People walked wide around him as if he controlled an invisible shield that repulsed them. He stood back from the crowd and let his eyes slide over the women in the room. A beard and long stringy hair that curled under at the ends hid his face, and he had a habit of swinging it forward to shield himself from questioning gazes. I noticed that he didn’t smile. At all. And he never took a pull from the bottle he held by the neck. When he took a step to his left, his eyes were cut by the shadow cast by the brim of his worn baseball cap, so there was no longer any chance to read his expression even if I had wanted to. I was left with the feeling that he was intently focused on me in the same way a cat watches a mouse.
Heavy bass and the vibration of the amped up guitars filled the room and my head while warm beer splashed my feet each time someone bumped my elbow. Being a people watcher, I never stepped onto the dance floor. I was more of a voyeur. My eyes would dance around the club and observe the mating ritual of women dancing suggestively and rubbing against men. Each time my eyes would do a round, they would come back to him, and a frisson of agitation would scurry up my spine. Unbidden, the idea filled my head that he might be a vampire, along with the members of the 80's rock band that was blasting out a cover of Come On Feel the Noise. The taste of blood filled my mouth, and I realized I had bit through the inside of my cheek.
The band had an impressive set of lasers in their light show, and when a beam of light struck me in the face, I had to blink to regain my vision.
The guy was gone.
I relaxed into the music, relishing the thump of the bass on my insides, and pretended to take another sip of my beer. The lead singer was more feminine than I was, and I couldn’t draw my eyes from the way he swung his long auburn hair, twisted his hips, or grinded against his microphone in his skinny jeans. Feathers floated out of sync from the roach clip pinned to a belt loop threaded through with a studded belt. He was the proverbial car wreck, and I couldn't stop staring.
Not that the crowd was any better. Drunken air guitars competed note for note with the band, and lighters glowed high above the crowd's bobbing heads. The percentage of men in the crowd with long hair gave the band a run for its money, and I had lost count of the number of tee-shirts that advertised Tennessee Whiskey. Women wore skin-tight jeans or miniskirts over tights and animal print tops that were altered to expose shoulders, backs and the curves between breasts. It was a smorgasbord of white flesh.
The speakers were turned up each set, and when I walked out of the club, I felt like my head was in a bubble. In the quiet of the parking lot, it was a long moment before the ringing in my ears was no longer as loud as the band had been inside. Since I made it out untarnished, I figured the band with their pasty skin and electric allure weren't vampires after all. Or else maybe they weren't smoking Mary Jane between sets and were sated.
I hummed School's Out For Summer as I dug into my pocket for my keys. I had parked under a light in the lot, and it buzzed like a moth refusing to submit to the electricity coursing through a bug zapper. If a van hadn't parked next to me, someone might have seen what happened next. Someone might have tried to be my knight in shining armor and changed the outcome.
It was the man in the baseball cap. I could sense him creeping toward me before I could smell him or even hear him. He had a shoestring stretched taut between his hands when I turned on him, and he flinched as if his heart had been pierced by the tip of a sword. I have that effect on some people.
"No." He choked on the word.
I relished the way he quaked in front of me, how he couldn't look away, how he was frozen in fear. How he reminded me of a white rabbit I had held in my hands when I had first turned. He knew his life was over and I hadn't yet made one. Single. Move.
It's an interesting age. I've been around for a very long time and this is the first generation of homo sapiens to have a grotesque few who inserted spiked, plastic implants into their foreheads or filed their teeth into sharp little points. They had no idea how it allowed us to fit in.
I leaned in to look closer at the man's eyes. The odor of fear, or even unwashed bodies, didn't bother me, but I didn't like being high. When I was high, I was out of control. I did stupid things. Dangerous things. I once left a body on a cross at the Trinity Church. In my intoxicated state, I thought I was making some sort of stand against the gluttony of the church. Churches don't preach about gluttony anymore, and there's a reason for that, even if their congregation doesn't see it.
Of course, the worry of ingesting chemicals that affected me two-fold how they affected a human being was only part of it. Matthew said, "The eye is the lamp of the body," and William Shakespeare noted, "The eyes are the window to your soul." It was the eyes that let me finish them. Past the blue-gray or hazel specks, deeper than the darkest pupil, was truth. The eyes of liars and thieves and rapists didn't dilate like the pure of heart. It was a subtle idiosyncrasy, but it was the difference between amnesia and death.
And in the light between vehicles, it was what bought this man a not-so-sweet release.