Her name was Tania, actually Vanessa, but she preferred Tania, like Patty Hearst. I should have known she was crazy before we went out. Who am I kidding? I did know, it was obvious. Everyone knew she was crazy. The gas station attendant knew she was crazy. But...yes but. But, word was that she was easy too and I was lonesome or bored or just curious. One night, I thought, maybe a week or two and I could slip out of this particular noose gracefully, just like I had failed to do so many times in the past. I am ever the optimist.
The night did not go well. We rode around dark suburban streets in her pick-up truck. She talked on her cellphone. A lot. She seemed to need to talk to everyone she knew, all the time. Everything seemed very traumatic. She drove and talked, I smoked. She laughed hysterically and in wild wonder to the people on the other end of an invisible conversation: "He did what? Are you kidding?!!? Hahahahahaha!" I drank from an aluminum six-pack I had bought for just this type of emergency. She broke down crying at the invisble people: "I just can't believe she would have done that." I smoked some more, more silent and supportive than a stone. She screamed the vengeance of a goddess at more absentee friends: "That bitch. She better hope I never run into her again. You said you saw her at Jamey's? Tonight?" I drank another beer. We did not go to Jamey's. Thank God.
Instead we went back to her place and talked in the dark until 4:30. Her phone seemed to have expired in the night. She talked about all sorts of things, bad trips and bad parenting, cool shows she had seen and the mystical powers of certain stones. She had a lot of stones. She cried a little bit more. I put my arm around her. That was it. I could have done more; I could sense the offer, but it didn't make sense and I was tired.
At one point, she wondered aloud if maybe we were all dead and just didn't know it. I stifled a laugh. "If we're all dead, how come so many people are having babies?" I asked. "No one said ghosts can't have babies," she responded. "And when you die, maybe you're really just being born?" She did not include the question mark. She seemed as certain as a monument.
I think about that today, in my office. No one said that ghosts can't have babies. It's true. No one could say that, not with any real authority. Then I have to take a walk and I laugh, thinking of stoned teenagers and remember all the silly and juvenile ways we keep ourselves alive when we feel our lives moving just over the horizon, just out of sight.