Divorced from Reality

Greg Houston

"Harold" is having a great run. Just two weeks ago, on a trip to Austin, he ran into an old secret high school crush. Early in the evening they talked about old times, compared clique notes and sipped a few cocktails. Later they went back to her house, snorted cocaine, watched Meatballs on DVD and fucked like bunnies...on cocaine. "It was the perfect night," he recalls with satisfaction.

The next weekend Crush drove down to see Harold. The happy couple had some more cocktails, chewed on some "really amazing" ecstasy and (surprise!) fucked like bunnies...on ecstasy!

She drove back to her sleepy, overrated Hill Country college town late Sunday. He headed to the corner of Montrose and Westheimer to make it a Blockbuster Night.

On the way out to his car, two young Latinas -- 18, if he had to guess -- approached him about buying them beer. They were on the waiting list across the street for tattoos and were looking to kill time. "Sure," Harold obliged. "I've got some hash at the house if you two are interested." Staring an estimated two-hour wait in the face, they were.

Harold brought them back to his place, freed their minds and, shortly after, introduced the chicas to his chorizo con huevos. After finishing up, the two didn't even ask for a ride -- they made the trek on foot while he popped Van Wilder into the player. "It was the perfect night," he recalls, again with satisfaction.

Today Harold finds himself at the West Alabama Ice House after spending a long day with his daughter at the H-E-B Children's Festival downtown. He's come to have a couple Busch tallboys, pick up a game of horseshoes and find someone to aid in his undying, thirsty quest to drink from the vertical well. He's confident it will happen. Why? Because his kid is still with him and, according to Harold, that's a guaranteed, fail-safe ticket to spelunking the below-the-belt cave.

"If you're trying to pick up women," he espouses between sips, "kids are way better bait than dogs. Way, way better." (He sounds like Sebastian Dangerfield in The Ginger Man: When on the prowl in Dublin, he always took his infant with him on the theory that an attractive kid "advertised the finished product.")

His kid played an instrumental role in his latest vaginal victories as well -- in spirit if not in presence. "It just does something to women when they find out you take care of a kid," his theory goes. "It tells them you're responsible for your own actions or something."

I couldn't disagree if I wanted to; Harold's put his lure in the lake and already has two ladies circling the line.

One finds herself on the same kids'-festival drinking plan as Harold. Her two daughters are in tow. She looks like a trailer-park version of Linda Hamilton in The Terminator -- before putting on all the muscle for the sequel. Her orange sleeveless tee exposes a tribal tattoo. Their kids serve as instant ice breakers -- she and Harold chat it up genially about face painting, Disney movies and Lunchables.

Making her way back from the bar with another beer is "Katy." She'd complimented Harold on his daughter's "princesslike" beauty earlier while at the bar. Harold bought her a brew, and another, and another. She wishes she'd known about the children's festival -- she'd have taken her three tykes. Instead, she's found herself at the icehouse since before noon.

Her speech is sloppy, and her stories have become repetitive. She's referenced the bruises on her arm a half-dozen times. "I was in the mosh pit at Mastodon," she explains. Harold's getting that lean and hungry look.

He pulls me aside and tells me his game plan. He's going to take Katy back to his place tonight while securing Trailer Park Hamilton's phone number for a later date. Very ambitious.

As the sun goes down and the air begins to chill, T.P. Hamilton says her good-byes.

"See you back here next Sunday at five?" Harold asks.

"Oh, more than likely," she answers.

He didn't get the digits, but there's a promise floating in the air nonetheless -- a layaway plan rather than a proof of purchase.

Harold reasons that the promise of a return engagement makes him "seem like less of a scumbag," blithely unconcerned, it appears, of coming off as a scumbag to Katy, whom he's just invited to partake in his dwindling hash stash. He'll buy some more beer, too.

She's on board.

It's a shocking turnaround in Harold's fortunes. Just minutes ago, Katy was telling us about her crackhead brother. Harold's teeth, she said, reminded her of her brother's. Oh, snap! She also can't seem to wrap her head around the fact that Harold has such a gorgeous daughter, more than insinuating that he isn't the best-looking inmate on Single Father Row. She's also called him "rude" a few dozen times.

And still she follows him to his car. I congratulate him on his string of luck and say my farewells.

But he's not done. "Come to the house for a few beers," he invites.

I stop at my place to drop off my dog and later join back up with Seor Suave and his girlfriend for the night at his casa de hashish y amor.

I arrive to find her passed out facedown on the couch and him toking up through a spent toilet-paper roll. There are two or three unused packs of condoms on the kitchen counter.

After Harold and I shoot the breeze a bit, Katy comes to, pukes her tiny guts out and insists that one of us take her home. Harold, his head pressed by the thumb of God, is pinned to his couch like a butterfly under glass in science class.

I play cabbie.

The next morning, I call Harold and ask about the one that got away.

"Fuck her," he dismisses. "Meet me back at the icehouse next week." He swears T.P. Hamilton has a date with two packs of prophos.

Ah, yes, anonymous sex grunts -- the new runaway-smash bedtime-story substitute.

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