for Sandy, Margaret, Abby
Barreling east in Al's old car, a women's conference, the Hardy Girls talk of heart carved out all over: towns mauled, no public transport, as good as saturation bombing, so smart we forget about Eastern time, cross the border too late to tour the Kinsey Institute "for security reasons." We check in, Memorial Union, head to a bar. Next day, we're up early, argue, talk all day. Ten hours later, the party at the Press, back to the room before dinner. Kick shoes off, big bed, 26-inch color, MTV, click of a zippo, woosh of the flame, fresh full smell of grass, two tokes, begin to relax. We brush teeth, pat hair, pass the seltzer, Tic-tacs, pearls. A male rocker in a kimono sings "Dude Looks Like a Lady," cuts to woman helmeted at drill. Green, strong Hawaiian via Manhattan, I roll another. Billy Joel rocks a Moscow stadium. Abby asks, When did you last see red flags on TV? In the hall, doors ajar, twenty people stare. Medical emergency we think as one, walk to the elevator, me last after locking the door. A stern male voice: Who is registered in room 312? They're here for us. It's a bust. Don't giggle. Their rules, fair game. Comes out smooth, turn toward him sing: I'm the occupant of room 312. Is there a problem, sir? So fast a blur. I'm Mr. Dewart Strain, head of Campus Security. He steers me down the hall, out of range. He is 55, short, pudgy, balding, robin blue polyester. I am all in black, leather on my back. His lip quivers, not at home with words. There have been some complaints. Guests have phoned the desk. Follow the struggle, meet his eye, I'm sorry. Consider stonewalling him—just say no—I-don't-know-what-you're-talking-about, but try respect for us both: We didn't mean any harm. Strain saying he doesn't want any trouble here. Neither do we, and we're really sorry. What we'd like is to leave now, have dinner and come back and go to sleep. All right, he says, but no more problems. Absolutely, you have my word. And thank you. We walk slowly down the hall to the tiny elevator. Door shuts with a thud, we jump up and down, ourselves again, a heap of hugs. Oh, god, oh god, that was so close. After dinner, dancing at Bullwinckle's. Sound crisp, big dance floor, Pet Shop Boys singing: Everything I long to do, no matter what or where or who—every place I'm going to, it's a sin. Boogey 'til two, spill into 24-hour Shoprite, florescent aisles: chips, green apples, cheese, seltzer, coffee Häagen Dazs, good girls with grocery bags, 3 a.m. tiptoe through the lobby, past Dewart Strain, snoring in a chair. Speak in whispers, MTV a murmur, feast finally, pleasures pint-size, seltzer tops our spoons.