The night Maggie and I went to see Adam and The Ants at The Paradise, there were hardcore kids with shaved heads, ripped jeans and flannel shirts tied around their waists, carrying signs that read: Black Flag Kills Ants On Contact. Their laced up army boots sounded like fists making contact with the sidewalk as they picketed like experienced union members on strike.
Maggie lit a joint and passed it to me. We were already pretty stoned, having smoked a pipeful at my apartment before we left for the concert. Joe, my lover, wasn't interested in going to the show, drinking the two-drink minimum or spending any more time with Maggie than he had to.
"I almost met Henry Rollins," Maggie said in that voice she always got after taking a hit of a joint.
"Almost," I said, breathing the smoke in through my nose before toking on it.
"Really," Maggie said, her eyes bloodshot and wide. "They were playing at The Rat and..."
"Tony was going to get you backstage passes, but you had to work," I said finishing her sentence and exhaling at the same time.
"Almost fine," Maggie said, "just don't forget who got you backstage for the Go-Go's."
"Backstage. End of story. Just don't forget who backed you up when you told everyone you slept with Belinda Carlisle. Nodding off together doesn't count."
"That one's kind of cute," Maggie said, pointing at the punk parade, her short attention span already exhausted.
"Which one?" I asked, having a hard time telling the skin-heads apart.
"That one," she said, pointing randomly at the crowd. "You having an L&M moment or can I have the joint back?"
Suddenly, Maggie started rummaging in her purse. It was an old leather shoulder bag, big enough for a change of clothes. She pulled her transistor radio out and held it to her ear without turning it on.
"I just know 'BCN is playing 'Planet Earth', right now, I can feel it in the air."
"'Chihuahua'," I said, wondering when she was going to turn it on.
"No, wait, it's 'The Magnificent Seven'", she said, holding the radio so close to her ear, I was sure it would leave an impression, scar her for life, give her something to tell her grandchildren about.
"'What Does Sex Mean To Me'," I said, so confident in my choice that I would have kissed one of the skin-heads on the mouth in a bet.
"Oh, for crissakes," someone behind us said, "just turn it on."
We were both wrong, as Ric Ocasek sang "Candy-O/I need you so", and the rest of The Cars harmonized. She turned it off and put it in her purse almost as quickly as she had taken it out.
"Gotta save the batteries," she said, to me and anyone else within earshot.
"How did you get tonight off, anyway?" I asked. Maggie was known for the excuses she made up, and our boss, Don, was known for believing them.
"Jackie wanted my hours. She needs to buy Oliver new shoes."
Maggie, Jackie and I waited tables in a dive near North Station called Cafe Society. We called it, Cafe Sociopath, because of our boss, Don, and his twenty-year old son and business partner, Rob. Also, because most of the customers were either patients or therapists at the Nut House, across the street.
Jackie was my age and had a two year old son named Oliver. Maggie was a year younger and lived with her mother Marianne, who we called "the virgin Marianne", in an apartment cluttered with religious tracts and icons across from the State House. Jackie and Oliver lived in Charlestown, in the projects. I lived in the North End, with my lover, Joe. We lived above a twenty-four hour bakery. Joe worked as a paralegal at a big law firm and when I wasn't waiting tables at Cafe Society, I was a college student.
"Oliver seems to be growing faster than Jackie can keep him clothed," I said, waving at a girl from my Western Civ class.
"Who's that?" Maggie asked, sounding like she almost cared.
"Someone from school. I don't remember her name."
"You've got this thing about names, don't you?" Maggie half-asked.
"I remember yours, don't I? Don't complain."
"I'll bet you don't remember the name of that new guy, the one Jackie's working with tonight."
"Scott," I said, guessing. "No, Stewart, Stan, Sven." I was shooting in the dark.
"Wrong," Maggie said, an unmistakable grin of victory on her face, and then she began to sing, "'Let's face it, you're wrong again'."
"Well, whatever his name is, I hope Jackie isn't being too hard on him. I remember my first night with her."
Yeah, I remember my first night with her like it was last night. Don was showing me around the kitchen, explaining all my responsibilities and duties to me. He was going on about how he liked having college kids working for him more than he liked locals. College kids are less likely to steal from me, he said. I asked him how many college kids he'd had working for him and he told me I was the first.
Jackie came stumbling into the kitchen. When she saw Don, she straightened up as if she was a marionette and someone pulled a string in her back and shoulders. Don introduced us and left. I'd never met anyone like her. She was beautiful and shrewd. She'd grown up in the West End and had been in trouble since she could remember. She had this thing for guys with criminal records. Most of her boyfriends were in prison, going to prison or just getting out. Most of her boyfriends, that is, except for the father of her son, Oliver.
He was from a well-connected North End family. He worked in a bakery on Prince Street and dealt drugs on the side. When Jackie got pregnant, he offered to marry her, but he just wasn't enough trouble for her. Go hold up a convenience store and then maybe we'll talk, she told me she told him. I learned all this about Jackie within the first 5 minutes of talking to her. Her parents had moved into a new condo on Atlantic Avenue, a few blocks from where Joe and I lived, after the demolition of the West End had begun. She'd stop by our place unannounced, after visiting her mother and stepfather, but we both liked her and didn't mind the interruption. She told us she had a thing for gay men, they knew the real meaning of trouble.
Sometimes she'd bring Oliver with her after a visit. He was remarkably blonde for having parents with such dark hair and features. Joe had just discovered photography as a hobby and Jackie and Oliver were more than happy to sit for him while he snapped and flashed away at them.
Maggie and Jackie weren't allowed to work together anymore on account of the "muffin melodrama", a run-in with Don's perpetually stoned son Randy, who we called the muffin man. Randy worked the night shift, cranking out muffins for the morning rush-hour crowd. He was older than Rob, who was Don's business partner. Randy didn't seem to mind his station in life. He was my age, and he was the first person my age I'd ever met who hadn't finished high school.
When it was slow, Maggie and Jackie smoked with Randy in Don's office. All the restaurant smells masked the marijuana smell pretty well. One night, Jackie came in with a joint of dust and wouldn't let Randy smoke with her and Maggie. You would have thought the world was coming to an end. He began throwing baking utensils around the kitchen. Big silver bowls, muffin tins and mixing devices clanged against the walls and other surfaces. While Maggie was dialing 911 on the phone near the cash register at the front counter, Randy was calling Don at home in Marblehead. Surprisingly enough, the police got there first. In typical Don fashion, money exchanged hands and everything was forgotten. Everything except the work schedule. And even though Maggie and Jackie were prohibited from working together, that didn't stop either one of them from stopping in on their nights off, when the other one was working, and the tormenting of Randy continued.
Joe, my lover, thought Rob was to die for. Rob thought Joe was a little old and aggressive. Rob and I had a special "working relationship". Rob had just gotten married to Beth, a girl he had gotten pregnant while they were still in high school. He was about 6'2, with blonde hair and a slightly chipped front tooth. He had been a gymnast in high school and he had muscular arms with big veins. He liked to wear tight fitting, colored t-shirts with pockets. He told me I was the first homo he had ever met and if he'd met me sooner, things would have turned out differently.
I reminded him that he was a married man and soon-to-be a father, again. What I didn't tell him was that I dreamed about him all the time. We flirted in that weird way that gay men flirt with straight men. Everything was a double entendre. We touched a lot, and even though I'd been completely faithful to Joe, I was excited about being close to Rob, brushing past him in the kitchen or behind the pastry counter.
One time, after closing, while I was refilling the fluorescent lit case with freshly baked tarts, Rob came up behind me. I was kneeling, reaching into the brightly lit shelves, when I sensed his presence. I started to stand up, slowly, and he put his long-fingered hands on my hips, as if to help me up. After I had stood all the way up, he kept his hands where they were and pulled me into him. We stood that way for almost a minute, the seat of my jeans pressed up against his crotch. I could hear Randy singing along off-key with the radio in the kitchen.
"Randy," I said.
"No, Rob," Rob said and laughed.
"I know who you are," I said, "what if Randy sees us?"
"He'll be jealous," Rob said and then he let go.
A few weeks later, after our flirting seemed to have died down a bit, I was in the stockroom taking inventory, when Rob walked in and closed the door behind him. Don was still in his office, counting the lunch time receipts. Maggie was fighting with Floyd, one of the cooks.
"Your boyfriend called," Rob said, leaning against the door. "I told him you were busy. Are you busy?"
"Kind of," I said.
I was sitting on a stack, three-high, of twenty pound muffin-mix bags. Bran, corn, blueberry. I was just about eye-level with Rob's crotch, which appeared to be in full bloom under his Jordache jeans. Something in his eyes, blue-grey and shiftier than usual, told me this visit was more than an employer checking up on an employee and less than a social call.
"I haven't had sex in so long, Maggie is beginning to look good to me," he said, hands on slim hips, his Chuck Taylored foot tapping.
At first, I thought about defending Maggie, brushing off Rob's advances, but my tongue took over.
"Look at what happened the last time you had sex."
"Wait a minute," he said, on the defensive, sense of humor vaporized, "we've had sex since then. It's just that one of Beth's girlfriends told her that it wasn't good for the fetus if we fucked. Besides, she's a good Catholic girl, so the back door is out of the question."
"Why don't you ask her doctor? I'm sure he'll tell you it's OK."
"I don't WANT to have sex with Beth," he said, his voice trailing off in an invitation.
"Here?" I said, not letting any time pass, "Right now? With your father on the other side of that wall? With Maggie and Floyd starting World War III out there?" I was gesturing wildly, pointing in all directions at once. The legal pad rocked in my lap.
He stepped away from the door, closer to me. I stood up, too quickly, and swooned from the moment and lack of oxygen in the stock room. He reached out to me, to help me regain my balance, and pulled me against his chest. I crashed into his pecs and immediately wanted to stay there forever.
Forever lasted about twenty seconds. There was a knock on the door.
"Robbie, honey, are you in there?" It was Beth.
"Yeah, Babe, be right out. Just helping Gary with the inventory."
Maggie, Jackie and I called Beth the Blue Ox because Rob called her Babe. I wanted him to call me Babe, but I knew we'd never have the chance for this again. Beth distrusted me and soon Rob would become preoccupied with fatherhood, again. When he opened the door and walked out into the kitchen, Prince was singing "Dirty Mind" on the radio.
I'd never told Maggie or Jackie about the "stockroom incident". I wanted to tell Joe, but things were a little on the rocky side in our relationship, and I was afraid that telling him would only result in the impending avalanche. I looked at Maggie, who was shifting her weight from leg to leg, growing increasingly bored with waiting on line. Now was not the time.
One of the doormen from the Paradise appeared at the head of the line. He was thick with muscle and fat. He held a bullhorn in one hand and a piece of paper in the other. He held the piece of paper close to his face and began to read from it. We could hear him just fine from where we stood, but somebody near the end of the line yelled, "Use the bullhorn, asshole."
"Oh, sorry," he said, remarkably polite for someone of his size and bulk.
"May I have your attention, please," he continued in that vein, "due to the overwhelming popularity of tonight's act and the careless overselling of tickets, the concert has been relocated to Metro on Lansdowne Street. The show will begin in one hour. Your tickets will be honored at the door. We regret the inconvenience."
Then, just as quickly as he'd appeared, he ducked into the club. This was a wise move on his part; between the picketing skin-heads and the restless patrons, he could have been reduced to a pulp.
"Oh, great," Maggie said, "we got here early so that we could get a good seat, now every latecomer asshole on line is going to get there before we do."
"Not if we walk fast," I said and grabbed her hand, pulling her out of line and across Commonwealth Avenue.
We managed to set a pretty good pace, passing people on all sides. A couple of times we had to slow down as Maggie lit joints and cigarettes. Of course, we had to stop at the Store 24 for something to drink and munch on. As we passed the Nickelodeon Cinema, I knew we were home free.
Once inside Metro, our tickets collected and Adam and The Ants tour t-shirts purchased, we found a spot at the foot of the stage to stand. We ordered drinks from Zelda, our favorite barmaid, and danced to whatever the DJ played. Maggie had a habit of burning holes in other peoples clothes with her cigarettes while she danced, so I gave her plenty of room.
The last time we were here, to see our favorite local band, The Fences, we almost got thrown out, because Maggie insisted on smoking a joint the size of a Cuban cigar. I wanted to remind her about this, but it was still a touchy subject. I also figured that she was sufficiently stoned and wouldn't need anymore until after the show.
I was wrong, of course. In the middle of "Antmusic", Adam and The Ants' fourth song of the set, Maggie was digging around inside her Marlboro box for the joint of dust Jackie had given her.
"Where the fuck is it?" Maggie shouted at me.
"Maybe your mother has it," I said. "Maybe she was expecting a visit from God tonight and needed a little something to get her in the mood."
"Here it is," she said, ignoring my last remark.
"Please don't, Maggie. I don't want to get thrown out."
"Don't be such a limp dick," she said. "If you don't want any, just say so."
"I don't want YOU to have any," I said. "I don't want to have another bouncer confrontation. If you have to smoke it, go into the bathroom."
"And miss the concert? Are you kidding?"
Sure enough, just as she was taking that first long drag, a big, burly bouncer named Bruno came up behind her and tapped her ever so daintily on the shoulder. She squinted her eyes into slits and offered it to him. He took it, dropped it onto the floor and crushed it.
"What the fuck did you do that for, you big ape?"
He started to walk away. Maggie went after him. I grabbed her by the purse strap. She swung around, her drink making an arc of Canadian Club and ginger ale over the crowd. We were nose to nose, in the middle of an angry and damp circle.
"Maggie, pick up the fucking joint, put it in your purse and behave yourself."
Her eyes were wide and wild. We glowered at each other. I kissed her on the cheek to break the ice. She folded her arms across her chest, turned to face the stage and stayed that way for the rest of the concert. She was the only body not swinging or swaying to the music. By the end of the show, she was leaning against me, softly snoring on her feet.
It was late and we'd have to walk fast to catch the last train out of Kenmore Square station. Once outside, the fresh air seemed to revive Maggie. She was awake, walking briskly, but silent. I tried to make conversation, talk about the concert, Adam Ant's hip-hugging leather pants, Marco's drumming. Anything, but an apology. I didn't think I should be sorry for preventing her from getting thrown out, face down in front of 10 Lansdowne Street.
"We should have gone to the after-concert party at Spit." It was the first thing she'd said to me since I rescued her.
"You should have said something sooner."
"I was still mad at you. I can't talk to you when I'm mad."
We were on our way downstairs, into the subway station. I had a token in one hand and the ticket stub from the concert in the other.
"Let's go back," I said, "we just have to show them the stub at the door."
"How will we get home? I spent my cab fare on the t-shirt and drink."
"Me, too," I said. So I guess our decision was already made for us.
The train that pulled into the station was making its last stop at Park Street. We had just missed the Government Center Station train that would have left us in between our houses. We'd spent many a night saying goodbye on the brick plaza in front of City Hall; Maggie walking away towards Beacon Hill, me heading off toward the glowing spire of the Old North Church in the North End.
The train wasn't too crowded, there were seats available when we first got on, but Maggie insisted on walking through both cars to see if we knew anybody. As luck would have it, we did, sort of.
Sitting in the back of the second car, all by himself, was Bob Wire, lead singer of our favorite local band The Fences. Maggie and I were walking next to each other down the aisle. The seats in front of Bob Wire were empty. We moved towards them as if they had some kind of weird gravitational pull.
"Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God," Maggie was babbling, a second wind in effect.
"Sssh," I said, trying to be the more mature and responsible one, while my leg was bobbing up and down in uncontrollable excitement.
"Oh, my God, it's Bob Wire. Bob Wire takes the T. Oh, my God, I can't believe it. How do I look?"
I looked at Maggie. Even stoned and tired, she was stunning. Her long, blonde hair, parted in the middle still looked freshly washed, even though it smelled of cigarette smoke and a nightclub. Her eyes were tamer than they were earlier. Blue and less bloodshot. Her cheeks were flushed, rosy and just-pinched looking. She was wearing tight-fitting Levi's and a New England Aquarium t-shirt, old and faded and stretched over her breasts. If I was a lesbian, I could have gone for her in a big way.
"You look fine," I said.
Maggie and I took turns taking what we thought were inconspicuous peeks and glances at him over our shoulders. He was reading a dog-eared copy of Rolling Stone. He didn't seem to be aware of our fawning.
"Ask him for his autograph," Maggie whispered.
"Why don't you?" I asked.
"I'm too nervous. Besides, you're the guy."
"What does that have to do with anything? You're butch, why don't you ask him?"
"Oh, my God, what if he gets off at Auditorium or Copley Square?"
"Why don't you ask him where he's getting off?" I suggested.
"Come on, ask him for an autograph. Pleeeeeeease."
What could I possibly ask him to autograph? All I had was my ticket stub and the WBCN bumper sticker they gave us at Metro.
"Do you have any paper in your purse? A page from your journal or something?"
"No, I cleaned out my purse before I left tonight. I didn't know we were going to have a brush with greatness."
After she said that, Maggie turned around and offered Bob Wire her most seductive smile. He was oblivious. The train stopped at Auditorium, Copley Square, Arlington Street, Boylston Street. Bob Wire stayed in his seat, turning pages. The next stop would be Park Street, the last.
"Park Street Station," the conductor said, his voice remarkably audible for the hour. "Last stop, everybody off."
We got up from our seats and stepped into the aisle. Bob Wire was still sitting down. Maggie poked me in the ribs. I shrugged my shoulders.
"Last stop," the conductor said, again, "everybody off."
Bob Wire stood up and stretched as if his alarm clock had just woken him and he was getting out of bed and heading for the shower. He walked a little unsteadily up behind Maggie and me. Maggie poked me in the ribs, again.
"Say something," she hissed.
We were standing at the top of the stairs on the train. Maggie got off first, and while I still had both feet on the last step, I turned around and thrust the bumper sticker and a pen into Bob Wire's chest.
"Uh...can I...can we have your autographs...I mean autograph?"
I caught him completely off guard.
"Well, yeah, sure...I...uh...I'm kind of stoned right now..."
"Oh, my God," Maggie yelped like a dog whose tail had just been stepped on, "so are we."
He was still standing on the steps of the train when the conductor tried to close the door. Maggie reached her hand in and pulled him off, beaming as if she had just saved him from certain death. He landed, cat-like, on his feet, and looked at Maggie kind of funny.
"Uh, thanks...who are you"?
"Oh, my God," Maggie started in, "we're like your biggest fans. I mean, we think The Fences are wicked good. Like, we're always calling 'BCN to request 'The First Lady Song' and 'Who Killed Marilyn?'.
"Is that right? Well, thanks. What I meant was who should I make the autograph out to? What's your name?"
"Oh, well, I'm Gary and this is Maggie. Mr. Wire, sir."
"Just call me Bob," he said, "my mother does."
"Just call him, Bob," Maggie echoed as if they were old friends.
He handed me the bumper sticker, which he signed on the back. I was sure Maggie was going to offer him a breast to sign, but she surprised me when she handed him her ticket stub.
"Adam and The Ants?" he said, examining the front of the stub.
"Oh, it was a really lousy show," Maggie said, defensively, "they were free tickets, from my ex-boyfriend Tony. I'm a lesbian now, I mean I don't hate men or anything, but when I was with Tony he was always getting me tickets for shows. He works at that used record store on Newbury Street. Maybe you know him. Anyway, I almost met Henry Rollins, once, but I had to work. We did get to go backstage when the Go-Go's played. You see I have this wicked crush on Belinda Carlisle and..."
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