Self Conscious, the J Eric Miller blog

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Purple Martini, Denver Colorado

--Three days with the parents will teach my to love the Purple Martini and the vodka tonics they pour there. My ex wife suggests it, from that distance that she’s taken from me, that spot so smart and secure.

--The barmaid is doing a stripper’s job, kneading my neck muscles and calling me sweetheart, trying to make me believe I’m the one customer in the bar for whom these words and gestures have actual meaning.

I half buy into it, even though I know she’ll have not even a glance for me when my check is settled and her tip is set in black ink.

--I think of my own stripper, that last real ex.

I’ve never been a boy for strip clubs. I take seduction too seriously to muddy it with cash. She started dancing long after we starting doing whatever it was that we were doing.

I wrote “You Marry A Stripper” long before I got with her and though I believe there is some kind of truth in that story it does not tell our story.

I’d written that story too. I’d written them all. Those that have happened to me and those that will. These little acts of frightening prophecy.

In any case, her dancing was neither what kept us together nor drove us apart.

It is a red herring.

--There is C, a girl who used to dance, now setting up her internet sex show site.

All that kind of thing used to be terribly fascinating.

--In any case, the bar grows busy. I am at a long table. Feeling out of place in a sweater I bought at Ross’s because I zipped my favorite sweater up in the suitcase and ruined it. Buying a new one was my way of mourning.

But it’s from Ross’s and I’m aware of that, feeling like it looks like a discount clothing store piece, even though it is Claiborne.

--I drink and I think of what I would not give that last serious ex, the girl who danced. I think of what she took. They were of a different order, those two sets of things, but maybe from some grave distance, it looks the same, the things she took, the things I did not give.

Maybe from some grave distance there is the point of breaking even. Objects bleeding into affections, or where they should have been.

--Down and across from me sit two women hiding their ages, though I can seem the truth of each of them Thirty year olds, with children and ex husbands, one blond and one with dark hair, talking to boys too young.

When the boys go away the women slide down.

“What are you doing here?” the blond wants to know. “You seem bored.”

And we exchange quick stories.

Indeed, divorced single mothers.

Neither of them is my type. I am probably not the type of either of them. It is under important.

--I look around. I wonder if I had to choose a woman to be with forever which would I choose? How would I choose?

I recognize physical imperfections n a heartbeat, but everyone has them. I ask myself first, is this one you could overlook in those opening moments when attraction is so tender, or in the second stage, when you’ve gotten used to the person, gotten past the question of sex, and see her again, see her really clearly for the first time?

But it’s really a minor question.

What I’m really trying to guess by cut of face and expression of eye is who has the kind of heart I seek?

--To the side of me a thin girl who keeps her spine very straight. She turns her head and for a moment the eye is perfectly caught in some light so that I can see the outward curve of it and the clear space between the final film and the colored disc.

It’s a personal moment, almost as intimate as anything I could imagine between us.

--The boys come back. Twenty seven or twenty eight. Full of themselves and good looking, but slightly thick of face and the type that will quickly fade.

One of them starts working the blond.

She goes so easy.

I feel a nausea.

It is for my ex wife, and all my exs, and all the women I care about who might be so easily maneuvered by anybody but me.

--It really grows. I’ve never waned to hit somebody more without actually hitting him.

It ebbs.

--Eventually he’s squeezing her neck and kissing her mouth and smirking to himself and to his friend.

I want to tell her, “You’ve disgraced yourself. Your children even. You are so easy.”

--All the party girls are out and I never knew how to take a girl like that.

There was that one time when the most celebrated of the party girls, when the one girl every boy in the bar wanted, chose, by some accident, me and glued herself against my body and pressed her face to mine.

Not just the pretty girl in the bar. That happens, but the girl in the bar who flits from group of boys to group of boys, demanding attention, gathering it up, and moving along

Of what use have I ever been to a girl like that, a sort of perfect attention whore?

Looking like a model on a binge, just one or two steps away from whatever it is a model is. But she’s never been on the other side of those steps. And she works everybody effortlessly so that she can pretend she has.

--So this one, not so long ago, she affixed herself to me.
And maybe because I did not give easily or maybe because she was especially hungry, or all of these things and others aligned, she begin to work I hard.

But then I was with the stripper and loyal and what could I do but push away?


It is going in and in and in.

I hit the good moment.

I think, if I could meet any of the girls I’ve met, but meet them right now, freshly, in this bar, with the vodka just so, and the music making everything feel so dramatic, and the lights making everything just so lovely, I could love her perfectly.

If we’d never have to leave.

--Just as I used to think when I was dating the girl who lied about too much, even the birth date of her dog: I could do this.

I could be with her night after night.

If I only keep drinking.

--The night goes on.
The older women disappear.

There is a hand on my shoulder. Not the waitress. A girl in a black dress.

It is the immediate conversation by habit: how old are you?
The reoccurring answer.

Don’t judge me by my age, she says. I’ve an old soul, she clichés.

Yes, yes.

Her skin is nice. The dress is black. The eyes are blue.

She tells me she likes my sweater, how it feels.
Bless you, I tell her.

I feel nothing serious. Nothing much at all. But I go on with it, trading flattery for flattery.

Soon she is kissing me, and I am holding the back of her neck.

And the older women, they return, and I realize that the blond is quite likely thinking of me just what I thought of her: that in some way I am disgracing myself.

--So off into the night.


The holiday behind me, those in-nutrient gatherings with my families, the one I was born into, the one I created and dismantled.

--And I think how lucky I am to have a son. For without my responsibility to him, without the knowledge of the light I bring to his world, then I have nothing.

There is nothing I like to taste enough.
There are no dvds I can put in.
No PS2 games I can play.
No daisy fields through which I can walk.
No grand canyons.
My writing dreams are faded, and if they’d been fulfilled or if they will they would not have and will not fulfill me.
There’s nothing at all to justify this life but the light of me on the face of the child.

And that’s enough.

--The roads are frozen. This is not my state. This is a rental car.

I think of those ice deaths, McCabe, Women in Love.

And I drive carefully, like one who protects one who must be protected.