There are only two ways to truly know someone: sleep with them or take them bowling.
Phoenix Aime was the woman of my dreams. So, I took her bowling.
Paid for a game. Rented shoes. Got the little, sticky bracelet thingy that said Slippery Joe Lanes.
That way if we got in some sort of accident on the way home,
the guy at the morgue could identify us as bowlers. Anyway, here's the bulleted list of what I knew about Phoenix up to that point:
• She looked like Diane Keaton circa 1972
• She talked with great pretension concerning craft beer
• She only patronized two restaurants: Denny's and IHOP
• She was eight years older than me
• She kissed my sister once on a dare
• Her shoe size was 7
• She was perfect or a near synonym
The bowling alley was empty save a World War II vet in a wheelchair and his wife at lane six,
and they were barely there. Country music played over the loud speaker. And I felt cozy. Predictable. Like a payment plan on the QVC.
That was until Phoenix said, "I forgot something. I'm going to go talk to Mack real quick."
Mack worked the front desk, according to his name tag. Talk to Mack. She just talked to Mack. Mack was sleeping with her. I untied my shoelaces. Oh, Mack, love your red polo with blue tiger stripes.
I pulled my sneakers off. Oh, Mack, I love it when you dip your finger in nacho cheese and feed it to me. Slid my right foot into bowling shoe. Halfway in with the left, and my socked foot struck something plastic. A stick of tiny deodorant. Like unsavory truck-stop-to-truck-stop deodorant. Oh, Mack, I love it when you deodorize -- so hard. Pull the strings tight on the left shoe. Oh, Mack, rub the deodorant until your underarms are SO CHALKY AND WHITE.
"You okay?" Phoenix asked.
"Yeah, what do I look like something's wrong?"
She carried a seafoam green bowling ball with a ****** Mary insignia. "It looks like you triple-knotted your shoes there."
And I said something dumb like, better safe than sorry.
"Sorry about leaving you all alone. Mack holds onto my ***** for me," she said. I bet he does. "I hate talking to that guy." What? "He's a vegan."
Now, at that time in my life, I was a vegan. And had planned some stirring remarks about the processing of sweet little piggies into cancerous hot dog machines on the way to pick her up. Thought she would think me full of passion, "on fire" for a cause, you know? The wise thing would have been to say, oh well, I'm a vegan. But instead I asked, "What do you mean?"
"You know serial killer's get a last meal before they're executed, right?"
"Right." Where the hell is this going?
"Well, have you ever heard of someone on death row requesting a last meal that didn't involve some sort of animal product? Gacy had buckets of chicken, Bundy had a medium rare steak, even uh, ****, what was his name, McVeigh, Timothy McVeigh he had two pints of mint chocolate ice cream. Dairy."
"I'm not sure how this refutes veganism."
"Nobody is a vegan for their last meal. Nobody. I'm not going to subscribe to a diet that I can't follow until the very end. Live every day like your last, that's my motto."
"That's your motto." I said. To be a great listener, just repeat the last three or four things anyone says to you and raise your eyebrows a little bit. (Examples: "My dog died." -- "You're dog died.", "I never ate breakfast burritos again." -- "Never ate it again.", "I love you." -- "You love me.")
Over Phoenix's shoulder, over by lane six, the wife wheeled the World War II vet up to the lane. And he tossed the ball. Good team, I thought. Want to know someone take them to the bowling alley.
Phoenix removed a glove from her pocket. She had her own ball. Brought her own badass, jet black bowling gloves. And if her carnivorous tendencies hadn't already put a ***** in the Golden Days of Josh and Phoenix, that glove did.
She typed her name first on the scoring computer. Didn't ask if I wanted to go first. That's fine. Approached the lane, three fingers inside the ****** Mary. She brought her bony arm back with the grace of a ballerina tucked away stage right in the shadows. Mary cut from grace slid down the lane with a spin.
Strike. I couldn't really see the pins from my angle. But I recieved a transmission via the "yes" and arm pump. That was two marks against her, and I was going to three. I'd call it strikes, but well, the whole bowling skew.
Here's a bulleted list of what a "yes" and arm pump immediately taught me:
• She takes bowling serious.
• If you take bowling serious, when do you relax?
• She'd never relax.
• My life would be tucked shirts, matching belts and shoes.
For six frames, I picked up fours and sevens. Phoenix, though, nothing but strikes. I threw a gutter on frame seven. Like a normal human being, I shrugged. Made a face out the sides of my mouth. Kept it light.
"I thought you were a grown *** man," Phoenix said.
What happened next, I willed. I'm not god or anything like that. At the time, just cosmicly ******.
Her step stuttered. 7-10 split. "Mack!" she screamed. "Floors are slicker than a used car salesman's hair."
From across the alley,
"Sorry, Phoenix, baby. I'll bring you some nachos. That make up for it?"
"Ain't gonna knock down two pins is it?"
"So, uh, no nachos then?"
"Actually, go ahead and bring those."
She lined up. Back straight. Legs together. She rolled her neck. "You're about to see how it's done."
And I didn't. She broke it down the middle. Field goal. In that moment, that holy moment, I was knowledge plateau. Vindicated.
For about 10 seconds.
Mack swaggered over, nachos in hand. "Phoenix, sweetie, you okay?"
"Do I look okay?"
"No, that's why I asked."
"Just give me the nachos."
"Ah crap." Mack had gotten his pointer finger in the nacho cheese.
"Let me see it."
And right there, right in front the ****** Mary seafoam green bowling ball, she slurped the cheese off his finger."
Frame seven, a good as time as any to call it a match. The wife of the World War II vet kissed her husband's forehead. Handed him a ball. As I walked by, hand on shoulder. "Struck gold, dude."