Friday, March 26, 2010

The White Shirt

My little friend Dave was such a character. He had been a cook at Mr. B's for quite a while. Like so many of us back in those days, his lifestyle got the best of him and he started bouncing around to various jobs. He had started busing tables at a little Italian restaurant in the same block as The Abbey.
I used to meet Dave out on Decatur Street a lot of nights. Liam got off later than both Dave or I, so we would just have some drinks while I waited for Liam to get off from his restaurant job. Dave was hilarious, and he was so full of life. He was always doing something off the wall. Dave was the first to get loud and rowdy when the alcohol took over his brain. And Dave loved to get high, often taking it to extremes before anyone else. One of the first times I ever shot heroin was with Dave.
A couple of weeks went by and I did not see Dave very much. He seemed to have been MIA for a while when he popped back up, beaming from ear to ear. He had been back to Mississippi where he was from visiting...and he had met a girl!
I never knew Dave to really have a girlfriend. He was not gay or anything; he just did not seem to care too much about girls. I would imagine he did not have too much luck with the women because of his outrageous lifestyle.
He had met a nice country girl from Mississippi. She was also in the dark about a lot of his habits. She had the naive notion that she could curb his dabbling with drugs. Little did she know Dave was not dabbling, and he was quite the expert at hiding is escapades. Dave had moved this nice little country girl right into his apartment in New Orleans. Pretty soon, his undercover tactics would have to get serious.
One night Liam and I are at our house on Port Street, just hanging out with a couple of people. I was selling various drugs at the time to support our own habits, so Dave would often stop by before going to his house around the corner. He would often show up, hair wild, eyes wild, acting crazy and loud about something. He often stopped by to buy a little something to bring him back to reality before he went home to his country girl.
This particular night Dave shows up around his usual hour. He was still wearing the standard waiter uniform of a white button down shirt and black pants. As usual, Dave is disheveled and going a million miles a minute. He whirls in like a tornado, ripping through my house. He is talking fast and gesturing frantically.
He turns to me, telling what he wants to buy. As I go to put his package together, he starts asking what kind of sauces we have in our refrigerator. Liam mention ketchup and mayonnaise when Dave interrupts him wanting mustard. Liam says he thinks we have mustard. Dave says he needs as many different colored sauces we have, as long as they are not red. Looking at him with a bewildered expression, Liam goes to get sauces. My guests are staring at this little man just whizzing through my house seriously questioning us about our condiments.
Dave whips off his button down shirt. Standing in a wife beater, Dace spreads the white shirt out on the floor. He is carefully inspecting the sleeves, smoothing them flat onto the hardwood floors. Liam returns with the condiments and hand them to Dave as we all look on in curiosity.
He starts applying mustard and various salad dressing to the inside elbow of his waiter shirt first. Then, he puts smears of the various colors all over the shirt. What the hell is he doing? He is purposely adding sauces to a somewhat clean work shirt. His hands making quick and spastic movement, he is really into his work. We all look at each other and then eye Dave with much suspicion. Liam shakes his head and finally asks, "What are you doing, dude?"
Dave tells us that he was shooting coke after work in some bar. That explains his speedy speech and sporadic actions. That explains his sense of both insanity and urgency. But, what about the fucking shirt? Dave points to a tiny stain of blood on the inside sleeve. He is super paranoid his girlfriend would notice it, so he decided to splotch the shirt up real good. Liam asks, why not just use ketchup? You have lots of ketchup that could get on a shirt in a restaurant.
Dave looks up at Liam like his intentions should be so obvious. "Yeah, okay," Dave says. "Then every stain on the shirt will be red. She will never fall for that. I can hear her now...what you only have red sauces at the restaurant? Yeah, okay, dude."
My entire living room is laughing now. Dave puts the lids on all the variously colored sauces, and he put his shirt back on. He stands in front of a mirror, inspecting his artwork. He looks closely at the arm to see if the blood stain is now less obvious. He seems satisfied with his work. He takes his package and heads back to the bathroom to level out his buzz a little.
Dave returns slowed down beyond a normal rate. His eyelids are a little droopy. His smile is now relaxed and content. "Well, I better head home to my girl now. See ya."
"Good luck with the shirt, Dave."
"Huh?" Dave looks back bewildered. He looks down at his shirt. Seeing the stains all over it, I can see the light bulb of recollection go off in his head. "Oh, yeah, that. It will be cool. I don't even care what she says now."

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