a butcher shop.
St, who’s celebrating her eighteenth birthday it turns out (she told me she was older, I realize as the night goes on she’s the wild side of the family of seven, second to the older sister, K, 21).
Her sister, K, suddenly turns sour. We’re talking about spirituality and religion. She looks more serious-minded, less drunk, than the other two. But she doesn’t turn sour because of that.
A friend of D’s joins, the two guys and now-not-underage girlfriend get more drinks at the bar, leave us to talk. I ‘preach’ the principle of spirituality I believe in (K’s the one who asked initially), evoke my conversation with the evangelist who started his pitch by the cross (notwithstanding the lack of historic veracity), and instead focus on the pillar of all the mains faiths – in my view: Love.
K has been brought up in a Christian family, rather well-off it should seem – her father was / is involved in the civil rights movement.
I am impressed when she talks about open-mindedness to others’ points of view and such, doctrines I ardently defend.
But there are also dark feelings welling within her, deep down.
She is texting her cousin. It’s going to be bad.
I finally find out. She is unhappy, furious, understandably but perhaps not to such extent, that her sister is going out with D. Despite the guy’s friendliness and apparent good nature, he claims to be twenty-five, which she doesn’t believe. And he’s been banging her younger sister for who knows how long, perhaps two years. K only found out some months ago.
I try to convince her that though this may be condemnable, most guys are like that, and she’s probably not in a state of mind to make the right decision (you know, after talking about Love and all). I don’t know what she’s texting her cousin.
And D seems like an OK guy, especially in contrast with St’s previous boyfriend – she’s both beautiful, outgoing, and, well, likes the attention of men – who beat the poor girl, a fucking bastard and bright soul who went by the name of Shaggy.
“You can stay at my house if you need a place tonight. I live in a big house with a few guest rooms,” says K. (D also offered previously, but I politely declined, since St is obviously up for some birthday sex – I don’t know if she made it though, she was tipsy as hell already.)
Play it cool. I nod, grateful.
“But I gotta tell you, if you try to kill me, I keep a big knife under my pillow.”
Wide eyes but I reply quick.
“There’s no if.”
They live north of Cinci, near Mason. I play catch up and meet them at another bar there (a lucky strike, because my cell phone had run out, and I couldn’t remember the name they gave me).
St is mad grinding with everybody, under her boyfriend’s watchful and tolerant eyes.
Put some moves on the floor, to my new friends’ amazement. I dance a bit with K, who’s more or less into me.
Bar closes. As we’re about to leave, torrential rain. I run to the mini-van (I think I’ve found its, her name!) and drive up to K.
“Sorry if it’s smoky.”
“I’ve seen way worse, trust me.”
K’s home is indeed large (her dad’s, parents separated). I don’t learn why she lives alone, but I’m guessing the kids are with the mom, the dad on the road. I don’t sniff around too much, stick to the guest room, want to put her at ease. Again, grateful that she would make the daring offer.
She knocks at the door after a few minutes.
“I’m going to Taco Bell. Do you want anything?”
“No, but I’ll come with you.”
I don’t want her to get paranoid leaving me in the house unattended, she’s made several remarks about me stealing stuff.
In the car to Taco Bell. (I don’t tell her I’ve informally vowed not to eat at the major fast-food franchises during the road-trip. Wasn’t hungry though, didn’t even think of that reason at the time.)
Can’t remember how she brings it up, but she mentions me killing her again, and the knife in her possession.
“You’re crazy. It’s the second time you mention stabbing me with that knife. Now I’m worried. After all, I just left all my belongings at your place and I’m being driven by a total stranger in the middle of Ohio.”
I’m amazed at the fact she would even invite a stranger if she still nurtured those kinds of doubts. I certainly never would. I tell her so.
“Why would you ask someone if you still have doubts?”
“I’m feeling adventurous.”
I think I like this girl.
“You trust your instincts, that’s good. But I think you’re crazier than me, I’m pretty normal.”
“My mom taught me: crazy doesn’t mess with crazy.”
Interesting thought. I’ve heard it before, can’t remember where. But I agree.
“And who knows what you were about to ask your cousin earlier…”
She now laughs at the thought.
Of course I know that, from her point of view, and despite all my good efforts to show I’m a good guy, she has every reason to be prudent and poke at the grounds.
“Just to get this straight, you were about to leave me alone in your house while you went to get food although you were having these doubts?”
“I knew you were a gentleman.” Well played.
“What if I hadn’t offered to come with?”
“I would’ve starved.”
“And I know your website, I know it’s possible to track you down.”
Sounds more like a bluff, especially since site is not under my legal name. The car license plate would a better bet.
“You’re mysterious. Who are you?”
I ask her in return. She gives me her oral resume. So I tell her I’ll show her my bio online, with my real name, since that’s how she answers when asked who she is. Maybe I’m showing off. She looks impressed that my name would be Google-able.
I tell her, sincerely, that I’m nobody.
We return, she didn’t get too much food. I show her the blog and give her my real name. She hugs me, for the second or third time tonight, before going up to her room.
We kiss. But she’s “not that kind of girl.” She goes up to her room. I fall asleep in a bed, with a big tired smile.
Wake up earlier than expected, K got an early call for work. I take a shower, first one since Toronto… Am exhausted from two consecutive short-slept bacchanalian nights, but feel pretty good.
Stop by St. Bernard and Proctor & Gamble’s headquarters on way to Cinci, hoping to get a shot of industrial complex’s chimney stacks and smoke. But can’t find a vantage point. Besides, another shitty day.
Spend time in library but can’t manage to get much done. Walk around Cincinnati. Because of fatigue, not as interesting as I hoped. Don’t care much to get too curious. Eat a veggie wrap centrally, near library.
Drive out and meet the girl at her workplace, in Monroe. Can’t mention it here by name, in case I use it in video discreetly, because I told the guy I wouldn’t. But I’ll find a way make it work without breaking that word. Then out to Indiana.
Sleep byside trucks shortly past Indiana entry, towards ? First drove into night fields, past cemetery, hilly roads, hoping to find good parking spot, ended up prudently retreating to gas station since it was all private property – not good to mess with that around here (as I would learn the next day). Read on!