“Why is it that the radio stations only play two Thin Lizzy songs?” Carie said. “Boys are Back in Town and Jailbreak. That’s it. Nothing else. It’s like the band never put out any other music.”
I looked at Carie. She was a gymnast at Arizona State University a few years back. It’s how I met her. She was just the third interview I did at the student paper. I will always have a soft spot for her. Not because she’s drop dead gorgeous, which she is, but because she didn’t make fun of me that first day. I remember being so scared to interview anyone, much less a beautiful woman. But my editor, Dan, he sent me to that interview. Maybe he knew I needed it. I needed to confront all the fears inside me.
I’ve never been the same person since. And I’m grateful for it.
“Well, you do hear ‘Whisky in a Jar’ on the radio,” I replied with a duck.
Carie whipped her hand over to where I was, missing me by an inch.
“Shut up,” she said. “Metallica covers don’t count.”
I smiled. She smiled.
“Tonight there’s gonna be trouble …
So Woman stay with a friend …” Phil Lynott sings as the song comes to an end.
That’s when I woke up.
Sitting in the holding cell in the Searcy Police Department.
“Hey, would ya look at that, he’s awake,” the red-haired cop remarked. I looked over to where the voice came from and saw a couple of old desks, covered in paperwork and family photos. I smiled. She didn’t.
“So, Mr. Randy, would ya like to make a statement?”
“Lawyer,” I replied.
“You sure ‘bout that? Lots of evidence says you may well have done something naughty…”
“Lawyer,” I said again before laying back down on the metal bed.
“You’re not from around here are ya?” another voice asked. This one a lot closer than those old desks.
I looked up and saw a metal bed above me too.
“Nope,” I replied.
“It’ll take a while for a lawyer to show up,” the voice said. “Always does. There aren’t lots of ‘em here.”
This I doubted. There are lawyers everywhere. Heck, I’d bet there’s one within spittin’ distance of the cell I’m in. I didn’t say it though. I wanted to think a bit.
I remembered the truck. The wig. And the kid who told me to use the ladies’ room.
Otherwise, not much.
“Why the hell did I ever think coming to Searcy with a redhead would be a good idea?” I said out loud. Instantly regretting it.
“A redhead huh?” said the red-haired cop.
“Lawyer,” I replied.
“Red heads are trouble,” the voice above me said.
“Yep,” I replied. “Especially one’s from the Midwest.”
This, of course, got me thinking about redheads from the Midwest. Actually, just one. She doesn’t live in the Midwest anymore. In fact, she lives about as far as you can get from the Midwest – Alexandria, Virginia.
But that’s all I know now, which is better.
I’d rather remember her as the gal who was afraid of the ocean, loved the New York Mets and swore that she’d never stop loving me. I wonder if any of the three still apply? My guess is just one.
“Love is not enough,” was the excuse she used. “We didn’t make the effort. We weren’t a priority.”
She was probably right. Even though I still don’t agree. I think, like John Lennon, that love is all you need. But that’s just silly romantic talk. It’s not reality. And John Lennon is dead. Killed in cold blood by an adoring fan. Take that for what it’s worth.
I told her I wanted to still be friends right before I back out of the driveway in Gainesville, Florida, for the last time. I wanted her to say the same thing. Even if she didn’t mean it. Instead, her last words to me were “I know.”
Got those words cut my deep. Very deep. I cried for the next hour. Driving to the crossroads of two interstates – I-10 and I-95. I had gotten a call from a different ex, one I had broken up with almost exactly six years prior, before I drove aimlessly to Florida to get my belongings from my apartment in New Bern, North Carolina. She told me to come visit. I was going to be close.
I looked at my options from my sister’s old Toyota 4-runner. I could turn west on I-10 and go to New Orleans, see her and be comforted. Or I could turn north on I-95 and go back to my dungeon.
Thankfully, for her, I went north.
The only other time I’d thought about seeing her was in 1995. Right before Hurricane Katrina was going to plow into the coast and change the city I love the most forever. I got into my car and started to drive there. My car, however, had other ideas. The alternator died just 4 miles from my apartment. So I stayed.
I watched the hell unfold in New Orleans from my office chair. Stunned. I saw a glimpse of folks on the interstate bridges, there to avoid the flood. Then I saw exactly where the people where.
I would have been one of them. Most likely. I was heading to 2400 Tulane Avenue. Right near the end of Highway 61, yeah, the one Bob Dylan mentioned. Nick’s Big Train Bar. I wonder how long it stayed open before the water started to come? I’ll also never know what would have happened to me and to that girl.
And it’s a good thing.
“Randy!” the red-haired cop yelled, clanging the keys against the bars of the cell. “Time for your phone call.”
I swung my legs over the edge of the metal bed and put them on the floor. Cold concrete greeted my bare feet. I must have looked at them for a while.
“Evidence,” the red-headed cop said.
“No state-issue shoes for me?” I replied.
“You won’t be here long enough to waste our time,” she said.
“Got that right,” I replied, finally feeling better about my prospects.
“Keep thinking positive,” the voice said as I stood up. I looked at the top bunk. In it was an old man. He kind of looked like Otis from the Andy Griffith show. Even had on a dirty seersucker suit.
“I will, my friend. I will.”
Otis, as he will now forever be known in my memory banks frowned and put his head back on his pillow.
“Come on,” said the red-headed cop. “The phone’s over there.”
We walked to the far right side of the office, completely opposite the phones and diagonally opposite the desks. A tote board filled with “Wanted” posters was my view as I picked up the pay phone.
“Got a quarter?” I said.
“Just call collect,” the red-headed cop said. “And it’s 50 cent anyway.”
The song ‘In da Club’ now firmly entrenched in my mind, I dialed for the operator.
“How may I help you,” the long spiraling intro by the operator ended…
“You know a good lawyer?” I asked.
“No sir, I don’t,” she replied.
“Well, then it appears you can’t,” I thought about saying. Instead, I opted for calling my dad. He’d know what to do.
“Call 804-555-5435 please. Collect.”
The phone rang. And rang. And rang again. On the fourth ring, he picked up.
“Hello?” a drunk voice said.
“Collect call from Searcy, Arkansas, will you accept the charges?”
“What?” my dad replied.
“Sir, what is your name?” the operator asked me.
“Randy Jones!” me and my dad said at the same time.
“Son?” my dad said, figuring things out.
“Thank you, have a nice day!”
“Searcy, Arkansas?” my dad said.
“How are you, dad?” I said.
“What did you mess up this time?”