Memory Motel: A Rock And Roll Fantasy, Part Two Section Twelve: Mike And Michelle
Part Two: Two Years Later (Continued)
A school year at a local Public School later, Michelle was a memory who couldn’t stop returning to, not the entire story, just a moment, just the way she would smile after they kissed and then, later still, she was just that one moment, that one phrase, the greatest and the worst moment of his life one sly smile. “Kiss me again”, she had said, and he did, and always would.
Michelle felt exhilarated out of her mind. Cruelty is its own reward and though certainly Ian had deserved it, she was not as outraged as she pretended to be, what Michelle was was sick of Cardigan, she had had enough of it, he was not sweet enough to suit her needs but not sexy, smart, young, not even enough of a father figure. Every way she looked at Ian, it wasn’t him. She didn’t want it discussed or negotiated; she wanted it over and done forever.
And then the sharp knife of indifference, it felt so good, it felt better than sex, watching him in so much pain right there in front of her. Like he couldn’t believe his ears, what had he misread do badly, how? How?
It was even power, or rather, only power, it was the random cruelty of a boy toying with a stray cat, teasing it, torturing it. It was a part of herself Michelle hadn’t been quite aware of. When she was 12, 13,, Michelle’s coldness was innocent, she didn’t care enough to hurt,
If the power of being horrible to another person wasn’t enough, hitting sixteen meant a learners permit in her wallet and a fake ID right next to it, and while her grades suddenly plummeted, her social life improved by leaps and bounds. Michelle liked dance clubs, she liked the drugs and the boys and the girls, and the fumbling to beats, but she preferred the rock clubs.“It’s just logic,” she told Meg and Renee, one Thursday around midnight, sipping from a Michelob, “at the dance club, there are maybe 4 DJs, at the rock club there are maybe four bands and four guys per band, your odds are just much much better.”
Michelle wasn’t a groupie but like Hannah, she dated up and up, and after her teacher her up was the local rock performers. On and off with a weed addict bassist with a local punk band not a month after Ian left, she soon dumped him (hard, she always broke up hard) and was wondering what her next move was. “I am so sick of college guys”, Michelle had told her friends. “They’re always cramming for finals and feeling homesick or borrowing twenty bucks so they can pay the next round. Even the drummer gets drink tickets here.
Hannah considered this something of an improvement, went to the gyno with her when Mische went on the pill, and considered her grades, down to a steady as she goes “B” good enough for her needs. Hannah liked the house filled with Michelle’s friends, and boyfriends, enjoyed the noise, the music, the teenness of it all. And she liked to see how Michelle held the center of attention with such ease, like Daddy Mick.
One day, in mid-April, the sun was, of course shining, but it was only in the mid-80s and Michelle had the top down on her mustang when she got stuck in a traffic jam, and looking to her side saw a tall, muscular man, standing by his car, seeming to decide whether to join the traffic or leave and by no way Michelle could understand, she knew it was Phillip Verlierer. At a standstill in the afternoon traffic jam, her car right next to his, she watched him fascinated, he looked tired but handsome, his face had some of the bloat of an alcoholic, but there was also something intriguing in him. She knew he was a P.I. and she sure felt like this man had the sensibility of someone you want on your side. She watched him reach down into his car, a busted down Chevy and for a moment she thought he was going for a gun, but it was a paper bag and she watched him take a hard hit and then another and seem to stagger a little where he stood and then the traffic began to move.
Later that night, Michelle felt a rare thing, she felt regret that this guy wasn’t, if not her father, at least her step father, she couldn’t help believe that if he had been sober he would have been a good guy to spend her life being watched over by. Michelle never thought of Ian very much, but she imagined that if Phil had been her dad there never would have been an Ian. Maybe there would never have been a rock club either Somewhere or other she could’ve seen herself in an alternate reality… a world more secure than hers, more of an identity to the way hers could feel fuzzy on the parameters.
Three months later and she was 17 years old at the club watching one of the best bands to play there. The Pagans were everything you wanted from a classic rock punk rock fast faster, loud louder band. Unlike just about everyone at “The Dust Bowl” knew they were not going to remain local forever, they had the sense of the special. With a deep into it rhythm section and a fast and smart lead guitarist they were lead by rhythm guitarist and lead singer Mike Hudson–a brutally handsome guy in leather pants and beer bottle, who had the range of an Axl Rose and the codpiece of a David Lee Roth. Michelle nearly went after Mike the first night she saw the band, but the band were distracted with the loud and strong acclaim and in what amounted to the backstage area, there was no rom to move.
Miche was a regular at the club and the band were playing once, sometimes twice a week but still Miche didn’t approach him. Time didn’t teach Michelle this but she knew it instinctively, she was in a better position if she didn’t make the first move, though, oddly enough, Mike didn’t either, he hadn’t quite noticed her, somehow they missed each other. Till late one night after the Pagans second set, she saw Mike exit through the backdoor and for no real reason followed him. She couldn’t see at first but then
there was a light of a cigarette, a cell phone in Mike’s hand. He was taller, six foot, 22 years old, with dirty brown hair and a crooked lush face, not unlike Jagger lips, and a perpetual half smile, as though everything was faintly ironic.
“Hi Mommy, it’s me,” she heard his voice in the night. “I thought you’d be up. Good. How are you? Good? And Daddy and Nana?” He paced back and forth between the empties and the dumpster. “Mom, can you send more money? It will be the last time, either it happens or it doesn’t, I promise… Just a coupla grand to meet the rent… ”
Then silence in the quiet of the late bight, and Mike’s voice was quieter.
“How is Janet?”
“And what do the doctors think?”
“That’s crazy, Mom. Where to now?”
“But that’… I don’t buy that”
Michelle listened in as Mike’s voice came in quick gasps, like he was running upwards and out of breath.
“I don’t believe it, they can’t say anything like that. It is all lies, it is lies, she will be. To hell with this shit, Mom it ain’t true. It’s a, she will be. Mom, she is thirteen. Mom… Mom…”
Michelle watched Mike stagger back, as though one of Hannah’s ghosts had smacked him in the face and she walked right up to him. Michelle was good at deciding what was needed and she knew what Mike needed to happen and so she made it happen. She walked out of the shadows and she hugged him as he collapsed against her in the dark of night and he let her though he didn’t know her, couldn’t even see what she looked like in the dead of night. He just smelled the faintest whiff of her perfume, felt the feminine curve of her waist in his arms and Mike didn’t even know if he as much as knew who she was, he didn’t care, he didn’t feel anything but this deep need for someone to support him.
A year later Michelle said she wanted to go with him to Boise, she’d visited once before, had been shocked how middle class looked like dirt poor to her, but this time he refused. “It will be bad, Michelle. Janet was only 14. It is, I don’t know how I will ever quite deal with this ever. There is no way, I can’t even write about it. It is too close to me, too close to everything I feel for her. She really loved me, how can you save people from these? None of us can…” That night the Pagans covered “Lonesome Town” and Michelle recorded it on her cell phone and when he left, she played it to herself as she drove home, thinking about how malice Janet’s death was.
One night during her visit to Boise she had been in Janet’s room and just sitting there and Janet said, “You know, I’m not a virgin. At least I can say that before I die so I guess those Islamic terroists are out of luck because they won’t be able to have me, will they?”
“You don’t know what will happen to you, you know…”
But Janet didn’t want to discuss death, she wanted to discuss sex. “That isn’t the point now is it? It was while I was in remission last year, I just…” Janet laughed and coughed and laughed again. “I think I seduced him, like he was flaying all around me, like I was Mount Everest.” If you’d seen Janet who was always small and was small and emaciated when they met, but had a lovely face. Mike had two more brothers and two more sisters, but Janet was the only one Michelle could imagine being friends with. “I think I overpowered him, he was seventeen and worked on my cousin’s farm and I jumped him.
After the first time, we did it 14 times more and then it came back and it disappeared him. But I did have that so one of the great mysteries of life isn’t a mystery to me, right?”
“I can’t think about dying, Michelle, the unfairness is pathetic. It is so out of some Young Adult story, like enjoy every moment because bang here you go. Who wants that? I keep thinking I will wake up and it will be gone and except I am getting weaker and I want to cram everything in but… I am not certain what everything is. Five years from now only Mom and dad will remember me, maybe Mike can get a song out of it, maybe my sisters will cry on my birthday but the world won’t and me? Will I be with Jesus? Or will I be nowhere at all?”
“You will be with Jesus” Michelle replied though she had never thought about it seriously, life after death her mother had forced her to consider.
“You don’t know that.”
“No, but I do know this. My Mom talks with dead people, and I mean seriously she does, and while I’ve always thought a little what a whack job my Mom is, on a whole other level, too many times things have happened and I can’t explain them. How many times can you have a conversation with my Great grandma and I say, ‘coincidence’ I get why I might be wrong. My Mom knows you live on, it isn’t a matter of discussion, it is just the way these things work.”
“And we don’t know”.
“At best we don’t know, I don’t know how my car works. But I do know this: existence, whatever you want to call everything life, death, everywhere, it can’t sustain the loss of you, Janet. It would rock it on its heels, it would bring it to its knees. I know this right now, even if
I never knew anything else before, or after, I know the thing that is Janet will never ever not exist. Nothing dies.”
With Mike in Boise, Michelle found herself crying over Janet more than made sense, she’d only met her that once. And when Mike got back a month later he broke up the Pagans and got his job at the insurance company. Michelle tried to convince him that the answer was never retreat, but sitting with Hannah near their swimming pool, Mike was too depressed to feel the vitality he needed to continue and while it hurt for her to admit it, a Mike who was going to work everyday was easier for her to handle.
Just a month earlier, Michelle discovered she had more serious worries. Whatever was happening to her mother was happening more and worse and suddenly Hannah broke out and revealed she’d been given a mission from God, or at least from something she now called the “Aftermath”, from the place where one gets missions.
“I need Phillip, I must meet him, right now. Where is he?”
Michelle smirked, “You mean your ex?”
“Yes, help me, we must contact him.”
Michelle felt a rush, exhilaration. And two weeks later, Phil answered
Mike and Michele sat in silence as Hannah read the email from Phil:
Séance a week on Friday 8pm.”
So that was it, then. Something must have happened.