Pay Attention to Me 

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Melinda Melmoth

Jabeau and I had turned the couch cushions over to look for change, and we'd found enough to go to Back Tracks II. It was a bar up the road from my house that let anybody in, 21 or not, and everybody knew about it. We'd all heard how Janet Grottmeyer's mom was so drunk one night she drove her car through the bar's back wall.

No one paid attention when we opened the door except the bartender.

"Y'all look nice," he said as we sat down, but he didn't ask why. We'd put on two of my sister's old prom dresses earlier. Neither of us had been to prom yet, so I wondered why I didn't feel more glamorous after I'd put it on.

"Thanks," said Jabeau, "but I'm not interested."

"Neither am I," he said. "What'll it be?"

"Bourbon on the rocks," said Jabeau.

"A beer?" I said. "I don't care."

He got both drinks and then turned his back to us to watch the TV in the corner.

"My parents are going to get mad if we don't get home before them," I said.

"Just have fun," said Jabeau. "Or try, since you never seem to."

Her first drink was gone fast, and after half an hour and two more drinks, she started whining.

"I wanna meet some boys. There's only dumb a-hole jocks that live in this town."

Two women sitting at the end of the bar got up just then, and they moved down to where we sat.

"What you gals up to?" said the one with brown hair. Her T-shirt was cut so it hung off her shoulder and showed a bra strap.

"Celebrating," said Jabeau.

"You mean getting drunk," said the other one. She was heavier and not as pretty, with sandy hair and stonewashed jeans.

"This is Annie," said Jabeau, waving her hand in my face. "And I'm Jabeau."

"The hell kinda name is that?" said the heavy one, but she said it while she was looking around the bar, and not at all like she was expecting an answer.

"I'm the one and only granddaughter of the great Mrs. Lillian Theodora Jabeau Jackson. Louisiana, born and bred," said Jabeau, and it was like she'd memorized a line from a script. "She wasn't born in this shit hole, that's for sure."

The brown-haired one said her name was Janine, and the heavy one didn't bother to say.

"Jay-boh ain't really a pretty girl's name," said Heavy. Jabeau either chose to ignore her or was too busy looking at the bottom of her empty glass.

"We're best friends. Not lesbians," said Janine.

"You wish I liked you," said Heavy.

"You guys are like a couple," said Jabeau.

"We're best friends and not lesbians," I said. "Me and Jabeau."

Heavy looked at me like she'd just noticed I was there.

"You always follow your friend around? You don't wanna be here. You gotta get better at being a bitch."

I looked down at the bar.

Heavy laughed and passed me her full bottle of beer.

"That's for you. Loosen up."

"You guys are like a couple," said Jabeau, again, and I knew she was drunk.

I looked over at her, and she was staring at us, her mouth wide open, the glass of bourbon tilted on its side in her hand.

"Where are all the boyyyyyyys," whined Jabeau.

"I can call a few guys. But you don't want them," said Heavy.

"This place sucks," I said.

"Drink more and play the pinball machine," said Janine. "Ask Don to play the jukebox."

"You," said Heavy, pointing at me, "Drink your beer and have fun. And you," she said to Jabeau, "You too. A man don't make things better. What do you like to do? You don't even know. Trust me when I say all that time you spend worrying about men, they don't never worry a goddamn second about you."

"That's sad," said Jabeau. Her eyes welled up.

"You're drunk," I said.

"I want to kiss somebody." She started to cry.

I rolled my eyes and then stood to get up from my chair. I could tell I was going to have to help Jabeau out of the bar. With my arm around her waist, I thought about how the satin of the prom dress felt strange, and that I shouldn't be carrying my drunk friend out of a bar at 15 years old.

"I like that you're friends!" Jabeau called out to Heavy and Janine as we made our way to the door.

Jabeau seemed to sober up a little outside. She lit a cigarette, straightened up, and backed away from me.

"I'm so stupid," she said, shaking her head. "No guy is ever gonna want me. I'm too needy. And my mamaw says I'm too controlling." She looked up at me. "Why don't you tell me I'm not controlling? Am I needy?"

She started turning in a circle, looking everywhere around the parking lot. A few people stood near their cars, mostly girls, and they looked at us.

"Does anyone want to take me home?" she said. "Anyone? Come on!" She kept turning in a circle, fast, and then faster, until she was spinning with her arms raised above her head.

"Goddammit!" I said, does anybody want to take me home?!

The few people standing around ducked into their cars or ran for cover inside. We were left alone, and I thought about what was going to be a long walk home.

"Come on," she said and started walking ahead toward the road. "There'll be a guy out here somewhere along the way, and he won't say no. And if he does, we'll just go home."

I watched the hem of the blue prom dress drag on the ground behind her, dirt and water all over it from the puddles she'd stepped through. She flicked her cigarette to the ground and looked back at me.

"Come on," she said, and she held out her hand. "Let's go."

Lindsay Anne Bower, lover of all things literary and libation-related, lives in Charleston and has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.


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