Saturday, June 29th, 2019. Fort Collins, Colorado.
I don’t remember reclaiming all my worldly possessions from the VIP tent, but I must have. I do remember hurdling a chainlink fence, because that’s when I heard the breaking glass. Both my and Ladygirl’s chalices had been crammed into the most precarious of my laptop bag pockets, so naturally one fell out and exploded against the rocks when I started doing drunk parkour.
Later, in the hotel room, we would unpack a total of three chalices, despite having two before I broke one. How this happened remains a mystery.
We crossed a lengthy expanse of pristinely manicured campus to emerge in a generic dystopian, vaguely Brutalist strip mall. These are how you can be sure you’re in America.
S– ushered us through the door into Yum Yum with all the inebriete reverence of a high priest into a sacrificial ziggurat. It was large, dark, and cold, as all good houses of worship should be.
The object of the worship became obvious. S– was utterly entranced by the bartender, an angry and tattooed Madonna. He said her name was Madonna, anyway. I don’t know if he meant it literally, or in the figurative old Italian ma’donna sense, applied to worshipful chivalric veneration of an idealized and virtuous woman.
He watched her with awed fascination, as you would a sunrise, or a mushroom cloud. I ordered a lamb gyro and drank three consecutive glasses of water to clear my head, with mixed results.
“We gotta do a hurricane shot,” S– said. He was frantic, convulsive. Where I’m from it’s called the junkie shuffle. I don’t think the alcohol was his jones. “Come on, Bastard! We gotta! We GOTTA!”
“I’m full of beer,” I said. “I’m tryna move on to the water portion of the night.”
“We GOTTA!” he was adamant, and I was persuaded. He stood up and herded me up to the Madonna.
“Hey Madonna! Could we please have two hurricane shots!” S– said, then pointed at me. “Him first!”
She looked us over with disaffected contempt, then walked away without saying a word. I glanced at S–.
“She’s the best,” he said, dreamily.
She returned ten minutes later without explanation or change in facial expression, then ordered me behind the bar. I shrugged and acquiesced.
“Take off your glasses,” she commanded.
“Why?” I asked. “Is this the kind of shot you have to… aim?”
“Kind of,” she said.
S–‘s eyes shone like a child on Christmas. I shrugged and took off my glasses, then handed them to her. She set them on the counter and handed me a shotglass full of something blue.
“Cheers,” she said, and clinked her plastic cup against my glass. I kicked back the shot. It tasted like blueberry schnapps. Madonna threw the water in my eyes, then cracked me sharply across the face with her open hand.
“YEAAAAAAAAH!” S– roared. “My turn! It’s my turn!”
I wiped the water from my eyes, nodded to Madonna, and left the altar. S– scampered back and received the same, albeit with greater exuberance.
“Wow,” said someone’s dad, as we dripped onto the polished floors. “She really cracked you one, huh?”
“Yeah!” S– said. “She did.”
We ate our gyros and had a spirited discussion about how beautiful Colorado is, how friendly everyone (with the notable and deliberate exception of Madonna) is, and how Philly is, both by comparison and in a vaccuum, a festering sack-boil full of unwashed crackheads.
“Want to get another?” S– asked me when we had finished eating.
“Another hurricane shot, dude! Come on!”
“Well, the surprise is gone,” I said. “It’s not a fun, zany prank any more. It’d just be me paying this dark queen to hit me.”
“No,” S– said, “I’M paying. For both of us! Come on!”
“I didn’t get the first one on video,” Ladygirl said. “You should do it!”
“It’s even better the second time,” S– said. “She really leans into it.”
And thus, we received an encore performance. As promised, she really did, though that could have been because I accidentally snubbed her on the cheers.
We bade a fond farewell to S–, exchanging numbers and promising to reconnect the next time we came to Colorado. Ladygirl conjured an Uber that whisked us back to Denver. I was sleepy with beer, lamb, endorphins, maybe a light concussion.
“What a beautiful relationship,” I said.
“I think he may be barking up the wrong tree,” Ladygirl replied.
“Never tell him,” I murmured, nestling my skull between the seat and the door. “It’s better this way. It’s like Nately from Catch-22. Love is a many-splendored thing, Ladygirl.”
She may have replied. I was stone unconscious, and would remain so, with a brief interlude to stumble into the hostel, until the next day.