UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION
JEFF LAUGHLIN

Names

The girl I met in a bar gave me a look that sent me into freefall. We cut
our eyes from each other for a while, and then sewed ourselves together for
at least two weeks. I had quit my job and taken to sleeping in people's
houses until they looked uncomfortable. The girl I met in a bar loved her
job. She was well paid and kept me in good drugs; bought me fine wines and
whiskies. She talked basketball, and described the pick and roll with such
clarity that it almost made me fall in love with the NBA again. When she
walked, her ass swayed, delicately forcing me into an argument of fun vs.
practicality. Practicality made a fantastic argument with its "no
heartbreak, no heartache" rules. Fun always wins these arguments.

Three particular qualms kept melting the barriers between the two sides of
the argument: physical attraction, as aforementioned, coupled with security
and a marked improvement in my altered state of being. We watched movies
like "Another State of Mind" after smoking pot, watched basketball until I
complained too much about the lazy defense and cheap points, drank hard at
bars taking make-out breaks to do cocaine in bathrooms, listened to weird
psych-folk and smoked hash. The whole time we made a pact never to care
about names or definitions. At least, I did. I never called her anything
but Girl. She liked it.

She worked during the day, and I stayed at her place, drinking and doing
dishes. I was lifted above myself and she lived underneath me; a supplier
of lifestyle choices and mischief. When I looked over at her and felt
nothing, I reminded myself that nothing really *mattered*. Nothing mattered
more than cold nights and caricatures of work buddies and couches seemingly
designed for back pain and annoyed friends.

Cathy and I ran into one another and made out at a bar, citing that she
loved me enough to date other people. She said I made her strong enough to
take care of herself.

The girl I met at a bar bought me drinks night after night, and sat in
bathwater at least twenty minutes a day. She had the legs of a dancer, the
mind of an intellectual, and the fierce individualism of a mountain climber.
She put up with me because there was nothing to put up with. I was an
emotional void suppressed only by a crushing sense of determinism that I
quelled with substances and sports news. Quite often, she would endear me
with talk of politics and policies of third world countries. Eagerly, I
would absorb all of it to forget it twenty minutes later while having sex on
the floor. Like vagabonds, we slummed around, walking for hours to
different bars requesting Cash and Springsteen songs. She disappeared. One
night, I walked to her place and it was locked. The door remained locked
the rest of my life as far as I know.

The girl I met at the bar had fierce green eyes that ripped at my skin like
saw teeth, and never once called me. She never once spoke harshly or
lovingly. She was a practical extension of a good time. She never existed,
essentially, and I'll bet that right now she is under mounds of dirt with
weeping parents that never knew her lack of potential much like I never knew
her name.

Practicality, like a locked door, will turn you in new directions and have
you worried, but never frantic. In that way, fun argues itself in name
only. In that way, fun loses, and all you ever really want is definitions
to pour out of you—walls, confined spaces, your own room, a relationship.
Without parameters, I slipped slyly into cement walls I never knew I wanted.
I signed a lease that winter.









© 2006 Underground Voices