Once a cluster of holidays to eagerly anticipate, Thanksgiving and its following day, our anniversary, are now markers drenched in a thick oil of sadness. Last year, I went to Joshua Tree, Bob and me, and we drove out to the desert in the middle of the night and we cried. We listened to CDs Billy had made me and we listened to a lot of Springsteen. I had Thanksgiving dinner by myself at Dennys, the only restaurant open in the high desert town. The next day I got a tattoo, the same one Billy had in the same place he had it. It’s a small, simple tribute to our Vinyldog.
When I visited St. Elmo this summer on my way to DC, it was obvious where I would spend the holiday this year – right there in the epicenter of Billy’s life. I leave tomorrow, and I’ll check into the same motel Billy and I had slept in on our first trip together to see his family back in 1995. It’s a two story Super-8 that looks over the highway and late at night, when the traffic stops, you can almost hear the blanket of stars crying out for attention.
Dixie was talking about having the dinner at Mandy’s parents home. Mandy is new to the family as she has taken up residence with Matt, Billy’s nephew, and they are about to have a baby. She’s four months along. Bub, Mandy’s younger, a sixteen year old corn fed linebacker brother, will be there. I met him this summer and like so many others in Billy’s extended and growing family, I was the first homo he’s ever met, and it all seems fine by him and everyone else. Dixie said we were going to have turkey and ham, and turkey and ham balls, and noodles and I drifted away, hearing her voice but not her words, as I was thinking about what kind of tattoo I’m going to get for this year’s anniversary present.
I’ve found a tattooist named Toad about forty miles up the highway, and I’ll see Toad on Friday morning. I’ve never been drunk or drugged for a tattoo. I just grit my teeth through the excruciating burn and for whatever reason, I’ve always had my tattoos done in the morning. This year, however, I’m bringing a half of a codeine Tylenol because of where I’m getting it. My hunch is this one will hurt more than the others but I know once that burning needle is off my skin after an hour of sweat and pain, the result will be sweet and worth every moment of its torment.
Dixie ended the call with a “Well, I’ll let you go. I can’t wait to see you.”
“Me too, Dix,” I said.
“I love you,” she said.
“I love you too,” I answered, and we hung up. I sat there looking at a frozen image on the TV screen of Joe Millionaire and his Czech chick in their manufactured romance, and then I cried.