"Little breaths," she said. Her name was Angie
and she was Irish. Twenty three, pigtails, flowers in her
hair, and a leather choker with a small black stone in the
front. I stared into the impossible blue of her eyes. She
stared back. My eyes are brown and common.
I'd been hyperventilating during sex. We were in the back
of her Volkswagen campervan. It was wallpapered with Care
Bears cartoons. There were vegetables in the kitchenette's
sink. Incense on the shelves, CDs on the floor.
I gave up. I'd been trying for a good two hours, but just
when any sort of rhythm was established, I'd start hyperventilating.
I rolled off, collapsed onto the floor. She sat on her futon-couch-bed,
naked, and looked down at me.
Her ceiling was water stained and turning brown-green from
mold. The plastic seal around the moon roof was cracking.
It would start leaking soon. She got up. The shocks groaned.
She groaned. She must've had rusted CV joints.
"How much did you pay for this?" I asked. I wanted
to ask, "How much did you pay for this piece of shit?"
but she was a nice girl.
"Six hundred dollars," she said. It was a good
price. I stopped nit-picking her campervan.
She started getting dressed.
"Don't do that," I said. It was depressing and
disappointing. There had been no orgasms.
"You need to see a shrink," said Angie the Irish.
I got up and started to get dressed too. She put her hand
on my naked neck. It was cool and held no comfort.
"You're not mad at me for saying that?" she asked.
I was mad. I'd heard it a hundred times that year.
"Yeah, I'm mad," I told her. She was a pretty Wiccan
girl from Vancouver Island, and hadn't seen many like me.
Cynics don't last long in British Columbia. Nobody wants to
smoke pot and stare at trees with a cynic.
"Mad like a fucking hatter," I finished. I looked
into those eyes. They were blank.
"You have to learn to calm down, Jake," she said.
There were video cameras outside the van, recording the parking
lot we were in. 70 percent of the people walking by were fat
and would die of knife-strike heart attacks. There was a war
going on. Somewhere. Women with unwashed jackets OD'ing on
sewage-junk. Bad dogs being beaten up by worse owners. Men
in hundred-dollar suits who wouldn't make eye contact with
others on the bus.
And here I was, in a six-hundred-dollar campervan in Vancity,
and I didn't want to calm down.
I left abruptly and without apology.
Josh Byer is not
shy about popping his top.