Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Hole, Part VII: Mixin' It With Love

Whenever I was in there for the week between when I heard the Hole was closing and when it actually did, I looked around to see what I might swipe for a souvenir. Every time I went to the bathroom, or the candy machine (I go to the candy machine at least as often as I do the bathroom; it's a problem), I'd let my eyes roam over the walls and shelves and ceiling, waiting for something to cry out "Take me home!" 

But nothing did. 

I’m not the type to form emotional attachments to things, anyway. (The candy's not an emotional attachment; it's just an Urge.) People, yes. Places, stories, memories, of course. I'm a All-Day Sucker for that kind of sappy shit. But not for things. When I left my husband, I left everything I ever owned back in that house, and I don't care. 

Well, that's not true. Not everything. I have the astronaut doll they gave me at the hospital when I was born, the tractor my mom bought me in kindergarten when the teacher said the school's trucks were just for boys, and my collection of animal-shaped bottle-openers because -- well, just because. A girl doesn't amass a collection like that and then just throw it away. I have one shaped like a cockroach, for god's sake. I mean, der.

Now, if the Hole had pig-shaped bottle-openers, I would've swiped one the first day I walked in. But they didn't. They didn't have logoed anything. And the more I looked around, the more I realized the only thing that meant anything to me in that place was the pool table, and although on a good day the She-Hulk could probably lift it, I didn't think it would fit it in my bag (especially not with the supply of Emergency Tootsie Pops I keep on hand). There was plenty of smaller stuff just begging to be stolen, and other people did good and plenty of that, but I just didn't see myself holding on to a pig doll or a beer sign for the rest of my life just because it was excavated from the Hole. I got what I needed out of that place already, I decided. My home, my friends, my stories, my memories and my Kid (or my memories of my Kid, at least; on which topic I'll write more some other day). The rest is just a bunch of dust-collecting crap. 

Except for the candy, of course. 

The Hole didn't always have the machine, and I was so grateful when they got it, because candy is one of my own personal Food Groups. I have six, and they go like this, in descending pyramidal scheme: 
chicken breasts

I'll take anything when the Urge hits, except for gummies. (Gummies suck. They’re not candy, they’re bouncy little toys disguised as food. If I wanted to suck down rubber on a regular basis, I’d be a real whore, thanks very much. And I haven’t quite hit that rock-bottom yet.) But my go-to default is M&Ms. Peanut, precisely, because if I get the plain ones I just dump them in my mouth all at once. The big ones at least force me to slow down. And I’m lucky, because most bars these days have candy machines in the corner that dispense a perfect handful for a quarter.

   Okay, two quarters for the perfect handful, but whatevs…

Like I say, every bar has one, and wherever I am, I know which corner to find it in. Because the Urge hits me hardest when I haven’t had a bite of real food in a couple hours, so if I’ve been shooting for a while I can get a quick fix without having to actually eat. Everyone I know knows this about me, and they also know better than to ask to share. After all, a perfect handful minus three is not a perfect handful anymore, so if you know what’s good for you, you’ll get your own. And if I set ‘em down on a napkin on the bar while I'm shooting, you'd best leave those fucking things alone.

But anyway, you can't take candy with you -- or, well, you can, but you can't exactly swipe it like a coaster or a glass. Not out of the machine, at least. Or if there is a way, I don't know how to do it without smashing the glass and making a big Emergency-PiƱata scene.

But Bootgirl does.

I know because, on Saturday night, at the closing party, when I'd been there for three hours and was just starting to feel the sweetest Urge, I suddenly saw the whole machine go tearing right past me and out the door. 

Bootgirl was at one end of it, this other woman I sort of know was at the other, both of them stumbling a little bit and giggling so bad I thought they’d choke. The bouncer opened the door for them and whoosh. I felt like Dorothy watching the Wizard go up in his balloon, until my fairy godmother came back a minute later, laughing her drunken ass off.

“What did you do!?” I wailed. “Where did it go?”

I was ready to climb up on the roof with a fistful of quarters if that's where it ended up, I swear to god.

“Hee hee hee!” 

Bootgirl was so squinty-eyed and tickled with herself, I could barely understand her. 

“I wus gunna bring you a whole bag uh MinMses! I wus gunna gettum at the store thish affernoon! But I fergut! So me an’ her – hee hee – me an’ her got you all those!”

“What? What do you mean you got me those? Where is it?”

Bootgirl dissolved into a red-faced fit of choking laughter.

“Uh-huh! Uh-huh! Uh-huh! Iss in yer car! Hee hee!”

Oh, man, that’s hysterical.

Because not only did Bootgirl figure out the one thing (besides the pool table, I mean) that was actually me inside that bar: she stole it for me and gave me one hell of a story in the process. Which -- if you know me, you know -- is 99% of the point of doing almost anything at all. That's why I didn't want any of the rest of the dust-collecting crap. What yarn was I going to spin around it? "This hung on the wall at the Hole. The End"? But now I had me a gen-u-ine Conversation Piece. Plus, I mean, not to mention... candy! Not a hunk of dust-collecting crap at all!

I laughed and thanked her and hugged her hard around the neck. And then -- because I was still jonesing, after all -- I didn't even grab my coat before going to my car to see if that machine would still work lying down.

But it wasn’t out there.

The car was, I mean. But not the candy. Or the machine. Not in my car or anywhere outside.

“Bootgirl!” I hollered in her ear when I went back in and found her dancing by the jukebox. “Where, again, did you say you put the candy?”

“Uh-huh!” she snorted. “We puddit in yer truck!”

“I don’t have a truck, Bootgirl! I’m driving my mom’s Cruiser these days, remember?”

“Uh-huh! I know! That’s where we puddit!”

Well, I went back out and looked. This being winter in rural Maine and all, there wasn’t another PT Cruiser in the parking lot. And it wasn't in the back of anybody's truck. The next afternoon, when I saw her at the Hole's Honest To God Last Day Open, all Bootgirl remembered was that they definitely put it in somebody's car. And she brought me a bag of peanut M&Ms, because she knew there wouldn't be any for me at the bar.

So I don't have a souvenir of the Hole after all. Except for my friends, of course. My home. The Kid. The memories. And, now, one more wait-for-it punchline of a tale to tell for the rest of my life. Not to get too saccharine or anything, but I do believe that if you mix all that with love it makes the world taste good.

But if by any chance the person whose backseat that candy machine wound up reclining in is reading this...

If you know what's good for you, you'll get your own. 

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