I WAS WEARING a purple dress for no other reason than it was a Thursday and I’d been blowing out these tiny pellet-scabs from my nose that looked like watermelon seeds—the whole night before doing the worst drywall cocaine EVER—and my roommate Sara said, “We should put on purple dresses and go drinking this morning,” and I said, “That’s probably the most spectacular idea I’ve ever heard,” and soon we were at Thrift Town purchasing the worst, most appalling floral patterns we could find and then we were at the Uptown doing Fernet shots with Budweiser backs and the Ramones were playing.
Here was where things got sorta weird because a homeless guy walked in the bar with a shoeshine kit and asked if I wanted my combat boots brought back to life and I immediately said, “That’s the most spectacular thing I’ve ever heard,” which was quickly becoming the morning’s mantra and he looked at me like I was fucking stupid and then he got busy working his brushes over my boots.
Sara sat next to me. She actually looked beautiful in her purple dress. I was the ugliest tranny ever. In fact, I was worse than the ugliest tranny ever because trannies actually try. They put effort in. There’s waxing and plucking and concealing and all sorts of things that I don’t even know about. I was just a smartass in a purple dress getting his kicks shined.
And it was turning out to be a pretty good day, too. That’s what sticks out to me now, years removed from all that drunken madness. All those afternoons I plopped down on a stool waiting for some variety of mayhem to sprout, which it always did. Each day ended up in some kind of terrible scene. That was all I was ever after back then: the pure blindness of a blackout. A few hours off from all the regrets that ricocheted around my skull like lottery balls.
For awhile things were going well. I gave the homeless shoe shine guy five bucks and he left and it was only me and Sara and the bartender and the Ramones, and purple dresses are a man’s best friend.
Then things got even weirder and scarier. Four Mexican men walked in and bellied up at the far corner of the bar and immediately despised my whole shtick. They didn’t like my loud voice, the self important bellows of a bender, and they sure as shit didn’t dig my purple dress.
How did I know this?
They immediately started blowing kisses my way and calling me a faggot and a puto, which was basically the same thing, but maybe they thought I didn’t understand Spanish. But I did. I’d worked in restaurants for years so I could curse and ask for coffee at table ten and beg a busboy for a bindle in their mother tongue.
None of those qualities were going to help me with these guys, when their “faggots” and “putos” turned into FUCK YOUS. It was clear they were revving up to kick my ass.
“We should leave,” said Sara.
“Too late for that.”
“I have no other choice,” I said, “but to out drink them.”
“I’m going to buy them shots until they fall on the floor. That’s the only chance I have.”
Now no one should ever make the dubious switch from Fernet to tequila in the middle of a drinking binge. Fequila was a monster. Fequila was a motherfucker.
But if I was going to start buying them tequila shots, this puto knew enough that I had to drink the same spirit right along with them.
I called over to the bartender and told her my plan.
“Keep their shot glasses full,” I said.
“How much money do you have?” she said, shaking her head.
I had a wad of cash from last night’s dinner shift, way over a hundred dollars, and I was happy to donate all of it to the keep-Josh-alive fund.
Even if that meant the dreaded fequila combination.
The next hour was a blur of rock and roll and dismay and false camaraderie and fear and adrenaline and throwing up in my mouth but swallowing it back down and eyes watering in the worst way, yet managing to stay on my stool and stay out of the ER, and my asinine plan worked, those four fellas staggering out of the bar before most people were off of work for the day, and this purple-dressed puto never felt a knuckle on my face.
“I won,” I said to Sara.
“I guess,” she said.
And then that familiar feeling of a coffin lid closing over a day, a night. A blackout. Hours progressed in which I walked around and lived my life and chatted with people but I have no recollection, huge swaths of time rolled up like old rugs.
What I can say is this: the next morning I woke up in my room, still wearing that purple dress. I did my usual routine: running my index finger over my front teeth to make sure they were all still there. I had them all, at least for one more day. Then off to the bathroom to shower, but before I stripped, the mirror told me that the front of the purple dress had blood all over it. Mine? Yours? I’ll never know. Somebody bled. Someone was hurt. A man or woman. That story isn’t for me to tell, rolled up in one of those rugs and filed away from me forever. But I hope someday to read that story—the one about crossing paths with the ugliest tranny in the Uptown in order to understand what I had become.