- Connecticuuugh! Part 2 -
GIANT LIZARDS AND ART SCHOOL
“The advice that I would give to people today if they are home from work is to go about a normal day. Take the day as an opportunity to go shopping, be with your children . . . do things. Get out, don't feel locked in." - Rudy Guiliani, September 12th, 2001
"And very important, DO NOT do your homework without wearing headphones. Repeat..." - George Carlin, Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey
- Connecticuuugh! Part 2 -
The George Washington Bridge by all rights should have been closed instead of catching the contents of Lizzy's ashtray. Even watching her do this hurt Chase. He was in the passenger's seat and the idea of this chain smoking woman in thirty years; smokey voice and all, encompassed him. Just two months ago they were supposed to get old together. Now he was on this cockamame mission mostly because if he wasn't, where else would he be if Lizzy died in the giant mutant lizard attack upon New York. She had also asked him to come.
The goal of Lizzy’s mission was to submit her portfolio for a prestigious artist’s residency that happened to have its “nonnegotiable” deadline that very same evening. The attacks had started out of nowhere around one in the afternoon on the day Lizzy’s submissions needed to be shipped to get there on time.
Lizzy, hellbent and twisting the wheel beneath her ringed fingers, cursed the evening every thirty seconds of the madcap road trip. The skyscraper-length giant lizards were only a coincidence to poor schmucks like Lizzy because while deadlines like this academy’s were planned months in advance, so far as science had told (or wouldn't bother to tell), there was no pattern to these giant lizard attacks . . . other than their general distaste for leaving any buildings in Manhattan.
These giant lizards were “selfish douchebags who. . . i mean, probably are higher up on some evolutionary food-chain than humans . . . But who cares? The point is that we humans should just wait these lizard shits out and then say fuck off when they go.” This was a direct quote from the leading researcher on the topic. The attacks seemed centered around North America, as though the people in this country weren’t entirely full of themselves already.
These attacks somehow managed to get border walls built all around the United States, an issue which had been on the table to protect American jobs for decades. It had been considered inhumane then and in this context was viewed by the rest of the world as ridiculous since it was theorized that these walls were keeping the giant lizards trapped on the mainland in America.
But of course the American citizens didn’t hear about this, they were behind their walls with their limited television channels and cheaper cigarettes.
It was like a real life version of every single brightly colored Japanese Evangeleon cartoon. You remember, right? One day these giant lizards just appeared. Unlike in the cartoons though, mankind just worked around the mysterious aberrations as though it were something as regular as a hurricane season. No giant robots were concocted to fight back, just more cartoon series released every season on Saturday mornings with giant monsters fighting humanity's defense robots. Utter fiction. “Fuck ‘em” said the head researcher on the giant lizard attacks.
The current president had run on a campaign endorsing this apathy. The denial was literally keeping Wall Street open. "That's just the way it is" chimed one of his commercials.
That same song was usually on the radio but not in Lizzy's 2-door, red Honda as it gunned the empty lanes down the George Washington Bridge towards New Jersey. In Lizzy’s disc changer was Let It Be by the Replacements. Punch-drunk guitars were blaring, strained voices hitting most of the intended notes in the melody. The disc changer shuffled back and forth between some other albums. Lizzy knew all the words to each. They were mostly old, off-kilter rock punches from the late 1970s. She’d had them for years. When Lizzy made up her mind about something she prided herself on never budging an inch.
She didn’t jump to explain herself on this (that was kind of the point) but when she did (to what few girlfriends she didn’t make up her mind to leave in her past), she would admit that any doubt in her decisions would reflect a fault in her character. Lizzy had to be the best and feel the best at all times if she could help it. Life was short, there were giant lizard attacking Manhattan. It was no use being wishy-washy in a world like this. That’s what her breakup with Chase had been about. She just wasn't feeling it; "later, Chase."
They were going pretty well before that. The sex was great, they shared a taste in trashy music, coke, wine, cigarettes and, Chase thought, each other. They would sit up at night in bed, higher than their bodies could even feel anymore, locked into each other and listening to “Satisfied” by the Replacements. It could have gone on forever like that. This was what Chase believed.
Then one day, with no warning, Lizzy just didn’t want “whatever we have together” anymore. She refused to listen to Chase about looking any deeper. She said that he was talking in circles about this since, without much else to talk about, he really was only asking her “Why?” as many times as she would allow. Chase was, needless to say, a wreck after that and would have to lie to tell you he didn’t call her all the fucking time until he didn’t even get her voicemail anymore.
Weeks later as they drove in this car, Lizzy, mad as ever for some proof of scholastic merit in the arts, confronted Chase at his Wesleyan dorm to be her sherpa.
Chase, having grown up in New Jersey, knew the fastest route to get her to the Newark Airport from Connecticut. This plane loading dock was somehow the only FedEx in the whole tri-state area which was open to ship her portfolio that evening. So, even if Chase had a way to stand up for himself against his love for Lizzy long enough to tell her to fuck off for coming back to him for dumb favors like this, his fear that her journey into the heart of the giant lizard attacks would lose her to him forever made him tag along with her disc changer filling the silence. Because the sad truth was maybe all he could say was “why?” if given the chance anyhow.
As they crossed the George Washington Bridge, Chase was sitting miserably. A sharp wrong swerve on Lizzy’s part through the parking lot of the new Yankee’s Stadium had gotten his lap covered with his own pee.
Chase had been trying to unload his pecker into a coffee cup but had too much in his bladder for such a small size container. Lizzy just laughed with her double XL coffee. She shook just a little bit and it wasn’t from the winter air; always a woman on the go. Coffee was never where her stimulants ended. She committed to a mission and went for it.
“Why do we have to have these stupid giant lizard attacks?” mused Lizzy distantly to make conversation. The bridge showed them a burning One World Trade building reflecting its sad impermanence on the dirty Hudson filled with lead-shod unionizers. Lizzy whined about those lizards in a pouting voice like a little girl beneath her jet black dyed hair and pierced lips. A cigarette muffled part of her tone. It had gotten caught in her lip ring again. “Why do we have to have these stupid giant lizards at all? Can you remember the last time anyone dropped a nuke?”
“That’s just the way it is” grumbled Chase. It was a force of habit for most Americans. Nobody liked this conversation about the giant lizards.
They pulled into a gas station. Lizzy’s phone was out of data so they needed to actually buy a map and hurry about it. Neither of them had bought an actual car map in their lives and wasn't sure exactly where to purchase one. This Newark gas station with no lights on in the parking lot seemed as good as any of the others.
The station attendant wasn’t there and Lizzy didn’t feel too comfortable leaving her car alone in the neighborhood. “Gang central” she said “don’t you watch the news? And how come your Jersey geography dies with my smartphone?”
Chase rolled his eyes. He didn't need to prove to anyone he'd grown up in this angsty stepson of a state.
The gas station lot was so close to the airport. They were just too turned around. Time was growing tighter. It was killing them. Lizzy had taken to punching the steering wheel. Chase seethed about having pee on his pants. It was especially lamentable when stepping into the winter night and watching giant lizards smash up Manhattan in the distance (since the princess in the red Honda wouldn’t budge). That whistling wind through the crotch made a fellow feel like he constantly had to pee again and may already have lost that element of control. So while waiting for the someone who would never appearin the gas station attendant’s booth, Chase walked into a dark corner between two cars and let himself piss. This would give him time to think up a quick alternative place for getting a map. He stared ahead at the shadowy brick wall.
The places that one goes to pee in an urban environment are the same as to get mugged.
As though on cue, two guys walked up behind Chase as he held his dick vulnerably in his hand. Chase was facing the wall, whistling to cover up the distant explosion noises in the winter night. Manhattan wasn't so far away. It was a wonder none of the giant lizards made it across. Lizzy in the car lit another cigarette, not even looking at her imperiled sherpa.
Chase turned back from his side glance at her. He wanted to fuck her so bad. He probably could, she was a big fan of the grey areas in life that got her plowed. The things she didn't like included longer commitments to a fellow human being than a half hour. It was all about Lizzy to Lizzy.
A hand clamped Chase’s shoulder. Chase spun around, throwing his still peeing dick back into his boxers. Behind him were two men so engulfed by shadow that he couldn’t make out anything but the knife. Chase couldn’t stop peeing.
The two men, no longer holding him, fell about the place laughing.
“Man, this fool peed himself” said one.
“Yeah, what a wuss, I bet he’s scared of those giant lizard attacks. I don’t want any of that piss money, shit’s fucking soaked.”
“Let’s just get out of here!”
Alone, Chase zipped up his pants. The jean fabric surrounding seemed liquified on a molecular level. He shot a deep breath out through his teeth. His cigarettes were in the car. It would take him a moment to compose himself. He stared ahead.
The Manhattan night, what little of it Chase could make of it over all the buildings and miles of the Garden State separation, was on fire. Somebody else in this neighborhood would get mugged within the hour. There were no riots. There were no sirens. The night was silent but for the distant explosions; a big budget action thriller in the other auditorium bleeding in through a silent movie theater as it's being cleaned.
There were no giant robots to step in and battle our species to freedom.
Lizzy threw her cigarette out the Honda window with absolute disregard. It landed far too close to the gas pumps at the unattended station.
They missed the FedEx deadline by minutes. These minutes, according to Lizzy, were the same ones she cursed Chase for wasting at the gas station. Chase did his best to remember how oblivious Lizzy was about life when she spoke to him so harshly. It was an understanding they had come to while they were dating. He understood that this was just the way Lizzy was. Her carelessness for others was the flipside to her determination and he loved that determination; that passion.
Chase just took Lizzy’s tongue lashing all the way back up highway I-95.
To his right, beyond all the factories and their sea of orange-lit exhaust pipes, were the giant lizards as they crushed century-old buildings in the next state.
Chase chimed in cautiously between Lizzy’s groans and the same four albums. He needed a dry pair of pants pair. His folks still lived just a bit upstate from them. They were headed in that direction anyway. "Please?" Explosions in the distance hung thick between them. Lizzy turned over his request in her mind silently. Her cigarette switched sides in her mouth.
The trip, Chase continued, only meant going back to their undergraduate housing in Wesleyan through the New Jersey Palisades. That wasn't even a detour. And the George Washington had to finally be closed by then with the Manhattan attacks getting aggravated. It was probably just a fluke the bridge had been open before. That convinced her.
“I’m still mad at you for making me miss this deadline” she said to Chase. Her knuckles were white around the wheel.
“Would you quit being a bitch?” he asked her candidly. He didn’t even mean to say it. The phrase just slipped out. Lizzy responded to it as though this was only natural, as though he spoke like this all the time and wasn’t just a sad doormat.
“Sorry,” she said “I guess I appreciate you trying to help me out with this. You’re the only person I know from New Jersey, so . . . thanks. You know, even though it failed and I probably will never . . . let’s just get you those pants.” The tone of her voice had entirely changed, losing its edges, and she no longer looked over at all from the road, as though afraid. Chase felt taller there in her Honda with his pee pants.
Lizzy secretly liked when Chase took charge. This was why they would still had sex from time to time.
“That’s just the way it is” Lizzy said. She didn’t mean to catch herself in a cliche and almost laughed at the perceivable insincerity in the very honest statement she’d just espoused. They were in Chase’s parents’ basement.
The wad of paper towels with which she’d quickly dabbed the jism from her vag was hurled into a bin of this quaint suburban laundry room. Lizzy had an IUD. She never liked to use condoms. In her own mind she would either eventually get an STD or not since life was just a gamble. She'd made up her mind on this.
She pulled up her panties around her cream white thighs. She didn't get out much, just hacked away at canvas after canvas, poring herself over tomes of ancient verse.
Like the rewind on a VHS film, she wriggled with a jerky swoop into her skintight red jeans. Chase was in a new pair of pants, his father’s khakis from the laundry room they’d broken into. He was standing over by the dryer, no longer even pretending to look for a clean shirt.
“But why?” he asked.
“There you go repeating yourself” Lizzy shrugged. “There just isn’t anything else to say.”
So they stood there silently staring at each other and either Chase was the only one on the verge of tears or Lizzy was a queen of the poker face. Somehow Chase had thought that this time it meant something. He’d forgotten that he felt that way every single other time it had happened. He only remembered that at some point it used to mean a lot. He did a lot of digging through his feelings sometimes, it didn’t ever really feel good; just bittersweet at best.
“Let’s get out of here” Lizzy said.
He had gotten them lost, according to Lizzy, on the way to the Tappan Zee Bridge.
The truth was Chase knew exactly where they were headed: the one townie bar in Nyack amidst the pretzel loops of highway leading to the road strip across the Hudson River. Chase wanted a drink and couldn’t convince pissy Lizzy to just stop at a liquor store somewhere for him.
When she demanded coffee for her headache “having to fix the mess you put us in tonight, Chase!” Chase saw the perfect way to get drunk.
“Where do I go?” she demanded more frequently as they passed through the village of Piermont with its gazebos and parks and tiny little road, past the Jersey Palisades, where one car has to stop for another to pass lest both should go tumbling into the expensive yacht docking. Then there were all the spandex bikers who just wouldn't quit, they liked to take in the explosions in the nearby distance. They didn't like to look where they were going, but nothing was new their either.
Lizzy’s teeth were a pepper grinder seasoning the car with vulgarity. Chase led her across the poorly explained overpasses, apologetically ‘missed’ the highway intentionally, explained himself only with the word “coffee” and was understood by the angry princess taking his direction.
Leaving her with the car in the parking lot once again, Chase walked into the bar and ordered a quadruple Jameson and a coffee to go.
“Coffee’s a day old” said the aged bartender, a squat, tan woman in a lime tank top. Her belt was practically in her armpits and she didn’t stand that much above the tip of her establishment’s speed racks. Her breasts, as a result of her squat body, were enormous.
“Perfect” smiled Chase as he lit one of his Fotuna's. A couple of the geezers on stools to his right were puffing away so he assumed it was cool.
“She can’t serve you that” said a grey bearded trucker cap next to Chase. “She’d get fired.”
“Not for me” Chase said, shivering with the first of his Jameson slugs, “the lady outside wants the coffee and I say give it to her rancid. She stole my heart, risked my neck a million ways to Sunday in one evening, keeps me hanging on to do her favors and it’s a thankless task. I’m beginning to think she deserves whatever bacteria the food service industry is afraid to let loose on the streets. Maybe gettin' laid up, stuck thinking ‘bout her life would . . .”
“Buddy,” said one of the cigar smokers, “If it’s bitches that got you down we can fucking spit in the cup too.”
Chase thought about it for a moment and asked “All of you?”
Most of the bar (all four of them) nodded, the barmaid (if you could call her that) pushed a button after shutting the microwave door somewhere on a counter full of bottles. “It’s like the president says about them giant lizards, ‘Fuck ‘Em!’” She laughed. Chase smiled and signaled for another round. He’d just been paid and the momentum of the first round made him want to kill half the bottle in the homely lady’s hand just because he could.
“Fuck ‘Em!” resounded across the barroom. Each of the grey bearded faces hocked loogies into that petroleum based styrofoam cup.
“Make sure to add milk,” said Chase.
“You’re cruel” laughed the barmaid.
“She won’t drink it if it’s black, just add some to color.”
Nobody made Chase pay for a thing. It was the most excitement any of those townies had in their lives for ages.
Lizzy enjoyed her coffee as they drove across the Hudson River. “But it’s a little sweet.” That’s because there were thirteen sugar packets in there.
The Tappan Zee is just a long, thin strip. They are building a new one right now. Maybe. Construction has slowed down even further because of the lizards. The current Tappan Zee is two Parlement cigarettes long according to Lizzy.
The fires downriver spewed much darker smoke which dyed the winter cumulonimbi like a goth girl born blonde. Could this be the evening those lizards ventured further north than the Bronx? Were either of them in that old Honda even really safe in Connecticut? So far as Chase was concerned, head lolled to the side of the seat belt dispenser, drunk as all hell. Who the fuck cared?
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