Friday, 31 July 2009

Drinking the desert dry (day thirty three and thirty four)

This Phoenix night is still sweltering. Sitting still in the balmy air and we sweat. A jog down to the baseball field sprinklers cools you, a vigourous spraysplatters your clothes with goblets of cool, agricultural smelling water. The picnic table is a beacon in the night, four sat round imbibing Walmart alcohol; drinks we got illicitly for the underage drinkers. Eyes flicker at the passing cars looking out for po-pos, ready to lickity split scatter ways. Cards are dealt and the Americans learn a new game. We talk sexuality and love and exes and more brouhaha ballyhoo.

The military base is protected by a slalom of concrete barriers, but we pass through, past the barracks and the neatly aligned rows of planes. "Does Maverick live here?" No. The bowling alley is full of buzzcuts, muscles and tattoos, accompanied by faithful wives and military brats, well learned in loss. Gutter balls and strikes alike are all animated on the screen, just like back home. This bowling is none too extreme. I demand more neon and more strobes. Sarah doesn't bowl- a childhood telling off for bouncing the ball created a phobia, like a premise for a quirky romcom. You will one day win a bowling competition, thanks to the love of your one true beau. The phoenix in Phoenix, red hair flaming over a tattooed build, lives in a condo round a pool, a family nightswimming. Shere Khan and Duncan are trapped inside, cats with poofed up tails in a two room apartment.

The city itself is an endless sprawl. Takes two hours to cross on its four lane roads, stopping at all the intersections. All the houses look the same; Mediterranean style in terracotta, walls a dusty brown pink. No attractions, only suburbs swallowing up smaller cities and other suburbs. , spreading outwards like an ink blot on a crisp white sheet. The fast food chains look romantic by night, the deserted forecourts lit up and empty and an American dream.

Once the tepid white Zinfandel rose is gone we head inside to sneak to bed. The dogs still awake clip around on their paws, claws out to get a grip on the tiled floor. It is cool inside all day, no one goes out in this heat, apart from dashing from air con to air con, holding their breath. There are no pedestrians on any of the sidewalks.

Would I like to see photos of your grandchildren? I doubt it. Your son used to play for Florida state, but I don't know if I'm supposed to be impressed. Sharon always wants to talk, but no one wants to listen, leaving the room before she starts another monologue. She lodges here, pickling herself on the gallon bottle of acid bath white wine. Her hair is up in curlers and her tasseled slippers give the appearance of an East End housewife from the 50s, turned to tendony leather skin by the desert sun. Blonde hair dye is not hiding the age process, i can see your veins dear. Smoke another cigarette, it'll clog them soon enough. It's too hot here, she says. She lives here. Why does she live here? Her son is in the military, transferred here. She's ever so proud, tends the kids while the parents are away. Some relatives were born back under the clouded English skis- she doesn't know where. They never know where. Just England. Or France.

This night is a repeat of last night- card games and Walmart booze- wine warming rapidly in the star spangled night- talking about tattoos and piercings- text arguments with our next host. Miss Rebecca Middleton talks for an hour and it's grand to hear an English accent. The dogs watch Breakfast Club with us- we have conversations about what Club character we'd be-
I'd be the one that dies. (No one dies). Well then what's the point? I fall asleep two thirds through, not even Molly Ringwald's Sandra Dee charms can filter out the pulsing waves of drowsy dreams. Night night.

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