by Todd H. Dills
In Chicago, Melissa and I adamantly agree that weíre somehow different. Then laugh heartily.
The century is playing itself out in clicks of the hand-held VCR remote she brandishes. The summer is long over. I feel like Iíve finally found her, the one. She lives a block and a half away. Sheís beautiful. Sheís cranked the heat high. We might be celebrating the respective anniversaries of our departures from places far South, but not long forgotten. I donít remember the date, I tell her. Neither does she. But finally there is an air about the city sweet and recognizable. The leaves fall from the trees in clumps outside of her front window. The wind is high and cold. The hum of central heat is beautifully insulating.
We sit hips just barely touching adjacent on a two-seater couch. Me and the Texan. She sports chaps and a ten-gallon for the occasion. Iím wearing frayed jeans, an old t-shirt and a meshed John Deere cap, native SC wear. Weíre watching her Dukes of Hazzard tapes, smoking cigarettes and talking alternately. "What happened to chivalry?" she asks from the left corner of her mouth, an unlit cigarette between her lips. I look up from the tube and smile and tip the brim of my cap her way, pull a matchbook from my pocket and strike one. I am careful to hold the flame low so as not to set the brim of her white stetson ablaze. The tip of the cigarette glows, then leaves off, smoke billowing out from under the brim and clouding her face. "No offense, of course," she says with what I think is a grin behind the smoke. "And thanks."
"None taken," I say. "And youíre welcome."
We know why we are here. Eenis and Cleetus are both idiots. Soís Roscoe, Boss Hogg. And Bo and Luke are always smart. Always cool. They know the scoop. "But I think I identify now most with the bad guys on their ways to Atlanta," I shrug.
"I know what you mean," she says. "This is a show for kids."
"And when youíre a kid the bad acting doesnít bother you at all."
"And you donít get the fucked up political stuff."
"You never realize that the only black people ever on the show happen to be the ones with the stolen shit."
"And this is Georgia; black people are there."
Our ability to dialogue thisóitís uncanny. We havenít been paying great attention to the show up to this point. Iíve lain back into the couch, stretched my arms a number of times in an attempt to draw her into me by obviously subversive methods. She has laughed at this and Iíve crossed my arms and pouted in parody. Somehow itís worked out okay. We are on some sort of verge, a cliff. This is our first time, hanging out, getting together. We meditate. Meditating which is a mental and linguistic grope, a reach-in-and-grab-a-piece-of-the-other-type thing. We talk South. We met two days ago at an art-party to which it happened we were invited by the same gay painter-friend and his female film-student roommate whoíve been in Chicago for five years, originally from someplace outside of Detroit.
"Michael was talking you up," Melissa says now, out of the blue. "Michael and Audrey both."
"Whatíd they say?"
"Toddís sooooo smart. That was Audrey, drunk Audrey."
"Yeah, I think she really likes me when sheís wasted. Too much. Around her boyfriend, even."
"Michael said you were great. He said youíd been here exactly the same time as me. But he also said you drank a lot."
"And youíve been here how long?"
"A little more than a year."
"Thatís sounds about right."
"I, too, drink a lot."
She looks at the tube and smiles, turns back to me and gives me the once-over for the fiftieth time in the past hour. I stare at her nose. The General Lee is running down a truckload of stolen washing machines. Bo is poised on the hood, arms up and out, toes just ready to leave the surface of the speeding vehicle, the late sixties model Dodge Charger. All caught in a freeze frame shot from aboveóthe stars and bars that grace the roof, the windshield, Lukeís arm extended from the driverís side indicating his presence behind the wheel, the exposed forearmís taut and sculpted muscle wrapped tight about halfway up with rolled blue and yellow-checked flannel. Time is stopped; the General Lee and the boys hang still and our eyes converge there for a split second, then lock on each otherís.
Waylon Jennings, our friendly Hazzard County narrator, cuts in, "Well, I donít know about youÖ". Melissa removes her ten-gallon; I put my mesh hat behind me on the arm of the couch. "Öbut Boís done got himself into quite a jam."