It was mid-day and hot as usual in Tucson, the sun hanging there like an angry fundamentalist. Five sorority girls left their dorm building and walked down the smoldering sidewalk in flip-flops and pastel dresses. Gadabout bimbos with low-swung hips and lazy postures ambling along as if it was an almost unbearable burden to be so desirable. I was sitting in my taxi looking at them.

“Can you take us to the Standard?” squeaked one of the mall bunnies.

“Love to,” I said. The Standard was one of the many off-campus housing complexes for the wealthy college kids from California and Boston and New York. This was the University of Arizona, gathering place for mega-maniacal meat.

They all wore bathing suits underneath their pastel dresses.

“Pool party at the Standard?” I said.

They looked at me like I was a pervert or an idiot, or both. I was way too old to matter.

“Oh, yea-ah, poo-el party, dude,” one of them finally said.

Once a month, one of the off-campus apartment buildings hosted huge, hideous swimming pool parties. Hundreds of braindead uni-kids packed the shimmering green pool shoulder to shoulder, each one pouring beer into his/her mouth above the water and draining it out below. They were like giant petri dishes of percolating hormones, desperate posturing, and piss.

There were so many girls in the group that one of them was forced to sit in the front seat of the cab. This great distance between her and her herd made her nervous. She smelled a leopard on the air. She kept turning around. In the span of a 15-minute drive, she could find herself cut off from her bitchy friends, and this meant the world to her; she had no concept of survival without them. She pulled down the visor and looked at herself in the mirror. Then she pulled out a mirror from her purse and looked in that. Finally, she rolled down the window and looked at herself in the side mirror outside the cab. The others complained about the hot wind that came in and messed their hair, and the girl in the front seat rolled the window up again, pouting.

Half way to the Standard we came to a place on Stone Avenue where there is a clear view of the mountains to the north.

“What are those mountains?” one of the girls said to me.

“Those are the Catalina Mountains,” I said.

“Is Tucson higher than New York?” another girl said.

“You from New York?” I said.

A snicker scattered among them. “Well, ya-uh.”

“New York’s at sea level,” I said. “We’re at about 2,200 feet here.”

They had no idea what I was talking about.

“Yes,” I said, “it’s higher here.”

There was a murmur of understanding.

Then another girl said: “Does that mean we weigh less?”

I searched the rearview mirror for a sign of a joke, but realized it was an honest question.

“Yes, you weigh less,” I said.

There was a giggle of delight.

“But,” I said, “your breasts are smaller, too.”

They all looked down at their cleavage and one girl pawed herself protectively.

I pulled up to the entrance of the Standard and was cut off by a young kid in a shiny new SUV that was bigger than my apartment. The kid’s beautiful, untroubled face scowled at me.

The girls spilled out of the cab, eager to display their gaudy, orange, plastic bodies for the eye-rape of burger-eating frat boys. They’d never had to work or worry in their lives, and most likely never would. Their parents injected three grand into their bank account every month. They only knew one thing: comfort, the constant, immediate satisfaction of even their smallest wishes. And, honestly, they were not even pretty. There was more beauty and soul and warmth and life in the smallest finger of the poorest Mexican girl working at the tiniest market on the south side of Tucson than these girls had between them.

The fare was 22 bucks and they each wanted to pay for their part separately. Everything else in their lives was done with one collective mind, but when it came to this matter, they insisted on individuality. Each of them had a $20 bill and they wiped out all my change. I thought I might get some of the small bills back in the form of a tip, but no.

After I dropped them off, I went into the nearest minimart and bought a candy bar with one of the 20s just to have some change again. The lady behind the cash register told me to have a nice day. I told her I’d try.

***

For all installments from 6 to 6, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Traveling Mercies
  2. Next Time, Take Skyline
  3. Suicide Lane
  4. Morenci in My Rear-View Mirror
  5. A Spiritual Adventure
  6. Sonja’s Ring
  7. A Pair to Draw To
  8. Grocery Day
  9. A Day with Melanie
  10. The Hot Light
  11. Drano
  12. The Cab Knows the Way
  13. Dodi’s Luck
  14. Don’t Die Before Your Mother
  15. Bob’s Big Day
  16. Nothing But a Human Being
  17. John’s Dream
  18. God Didn’t Get Me No Weed
  19. Ramirez
  20. What’s Going to Happen to Me?
  21. Do I Look Like an Indian to You?
  22. The Maze
  23. Fun with Ruby
  24. Portrait of the Artist as a Certified Loony
  25. Turn Around, Dumbass
  26. Red Bull Blues
  27. The Great Desert Palms Escape
  28. Bitcoin
  29. At Least it Isn’t Raining
  30. Marshmallows on Everything
  31. Mermaid with Doctor’s Mask
  32. My Other Jacket
  33. Late
  34. The Hideaway
  35. You Can Have a Seat, Sir
  36. Book People
  37. 112 Degrees
  38. No Way
  39. El Pendejo
  40. Batman
  41. Plasma
  42. The Jumping-Off Place
  43. November in July
  44. The Double
  45. The Road to the Casino Del Sol