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Posted on 2004-06-02 03:02:46 by Denver

Julie Neighbor
I got an email from Julie Neighbor a month before Christmas Break.

Are you coming to town for the holidays? Are you going to be at Duffys?
I hope so.

I hadn†t heard from her in several years. I thought about our kindergarten days playing with naked Barbie and Ken dolls in my neighbor†s bedroom. Even then she had those big brown eyes and that ditzy giggle, like a slot machine that had the biggest payoff if all those cherries stuck together.

I took high school drama with Julie- she was always playing - in class she used to stick a feather down my pants in the crack of my ass. She was a shitty actress and she knew it but she liked dressing up and hanging out with feminine guys. She liked guys period. And she was naughty. A mouseketeer who kept getting caught with her pants down.
During the Chico State Pioneer Day Riots of 1987, when the Sheriff deputies of ten neighboring counties were helicoptered in to contain the couch burning and other lewd and lascivious behavior of the college co-eds Julie and I drank black label beers and ran our tongues all over each other on a stairwell at the infamous apartment complex known as the Zoo, amidst the sirens and flames. Then we went home to my bedroom where she let me fondle her huge high school breasts and I produced a drunk, flaccid eighteen year old penis and rubbed it along her naked body until she grew tired of this hollow gesture and, disgruntled, demanded to be driven home. But I was too drunk to drive and she ended walking home across the high school football field, me entreating her to come back, her yelling about my impotence and lack of civility. After graduation I went away to college and then moved about the country and she got a job in public relations in San Francisco. But we kept up. And she and I always came home for the holidays.

I saw her at Duffys the first night I arrived. She was sitting in the back with a couple of my old high school chums Jimmy Penny and Paul Murdoch. Jimmy and Paul had been in town a few days and had settled into their routine at Duffy†s, well past the initial welcoming remarks with the regulars at the bar†s edge and doing some serious drinking in a secluded back table in the shadows. Jimmy†s sister Victoria was starting a successful Hollywood acting career and was sitting in the center of the bar surrounded by her coterie of old high school friends. She had a film with Jim Carrey that had just come out. Violet Matthews was there along with her sister Rita, standing next to a forlorn looking Tom Gianella. Anya Morrison sat at Victoria†s table along with Jennifer Lemon. Further back Jimmy Rooney was holding court with my brother Andre and my sister Katherine. The Moroccan witch doctor Scarapina was there, with Belinda and Toni and her boyfriend from LA. And John Fitzpatrick was there with his wife Delilah. Dusty Bellin sat in the center of the bar with the McMillans â€" Patricia and Mike. Matt Holmes and Elise Kavenaugh were there, as was her ex-husband, the rock guitarist Orney Phillips, all of them visiting from Portland.
I pushed into the crowd, stopping to chat briefly with Marissa, the first girl I ever went on a date with. As far as I knew she had hated my guts for the past fifteen years. In eighth grade she asked me to the movies and I had gone but then refused to walk her to the door when my parents dropped her off in front of her house. Why did you do that, my parents asked me. Don†t tell me how to go on a date, I said to them. I don†t know why I did that but it was the same excuse I had used for the rest of my life. After that date I didn†t speak to her again until my junior year in high school when she and her friends toilet papered my parent†s house. Now, fifteen years later, the hatred had dissipated to slight curiosity and polite conversation.

I made my way down the bar to visit with the Matthews sisters and Jimmy Penny, who had joined them. They were drunk already and we had the easy chatter of people who have a real familiarity and affection for each other. I always wanted to sleep with Rita but Violet had a crush on me and was envious of her sister and I really didn't want to deal with the emotional consequences of that act. It didn†t stop Jimmy from spending a year in Rita†s bed. But the truth was they were all depressed and stuck in this town and moving with glacier speed as the years and geographic distances separated us and removed possibilities and hopeless dreams. The conversation, although pleasant, fairly reeked of sadness. Tom Gianella was glancing at me and nursing a stale pint of budweiser.
†Hey Tom, how†s the Coliseum doing?â€
†Hey Denver. It†s doing alright. Feast or famine.â€
†Did you get Amelie yet?â€
†No. Next month. I can†t wait for that.â€
†That†s gonna be a big hit.â€
I said.
†Yeah, well, we need it.â€
We chatted about the demise of the mall multiplex and the downtown performing arts facility. He looked lonely. Sonia Bachman†s mother had left him recently.
The little blonde starlet Victoria came over and half whispered to me
†I wanted to tell you when you came in, but you were busy, I was talking to Anya and I told her this and she told me I should tell you, that you look great.â€
â€~Right†I thought, â€~this is not an invitation. This is a gesture of solidarity, a holiday generosity.â€
†Thanks†I said to her, eyes searching for any sign of sincerity in the blonde porcelain figurine of my youthful fantasies. I had purposefully avoided all of her movies because I didn†t want to indulge in any more impossible sexual fantasies. Jesus Christ, I had stood by her death bed when she was fifteen and suffering through Rye syndrome because she was allergic to aspirin. I had even convinced myself I had something to do with her recovery and written her a ten page love letter in college that I never sent because she was dating one of my best friends.
You†re a fool, I thought to myself, you will always be a fool around her.

We talked a little about the Jim Carrey film, Jimmy joined us. He made some critical remarks about it and emphasized how small Victoria†s part was. He was an actor too, and extremely jealous of his sister's success. Just to be an asshole, I said I thought the director†s previous work- The Shawshank Redemption- which seems to be on everybody†s top ten favorite films of all time- was a piece of sentimental garbage. Then the Moroccan witch doctor grabbed me and pulled me outside. She took me up to †The Doctor†s Office†above the bar. We smoked some Humboldt weed with the Doctor himself â€" part owner of the tavern, who lost his left arm in a freak accident while painting a garage when his painting pole touched a power line- a man of strong political convictions and a metal hook arm that he employed to great dramatic effect with the ladies. He was accompanied by a Duffy†s regular named John who remained silent except when he periodically echoed the Doctor†s pronouncements about the evil methodology of Republicans and the manipulators at the local Peace and Justice Center.

†Hey, Denver, that mayor you got now is a real piece of work.â€
I asked the Doctor.
†Yeah. Talk about misutilization of resources and charming the press. He†s coming out of that disaster smelling like a rose. It†s unbelievable.â€
John said, shaking his head.
†I don†t know†I said, †I think he†s done a pretty good job.â€
†A good job? Are you kidding?â€
†Yeah, crime†s down. Way down. Quality of life.â€
†Heavy police presence.â€
†Heavy police presence.†said John.
†Here†said Scarapina, moistening the end of a joint with her tongue, and putting it in my mouth.
If I took another hit of this stuff that was going to be the end of my evening with Julie Neighbor. We hadn†t even talked.
I noticed a little glint in Scarapina†s eye as I sucked on the J.