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A Good Party Never Ends
I met a guy named Frank in Los Angeles after I skipped out on college and went city hopping out west. Frank’s always been kind of a mentor to me, or something like that. Before I left Frank showed me that life’s for s*** if you don’t have people to spend it with.
In Frank’s case, the people he spent his life with were every woman on the east side of L.A. Nearly every other night some hottie in tight pants or a drunk college girl would walk through his apartment, taken by Frank’s certain charm or plain good looks. It was only until Carmen showed up that he really questioned these values.
* * *
I was on my way to a small motel in uptown Los Angeles, when I met him in a club smoking at a dimly lit table. Soft candlelight gently hit his spread out arms, and he was sitting back as if he didn’t have a formal care in the world. Frank and I talked about random stuff and watched the entire L.A. nightlife that was contained in a single room. From time to time he would get up to dance, or take his drink and go sit with a girl at the bar, only to come back with numbers and little drawn hearts on napkins or post-its.
Eventually the blunt light of early dawn flooded the doorways to the club and caused us to leave. Walking out of the club and reaching into his pocket for a lighter, he said he would give me a ride home. I told him I didn’t really have anywhere to go that day, so he let me stay with him in his apartment for the afternoon and if I needed to, the night. Naturally since I didn’t want to waste my invisible dollars on an invisible hotel room, I stayed. When I walked in I noticed the air in the apartment was musky, as if he sprayed cologne regularly around the place. I walked into the empty guest room, which was never used, as Frank’s guests usually occupied the same room as him at night.
I ended up staying with him the whole day, the next night, and the next couple weeks after. When I asked about his hospitality he would just answer, “What, I got an empty room that I pay rent on, mine as well use it.”
He would also never ask me why I stayed, or if I had parents and if they knew where I was. It finally came up on my mind one day as Frank and I sat on the couch in his apartment, so I blurted out during the silence, “Hey, why don’t you care that I don’t talk about my home?”
“Who the hell am I to dictate how people should live?”
And that was the end of it. No fuss, no argument, just answer and move on. A week later Frank met this girl at a club, and brought her to his apartment. When he asked her to come in she just said she had to get home, leaning on the threshold of the apartment, teasing Frank.
“I like her,” he said to me a couple days after he had called her and once again was, as he says it, “Oh so sorrowfully” denied.
“She playing hard to get, you know,” I told him.
“Yeah, that’s why I like her so much.”
I thought about it for a second.
“But why is she different than any other girl you get?”
“Cause she’s a girl who’s got what I’m looking for: confidence.”
I would later find out that would be his collapse. But a few days later I met Carmen when Frank and I were having lunch at this quick café place, and planning to dine-and-dash. She sat down, put her bag on the table, and Frank leaned back and told her what we were doing. Instantly she grinned and said she was in, and it was in that instant I smiled too and knew I could see what about her Frank liked.
Over the next couple weeks or so Frank began to see her more often than other girls. And since I was in his apartment when they were usually lounging around together comfortably watching TV, I took a liking to her as well. We would sit there, drinking beer and talking about the most obscene things, like how one day Frank thinks the rapture’s gonna come and he’ll spend his last moments at his favorite club, partying it up. Then Carmen would say if the rapture came Frank’s Hell would be going to the same club forever where all the dancers were old fat priests and the liquor bottles were all dried up. We would all laugh and drunkenly clink bottles, and when we missed laugh even harder. It was in these moments I would take a sip of my beer, look at them, smile, and think life is pretty damn good.
Carmen was a truly stunning girl. She was from some Hispanic country (I think Dominican Republic she said to me one night), and her lightly tan skin seemed to fit her curvy body just right. And plus she was just like Frank, not having a care in the world and spending most of her time either at nightclubs or hanging around with us nights on end.
One day when we were alone I looked at him with a grin, “You really like her don’t you?”
To respond to this he would just shrug and smile slightly, never ditching his relaxed nature.
We would all frequently spend entire nights at clubs together, where Frank and Carmen would sometimes coach me on how to look for a girl, and which ones most likely wanted to be picked up.
“Okay see the girl with the red halter top and those shiny black boots, she’s a tramp. See those tied up black sex bracelets on her hand…and the tattoo of some poor old slump’s name written across her hip…Oh that one’s an easy one, she’s got more makeup on than a freakin’ pharmaceutical center, and she definitely came alone, she’s got that little key ring hooked to her jeans. This one’s easy, go get em’ tiger,” Carmen said, pushing me out onto the dance floor.
I would walk up to her as Frank and Carmen sat watching at the table smoking and smiling, and ask her if she wanted to dance, but I was either ignored or cast off. Then I would come back to the table, them laughing hard and Frank punching me in arm, but pushing a drink in my direction at the same time. Eventually I would start laughing too and wine about it for the rest of the night, as Carmen passed out on Franks arm and I went up to dance again.
After a few weeks Frank, Carmen, and me were like goddamn family. We would go for McDonald’s drive-ins at three in the morning after a night of clubbing, slightly tipsy and full of laughs, then crash back at Frank’s to stave off the effects of our hangovers with more beers. It was during this time of my life that I knew I was truly happy.
* * *
One day, Carmen and I were alone in Frank’s apartment, while Frank was out with another girl and probably for the whole night. It seemed he couldn’t really forget his lifestyle. Even though he was with Carmen regularly now, he still saw the quickie here and there. That night, we just lay around on the couch surfing through channels and eating our Chinese food we picked up from a small place a block away. This was normal for Carmen to just come over some nights and lounge around the apartment with Frank and me. And if Frank’s wanderings with other women bothered her, which I doubted, she didn’t show it. I think it was because she knew Frank could never change, or at least he was trying to and starting out slow. I respected that in Carmen, there were times she could be loud and party, and others she would just be quietly understanding.
This night she was sitting there, just staring at the TV, when she suddenly turned to me with a lustful look and said, “Frank.”
I picked up a wonton with a pair of tiny chopsticks and asked her, “What about him?”
“I’m going to mess with him.”
I smiled back and said, “Go for it.”
What I hadn’t realized was that our faces were just merely inches apart at this point, and when our lips touched I leaned in. It only lasted for a few moments, and when it was over she flung her head back and shouted “Ah!” into the apartment air. At first I thought this was a product of alcohol and deferred misjudgments, but what I had forgotten was that her and I were as sober as nuns that night. So I leaned in to her, my body sinking into the couch and pleading for more.
I woke up the next morning awake and alert. I walked out of the guest room and found to my disappointment I felt no effects of a hangover, my last ditch excuse to explain what happened between Carmen and me. Just then Carmen started to wake up from the guest room, so I put on my coat and walked outside into the brisk morning L.A. air.
I came back a few hours later to an empty apartment, and sunk on the couch to flick on the TV. Half eaten chicken and bowls filled with fried rice still littered the floor from the night before. I barely had time to think about everything when I heard the key turn in the lock and Frank walk in the door.
I instantly a noticed a change in his features that I had never seen before, something harsh and betrayed that had been hidden for a long time. He walked in stiffly, his back rigid and his face stern with anger.
He pointed to the door, unmoving.
“Get the f*** out.”
“Frank, I don’t under-”
“You ruined the first truly wonderful thing in my life. F*** you and get out.”
* * *
I would later find out Frank and Carmen didn’t see each other anymore because of that night. You can call it whatever you want: hypocritical, expected, unfair, or just stupid. But however I look at it, I still can’t find the reason in it.
I told you, we were like goddamn family, me, Frank, and Carmen. And now that I stare out of my small dorm window, facing the east campus yard down on Princeton Street, I still find myself to blame for everything.