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Midnight in Albuquerque

Story by Tiffany Poremba (Read author interview) June 15, 2007

It had been one of those days. Nothing terrible, nothing wonderful, just a Friday you knew needed a little help along the way. So you, your best friend Tezha and her girlfriend Josephine decide to go downtown like always. There’s the bars, the scantily-clad girls, the derelicts and loudmouths—all the usual attractions, and then there’s a movie you heard about right off Central. It’s a flick about a nymphomaniac terrorist, and you think, what could be better than this? Nymphomaniac terrorists have to be on the top of the list of favorites, because, after all, it’s hard not to adore a woman who’s out to change the evils of the world with love, vats of lubricant, and something the reviewer called “the incredible incinerating miniskirt.”

“The incredible incinerating miniskirt?” Jo asks.

“Uh huh.”

“Nice,” says Tezha.

“Possibly the stuff of genius.”

It’s decided the skirt alone is worth the price of admission, and so you are off in Jo’s old Ford, bumping down the roads into the firefly evening. You’ve got the radio on and something terrible is playing, but Jo is singing along and doing some sort of dance which is making her double chins vibrate, and it’s finally starting to feel like Friday. You go past the mansions, past the gardens filled with Quan Yins and cactus. There’s old falling down bars, hippies, the hotel covered with hubcaps where you can buy acid and meth and mescaline.

You hit Central and Main where the three of you park, get out, and start walking the strip. It’s almost midnight, but everyone is out, dolled up in candy lipstick and high heels, the men with their hats on or their hair slicked back. It’s one of those nights where people seem to be just a little kinder than usual. Everybody is saying hello, giving you nods, winks. The dreadlocked hippies are talking with the cowboys, and outside Angels and Devils even a pair of yuppies are going at it—two beige-clad forms in chinos wrapped up in liplock. They’re burying tongues down their drunken throats, and you can’t help but root them on. “Right on, buddy,” the three of you are chanting. “Right on. Get it. Get it. Go.”

“My god,” says Josephine, the nurse. “He must have been tickling that lady’s esophagus.”

“It was a root canal.”

“It was a love munch.”

“An archeological dig,” says Tezha.

“For her heart.”

Then Tezha starts telling you, for no reason, about a few old Native traditions. Usually she’s quiet about Native things unless it’s something small like taking trash out past midnight (which she won’t do) or closing the blinds so spirits don’t look in. Tonight, though, she’s telling you about her grandmother, the medicine woman, and the Way of Beauty. Tezha says she’s forgotten most everything except that you aren’t supposed to leave the house angry. “It’s bad for the spirits,” she says. “I think.”

“But I also remember the way my grandmother used to walk,” she says. “She tried to teach me that too.”

At this Tezha starts walking a bit differently down the street.

“It was like this…”

Both you and Jo follow along, trying to get that quick-slow cadence, the way her body goes soft and loose. You are stepping, gallivanting a little, touching the sidewalk a little differently. “It should feel like a dream,” she says, and so you let the weeds ignite, the green sigh from the stop lights. You bask in the saturated glow of the cars floating in like UFOs from other galaxies. There is something to all this walking business you think, even if you are only making it up—even if this isn’t some magical earth under your feet but rotten cement.

“Are we beautiful?” Jo asks.

“Yes yes yes,” Tezha says. “That’s the point!”

And so that’s how it is, the three of you, laughing, walking along, maybe in a way of beauty maybe not. For now, though, it feels good to be out there raucously sober, watching the street come alive, the yuppies making out at midnight. You’re celebrating absolutely nothing, and this, you think, is just perfect—that really there could be nothing better to celebrate.

So you keep walking, waiting for everything to become that bit more lovely. It does and does and does.

About the Author

Tiffany Poremba writes ads by day, novels by night. Once upon a time she was a features writer for Soma and Speak magazines. She lives in Atlanta with no dogs, kids, just some ants in the kitchen.

This story appeared in Issue Seventeen of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventeen

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