01 December 2011

Feel like making love - Susanna Hoffs

Hearing this song and seeing those stripperific moves reminds me of a certain moment during my gas station days. Pumping gas. Wiping windows. Checking oil. I worked with three other guys, all of us in our late teens or early twenties. All we had in common was our all-out, white-hot, dog-mad obsession with the girls, ladies, matrons, chicks, broads -- the women -- who'd pull up to our nozzles ready to be filled up. 

Two of the guys were especially lurid and detailed in what they'd do with that one, there, over by pump three. Yeah, the blonde/brunette/redhead, her. The station had two lanes, full service and self service, and it doesn't take much to see a metaphor there. Pat was a skinny high school junior who had probably never French kissed a girl, definitely self service. The other guy was older than me, 23, his hair already thinning. Self service, too. The real rogue of the bunch, who was married to a pretty blonde at 19, had the vilest stories involving lesbian sisters and hair brushes and so on, but he didn't work as often as the other two. Full service. 

(I wonder where that kid got those stories, because, I hope he made that shit up. But what's more disturbing -- that they could have gone done in daily life or that he could give vent to that debauched imagination. De Sade had nothing on him. I'm sure he's in prison now -- he had a real taste for petty thievery and drug dealing, and those are generally not a line into a respectable career.)

Now, working in a gas station is pretty easy. You sell car washes, keep the pumps clean, hustle over to the rare full service customer, make change. No matter how conscientious, you still spend what seem to be hours crossing deserts and deserts of pure boredom. The tedium only inflamed us more. Long hot afternoons when even the worst hag would provide some hook for a godawful Penthouse Letters style fantasy. Rendered in precise and exact detail.

So one night, it finally happened. A cinematically overwhelming opportunity, dropped by a cruel god right in our laps. July. Not long after sunset -- the magic hour of gold and lilac, even in a crap-hole garage station. The day's heat fading as we wiped the juice from the Burger King Whoppers off our lips  and ketchup from our fingers.

A midnight blue Camaro convertible roared into the station, a wild-maned brunette at the wheel.  She pulled up to full service, so there was no ignoring her, no avoiding her as the bell rang. She sat up on the back of the white leather seats, and looked around. And waited.

I have a theory, and I've confirmed it with a few friends. There's maybe five -- maybe seven -- times in your life when you see a woman so stunningly beautiful that you are truly marked for ever.  It's not love. It's more like stunned -- in the sense you stun a calf before slaughtering the big-eyed beast. You remember her for the rest of your life with the kind of awe reserved for the Sistine Chapel or the few perfect things life grants.

She was one.

And that song, Feel Like Making Love, was cranked up to eleven on her super-bitching thub-whumping car radio, channeling music down from the heavens. Provoking us. She even turned it up. Louder.

And she waited.

My work pals were paralyzed. Neither budged from the cash register. The job fell to me. I rolled out in my hand-me-down construction boots and my blue polyester uniform with my name in a white oval and my wannabe rebel hair cut modeled on something between David Bowie and a Joe Bob mullet, my red rag poking out of my pocket, sweaty, so godawful damp all over, and she said fill it.

My synapses flared out in an internal electric storm that, if mapped on an MRI would've looked like fireworks from a hundred thousand Fourths of July all at once. It wasn't glandular, or even retinal, her effect, it was some million megawatt zap of a current I couldn't bear up against, the song, aimed at us, of course, and now that strawberry perfume smell coming off of her and my scrounging around in my poor addled head for the open sesame, the magic word, the spell, the opener, the phrase that would somehow cross the chasm and her amusement and compel her to bring those bow-shaped lips close to mine. I thought of dark lawns, canopied beds, bank robberies, poetry in Greenwich Village, whole futures made mostly up of long nights.

Finally, I came up with something.

"That'll be $7.69, please."

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