When you roll with Moe, you have to be prepared to wing it at any moment. Seeing we survived the rapture and a spaghetti rush, we went for the one. Sidenote: Moe and I work at the Old Spaghetti Factory, and “went for the one” means we went for a drink (ref: “Don’t Go For The One” by the Irish band Gaelic Storm). So when we wind up at a condo making small talk with two new friends, it blindsides me that in every sense of the word I have undoubtedly fallen into the definitive of Moe’s “wingman”, for the night.
“She doesn’t usually talk to guys this long, or even find them interesting enough to talk to them”, Nina’s friend explaining the anomaly of Nina’s intrigue with Moe. She indulges in a cigarette, exhales a stream of smoke over her left shoulder. “What, don’t fuckin’ judge me”, she goes on. I laugh, not because it’s directly funny, but because of how insecure smoking has become since the 90’s. I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life, doesn’t mean I’m against it, but God forbid you don’t have one in your hand while someone else does… because you’ve directly put yourself in the aim of any suppressed guilt they’ve been harboring for weeks, maybe months.
Nina’s friend, we’ll call her Haley, gets caught in the view off of the balcony we’re sitting on. “So, you’re leaving for Los Angeles, that’s cool. Good for you”, making one of her more genuine statements. “Yeah, the ceiling’s higher over there. This past winter nearly knocked the fun out of everything.” At this point, Haley and I go mute, basking in the resolve of our friends making a random connection throughout the evening and the simplicity that we don’t have to stand each other while it all goes down. She finishes her cigarette, “Here, let’s go”. I follow her from the balcony through Moe & Nina’s conversation in the living room, to a nicely furnished hallway of hanging pictures and the cleanest bathroom I’ve seen in weeks. We dodge Moe & Nina and duck it into her quarters.
The room wreaks of femme fabulous. Upon first sight, I had already spotted several posters of Marilyn Monroe and a dvd case of the movie Closer. I have walked into the exact opposite of a man-cave. I’m too observant for my own good when it comes to other people’s space. I make snap judgments, illustrate stories out of simple pictures, begin to guess where they’re at in life by the condition of the décor (if any at all), generate an idea of who they are based from their own living quarters. You’re room may not say it all… but it says something, right? Feel free to key in on the fact that I’m judging a book by its cover (or judging a personality by it's dwelling). Eh, I’d say it’s more for entertainment and imagination than to seriously base someone off of their choice of IKEA or Crate & Barrel.
There’s something off. Nah, not a mechanical feature, but something’s off with the aesthetic in here. The Marilyn Monroe’s lead it on. Above the posters is a horizontal stretch of poster with old musicians, actors, and artists... passed away. Belushi, Sinatra, Elvis, on and on. 20’s something folk might have a few pieces of memorabilia or pictures of dead artists draping the walls, but the “off” tint here is all of the artists are deceased. Haley leaves the room, says something to the affect of brushing her teeth or checking in with Nina- it kinda muted out as I was drawn into the pictures on the wall. The Dr. Strange vibe in the room is telling me to get the hell outta dodge and let Moe find his own way out, but one last frame caught my eye: an ultra-old 80’s pic of a bombshell gorgeous woman and a child. Woman could’ve been an actress, or model for those days. The color of the photo less suggested, more gripped your attention to notice the time & place it was taken was, and still is, important. Looking more closely, you see its weight only lies with the owner of the picture. She didn’t pick it up at a back-to-school poster sale, or on the discount rack at Target…
Haley enters the room. “Who’s this?” I ask. “My mother” she answers. All within less than a minute of me tediously viewing no deeper than the frame, it’s clear in her voice that her mother isn’t with us anymore. “Tell me a story about your parents”, she asks. Shit. I’m stuck now, and I haven’t talked about my father for a hot minute. Things have been so well, that I haven’t even had to clam up about the guy or explain to anyone how raw the past has gone with him and is about to with my mother.
“Well, my mom just got out of major surgery. I take care of her at the house, run a half-dozen loads of laundry a day, and my dad and I are estranged 29 days a month.” I could go on and on, and I do. It’s amazing how much we shield our vulnerability until someone else is willing to roll up their sleeves and show you they have the same cards as you. There’s comfort in that- comfort in being able to break bread with someone on relating similar pasts with different characters, beyond sympathy and setting foot on empathy- it’s crazy how quickly we can connect with other human beings when we give up that shield. Plus, how the f--- can you hold a shield to a woman that has pictures of her deceased mother in her room- “So, you’re mother…?” doing my best to keep momentum, Haley responds with the background on a story book romance between her parents, so much I smile without knowing it. Y’know the moments you begin to smile unconsciously, don’t know you’re doing it, and when you realize that you are, you try and shut it down for fear that you might be creeping out everyone in the room . Shiiiiiit son, unconscious smiles are the best. That shiz right there is high power evidence we gravitate to the positive. The world spins on that shit… so yeah, don’t drop the smile.
In the end, Haley explains how her mother died at the hands of a drunk driver. I immediately think of Chase, every irresponsible choice I’ve partaken or observed in the past year, and a few other things. I don’t know, shit got to me. Started out wingman’ing for Moe, and ended up having a heart to heart with someone I’d known for less than 4 hours. Haley & I fall asleep to watching Closer, I wake up, wake up Moe, and we make the early morning walk of shame to my car.