Party in 3-D

She sat alone at the table. All alone. Almost invisible, clothed in beauty and unapproachable strength, she watched characters in Halloween costumes drift in and out of the door that led to the main bar. A man with a red velvet pirate jacket and polished black boots swaggered by, looking at her with a half smile. “Too white,” she thought aloud, “Probably lives in suburbia and wears a jock strap on the golf course.”

She focused her eyes on the waiters busily servicing the drunks. They were definitely not in costume—one wore a black jacket with a red insignia on it, the other sported a sideways baseball cap and fluorescent Nikes. At least they looked genuine. The one with the cap cruised by, clearing away empty chip baskets and discarded glasses. He glanced over at her rather shyly, swallowed and said loudly over the thump-thump of the DJ music, “Hey girl, you’re looking pretty mellow sitting out here all by yourself. Can I get you something?”

“Perhaps. Actually, I’m starving and broke. Got any food in there?” She graced him with a smile that shook him all the way to his groin.

“Maybe. I’ll have to check. We had some tacos earlier.” He sauntered back to the main bar and she watched him conversing with the other waiter who looked outside to check her out. With a shrug of his shoulders, the second waiter disappeared through the swinging kitchen doors.

Now she had a drink and food on the way. What more could she possibly desire?

A beautiful blonde traipsed towards her in an antique beaded flapper dress and sparkly gold pumps. “Hey girl, what’s doing? Damn, it’s cold out here. Whatcha doing out here all by yourself?”

“Bumming a taco from the waiter. He’s probably the most interesting person I’ve met all night. Although I did notice a cute boy in the main bar who perked my interest.”

“Cassie, you’re terrible. You have the hunter’s instinct. Now me, I’m a nun.”

“Yeah right. More like the preacher’s errant daughter.” They laughed, wrapping themselves in an aura of conspiracy that filtered through the gaudily decorated Halloween bash like a cloud of marijuana smoke on a Greyhound bus.

Moments later, the waiter returned with a cardboard container in his hand and casually placed it in front of Cassie.

“Hey, can I have a bite? I’m suddenly overwhelmed with hunger. My taste buds are doing the two-step all around my mouth.”

“Sure Lynne. Anything for my partner in crime.” Turning to the waiter, Cassie shot him another killer smile. “Thanks for the food. You are a king among peasants. Where you from anyway?”

“Me? I live over in the East Bay. How about you fine ladies? Where are you from?”

“Earth.” More giggles of conspiratorial glee. “Actually, we’re from out there.” Cassie pointed to the darkness beyond the bar’s outdoor patio. “We live out on the Bay. I’m the Amazon Queen and this is my sister, the Scrap Princess.”

“You’re putting me on. You don’t really live out there, do you?”

Before Cassie could answer, the conversation was interrupted by a clean-cut All-American type in a blue sailor suit. “Hey, anyone got any papers? The band’s gonna do a Bob Marley tune and they want me to pass ‘em a splif to smoke on stage. You know, give it that real Jamaican feeling.”

“Sorry man. No papers, no cry. I just love white reggae, don’t you? It’s so… genuine.” Cassie slowly sipped her Scotch, feeling the warmth slide down her throat and into her brain, sharpening her wit to the point of blatant insult, urging her on to say and do the wildest things conceivable without a trace of guilt, or tact.

“I got a pipe. Will that do? Ain’t got nothing to put in it though. I’m outta weed right now.” Lynne reached into her tiny black purse and fumbled around looking for it. “Damn, I guess I left it on the boat. Sorry sailor.”

“That’s okay.” The sailor squinted sideways at Cassie. “Hey, I’ve seen you somewhere before. Do you sing in a band or something?”

Cassie rolled her big blue eyes. “Oh, I’ve been known to strut my rock and roll ego style a few times. But I’m in transition now.”

“That’s cool. What’s your name?”

Eyeing the sailor slyly, Cassie quickly sized him up as your basic asshole following his cock through the universe like a horse chasing a cosmic carrot. “I’m the Amazon Queen, and this is the Scrap Princess. We just arrived from Sudan where we were circumcised as little girls which means we’re easy to satisfy and as curious as cats on the prowl.”

The sailor backed off, indiscreetly bumping into the baseball-capped waiter who was pretending not to overhear the conversation. “Curious, huh? Well, just what do you want to know? I mean, you can ask me anything you like, although I don’t promise to answer it.”

“Fear of commitment?” Cassie let the line linger a little too long, quickly adding, “Besides, not answering is an answer. Don’t worry. My insatiable curiosity won’t hurt you. We’re just taking a little survey.” Cassie winked at Lynne and they shared an ear-to-ear grin. “We were just wondering whether it’s been hard developing much of a personality when the gods have graced you with such exquisite good looks? Back in Sudan, we believe that struggle creates depth.”

The sailor’s bloodshot eyes shot fire. His face contorted to a forced smile and quasi-self-confident cockiness took over as he replied, “Hey now, you got me all wrong. I work hard every day. Sure I like to party on weekends. Who doesn’t? It’s what the eighties are all about. I mean, I’ve got a healthy ego. It may get out of hand every once in a while. But hey, I give the chicks what they want, and I don’t hear them complaining.”

“Perhaps there’s too much surf wax in your ears.” Cassie gave him a sidelong glance so piercing that the sailor backed up into the table behind him, knocking over a beer. Stooping to pick it up, a flash of purpose came back to his pretty boy blue eyes.

“I gotta find some papers. It’s been a real treat talking with you ladies.” He stalked off toward the band, cursing under his breath.

“Oh well, one down, a million to go. It’s a hard job re-educating the rich and bored, but somebody’s gotta do it.”

“Lighten up, Cassie. This is a party. You’re supposed to be having fun, not verbally abusing every poor dick who comes your way,” Lynne drawled.

“It was supposed to be a grand ball, or have you forgotten the two waterfront peasant girls frantically dressing in their finery, visions of princes dangling in their little peasant brains? Someday, my prince will come…” Cassie sang out louder than the band.

“Here we go. Why don’t you go dance for a while? Find another perky blonde with better answers. I’m going off to look for Sam. See you out on the dance floor.” Lynne got up and blew a kiss in Cassie’s direction. Cassie feigned catching it and pretended to fall over.

Long moments passed. She remained alone, sitting at the table, feeling invisible. “Not much terrorist action here,” she said to herself. “Guess I’ll go check out the women’s bathroom, search for the lost me. If I still see my reflection in the mirror it’ll prove I still exist.” She crossed the outdoor deck, dodging dancers and minglers, including Superman and a human Italian table rocking out to the mediocre Jah-love music blasting from the stage. She concentrated on the briskness of the air and how the collar of her black velvet jacket stroked her neck, creating a subtle eroticism.

At the ladies room, Cassie waited in line while a tall brunette struggled with a bone in her hair and a vampire primped in the full-length mirror. “Isn’t that odd?” she said to no one on particular. “I didn’t think vampires had reflections. Just another fairy tale, I guess.”

The vampire turned to stare at her. “Are you talking to me?”

“Not really. Just talking to myself, as usual.” Cassie offered Vampirella a weak smile. The walls were closing in around her and she felt the urge to bolt.

Vampirella turned back to the mirror and continued to put blood-red lipstick on her powdered white face. “Cest’ la fucking vie.”

A stall finally opened and Cassie entered, dying for privacy. Sometimes peeing could be a religious experience, and flushing an opulent treat, especially for someone who lived on a boat. Cassie squatted on the seat Arabian-style, an old trick from her days at the Renaissance Faire where ‘privies’ spread the plague and burned the nostrils with the foulest smell this side of Hell. Thinking of the Faire reminded her of her ex-boyfriend. She fought back a black cloud of loneliness that reached out to strangle her mind. Tears bubbled to the surface and she fought to control them, losing the battle and reaching for a wad of toilet paper to blow her nose. Climbing off the seat, she leaned against the metal frame of the stall, allowing the all-to-familiar feelings of loss subside into a strange blend of melancholy and self-pity. Why did public bathrooms always make her feel so vulnerable? It was as if they had a sign hanging on the wall that said, “Hysteria: Go For It!” Cassie swallowed and sighed. She waited for a few more breaths to pass before unlatching the door.

She washed her tear-stained face and wandered out of the bathroom, only to bump into the perky blonde who had first sparked her interest. He had the body of a Greek discus thrower, the face of a TV anchor, and the demeanor of a lost child. He was cross-dressed in a hot-pink mini-skirt, silver sequin body suit, and impossible black pumps. His nametag said, “Suzi. Buyer, Mary Kay Cosmetics.” Cassie made a conscious decision to flirt with him and got ready for some cagey verbal foreplay.

“I’m impressed, you can actually dance in pumps. Not bad, Suzi. So, what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”

“Playing around. Learning how the other half lives, darling.” The tone of his voice hissed with nasal tonality. A woman disguised as a man, complete with gangster hat and a very fake-looking black mustache, latched a possessive arm around Suzi’s waist. Another nametag (blue, of course) said “Eugene. Construction Engineer, Manpower.”

Cassie glowed with good vibes, trying to avert any misguided jealousy. “I like your hat. I used to have a black one kind of like it, but I left it on a beach in Thailand for a curious native. Cest’ la vie.”

“Really?” said Eugene in a high squeal.

Cassie nearly broke into laughter. “No, I’m just kidding, but I do have a black gangster hat.”

The three grinned uneasily while Cassie tried to think of an appropriate exit line. Fortunately the band finished their break and launched back into tribal reggae rhythms. Cassie twirled away from the couple into the surging crowd, dancing by herself, as usual, occasionally bumping into other couples, lost in the music. She loved to dance. It was one of the main keys to her existence. It sparked the life force within her. The chi embraced her body; her spirit released into the ether. Her mind no longer flicked forth barbs of social outrage, but turned inward to gather strength. To dance was to heal the wounds of her own solitude; and she had so many wounds that needed healing.

From as far back as she could remember, Cassie had been a rebel. Trying to run away at the ripe old age of two, she had fallen out her bedroom window, plummeting two stories into a concrete walkway below. Refusing to die, she came back from a coma with her mind pretty much intact and a ridge on the left side of her head. Cassie would never shave her head or be very mechanically oriented.

At five, she would run across busy streets without looking just to get her father’s attention. By third grade she was a teacher’s nightmare—a smart-ass back-talker who somehow managed to get straight As. High School was a blur of insults and confrontations. She dreamed of law school, carrying her little red “Rights of Students” manual with her to every class just in case some power-tripping teacher crossed her boundaries without permission.

She mellowed some in college, channeling her anger into a long-term relationship with a man made of California sun and violent tendencies. After years of countless betrayals, simultaneous orgasms, and constant screaming matches, they parted as friends. He married some young thing six months later, calling her on Father’s day to let her know he was about to become one.

Cassie turned to the theater, auditioning for every avant-garde show she could find. She took up modern dance, absorbing as many diverse techniques as she could find while eking out a minimal existence in the City’s Latino District. She worked as an artist’s model, taxi driver, dishwasher, waitress, retail store clerk and even had a two-month stint singing telegrams to embarrassed birthday boys and girls, anniversary couples, and the occasional bachelor’s party. After a while she began to feel a sense of her own power and knew happiness for the first time in her life.

And then she met Joel, the chosen one with a Prince Charming complex. Cassie fell hard. He made love almost better than he lied. She forgave him everything from another woman to another man. Obsessed by a carnal urge she never knew existed, Cassie began to lose herself, slowly at first, until a landslide of integrity hit the shit can. Out popped your basic cock-whipped ditz on a permanent emotional rollercoaster. Joel mangled her insides with lies so horrendous she lost faith in her own intuition, alienating her sub-conscious and burying her innocence. But when they made love, the universe graced them with complete physical and spiritual satisfaction. Cassie’s body begged for more, leaving her mind to rot in abject confusion, tormented by jealousy and envy, empty of all reason.

Joel left her in their second winter together for yet another woman. Internally scarred and eternally wounded, she retreated into the periphery of her social circles. Every day she cried for hours. Every night, he haunted her body, mind, and soul. Her loss festered like an infected wound that refused to heal. No other man would ever know how to touch her. Most were too intimidated by her brassy exterior to even try.

Recovering from a near-terminal case of co-dependency forced her to reexamine her reasons for living. Simply working to pay the rent was definitely not her ideal reality. She knew there had to be another way and as luck would have it, she stumbled upon the opportunity of a lifetime. On a whim, Cassie bought a 63-foot AVR rescue boat turned houseboat without any engines. On a warm April day, she hired a few pirates to tow it out into the middle of Dickerson Bay. The cagey crew set the boat’s anchor and 200 feet of chain about a quarter mile offshore from Soft City. Hours later she christened her new home the “Amazon Queen.”

After 27 years on land, Cassie now found herself completely at the mercy of Mother Nature. But chopping wood and carrying water quickly returned her to the simplicity of Zen non-conformity. Cassie had to start over again, to rebuild herself from the ashes in order to rise once more as the phoenix. Zooming back and forth from shore with the necessities of life stowed away in her open skiff was definitely an improvement on the burnout of city living. Cassie wanted to fall in love with herself—a long haul for anyone, but especially hard for this twentieth century rebel. She needed to focus and find direction. She wanted to go everywhere, do everything, now. And she needed to be able to trust her own intuition to get her there.

For a while she had teetered on the brink of extinction. But the roots of her motivation for living dug deeply into old Mother Earth and slowly but surely green shoots of growth sprouted up in the form of creativity. Slowly the old Cass returned, ready to shake, rattle and roll the foundations of modern civilization. It wasn’t exactly vengeance that inspired her, but a potent blend of passion and outrage. When she danced, the passion licked at her heels. When she sang, the outrage burned in her heart.

The white reggae band took another break. The crowd buzzed with a kind of quasi-laid back coolness only found in Northern California. Cassie drifted over to Lynne, who was foxtrotting with an older man in a top hat. The man was humming “That Old Black Magic” and the two resembled Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on acid.

“You guys look so cute together. If I was kinky, I’d take you both home.” Cassie watched them for a while, a little envious of their intimacy, and finally moved to the other side of the dance floor to look out at the dark waters of the bay. Just exactly what was her problem? Why was she being such a jerk? Lynne deserved to be in the arms of a good strong man. Just because Cassie had no one didn’t mean she wasn’t attractive, or intelligent, or sexy, or outrageously fun to be with. Did society’s crude code of injustice rule her emotions like a common cheerleader? Why did she feel so damn empty?

As if on cue, a man in a rainbow Rod Stewart wig approached her for a light. There was nothing particularly striking about him, but for some reason she knew she wanted to kiss him. “Damn these hormones,” she thought, lighting his cigarette.

In no time the conversation had progressed beyond the limits of casual flirtation. He had good answers and an attractive face. He was tall enough, slim enough, funny enough, and even smelled good in a musky sort of way. He told her he was a graduate teacher who lived in Sunnyvale and moonlighted as a Nautilus instructor. Hormones abounded. They danced the two-step. He moved well. Impulsively she led him off the dance floor and kissed him, testing the waters. Cassie licked her lips, feeling like a hunter, thirsting for passion with a carnal instinct, prowling the night hungry for flesh.

< Contents  ~  Chapter 2 >

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