On the day they came to lock up Tanya, you were wearing those hideous stretch pants you had gotten for free from a friend of a friend, a seamstress in Carpinteria. Deep down, you knew you should never wear stretch pants–even post-lipo–but you did that year, as if the boundaries of the campus also marked the borders of an alternate reality in which you had the kind of legs people would want to see in detail. Perhaps by then you had broken free from the past enough to start thinking that maybe things were possible, and that despite all appearances, they had always been–and if that realization only as-of-yet had translated itself into the choice of inappropriate bottom-half attire, then so be it. Everybody had to start somewhere.
No, it was not technically your fault that Tanya was to be put on a 24-hour hold on the locked psychiatric ward of the hospital. Not officially. But who were we kidding? You were her roommate, and her best friend. And you were scared she was going to die. But it was Cate who told her therapist of Tanya’s living in that 10×10 room, up in a loft, like a caged animal, coming down only to do drugs and visit the bathroom, or to offer evidence of her vampire alter ego’s existence. How could any of you have known that telling a licensed professional of such things would necessarily involve the authorities?
Was Tanya a danger to herself? Certainly. But now that you had ipso facto ratted her out to The Man, there was a good chance that, if she were ever released, she would be a danger to you, Cate, and Linda as well. But most especially you. She had ideas, you knew already, of how to handle such a situation. Tanya had told you on several occasions to signs to look for if you were in danger of a terrorist attack, or a hired hit.
“If you ever come out to a parking lot, and see your car, and the rear lights are broken, don’t get into the car,” she had said.
Admittedly, you were intrigued.
“Why not?” you had asked, not sure if this was a friendly sharing-of-experience or a deeply veiled warning for some as-of-yet-unknown betrayal that you would commit–that Tanya must have half-expected, in retrospect.
“Because, if you take the bulb out of a taillight, and break it, and put it in a gas tank, it will make a car explode,” she explained, in the matter-of-fact tone that was her habit when she was talking about such things.
“Huh,” you said, not sure how to respond.
“I have lots of ways of getting back at people,” she said. “Some of them are pretty evil, though. But when you grow up in Lebanon in the ’80s, that’s what happens.”
And now here you were, Judas in green and blue striped stretch pants, waiting for the campus police to show up and cart Tanya away indefinitely. When they showed up, the faculty liaison would introduce herself to you as Patricia Phillips, a name that was notable not only for its stranger-than-fiction alliteration of “p”s, but also for its proximity to the name of the wife of your faculty advisor.
And so it happened that you stood at the door to your tiny apartment in Kingscote, pilfered Alpha “A” you stole from the TAE house displayed proudly–like the trophy that it was–on the wall behind you, and stared down the wife of the man who held your graduate school future in the palm of his hand. You answered Patricia Phillips’–”Please, call me Patricia, dear,”–questions truthfully, explaining that Tanya was still sleeping, all the while working hard to remain undistracted by the tragic-comic turn the soundtrack of your life had just taken. Did King Missle have a song appropriate to this moment, you thought? “My advisor’s second wife is here to lock up my coke-addled roooommmate,” you thought, it could be catchy with the right people working on it. Where was the damn comic plot interlude when you really needed it? You could have gone for an otherwise boring Hiro and Ando scene, right about then, not that you knew who they were at the time.
After you had acquainted her with the particulars, Patricia ventured into Tanya’s room to wake the dead. And hell had no fury. As Tanya threw things around her room, being made to understand that she was leaving, whether she liked it or not, she shot deadly looks in your direction, demanding to know where her wallet was, and at that moment you remembered the $5 you had borrowed. It was a common thing, you and Tanya would share money whenever needed, but she had been asleep when you took it, and now circumstances had changed, and from Tanya’s perspective, you had taken her dignity along with her last $5. And in turn she would try to take yours.
“There was $5 in here! You took my money!” she yelled, and if she had really been a vampire it was likely you would have been infected by the venom in her voice. You protested that you had only borrowed it, when out of cash, and here was the money back, Tanya! But your explanations were worthless, strewn like 30 pieces of silver across the metaphorical field of your iniquity, the hackneyed, heavy-handed allusion of it all made believable only because you were there. And because it would be you who would clean it all up.