The Last Time I Almost Had a Threesome
If I had been in my apartment instead of a hospital bed, it might have been the ideal afternoon. My mind and body were braided with painkillers, and Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut was about a thirty seconds away from the best scene of the movie. Tom Cruise gave the password, donned his robe and exquisite mask, and wandered into the great meeting hall where the creepy sex cult was getting their ritual started. I swear one of the girls on screen looked just like this girl I slept with in Las Cruces once. I couldn’t see her face because she was wearing a mask too, obviously, but it looked just like her body. It might have actually been her. I mean, I can’t be sure, but I’d recognize those boobs anywhere.
There’s that part where the priest is chanting and waving incense around, and all the naked girls are kissing each other, and the camera follows them in one, long, circular shot. That scene, without question, is one of the most impacting moments in American cinematic history, but when the nurse walked in and saw what was on my TV screen, she just looked at me like I was a pervert or something.
“How are you doing, Mark? Feeling alright?”
“This morphine is great. Got anything to balance it out a little? A little cocaine maybe?” It was supposed to be a joke, but I’m not going to pretend to hate cocaine.
“I’ll bring you some coffee,” she said. “Anything else?”
For a second I thought that by “anything else” she meant “sex,” and I smiled. She didn’t smile back. Instead, she tightened her lips and waited, watching me. Her eyes were fixed lower than I hoped they would be. I followed them to the swaths of bandages at the end of my right leg, and was reminded of just why exactly I was in the hospital in the first place.
“No, nothing else, thanks,” I said.
“How’s the foot?” she asked.
I told her it was fine, just fine, and she left to fetch me some coffee. In fact, my foot was far from fine. Just a few hours earlier most of it had been amputated. It had been sawed off about halfway up, leaving a weird, toeless club.
I told myself it wasn’t the end of the world. It wasn’t. It’s not like I had a big athletic career ahead of me or anything. And besides, having this amputated foot was already sort of starting to add to the persona I liked to think that I’ve cultivated for myself. It made me more mysterious, more cool. By itself, an amputation isn’t nearly enough to make you cool. My mom’s neighbor was a diabetic who had had both of her feet cut off. She wore pink muumuus and watered the lawn from her wheelchair. She was anything but cool. No, I was already one of those cool guys you see in bars and record stores, and my newfound status as an amputee made me more of an interesting character in the way that a half-crazy ex-marine is one. It sort of matched my dreadlocks.
This was another story to tell around the campfire or at parties. I could pull it out of my bag along with the one about how I got stabbed by a member of the Bandidos MC. Before, I was the guy who had traveled through Central America off the beaten path, from village to village, sleeping with girls who only spoke Nahuatl or Mixteco, the prettiest girls in the tribe, or whatever. Now I’m the guy who did all that shit, and has an amputated foot to boot. To boot. See what I did there?
Acting cool is a simple trick that you either figure out somewhere along the line or you don’t. I’ll clue you in. All you have to do is act unimpressed by anything that comes up, like you’ve done and seen it all before. Stay calm and uninterested, even if it isn’t your millionth time buying mescaline from a guy with face tattoos. Do wild shit, and keep yourself from grinning. Pluck butts from the ashtray in front of the 7-Eleven and smoke them shits like they were Cuban cigars. Hell, if someone offers you a Cuban cigar, smoke it like it was a butt from an ashtray. That’s how everybody knows you mean business. If you don’t look cool, then you get stuck hanging out with pubey-bearded guys who think they’re wizards, guys whose favorite color is “transparent.”
Of course, there are a few situations in which that strategy doesn’t work, when you’re better off just shutting up and listening. Like with these crust punk girls, Lucy and Rat, fellow travelers that I met at a house party in Oakland. I was being pretty funny, and we had been drinking a lot of cinnamon whiskey. Also, I had a hotel room in town, and they wanted to come back to it with me. Rat was considerably better looking than Lucy. Her body was all lean and tight under her black Flux of Pink Indians t-shirt, and Lucy’s t-shirt was a little too lean and tight over her body, if you know what I mean. I didn’t mind though. It was sort of a twofer-one type of a deal, and I hadn’t had one of those in a couple of months. Convenient enough, right? Listen though, I don’t usually stay in hotel rooms. I mean, look at me. That’s obviously not my style. When I travel I’d rather couch surf or sleep under the stars or in a hostel, but I had had a long day hitchhiking, and I thought I’d reward myself with a soft bed and some internet access courtesy of La Quinta.
Anyway, what matters is that these two girls wanted to come back to my hotel. We took the bus there and snuck in the side door and crept up to my room.
“Jesus Christ, Mark,” said Lucy, “how many stairs do we have to climb?”
“Quiet. I don’t want to get kicked out. I’m not supposed to bring anyone here.”
“Oh, what are they going to do?”
“I’ve only paid for one person.”
“Don’t be such a pussy,” said Rat, and she yanked on one of my dreads pretty good.
“Why couldn’t we’ve taken the fucking elevator?” Lucy was yelling now. I winced, pulled the keycard out of my wallet and hurried them into my room.
“Nice pad, dude,” said Rat. She clicked on the TV.
“Sure beats the squat,” added Lucy, looking around. “Can we order room service?”
I sat on the bed and pulled off my boots. Lucy was hefting my backpack.
“Is this yours, Mister North Face?”
“Looks like it hasn’t seen much travel.”
“It’s new. I stole it from REI.”
Rat giggled, and then got serious.
“Where are those boomers you promised us, Mister North Face?”
I retrieved the bag of high grade mushrooms from the side pocket of my pack and dangled it in front of the girls like a hypnotist’s watch.
And we did those mushrooms in room 313 of the Oakland La Quinta, and we talked about death and anarchism and achieving immortality by uploading your brain to a supercomputer. The girls took a shower. I wasn’t invited. They peeled off black jeans and t-shirts and left them in a filthy heap in front of the bathroom door. I could tell they wanted to make it happen, some sexy time. We would have once they got cleaned up, I’m sure, but by the time they stepped out of the shower I was too far gone. I know how this sounds, but I felt like I was inside of the carpet. I fell asleep there on the floor, while they spooned under my hard-earned hotel sheets, two crusties scrubbed clean, naked save for their wobbly, handpicked tattoos. There was tomorrow night for threesomes.
The next day we smoked a spliff and I checked out of the hotel while Rat and Lucy snuck out the back door. We ducked into Denny’s for a hangover pancake brunch, and they asked if I’d ever ridden freight before.
“Sure,” I said. “I’m a regular Alexander Supertramp.”
“Well, we’re going to catch out to Portland tonight. Want to come along?”
Threesome! I thought.
“Definitely. It’s been a while since I’ve been through Portland.”
So we headed to pick up their bags, which were made of green canvas and covered in patches and pins and grease. They looked like regular ol’ turds sitting next to my North Face beauty in the back of their friend Box’s pickup truck as he drove us to the train yard. Mine would get there someday.
Box hugged the girls and left, and we sat in the shade, hiding from the bull in a scratchy stand of weeds. There was nothing to do but wait. I smoked Pyramid cigarettes until my throat felt raw. I rubbed my knuckle across my gums to make sure that they weren’t bleeding.
“Jesus,” I said, shifting my pack to try and make it into a more comfortable pillow. “When does this train leave, anyway?”
The girls eyed me.
“I thought you said you’d ridden freight,” Rat said.
“I have, I have. I’ve just only done it in Mexico,” I said. “And Canada. Trains run on time in Canada.”
To my relief, Lucy sprang to her feet.
“That’s our train. Let’s go!”
I grinned, thinking that I was the best sort of railroad prophet.
We hustled across the yard to a slow moving northbound pulling empty coal cars. We jogged along parallel to it, and Rat handed her pack to Lucy and climbed onboard. She gave us a grin and a thumb up before lowering herself to the bed of the car. How the hell were we going to pee in there? I really had to go. The train was moving faster, picking up steam, as they say. Lucy threw Rat’s bag first and then her own, and she too lifted herself onto the thundering, hundred shit-ton coffin. Once aboard, she hung over the top and watched me. I was sprinting now to keep up. I heaved my bag up to her like a bright blue, quick-dry football full of expensive drugs. She caught it. Rat poked her head over the side of the coal car.
“Hurry the fuck up, Mark!” she shouted.
I’m a pretty fast runner normally, but my boots crunched deep into the gravel along the side of the tracks. I groped for a hold, running my hand along the steel that was gritty with dust, finding nothing.
One of them must have shouted something, probably Lucy, because I lost focus for just one split second. And in that one split second I learned that sometimes, every once in a while, it’s okay to appear curious or interested or even eager. Because worse than being uncool is watching the faces of two crust punks as they roll away to Portland while you’re on your back in the Oakland gravel, covered in your own urine, and with an indiscernible mash of chewed up flesh and boot leather at the end of your right leg.
Nathaniel Kennon Perkins lives in Salt Lake City and is Fiction Editor for the 2012-2013 issue of Enormous Rooms. He has written for a variety of newspapers and magazines, including The Tico Times and SLUG. His creative work has appeared in Commas and Colonsand Triquarterly.