Mostly Tracy — Daniel Enderle
William met Tracy a couple of times down at the Mount Royal Tavern before Ellen finally moved out, but he never really talked to her until the evening they unveiled the replica of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. An alcoholic art student had painted it on canvas drop cloths and tacked it up in exchange for free beer for the summer.
As far as anyone could tell, he’d done a good job, but most people, including William, immediately remarked that it was too damn white.
Tracy turned to him and said, “Well so are you, motherfucker.”
“Except for my sister, I’ve never heard a girl say that word.”
“Your sister’s a cunt.”
“Oh, my God. Two for two.”
William was utterly charmed. Cute with a smart mouth. Dark eyeliner and lipstick the same color as the stripes on a flag.
He said, “Whatta you know about my sister?”
“I heard she takes after her brother.”
His eyes got wide and his brows raised. He said nothing.
She said, “Besides, the guy who did it says all this smoke will turn it brown in a couple of months.”
He said, “And in a year you won’t be able to see it at all.”
William sat sideways on a barstool. Tracy stood half facing the bar. He pulled out his cigarettes and she bummed one from him and that was that for the next 11 months or so.
She never moved in, but she stayed at his place about five nights a week. She had roommates. Sometimes he thought they were only together because she liked his shower. She took long showers. At any rate, it was good deal for him. She liked having lots of sex. At first.
Sometimes he stayed at her place. She had her own room. It never went well. Her roommates hated him and he hated them. The first time he was there he burned some popcorn in the microwave and even he had to admit that the smell never really did go away. He and Tracy never had much sex at her place.
He liked taking her to the coffee shop on the corner near his place. The girl behind the counter talked to him more often after she saw him with Tracy. When he took her down to Reptilian Records, she got along with the guys by mostly not talking. Most of his friends were a bit younger than he and she was a bit younger than most of them. After that, his stock rose with the guys as well.
When she took him home to meet her parents he got off on the wrong foot with them mostly by talking. They were older than his parents and from a whole different part of the country. At dinner, he ate his peas but put the onions to the side. Her Mom didn’t like that or his giggle when offered jello salad.
In the car on the way home Tracy said, “You don’t like my friends and my parents don’t like you.”
He said, “Two for two.”
She was tough, but he liked her. He thought of her as this good thing that had come into his life and would eventually go away regardless of any possible actions on his part. Like a bird landing on his window sill. It didn’t occur to him that he might possibly have any sovereignty in the matter, so it never entered his thinking to wonder what those possible actions might be. She was always busting on him and she made him go places like to museums, movies and the seashore. Yet, it seemed worth it to him. He had no idea what, if anything, she got from him.
One night, after the Tavern closed, there was a clump of them standing on the corner yacking. This girl was going off on her boyfriend, saying that she was going to stop blowing him because she couldn’t stand the way his balls smelled. William had been standing back smoking and he started laughing and shaking his head. Tracy turned to look at him and he said, “Man, what a burn.” And she said, “What? You think your balls don’t stink?” Then, everyone turned to him and howled laughter.
Towards the end, they went to Mexico for a couple of weeks. On the first day, while Tracy was buying bus tickets to the coast, he stood outside the Mexico City train station. A guy in a yellow hat with a blue feather came up and wanted to practice his English. So they talked for a while and William told him about living in Baltimore.
Tracy ate and drank like a native and never got sick. William was paranoid about that and mostly ate cheese and was mostly constipated the whole time. The things he saw in various restrooms didn’t help. On their last day there, while Tracy was buying bus tickets to the airport, William stood outside and spotted the guy in a yellow hat with a blue feather and they talked like old friends. That was his favorite part of the trip.
After a long flight, they were standing in the Customs line at BWI when William began idly thinking about all that white porcelain, in all the empty stalls, in all the clean restrooms, down all the wide open concourses of the entire airport. A feeling akin to agoraphobia hit him in his bowels, his butthole spasmed and he scurried half-bent-over towards the nearest facilities where he remained for a very long time.
When he finally emerged, he was wrung out. Tracy stood quite alone by their suitcases.
“Where the hell have you been?”
“In the bathroom.”
“All this time?”
“Yeah, I was busy. I flushed so many times I thought they were gonna think I was flushing drugs.”
“Gross.” She stood up taller and her expression changed. It never changed back. He saw her at the Tavern a couple of times after that and he always pointed up at the ceiling, but, after the first couple of times she stopped looking up.
About the time the ceiling got really dark, William finally got the gumption to ask the girl at the coffee shop if she wanted to go out with him. She smiled very sweetly and replied, “I’m sorry, but I’m taken.”