March 06, 2007

Three Strikes and You're In

By Dr. Tim Lavalli © 2007

Ecuador Place opened in Hermosa Beach in '82 and closed in '83. But for a few brief shining months it was a little hole in the wall of splendor. As Becca eased the steaming plate of Papaya Chicken in front of me I felt the warmth of the tiny restaurant and savored the wonderful tastes I was about to experience. The vegetable and berry stir fry that was placed in front of Melinda looked equally scrumptious. It was then that I realized I may have made a mistake trying to have a 'break-up' dinner here. Becca's gastronomic creations always put me at ease but ease was not the best place for easily ending a relationship. Besides the vaunted 'do it in public break-up' was a cowardly way out. So maybe just enjoy the meal and then...

Dates with Melinda always ended in sex. Dinner and sex; dance concert and sex; walk on the Strand and sex. Melinda liked sex. However, I no longer liked sex with Melinda, hence the need for the break-up. Nice girl, fun date, sex—not so much anymore, too vanilla. So how to wiggle off this hook? As I pondered this terrible dilemma, tortured by the thought of having to make love to a tall, tight dancer... Melinda interrupted.

"I am sorry to have to say this and even sorrier that I am doing it here but I think we need to stop seeing each other."

Now I must have gotten some otherworldly look on my face because she went on with reasons and apologies for several minutes before saying:

"Maybe I should just leave..."

"Hang on," I said.

I got up and grabbed a stryfoam container from where Becca kept them behind the counter and dished her Berry and Vegetable mixture into it.

"You are going to be hungry in an hour and this will fill the void."

OK that was cheap; I knew even with the end in sight, she would really have liked a filled void one more time. She smiled that coy 'come fuck up' smile one last time and turned for the door.

"Have a good life," I muttered to no one in particular.

I finished an extremely satisfying meal and pondered how sometimes life just simply works out perfectly. As I stepped out into the ocean-saturated night, I decided not to walk across the street to Fat Face Fenner's, too many friends there, and I wanted to savor the elegance of what had just happened. But a drink or two were clearly in order.

I walked down Hermosa Avenue pondering the libacious options when a gaggle of young ladies burst out of Bestie's in a swirl of laughter and estrogen. Bestie's, good idea, and there was that new British waitress. What was her name? Ellen, no Helen!

The prowl begins anew.

I strolled up the hill behind the bar and saw her blond, short hair through the windows, she was working the far set of tables, I knew where to take a seat. Once inside I spotted a few of the soccer boyz in that section and they waved me over. I slid into the booth and before the, "Hi. How are you's?" were done Mark slapped down a phlanax of shots.

"These are from Frank. Hey Tim, drink up there's an extra shot."

I looked down at the slight golden liquid and rather than ask, we all just tipped up the bullet and inhaled. Much to my surprise what greeted my tongue was a bath of high quality tequila. I glanced down the bar and seated at the far end was Frank, "El Gordo" to his friends and enemies. I nodded in appreciation that Frank had, as always, pulled the high end mescal from under the bar.

Helen breezed by, you remember Helen, and we ordered a round of drinks accompanied by several suggestive and amateurish boy comments, which she dismissed with the cold shower that only a seasoned waitress or stripper can administer. The was some talk about soccer, the coming dart tournament and Helen's tits and propensity for short, sharp, anonymous sex (not exactly the boyz words). I believed everything they said about the darts and the soccer.

When Helen arrived back with the drinks, mine was, not as ordered, a tall very icey light golden concoction.

"Frank, sent this over, he said you would appreciate the blend."

I took a long pull on a very cold mix of the same high end tequila but with what? Fruit? No, roses! After a second taste, I walked to the far end of the bar and thanked Frank properly and got the blend. Lots of crushed ice, a double shot of the smoothiest tequila on hand and a dash of essence of rose, which Frank swore any establishment with excellent tequila would have stashed behind the bar.

He reminded me that last time we had seen each other was in a bar in Ensenada. I reminded him that I was one of the guys who got him back to his hotel room and he reminded me that it was his fifth straight night in that bar and that I had only arrived that afternoon. Point taken, El Gordo could indeed drink with the whales.

As I wandered back to the boyz, I stopped by the pay phone near the kitchen. I wanted to confirm tomorrow's appointment; noon I thought I remembered, one or two would be better, I felt there was more yet to be experienced tonight. I had no change and was pulling out a dollar bill when Helen came out the swinging kitchen door.


"What, you want to drool on me too..." she snapped.

"I was wondering if you had change," I held out the dollar.

As she fished the coins out of her apron, she quietly offered: "Sorry some nights the ‘what are you doing after work' lines are just..."

In my best therapist voice, I offered: "I know what you mean. Well actually I don't, no one ever leers at me. But to be honest, I find you just as attractive and desirable as all the men here do, I would just never insult you by tossing out some drunken stale line while you were working."

The smile took several seconds to form before she said: "Now that is a truly great line. How about dinner at the Ecuadorian place next week?"

Nothing like a woman with taste, except perhaps a woman who tastes good.

Back at the table, Mark was now well on his way to comatose and somehow it was last call. Must have been a time warp or perhaps the second bottle of mescal that Frank had opened. But someone was going to need to drag Mark the four blocks to his apartment and nomination process started and ended with me. It took about half a block for me to decide that Mark's sofa would be an excellent spot to rest for a few hours, this was before he walked full stride into a parking meter but after I had realized that the drive back to Palos Verdes was clearly counter-indicated by both my slowed mental state and the creeping numbness in several vital body parts.

I manage to leverage Mark up the outside staircase to his apartment and he staggered into the bathroom. I settled on the sofa and pawed through the pile of magazines, mostly sports and gambling rag sheets but I found a fairly intact Psychology Today, wondered about its place in Mark's apartment and remembered Kathleen. What was the story there? She was tall, strikingly beautiful, firm, rounded and mounded to near perfection, had a great job, traveled often and yet still lived with Mark. What was her fatal flaw? I assumed she was off traveling as was usually the case; Kathleen was only around for major events and holidays and Mark generally had a two drink limit in her presence.

As I skimmed through an article on phermones and chocolate, Mark mumbled from the bathroom to the bedroom, something like, "Gud Nite," or perhaps, "What is the essential meaning of life and existence?" I missed the exact words.

Moments later I heard the muffled words of a woman's voice. So Kathleen was not on the road. Mark's mumbled, muffled reply followed. After a brief silence, another exchange; followed by a shorter pause and repeated, only a bit more brittle. I could hear none of the words but the tone and speed of Kathleen's conversation did not suggest: "Hi Honey, you're home."

Sharp words, mumbled reply, more sharp words. What did leak through the walls were only two clear words: "Drinking" and "Fuck."

Just when I was considering a quiet exit from the adjoining battlefield, there came the clear sound of a slap that resonated through the night. Moments later another and then a series of body blows were obvious. Shit! But what else was there to do. I walk over to the bedroom door and push it open a foot just in time to see a full force swat come crashing down on Mark's head. He was curled on the bed with his knees drawn up and his arms wrapped around his head. Kathleen towered over him, standing with legs wide spread on the bed, wearing only brown cowboy boots and a sheen of perspiration. She nearly glanced in my direction before announcing:

"You come home piss drunk and can't get that limp piece of meat of use to anyone; you pitiful drunken eunuch!"

I eased the door shut and avoided laughing out loud until I reached the sofa. I could still have made my escape but for the moment I wanted to savor the image of Kathleen in those boots and all that was above. This must be where those fantasy artists got their images of breast-plated Norse warrior goddesses battling dragons. Who knew the dragons drank? I must have slipped off in my ponderings of Kathleen's splendor when I realized I was not alone. I opened my eyes to see her at the end of the sofa, still in the boots and still shining with that sheen of sensuality.

I can still hear her words, all these years later:

"You had better hope you drank less than he did..."

Dr. Tim Lavalli is a shrink from Las Vegas, NV.

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