This one’s called Dirty Lincoln and it’s for waiters and such. Okay, so you’re doing your job, doing your job, la la la, and the family of dorks in your section finishes their plates of slop. They pay in cash and their change is, let’s say, eight bucks. Three ones and a five. Now, you want a tip, deserve a tip, and you want the five, not the three, and ideally you want the whole eight. So you take the five and you really fuck it up. Working at a Thai place in Tampa and the guy who showed me this would use syrup from the soda gun to make it sticky because no one wants sticky money so nine times out of ten, the dad dork tips the five and most of the time, the whole eight. Dirty Lincoln.
I got the job at the Thai place through a friend of the woman I was living with, a woman who believed I was transitioning out of the Amish community. She believed this because that’s what I told her the night we met at Tiny Taps.
Drinking on a stool and she came up next to me to order at the bar. Big dangly earrings and one of those skirts, I don’t know what you call it. Short. She caught me looking over at her so I shot my eyes away. Saw an Amstel Light bottle and I think Amstel Amstel Amtrak Amber Ambush Amish Amish Amish Amish.
“Sorry for staring,” I said, getting her attention. I patted my chest. “Amish,” I said. “For what it’s worth, I’m Amish.”
“You don’t look Amish,” she said.
I took a deep sigh. “I did until very recently.”
“Where’s your beard?”
“Shaved it,” I said, hanging my head. “I’m starting all over.”
She smiled. “Me too,” she said.
After three bourbons for me and two whiskey sours for her she said, “Can I tell you something crazy?” and I pretended to really think about it before I said okay, like I’m still catching on to the way this wild world works.
She said, “I had a dream about this and I think you’re supposed to come live with me and I think we’re supposed to get married,” and in response, I squared my shoulders and looked unblinking into her round and brown little face and I, with the voice of some asshole who had built barns until he just couldn’t anymore, said, “Sweet sister, we had the same dream.”
Always feels longer when I tell it, like it was years together in that basement studio with the girl from the bar who ended up being named Saritza, but I was only there for a couple weeks because I’m only anywhere for a couple of weeks, or at least that’s how I was then.
Fun at first. Punching buttons on the microwave all confused. Getting overwhelmed in the headphones aisle at Best Buy. That kind of thing. And you know, she never suspected I was anything other than what I told her, even though she would have understood at some point that wonder wears off. I kept doing it though. I kept doing it because I couldn’t stop. I was addicted.
Each time I faked a culture shock panic attack, she would comfort me, but not how you’re thinking. The girl had a gift. She pulsed out electrosympathetic neurowaves of pure human soul that transformed her face into a Valentine’s Day heart and her pupils would swell and crystal tears dripped off long lashes and she would take me in her arms or crawl into my lap and she’d squeeze what she thought was the sad out of me and I would squeeze her right back and we would cry and fuck each other’s brains out because she was starting over too, starting over for real, and she must have thought I never asked about it because I was too green to understand what she was running from, but really, I just didn’t give a shit. The only shits I gave were for those times between us when I was wrapped inside her and she’d smush me until the black parts of my eyes spread to the edges of my face.
Until, of course, like all drugs, it stopped working.
Long shift at the Thai place and I’m beat up afterward because honest work is bullshit and all I want is my sweet Saritza to pour out into me with her fiery little person except I’m also too gassed to think of something I hadn’t marveled over yet.
We were looking for something to watch when I muttered, “So many movies.” Except I say it all dreamy, like I’m talking about something deeper than HBO but Saritza was on her phone at the other end of the couch and not really paying attention. Frankly, she had been cooling on my shit since the previous Sunday when I got drunk and told her one pretty friend that she had skin like churned butter.
“What,” Saritza said.
I pointed to the TV and made a face like I’m just so lost and eventually we whipped it up into something that resembled our sessions from those first days. She did her thing and we cried and fucked but it wasn’t any good and that’s when I started thinking, not for the first time, that I have to get the fuck out of this miserable goddamn state.
I’ll never know how she found out but gun to my head, I’d bet it was her friend that I hit on. Also, I ordered a few boxes of bulk SIM cards on the internet, another story, and had them delivered to the apartment which, looking back, was not my smartest move. Saritza pressed me about it one morning over coffee. I mean, she went right for it.
“You’re not Amish,” she said. Her knees were pulled up to her chest, tucked inside the old shirt she slept in.
I blinked a few times. “I know baby, not anymore. You’re helping me so much.”
She stared at me, jaw muscles jumping. “No, you’ve never been Amish.”
I looked up, away from her gaze. “Mennonite, then.”
“No,” she said.
I looked back at her then and saw in her eyes the unmistakable wound of new wisdom. This was the end. “No,” I said, agreeing with her. “I’ve never been Amish.”
She nodded and swallowed and put her face down through the neck of her t-shirt and screamed. When she was done, she looked at me and said, “I think there’s something wrong with you.”
“You could say that about anyone,” I replied, which ended up being the last thing I ever said to her. We sat there for a while, but she was still crying when I got up to pack my things. I felt about a hundred years old.
Called the Thai place to see if I could pick up a shift on my way out of town and the guy who taught me Dirty Lincoln made it happen. Thieves’ code, I guess. Fucked up the drawer for whoever was closing that night but made off with a couple hundred bucks from the lunch crowd. Enough for a bus to nowhere fancy which in this case meant Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
The Greyhound station in Hattiesburg is next to a Cracker Barrel, which I ate at, which tasted like dust, like nothing at all, and I walked the half mile down route 49 to the Wyndham, where I checked in using a credit card I kept for emergencies, or rather, a credit card someone else kept for emergencies, or did until I took it off them.
The lady at the desk gave me a key card, room 507, and when I swiped it, it didn’t work. Went back down and the lady at the desk gave me another one. Go back up, try it again, no luck. Back at the desk. Lady very apologetic.
“What kind of place are you running here?” I demanded.
“I’m very sorry, sir.” She did not sound very sorry. She sounded very tired. She clacked some more keys on her computer and handed me another card. “This one should work. I figured out what was wrong, just a little glitch, and now it’s just fine, sir. This will work.”
It didn’t. I threw the card down the hallway. It flicked against the wall. I stomped my way to the elevators, punched the down button, punch punch punch. Down down down. I got in the elevator and when the mirrored doors closed, I screamed goddamnit at myself.
I just wanted to get in the room. I just wanted to be in the goddamn room. I just wanted to be held and stroked and I wanted those tears on me, because her tears were so real and mine were such bullshit. She ruined me for anything else a woman could ever give me. I was her Dirty Lincoln but she didn’t want me and neither did anyone else and I would go looking everywhere and never find her again.
The elevator doors opened in the lobby. The lady at the desk looked up from across the room. I could see the apology forming in her neck, but she wasn’t sorry, not really. Not yet.
Kyle Seibel is a writer in Santa Barbara, CA. His stories have appeared in trampset, HAD, and Bending Genres. His tweets, which mostly suck, can be found @kylerseibel.