Thursday, July 22, 2004

Beautiful Creatures

This entry was originally posted Friday June 25, 2004

Last night was another Thursday at another bar.

This time there was a reggae band. They were quite obviously a New Hampshire reggae band. Every member was white.

They played outside on a concrete patio. They played loud. I could feel my organs quiver with every whack of the bass strings.

Soon two young women came in. They were very young indeed, barely 21, I would guess.

They slinked between the green plastic lawn furniture already crowded with guests well on their way to afternoon inebriation. Both wore the now familiar regulation hot girl uniform, all flip-flops and halter tops.

A stop at the bar got them started and they settled into chairs well away from the band. The cigs, Marlboro lights, came out immediately and their faces soon faded behind clouds of cool smoke.

Their beer and tobacco may have been light, but clearly their hearts were not.

Every trick they had learned for conjuring the desire of others had been exercised to perfection. Now, they waited to see if their magic was strong enough. They kicked back to drink, their eyes still scanning the area, anxious to know where the approval, the validation of the allure they labored to emit, would come from.

In spite of their efforts, there remained something hard and unattractive about them. Their faces were joyless and angry. Their smiles were tinged with sneers. Every movement seemed to communicate a history of disappointment as if each hope denied had settled deep into the flesh they willingly displayed. Their sadness was muscular and tough.

Their habits of using every available tool to attract attention while simutaneously erecting bulwarks to repel it made them the kind of contradictions some men can’t resist.

I went back inside to spend a few hours losing at pool. On my way out, I crossed the patio again. I noticed they were sitting at a table surrounded by men. Their charms must weild some power. One of the women was arching her back over the top of her chair, the top of her blonde head hanging pointed toward the concrete. She was whooping and clapping.

The drive home took me through the woods. A few minutes from my destination, I saw a dark shape lumbering across the road. I hit the brakes. The tires screeched. The sudden stop threw me against the shoulder belt. Outside, the light from the headlamps blurred with smoke as the car filled with the hot stench of burning rubber.

Only as the thing disappeared beneath my bumper could I discern what it was. As it vanished from view I could make out the dense forest of quills atop a porcupine’s back.

I bear a great fondness for those sticky critters. I saw one up close for the first time earlier this year at a small private zoo. They are much more common in the New England woods than in Indiana where I lived for many years.

At the zoo, I stood a long time, transfixed by the porcupine who sat on his shelter holding a small piece of fruit in one paw, munching away at it. He looked like a silent, tiny man in a very large, rough coat. He seemed so human my heart went out.

Now, stalled in the dark, I prepared to put the car in reverse to reveal, I was sure, one of these animals sprawled in a bloody pile. I imagined it contorting in agony as I stood helplessly by, unable to get close to it because of its sharp defenses, unsure of what to do with it even if I could have drawn near.

The porcupine’s life was not to be demanded of it this night however. As I reached for the gear shift, motion to the left caught my eye. I saw the prickly beast waddling back to the woods whence he came, unscathed.

I can't help but think how like that porcupine the two young women at the bar really were.

Their vulnerability in spite of obvious armor inspires great sympathy, compassion that hurts. Both were driven by their hungers into a night full of grave dangers that, though well prepared to counter, they likely didn't fully understand, let alone have the capacity to control. Both were prepared to be hunted while seeking whatever sustenance they could forage.

The women’s destiny is unknown. I can only hope that at the end of the night they, like the porcupine whose life I nearly snuffed, staggered home, unfulfilled certainly, but safe nonetheless.

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