Tie-Burning Party – 1994

April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

So. Back then when things weren’t like they’re now, when you could still find bubble gum machines and quarter newspapers, me and Pyr were about to start our campaign of terror when we realized that we didn’t have 7 bucks between us. I had just quit Yogurt Hut because the asshole manager tried to fuck me after hours, pulling it out even, and as soon as I stopped laughing I kicked him in the balls – my two-second notice. Payday had long since passed and I wasn’t about to wait around for the next check, so I spent my days in the library, the only free place with couches that would let you hang no matter what color you hair was that week. Pyr was busy working at the bank, which you think would pay well, but with the apartment and all money earned became MasterCard interest and long-distance minutes. Since I wasn’t swirling frozen cow piss anymore we could barely make the rent, let alone worry about the bills. Grazing from bulk-food bins and friends’ cabinets was the only thing separating us from the streets or home, and since I would rather sleep on 23rd then put up with my mother’s shit, I begged him to do something.

At first he was all Why don’t you just go work at Burger Shack or something and after I reminded him that they wanted a High School diploma he shut the fuck up. After Thomason I could never stomach classes and teachers, with all the rules and judgements that made no sense to me, and when I dropped out the only thing I had to fall back on were my charms. But ass-wiggling only gets you as far as your supervisors pants, and I wasn’t about to trick my way up the ladder to success. I’m willing to learn and try just about anything, but with all the records hanging over me, especially then, I was afraid to open myself up to what I thought was a sure dis. Pyr knew this, and no matter how much he tried to build my confidence, no matter how much he gave me after I left the streets, he never could find the key to the little filing cabinet in my heart where I kept all my insecurities locked up, treasured reluctance which spun me in circles. Sitting on the floor in our one-bedroom, sucking up the constant shadow of lightbulbs we couldn’t afford to turn on, something had to be done but neither of us knew what it was.

About 4 days before the first Pyr came home bitch-moaning about how we was short $375 at work, which put him over the edge and into probation. Being a teller is one thing but when you’re a anal pocket-protector like Pyr every brown Lincoln has to be there at the end of your shift, or you’re nothing more than a calculator-hack college student slumming until you go to Law School. Most of the tellers didn’t give a shit where their money went, as long as the difference was small enough that it wouldn’t count against them. Pyr couldn’t professor this and so whenever he was short or over he filled out the forms and bussed home stressing over the transactions, wondering which customer got the extra cash, or what numbers he mixed up. $375 was the most he had ever been out, and since all of his work seemed to add up on paper, he knew that someone had to have snatched it. As he told me about his list of potential perps and their motives, I couldn’t help but wonder about the possibilities of a situation like Pyr’s. Sure, he was fingerprinted and supervised to death, but I was free to do whatever I fucking wanted short of a scribbled note and ski-mask. I had a savings account ever since I met Pyr, and even though there was only 67 cents left from my last Snapple binge, it could serve as a foot in the door for some old fashioned scavenging.

While Pyr was taking off his tie I scarfed around his neck and kissed him a question about what happened to all of that misplaced cash and the poor tellers that lost it. Most of it’s just clerical he grimaced while slipping off his shirt, And the cut-off is 5 bucks or so before anyone starts to care. What would happen if you put a little money in someone’s account once in a while? I said while hanging up his pants and he was all Wouldn’t work, they would notice soon enough that the cash deposit amounts match the differences. Isn’t there any way to scam the bank? and he just stared at me for a second or two before he said Believe me, I thought about it, but the only way you’re going to get money is through forgery or counterfeiting, which promotes getting caught and would get you in tons of trouble, intentional overdrafts with the help of a teller, which means the loss of a job along with the heat of the bank, or ATM fraud, with empty envelopes and maximum cash back. All you could get from a machine is $300, and it would be a one-time only deal, with your account being closed immediately until you paid the money back, plus a record that would follow you until the day you died. There’s got to be some way I moaned, and Pyr shook his head. Unless the money’s already there and you are associated with the account or know someone who is, you won’t get away with that much. In the end it’s more productive to plan on earning money rather than stealing it. With that he grabbed some fresh underwear and headed for the shower.

Now all of this was news to me, and while he was washing the money off his hands I was thinking of ways that I could get some quick cash. When I opened the account I conned them into giving me a Visa, Pyr’s pull probably helping a lot more than my Yogurt Hut gig. I had only used it a bit since I got it, enough that my limit went up into the low thousands and other offers started to trickle in. All around the apartment were brochures and pre-approvals from this bank and that, and the more I thought about it, the better some of those offers started to look. Adding up National United’s cash advance limit along with those of the other fool banks, I could figure to net around $2500 or so, which I could pay back in little spurts when the money became available, if at all. That would be enough for a used car and gas across the country, which I always dreamed about doing ever since I first hit the streets, hearing lies about how this girl hitched from Montana or that jerk knew someone who had driven 66 in a stolen truck. Dumpstering after the dinner rush or crashing at the Y, I had the itch to go where the passing cars were headed, wherever the roads that scraped my shoes would take me. The only time that I had been on a real trip was when I was a snot-nose, and all I could remember are miles of corn and the motel that we stopped at when our radiator went rabid. Imagining myself back there in one of those rectangular states, living on the road with Pyr at my side, I guess I lost most of my sense of Nightly Newsed reality and signed all the acceptance offers I could dig up, hiding the envelopes under the mattress so he wouldn’t find them. I wanted our trip to be his birthday present, he could use up his vacation time while we devoured the country.

The next day after Pyr went off to work I post-officed and spent the recycling money on stamps, crossing my fingers as the blue box ate the envelopes. Knowing that it would take a couple of weeks before I heard anything, I libraried like usual, only this time pouring over the road atlases, planning our trip down to the fleas. For the life of me I couldn’t locate that motel, no matter how small the scale, but I did snag a beat-up map of the US in the free box, which was bound to come in handy, and checked out one of those travel books that tell you about all the cool shit. Scammed my way onto the subway – horny businessmen always fall for the lost-ticket story – and sponged up the potential stops listed in the book while touring town, trying hard to imagine what Donut World actually looked like, and hoping that Six Flags had low fences. When I finally got back home, after stopping by Jennifer’s to pick up some spaghetti and toilet paper, Pyr was already there, sulking on the bed.

I asked him what was wrong and all he could do is turn over onto his stomach, staring at the bus schedule tacked onto the wall. We were robbed, I was robbed he moaned, So they made me come home early. What happened? I yelled as I lay down beside him, tossing the bag of stuff I brought onto the floor, and he hesitated for a few moments before telling me. Turned out that a little after 2, when he had just gotten money from the vault, this guy came up to the window with the proverbial note. Although the bank showed cheesy movies during training that told how you were supposed to basically lick the perp’s ass and give them whatever they wanted, Pyr wasn’t about to be out of balance again unless he literally had a gun to his head. So he took the note, which used the standard line, and wrote on the back Why should I? The guy looked at Pyr’s message, and not wanting to cause a scene, answered that he had a gun in his jacket, that’s why. Pyr countered by asking to see it, and the guy, now quite pissed, reached over the counter and grabbed Pyr by the tie, whispering to him to cough up the money. The teller at the next window noticed this and proceeded not only to pull the alarm, but to leave her window and tell the supervisor what was going on. While news started to filter through the branch, Pyr was still giving the guy a hard time, placing all of his rolled coin onto the counter. This act of defiance was enough for the gun to make its appearance, at which time Pyr simply locked up his cash and walked away from the window. The guy started to shake a bit and then held the gun up into the air, yelling for everyone to Get down. Pyr walked back over with the fire extinguisher that he had pulled from a nearby corner and let loose in the guy’s face, causing him to drop the gun and fall down to the floor screaming. Then he climbed on top of his stool and jumped over the counter, fucking up the guy until the security guard had to pull him off. Since the police wouldn’t go into a branch while it was being held up, and since the bank rules said not to pursue any criminals, the guy ran out the front door before anyone could stop him.

For the next hour the branch was closed, as the police and bank security questioned Pyr about what the guy looked like, what he asked for, and why the hell did he have to do all that shit. All he could say was that he wasn’t concerned for his safety, didn’t think the perp was smart enough to have even loaded the gun, and frankly didn’t give a fuck what the bank thought. If the guy was going to pull a gun on him, money or no money, he was going down. His supervisors mistook such honesty as post-traumatic stress and promptly sent him home for the day, saving the chewing out for the next morning. So Pyr was all worked up, stressing over why he snapped like that, and before I got home he had even made up a quit sheet, thinking that two weeks notice was the best thing to do considering. Inching my hand up his thigh, I chirped reassuring junk in his ears like It’ll be all right, they’ll forget after a few months, but he wouldn’t have it and it took nothing short of turning on his faucet to get his mind off the whole mess. Not that I minded giving him some, it was just that if he flipped off the bank then we would be in serious shit, and when the shadow of rough times ahead passed over my brain the last thing I wanted to think about was coming.

But he came anyway, and as Pyr tissued the mess I couldn’t help but think of our second time, in the employee bathroom at the bank, when we improvised a hat with one of those wax-paper toilet-seat covers. Listening to him hold back his moans as I straddled him – licking the ink off of his fingers, wondering where he had been all of my life – we didn’t even notice when the manager walked in to take a piss, and with my legs around his waist and head leaning against the stall I guess he thought that Pyr was wrestling with one hell of a log. It’s always been like that, since I first walked up to his window asking for change, and through all of the shit we’ve been through, all of the nights I’ve stayed up just to watch him sleep, he’s always been the hand swinging the string, with me at the other end ready to fly off into space. All the other pricks in my life were either scared off my by enthusiasm or wanted even more, but not Pyr, ever since he brushed against my hand giving a one for some pocket jingle, looking me straight in the mouth, I knew he would never let go.

Letting go of the bank was another story. When he went back to work the next day, pocketing his notice just in case, all of the tellers were giving him a hard time, except for Mary, who pulled the alarm and had a thing for him ever since he trained her. If he went to the cooler to get some water then Steve would ask him where the fire was, and when the daily engine flew by Tom buzzed the door open, telling Pyr that he if he ran he could still catch the truck. That, combined with a big fat warning from his boss that the next time he pulled something like that he would shoot him personally, was enough that Pyr threw his keys across the branch, trashed his name tag, and made 30 copies of his resignation, so that he could hand out one to everyone in the bank, including the customers. Well, actually that’s what he should’ve done, but after a thorough shredding by his superiors, all he could muster was a whispered Fuck you as he gave the note, requesting to use the vacation time he had saved up through his last day. By then his manager would have given him both vault keys if it meant that Pyr would get out of his branch, and so after a hasty balancing he left, saving his last goodbye for Mary, the only person who would’ve appreciated it.

I never would’ve imagined that he would actually go through it, and so when I came into the bank around 5 that day, hoping to surprise him with a bouquet of daisies that I got from my friend at the subway station, all Tanya gave me was a tight lipped He quit. If I had a telephone pole handy I would have stuck it up her ass, but after Mary pulled me aside and explained what happened I couldn’t help but feel sorry for all of the other asshole tellers, spit-shining their customers’ wallets while their bosses pocketed the tips. Since I knew Pyr wouldn’t be in a floral mood when I got home I left the bunch with Mary, telling her to enjoy them while they lasted. Before I left I closed my account, asking Tanya to give me it all in pennies, and as soon as she did I broke open the roll, sweeping the Abe’s onto the floor, every single click on the linoleum a slap in her face. Tossed off a big Bitch that had everyone duck and covering, slapped my ATM card on the counter, and left. The guard didn’t follow.

As soon as I got home Pyr was already packing, and it only took one look at his face to tell that he had been planning his escape for awhile. I knew that we had enough money saved up for next month’s rent, but when I first saw the bus tickets lying on the table I didn’t make the connection. Watching him gathering up the good tapes, matching and folding our socks, I figured that he had already called ahead to his brother in New York, who always promised a floor to crash on just in case. When he finally turned to face me, the sunset skipping off his glasses and onto my chest, all I could think about was how much I loved him, how itchy I was to hit the road. After the packing was done I lined the bathroom with the Sentinel and gave him the buzz that he wanted forever but N.U. wouldn’t permit, and when his scalp was free we gathered up the clippings and watched them surf down the sink, along with the ashes from our tie-burning party.

When the 1st finally rolled around we were cutting across the New Mexico night, 7 dollars and two seats between us. I didn’t wait for the credit cards to come.

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