Mark Driver Goes to Europe For the First Time On A Sexy Italian Vacation that He Can’t Afford Act One
Mark Driver Goes to Europe For the First Time On A Sexy Italian Vacation that He Can’t Afford
Act One: The Airport
Sitting at SeaTac International Airport, scratching mysterious welts on the back of my neck with half a fist of filthy fingernails, I was feeling sick from no sleep. I tasted bad sour chemicals and my eyes itched. Two pints of burnt coffee swirled counterclockwise in my guts, my intestines steamed and knotted as waves of sulfuric acid bled up through my scraped-to-shit windpipe. The air around me was as heavy as wallpaper paste, congealing in the corners of my mouth. I felt like a metal rest area toilet, scratch tagged to the wall with passing identity and shit house obscenity. I was sprawled out like a scarecrow, open mouthed and crooked at every joint. I was a mess. A total fucking mess. It was too early. An uncivilized hour. And I was showing it.
Conversely, my girlfriend seemed fine. Composed. A lady. Shored up like a tight little knot. She always seemed to be wearing sunglasses, even when she wasn’t. Smoothing her pantleg with a pale hand, checking her lipstick in a little round blush mirror. Removing a bit of blue lint from her shiny red shirt. She’s very fastidious about her appearance, a characteristic that has always blown my mind. I don’t know how she does it. She feels a hair out of place and a robotic hand automatically reassigns it a new position. I could have a buffalo wing stuck to the side of my face for a week and never notice, unless it started to itch, and then I’d write a story about it.
The seats in the terminal are shaped so that no one can sleep on them. Harsh armrests float and protrude above the creamy vinyl ass pads like iron spikes on a castle gate. Even resting your eyes in those swaddled death machines can result in your spine being torn from its body, complete decapitation, septic castration, a full gutting similar to ritual disembowelment of the Hmong mercenaries –
“Wow, all your complaining sure is helping,” she says, not looking up from her copy of Archeology Today, flipping a page to expose Tony Danza and Kid Koala selling Vietnamese yak butter, “I hope you keep talking about your digestive system the whole way to Italy. That would be terrific.”
Bah. She’d already taken my sunflower seeds away because I kept spitting the shells into the trashcan across the aisle three feet away. ‘First one I miss,’ I told her, ‘I’ll quit.’ Three hundred and thirty seven shells later, I found myself screaming ‘but we had a deal!’ as my bag of David’s was tucked into the echoing folds of a questionably authentic Fendi handbag. She had already taken away my spittin’ seeds, now she dare deprive me of my greatest talent – turning an ordinary situation into a unsurvivable gauntlet spun forth from the Fifth Gate of Hell itself?
My cries got me nothing but yawns and I moved onto eavesdropping.
Behind me the conversation between two puffy femalish handpuppets and a male gila monster in slimy green slacks dripped all the sexiness of a Sunday morning money market seminar delivered by a septuagenarian somnambulist with a muffin in his mouth and a diaper on his head.
“With Rachel and Michael in school we had planned on downsizing our lives, but so many of our assets were put into monthly storage, Paul questioned whether our margins were making sense. Especially since we had limited ourselves to a 1500 square foot condominium downtown. I’ve always enjoyed the benefits city living, but Paul felt it limited his output, so when the real estate market began its downturn last summer we supersized and moved into the four bedroom on Mercer Island. It has appreciated considerably even in the short time since acquiring it, and by the time Paul and I finally relocate to Houston we should have done quite well. We’re certainly looking at it as an investment.”
“Paul has a lot of client contacts in Houston, doesn’t he?”
“Yes, a majority of his business comes from Houston and Dallas Fort Worth area. Logistically, Seattle hasn’t been too much of a problem in maintaining those relationships, however Paul is worried that the distance will eventually take its toll, so we’ll be moving operations to Texas by the fourth quarter of 2003.”
“Now if I remember correctly, Paul is a big proponent of the bond market.”
“Well, he certainly believes in diversification but he also believes in strapping on a thirteen inch studded leather dildo and chasing out pet ostrich around the house while I mist him with our family mixture of DMSO and DMT. Both of our fathers were high ranking officers in the Gestapo and we like to wear their mothballed uniforms and flagellate each other with the severed pigtail of a blind child from our church we eviscerated with a Jell-O mold.”
“Now if I remember correctly, Paul also believes in random murder.”
“Well, he certainly enjoys killing for the sport of it, but lately he has diversified into co-workers and housekeepers.”
“But he is still poisoning the homeless with arsenic laced bottles of amaretto, isn’t he?”
“Well, after attending a seminar in Scottsdale, Paul became impressed with the killing potential of digitalis. It simulates all the symptoms of a heart attack and unless a coroner is specifically looking for it, digitalis is nearly untraceable.”
“I believe prussic acid in gaseous form also kills without telltale signs.”
“Yes, although prussic acid is very hard to work with, especially in a bear market.”
“So Paul believes we are in a bear market.”
“Yes, unfortunately. Although he’s predicting a turnaround by the fourth quarter of this year.”
“That’s good news. My retirement IRA has gone south since the NASDAC hit Turbulence 2000. Have you seen what Amazon is trading at?”
“Well, you don’t lose until you sell out.”
“That is so true.”
“Did I tell you that Michael is following in Paul’s footsteps?”
“Yes, we’ll have two financial experts in the house now.”
“Is Michael seeing anyone at school?”
“Oh, he’s mostly just getting sloppy seconds on unconscious freshmen who pass out at their fraternity parties.”
“Well, loose college girls like that certainly deserve whatever they get.”
“Who said anything about girls? Rachel on the other hand, has hooked herself quite a beau at Princeton. His name is Richard and he’s from, get this, New Jersey! Rachel has always been such a West Coast girl so Paul and I were thrown for a loop when she said she met a boy from New Jersey. Apparently, his family does very well.”
“How long have they been together?”
“Six months since they started seeing each other exclusively.”
The gila monster cleared his scaly throat and finally added to the conversation. “Do we hear wedding bells?”
It was at this point that Krustie jabbed a painted thumb into the side of my neck to stop the rolling gag noise I had apparently been making rather loudly. My tongue snapped back into my mouth and I rubbed my new ouchy. I had been having fun, messing with their conversation. I didn’t realize I was making so much noise.
“We’re on vacation. Stop it.”
“But do you hear those creeps? Do they talk about shit like that all the time? Jesus, people in America don’t talk about anything but work or money. No wonder this country sucks for anyone who isn’t interested in either. It’s like that-“
“I know everything you’re going to say and I don’t want to hear it.”
“Can you imagine them talking about sex? It would be like ‘Paul successfully infiltrated my business niche and after some good old fashioned hard work mutually beneficial to our partnership, was able to make sufficient deposits sure to yield future payoffs’.”
“You promised wouldn’t be like this on vacation.”
“You know ‘like what’. Like you.”
“Oh sorry Il Duce, I’ll be a normal boyfriend and go buy a John Grisham novel and choke down a Cinnabon and stick my thumb up my ass and watch CNN airport addition and start yelling at the gate agents because they won’t let me try to shove three elephants in the overhead bin as carry-ons-“
“And then we can get married and then you can give up all adult pursuits to have babies while I slowly succumb to a hollowing existence of corporate bootlicking and escapist alcoholism and as our children scream for designer helicopters and crust starts forming around my eyes, you can look at my withered impotent frame and tell me-“
She put a finger to the end of my nose and gave it a good tap.
“You get one more sentence to make fun of that lady and then you shut up. Deal?”
I paused for a second and took a breath.
“Anuses for eyes, and an eyeball for an asshole.”
It rolled off her back like sniper fire on an armored limousine. She was used to it. She reopened her magazine, put a hand to her head, and sighed dramatically.
“Yes Mark, going on a romantic vacation to Italy with you is certainly a treat. It’s like falling in love all over again.”
I sat and looked around for thirty seconds before talking again.
“When we get to Rome, I’m getting a gondola with a dragster engine. Do you know what it’s going to sound like?”
Her tentacles flailed. She slapped a cupped hand over my mouth, steamin’ mad. Flushed with embarrassment and hot necked, adrenaline swam behind her eyes. I stopped making noise and her lips began releasing curt blasts of hissy static.
“Shut up. You’re acting like an 8 year old.” She paused for a second. “Anyway, the gondolas are in Venice.”
I took her hand off my mouth and palmed it, looking tenderly into her eyes.
“Baby, once we get to Rome I’m gonna make it all up to you.” I swallowed hard for effect and got a little closer, “Together, we’re gonna drive a supercharged gondola right up the Leaning Tower of Pizza and jump it all the way to the Sphinx on the other side of the River Styx and I’ll feed you the national Roman dish of Curried Conger Eels and Tea Smoked Quail Eggs. And then we’ll have lots of dirty butt sex.”
She pulled her hand away nonchalantly and grabbed a piece of gum from of her purse. She doesn’t ever want to encourage me, but she’s terrible at hiding smiles. She turned her head and looked at the boarding gate until her smile passed and then turned back to deliver what she hoped was a very disapproving stare, but the facade cracked. She’s hopelessly addicted to my bullshit. She loves it. An Italian vacation with me? She’s the luckiest girl in the world and she knows it. At least I hope she knows it.
Behind me, the topic of conversation was coming dangerously close to the unfair hardships borne by SUV owners and the benefits of Alaskan Wildlife Drilling, (which is fine by me as long as they open the White House to marauding polar bears). Thankfully, the gate agent gave the intercom call for rich bastards and people who needed extra time boarding, which resulted in a wave of shoving, because rude and ugly people need extra time boarding. The same announcement was made in Italian, but I don’t think any of the Italians had even made it to the airport yet.
The Americans kept pushing. Their logic was flawless. They were going to spend the next fifteen hours on a plane, and they need to get on as soon as possible. Americans. They were salivating beef tallow and wearing fast food wrappers on their heads, protruding guts barely covered by athletic sweatshop sweatshirts, laboring under furrowed brows and thousands of oversized carry-ons to infect every overhead bin with. The pace was frantic. The Americans fought to be first because anything else is a sign of weakness. Competition never sleeps until it owns all the pillows.
I start to open my mouth and Krustie shoves a wad of chewed gum into it.
Almost on cue, a group of short torsoed men with tucked in white shirts stroll up behind us, joyfully shouting their way to the gate. An old man in their midst lit a cigarette and made the whole thing disappear in one drag while the others laughed and shielded him from old craning necks demanding to know the identity of the person brazen enough to break the no smoking rule.
A phlem-riddled old lady voice to my left said, “Smoking. If everyone broke the rules, it would be anarchy.”
Her husband was ready with the response, “No, it would be Italy,” his obvious disgust might’ve been heavy enough to sink the plane.
Krustie turned to them and said, “I fucking hope so,” which even shocked me for a second.
We were soon thousands of feet above the US, rapidly passing over the practical dryness of North America. Dying prairies, putrid sprawl, meaningless minutia losing itself in the soft snot of floating clouds rapidly increasing in puffy thickness and blotting out whatever headache remained, I was feeling light. 30,000 feet up, five hundred and forty three miles an hour, I was drinking little bottles of white wine at eight in the morning and it felt fucking good. Regaining my human. Flexing my head. Breathing canned air. Fingering my passport. Arm around my lady. Appropriate cabin pressure. Endlessly analyzing the stewardess command that I affix my own oxygen mask before assisting others. I wish more people lived by that rule.
It was real. I was going to Italy. To Rome. I couldn’t remember the last time I was this hyped for anything. I wanted to whoop like an Indian, but I decided to let the girl sleep. There will be plenty of time for Indian whooping. At the Coliseum. Or the lobby of our fancy hotel. Or in a nice restaurant while I’m rolling a meatball around with my nose. Or in the Vatican.
The Vatican! I’m going to go see the Vatican! I had a welling of goosebumps and I let out an inadvertent little whoop. I couldn’t help it. It came out of nowhere, and it was only a quiet whoop. Just loud enough for me to hear. Me and no one else.
Behind me, there was a commotion. Grown men began to sing.