During the boom period of the nineties, my wife worked with a software development company that paid not extravagantly but well, provided affordable health care, a gym, aerobics instructors , a natatorium, free child care  and a world class cafeteria. The break rooms had the shitty coffee endemic to the pre self-roasting years, but there were boxes of free high carbohydrate snacks and big plastic jugs of M&M’s. It was actually a little vulgar.

There were frequently parties that spilled out of the late afternoon work hours into midmornings at restaurants in Raleigh and Durham, and sometimes at the trial versions of McMansions.

I used to be a musician, who hung out with visual artists.  But  I’ve never seen so many people determined not to simply get fucked up, but get toxic and write  Shakespeare in the memories of their coworkers as I have with goddamned software developers . There was also, of course, the chorus of matronly admin types looking on and taking mental notes as fiercely as Stalin. I have not been an attractive man for decades, but at least among these folks  I could count on having my ass briefly fondled by a woman in  pornstar high heels on her way to open the door of her husband’s Lexus to douse the passenger floorboard with a gout of Jose Cuervo scented bile. A woman would  likely feel violated. I found it a thoroughly bittersweet experience. Particularly if I was one of the people who had to persuade the woman she had no more business driving that car than me.  In that role, I was the old, charming Peter O’Toole, without so much hair.

My wife enjoyed these parties because her vastly superior tolerance for alcohol enabled her to take the lay of the land and determine who was fucking who. She ultimately lost interest.  This was after  she understood it wasn’t just normal office slap and tickle, but mounds of people fucking obsessively, like  some glorious piece of  Tantric  architecture.

She started contracting independently, and we no longer had to worry about hurtling away from the wargamer capital of the south in a tiny car, driving with a hand over one eye, to our home some 60 miles distant. But the itch to hang out with other compulsive drunks remained. We tended to migrate toward palatable food, a coherent bartender, and the  few places where gay professionals were not afraid of being anally violated or beaten by by a gang of straight rurals. In North Carolina, this left us with Durham.

I grew up in Durham. But I spent most of my life in the trashy/clubby northern part that was a golf heaven for fatuous brown liquor sipping bastards whose sole sexual release seems to have been corrupting their kids beyond employability. Oddly, the white kids who grew up in the city seem to have had far greater access to education than the sadasses I huddled with, smoking ugly headache pot and shooting yard lights with a pellet gun.

I hope everyone has figured out that your friends at this stage suck, suck, suck.


So we started hanging out at a coffee bar that employed a pair of inhumanly beautiful barristas. Old men were being let off by trains to visit the girls, and by the time we met them, they weren’t only nervous because of old men, but because a bunch of bloodheads had returned their snake god to power. The rednecks started spilling back into Durham like a stray flood of ejaculate.

At the time, I was  serving on a board of a local university library, and  believed I was working community service miracles. But I was, instead, a pretentious douche, as members of all such organizations are encouraged to be. But I was able to travel to town in a suit and it made me feel moderately whole. I carried my sketchpads and drew and the girls at the coffeeshop would drift by my table and say something nice and I felt marginally less old.

We met Jeremy here. He was obsessed with one of the Barristas. Laura. The more emotionally mature, and the most hauntingly beautiful of the two.

If Jeremy had had a few more years of experience, he’d have known that Laura was underage for selling alcohol, and part of her mystyque was that she was an overgrown child with a highly developed emotional sense. I’d fallen for her, in a way, too. But I just wanted her to house sit while my wife and I escaped to Canada.