Two weeks in Bisbee feels like a six month lease anywhere else.
I’d been accepted into the locals crowd. After the first week I guess they realized I wasn’t a vacationer. Halfway through the second I started getting invited to parties. I don’t like parties, though. The bar, or one on one with someone at their house, those leave the door open for easily leaving. But leaving a party before it’s gone too far always seems rude to me, so I just don’t go instead. No use getting stuck with boring conversation and beer pong for the chance it might be one of those really great, life changing experiences.
I’d sprained my ankle pretty hard the first night I was in town, a long story I won’t get into here given that it involves a little heartache on my part and setting a hotel on fire. Well, nearly setting one on fire. No real damages had come about, and I’d avoided the place since, so as far as I was concerned, that place—and the girl I’d been involved with in the entire debacle—was off limits. Out of site, out of jail.
After several days of ditch digging type work though, my leg was getting to me and I’d only made about $400. Almost all of which I’d spent. I needed to find a better gig, and needed to just take a break. An entire day spent sipping cheap beers from a porch sounded great to me, I just needed to find the right local hospitality to make it all happen.
Instead, I wandered in St. Elmo’s, a dive bar on Brewery Gulch. Chatting with three retiree bikers visiting town on the backs of expensive Harleys they probably didn’t know how to fix, wearing black leather vests over their golf shirts, I managed to swindle them out of a free room at the San Ramon. One of them needed to get back to the homefront for a funeral and so they were all leaving with a final night’s room already paid for. My witty repartee was not as much the cause for my luck, nor would the word “swindle” be entirely correct, but that’s how I’d describe it when telling friends the story later. They were just genuinely nice, trusting guys who found the idea of helping out a real rebel, as I believe they saw me in their eyes, as increasing their own legitimacy as six figure bikers.
Or maybe they were just nice guys. Either way, they said they’d need to hold onto the keys and would just mail them back to the hotel first thing in the morning tomorrow. They gave me the code to the front of the building and, for tonight, I was all set to live it up in luxury.
Hands were shook, I bought their next round, and we never spoke again.
The San Ramon is just around the corner from St. Elmo’s. I had never been inside before, but suffice to say it was pretty upscale. From my room I could see the old red brick porch of the Copper Queen Hotel’s bar, but alas, I was banned. The room had one bed and a couch, which left me wondering how three extra large at least grown men had called this home while in town. It had a kitchen sink, cupboards, TV, a fridge, the works. This is exactly what I was looking for to while away my day of relaxation. I enjoy good conversation with strangers or even some of the local guys I’ve met in town, but for as many good, hearty talks you find yourself in, there are at least ten or a dozen seemingly never-ending ramblings about the state of the Arizona Cardinals’ defense or whether the Governor is being too touch on illegal immigrants. Only one of those conversations even stands a chance at intriguing me, but the position most people take on immigration in Bisbee is either “tie ’em up and ship ’em out, no questions asked” or “we would die as a nation without undocumented workers doing all the jobs Americans are too good to do.” Both left me less informed after an hour of hashing things out than I believe I ever was to begin with. So anyway, a day in front of the TV watching Maury or soap operas or whatever was on the History Channel would work for me.
Out of curiosity, I checked the fridge. It was empty, clean, but empty…except for a package of Kraft cheese slices, two Slim Jims and a thirty pack of Busch Light, opened. I reached into the box, not full, but the entire second row was still in tact plus a few on top. Finally, the Karma Gods had seen fit to reward me for a week full of misdemeanors and hard labor.
I cracked a beer, grabbed the remote and tucked into the couch. Pretty Woman was on. I considered changing the station, but I’d never actually seen the movie and figured perhaps it was the kind of piece of American film that bares at least one lazy day viewing. Before I Julia Roberts could even make it on screen the channel went to commercial. The commercials were bad, I soon realized, here in Cochise County.
I also realized, I’m not a huge fan of Busch Light. Sure, I drank it in my younger days, and I’m in no way picky about the way I raise my blood alcohol, but something about it today just wasn’t sitting well. It would be nice to smoke a joint, I thought. I rarely do that, I prefer to be thinking clearly when I’m getting drunk, but it struck me as a possibly nice possibility.
A knock came to the door, then I heard a key turning in the lock. I sat up, but sat still, in shock. “What was happening?” The bed wasn’t made, so the maid probably hadn’t come yet.
“Hello, it’s room service,” came a young, female voice.
“No thanks!” I cried out but not realizing my mouth was still full of Busch, I sort of gargled out the sounds and covered my white shirt and vest in yellow stains.
A young latino woman, her accent completely American, entered the kitchen, which I could see through the doorway to the kitchen, walked in with a bucket. She looked through the door to me sitting on the couch.
“Oh hi, sorry, didn’t know you were in here.” My heart slowed from a race to an afternoon jog. Apparently she didn’t know the difference between me and whoever else was supposed to be in the room.
“Just gonna clean up a little,” she said. Her tone couldn’t have been nicer.
“Um, alright.” I slowly laid back down into the couch and as the commercials switched back to my chick flick, scrambled to find the remote. C’mon, where is ESPN? Okay, the X-Files. That’ll do. Maybe a little dorky but at least she won’t suspect I was watching Julia Roberts find love in a movie I suppose is meant to inspire hookers everywhere that if they just keep opening themselves up to the possibilities of the world, a rich Richard Gear type will undoubtedly inevitably find himself unable to not just break down and propose.
She was quiet, I could see her putting away some dishes that had already been cleaned and placed in a strainer next to the sink. She had a beautiful ass, I thought, but quickly I remembered the woman who had been consuming nearly all of my thoughts for the past week and a half. The one that had left me in a burning hotel room and vanished without a trace. I had learned my lesson with women a decade ago, I always told myself, and every time I ended up thinking too much about any one particular other half of the sexes, I forced myself to think about forefathers or socioeconomics or anything else that was boring enough to render me completely dull in the groin.
But wait, a local Mexican housekeeper. Surely she knew where I could grab a joint. I tried to rub the yellow out of my shirt, stood up and walked into the kitchen. “Thanks, you don’t need to do much, I’m pretty easy,” I told her.
“Okay I’m nearly done here anyway. Do you need the bed fixed?” she continued placing a few remaining glasses in the cupboards. The door to my room was still wide open. I didn’t want to risk the manager seeing me or hearing my forthcoming request.
“Hey just tell me if I’m out of line here, but can I ask you a question?” and I closed the door, immediately realizing how perverted the two actions sounded together. She turned around slowly but very, very surely.
“What’s that?” She was looking straight at me, her body stiff but her eyes somewhere between shaking and one drop short of overflowing with disgust.
“No, well, I was just wondering if you could score me a joint?”
Relief immediately came over her, she turned back and put the last glass away. “Sure, I’ll text my friend. He’s probably getting off of work right now.” She slipped her phone from her front pocket, a flip phone, rare indeed in this day of iPhones and Androids. She pushed a few buttons.
“Did you want me to make the bed?”
“No, you don’t have to,” I told her, though on second thought I guess it would be nice to get clean sheets. Who knows what those three upper class bikers had done in this room together.
Her phone buzzed. “Okay, he’s gonna meet you on the Copper Queen’s porch in ten minutes. You’ll recognize him, he’s got a tattoo of a leprechaun hat under his lips.”
“Okay,” man I really didn’t want to have to leave, especially not to visit the Copper Queen. “How much?”
“Thirty five.” I reached into my pocket and pulled out my wad. Five, ten, twenty, thirty, thirty five, alright, fifty five, fifty eight dollars. I gave her a twenty, too much, I knew, but I wanted to show my appreciation for being a bit of a perv and asking her for something illegal. “Thanks,” she said as I handed her the bill. “But you better head over there, he probably won’t wait. His name’s Charley by the way.”
“Can you not lock the door when you’re done?” I asked.
“Sure, I’ll leave it open. Oh and just so we’re clear,” she pushed the twenty down into the fifth pocket of her jeans, “there’s nothing weird about a guy sitting around watching Pretty Woman.”
I rolled my eyes, smiled and headed straight for the Copper Queen. A young kid, dressed like a punk rocker, sort of a halfway finished bowl haircut, was sitting on the porch drinking a PBR. He watched me walk up the stairs, one foot clearly having a helluva time lifting my body up every other stair.
“Charley?” I asked. How many people have a tattoo of a leprechaun hat below there lip?
“Hey,” he reached out to shake my hand. His beer was almost finished.
“Thanks for meeting me, man. Can I get you another beer?”
“Sure, PBR me.” He lit a cigarette, I came back with two cans of PBR which ran me exactly three dollars, no tip included and against my normal practice, but I was about to literally go broke.
“Here you go, man.” I handed him his half of the cans in my hands, along with thirty five dollars. He slipped a sandwich bag stuffed with something under the table. I took it, without looking, and stuffed it into my pocket.
“How’d you know it was me?”
He looked down at his beer and back up at me. He seemed shy, not at all like a normal drug dealer. “Yeah, I woke up with that last weekend. I don’t even remember getting it, apparently I was hounding a friend of mine to do it. I work at the tattoo shop, Wicked Trends. Just got off there and my girlfriend, well, kinda my girlfriend, was halfway through cutting my hair. But I got Nina’s text and came right over. I should probably get back.”
“Hey well I definitely appreciate it.”
“No problem. What brings you to Bisbee?” he hadn’t even touched his drink yet.
“Just visiting, looking for a little work, trying to get away from Tucson for awhile.”
“Same with me, I moved her from Tucson about a year ago. Last year.”
“What brought you down here?”
“I was in a band up there, Texas Trash. It was a good gig but, well, the singer came into some misfortune I guess you could say. He and his brother, it was there band, but they were always getting wasted and we ended up rarely practicing and I just wanted to come down here and live on the cheap, do my own thing for awhile.”
“Punk band?” I asked.
“Punk, metal, country, sort of a little of it all. I was the drummer. I wanted to get out from the back of the stage though and do my own thing, you know? For awhile.”
“Yeah,” I sipped my beer with one hand and patted my pocket, making sure I’d secured the goods properly in their designated space. All checked out.
“The singer though, he got all wasted one night, I mean just smashed. Fell asleep on the train tracks. It was all over the news,” I hadn’t watched much TV, hadn’t read many newspapers while in Tucson. “The engineer tried to stop but it was like a forty car train. Six of them ran him over, took off his arm, his leg.”
“Shit, man,” I took another sip, what do you say to that? “That sucks, well, more than sucks I guess. That’s just horrible.”
“Yeah, he’s an old drunk though. So since then they’ve been calling themselves ‘Texas Trash and the Trainwrecks’. Works for them I guess.”
“At least he’s got some humor about it.”
Charley looked up at me, and then to an invisible watch on his wrist. “Well, he put his beer down, a full can, in one final gulp. “I better get back and finish this haircut. After this,” he points to his lucky charm tattoo, “I’m not supposed to be drinking anymore.”
I thanked him again, he left. I helped my beer down with a rollie and headed back to my room. Nina, the housekeeper, had left the door open.
When I got inside, the bed was made. I flipped through the channels. Pretty Woman was on again. Just me, TBS, a few of St. Louis’ best and a head full of cloud for the rest of the night.