Numbed and on edge after surviving the drive through a night of torrential rain, with lightning piercing through the dark like a strobe light in a throbbing dance club, Jarette had arrived in Middlegate, Nevada. A speck in the center of nowhere.
My mind feels like mold, but my senses are taut and alert. I’m calm and anxious at the same time. Wired, fried, and so tired I can’t feel my body.
He was parked in a dirt parking lot and sitting on an old, tin bench outside the Middlegate Station. A bar that resembled an Old West tavern and flophouse.
When a pick-up truck pulled into view, his nerves were like hair on a wet alley cat and he barely moved. The truck was green and sun-bleached with rust clinging to its underbelly like barnacles, and piloting the vehicle was a woman. Her expression was hard in the bright morning light.
She climbed out and moved toward Jarette and the front door. “Early riser or just up all night?” she asked with a combination of coo and growl, then moved her curves up onto the porch where Jarette sat.
“A little bit of both,” he replied.
“Well, it’s Nevada, so we drink in the morning here. We have cocktails and eggs.”
Then, she put a key in the door, wiggled it, and pried the door open saying, “Come on in, Rough Rider. You look like a worn-out old shirt that’s been in the rain too long.”
Inside the bar, it was dark, even when the woman turned the lights on. Dollar bills lined the ceiling, tacked there by a thousand drunks. A pool table sat empty in a side room, its blue-green surface beckoning like a calm sea. The bar itself was long but not especially old, its false wood shining only in the places that didn’t have stains from years of spilled drinks and burn marks.
Jarette took a seat on one of the bar stools, and she moved past him and behind the bar. As she went, she smelled of coconut, lime, and cigarettes. It was a strong potion that early in the morning, but it smelled better than the stale beer wafting from under Jarette’s feet.
A small kitchen lit up in a doorway to the right of the bar, and then the woman appeared with a small rack of glasses.
She asked, “So, what am I pouring you, Honey?”
He answered, “I promised myself I’d lay off the booze for a little while, but last night rattled my cage. I nearly died out there driving through that storm. How about an Irish coffee? Go heavy on the whipped cream…and the whiskey.”
The woman was curvy but not overweight. Like a beautiful hourglass that had been shoved off the shelf too many times, lost somewhere between the end of youth and the beginning of middle age. Small, wise wrinkles laced her eyes that sparkled in green. Sex and danger dripped off her. A lure pulled Jarette over the bar and repelled him at the same time.
“I gotta put coffee on first, so why don’t we start with whiskey?” she half-asked, winked, and then poured two shots from the well. “You’re paying anyway, so I’ll help myself. What’s your name, Cowboy?”
“You use a lot of nicknames for somebody you just met,” Jarette said.
“Well, I’d call you Baby, but you don’t look like one. And I save that for the boys in my bed,” she paused for a response, and receiving none, she continued, “I’ll start, seeing as you’re shy and trying to be mysterious. I’m Delilah. Pleased to meet you.”
Then she looked at Jarette with expectation. It was a look that invited him to both drink and offer his name.
“I’m Jarette. It’s a pleasure,” he said wryly and took his shot.
She smiled and drank her own whiskey, then asked, “Where you comin’ from?”
“Aaaah, I used to live there. Not too long ago and long enough to be able to forget some of it. But I left and went to Mexico.”
“That’s a big country. Where in Mexico?”
“I was all over. The last place I lived was in the Yucatan. But I had to come back.”
“How did you end up out here?”
“Jarette, honey…if you have the time and want to keep me company…I’ll tell you. You look like you’re runnin’ from somethin’ yourself, but I trust fugitives and I’ve got nothin’ to lose. It’s just you, me, the coyotes, and the wind out here.”
“I have all the time in the world.”
“The world’s gonna end at some point, Cowboy. So, I’ll make this longer than short.
“I’m an artist. Quite good. Don’t let my tough exterior fool you. I went to school. Got a degree and had my work shown. But the city got to be too much. Too much money and too many false promises. Cyber boys and start-ups and venture capitalists ran all the artists out of San Francisco, so I went south.
“Originally, I went to Oaxaca because I knew it was an artist enclave. I thought I could work there in peace and quiet. Then the EPR showed up. The Ejercito Popular Revolucionario leftists. I became friends with a few of them. Leftists have always been my people.
“I’d party with them, help them make revolutionary plans. We’d drink mezcal late into the night. The men — the boys — were sexy as hell, and I got with a few of them. I like dirty boys. Dangerous boys. But after they started blowing up Pemexes, I thought I should get out of there. I’m not into violence.
“I decided to head toward Tulum. I knew it was becoming a place where the yoga crowd hung out. Ravers, DJs, Eurotrash, money. And I love the Mayan culture. I thought it would be a good place to be an artist and no one would blow shit up.
“Trouble has a way of following a girl around though. There were no explosions but there was Manuel. Manuel and his wife.”
Then Delilah stopped, got silent, and stared off over Jarette’s shoulder. Her hand cupped her empty shot glass with tension. The room was silent, just the sound of the ice maker dropping a few cubes and the coffee pooling into its carafe.
I feel like I’m a priest and this bar is a church at the end of the world. Is this where sinners go to absolve one another?
Jarette felt the whole bar had come to life and he was going to be a witness to a confession.
Delilah steered her head back to him and said, “We need some tunes. Music. Latin music. And some more shots. Plus…your coffee is almost ready. You still want that Irish coffee?”
The room grew hot and thick. Delilah’s eyes burned bloodshot, piercing, and filled with melancholy.
Jarette began to feel like he was in One Thousand and One Nights. This time though, the tables were turned. Delilah was the Mesopotamian queen and he was the virgin at the edge of execution. She would decide what was going to happen to him.
She was the storyteller and the seductress, the sinner and the saint, the executioner and acquitter. Ruling the Middlegate Station like a sultana.
Is she trying to seduce me? Or kill me? Or is she just desperately lonely out here at the edge of nowhere? It’s like a game of ‘Fuck, Marry, Kill’ and I’m the guy in all three scenarios.
Jarette emerged from the fog of his thoughts, and said, “Yeah, I want the Irish coffee. But I’d like to buy you another shot, too. If that’s all right. I know you’re working.”
“Jarette…if someone else comes into this bar between now and tomorrow, I’ll give you the jeans I’m wearing and you can spank me.
“Seein’ as the storm washed out a lot of the roads around here, you’ll probably need to wait to leave anyhow. It’s just gonna be you and me for a while.”
Part 7 of Tedium is coming soon.
If you missed any part of my Tedium series, click any of these links below:
Part 3: The Alamo Inn
Part 5: Rock ‘n’ Roll Meltdown