Jody and I spent every spare minute together, and there were a lot of those now that I was unemployed. I introduced her to Dawg Gone, and we spent our nights there dancing with Lee G. and my other buddies. She was made for the Dawg, her move a tight little shimmy that fit perfectly on the post-punk dance floor. With my Siouxsie shirt hanging off her like a dress and her sexy pout, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her.
“Jody, I hear you’re moving to New York,” Lee G. said. We were all doodling in my black book.
“Yeah, in the fall.”
“Are you an artist?”
“I guess standing there in a dress is an art.”
Jody looked up from her doodle. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Those girls work hard, and they get paid well for it.” Lee G. smiled at her. “You’re an idiot,” she said.
“He’s my best friend.”
“He’s an arrogant jerk.”
“No, he isn’t. He just comes off like that sometimes.”
“Like he’s some kind of big artist.”
“He is. He’s better than I’ll ever be.”
“Don’t ever say that. You’re the most talented man I’ve ever met. You’ll do whatever you want. He’s just a big head.”
“Come on, I want you two to get along. He’s my best friend.”
She scooted closer to me. “No, he isn’t. I am,” she said, and she kissed my cheek.
Late that night while she slept my mind churned. She was right: In virtually no time she became the most important person in my world, and she was leaving soon. Once New York got hold of her I didn’t stand a chance. She’d be running with her kind — the glamorous crowd, the truly untouchable — and I’d still be no more than an art school pretender.
But was I? She said that I was talented, that I could do anything that I wanted, and she sounded sincere. She loved me. She wouldn’t lie to me. Maybe that’s why she was attracted to me. It sure as hell wasn’t my looks. Maybe she was playing the long odds, investing time now, hitching her wagon to my rising star.
But wasn’t that what I was doing, too? Maybe she wouldn’t ditch me when she was making big money, her face splashed across the covers of the fashion magazines she read. Maybe we weren’t in love, after all, but just a couple of users working each other. Maybe that’s all love is, a hustle. I love you. Isle of you. Isle of use. It was too much to consider. My hummingbird brain finally gave up and let me sleep.
The next morning everything was fine. She was there and she was happy and the mean little bastard inside of me whose job was to pepper me with self-doubt took a break. Jody and I jumped into the shower, and any lingering doubts I may have had were washed away with soap, skin, and water.
Wet women — no teenaged boy in the eighties was without them: Phoebe emerging from Brad’s and Stacey’s pool; Bo in her wet tee-shirt; the Ban de Soleil lady with her San Tropez tan; that Flashdance bucket of water. The symbolism was about as subtle as Joe Camel’s nose, but it worked. The girls’ shower in Porky’s, the girls’ shower in Stripes, the girl showering in Risky Business. Wet + Woman = Good.
So I lingered as long as I could, watching the steam rise and the water fall, little streams finding their own paths down her landscape until I couldn’t take anymore. Hands on her hips, mouth on her throat, the warm jets pulsing, and then she was gone, literally gone, my hands empty.
My stomach felt like a block of ice. I tried to grab her, but she was slippery, dead weight. The water beat down and the steam rolled along the ceiling. I managed to gather her up and carried her to the hallway.
My experience with unconscious bodies was limited to a drowning I witnessed as a young boy. That involved water and someone I cared about, too. Was she dead? “Jody. Jody.” Nineteen years old and I’m huddled in a basement hallway with an unresponsive nude woman.
“Jody. Jody.” The whites of her eyes peeked through her lids. Wait, Johnny O’Donnell drowning wasn’t my only unconscious body. Just last summer Calhoun got his head kicked in at the parking garage. Her eyes looked just like his.
“Jody. Jody.” Oh, fuck. I killed her. I need to call for help, but I don’t want to leave her.
“Jody.” Her bright blue eyes opened and rolled around a little. She rubbed her face.
“It was so hot in there,” she said.
“I’m sorry, baby. I’m sorry. Are you okay? I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” She was gone for thirty seconds. This was no hustle, no ego trip of wanting to claim the pretty girl as my own. She was right: she was my best friend, my muse, the ego I never had. I’d never loved anyone so much. “I’m sorry,” I said. “Please don’t ever leave me again.”
But she was going to New York. There was no stopping that train, and she was way out of my league.