One hot summer day, to be precise, one Friday the thirteenth of August, at about a quarter to three in the afternoon, I fell in love. Well, it was a hot day sometime in August 1980, and I’ll tell you soon why I don’t really know the time of day. What I can tell you for sure is that it was day 285 on the Iran hostage calendar, and the brunette sitting next to me at the bar asked me what time it was. Couldn’t she see I wasn’t wearing a watch? Oh, I get it. Duh!
I didn’t have a watch, but she had a ring the size of a Rolex. She knew I was just passing through. The backpack said “hitchhiker” as much as the ring said “married.”
“Need a ride?” she asked.
“To L.A.” I said, just in case she was talking about a car. Maybe I should have said, “Yeah baby!” But I wasn’t as cool back then. Besides, she didn’t look anything like a “yeah baby.” She was more like, “See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand! O that I were a glove upon that hand that I might touch that cheek!”
It wasn’t a Shakespeare kind of joint though. Kern County, California could be in parts of Khuzestan, Iran: Nothing but oil rigs, tanker trucks and scorpions. She smelled way too nice to be an oil rig, and she moved way too fast for a tanker truck. So fast she made me forget all about the scorpion part. The first sip of my Budweiser tasted like her lipstick. She didn’t even ask; just grabbed the bottle from me and put her mouth on it.
A pack of males at the pool table got whiff of the stranger poaching in their territory. Usually that’s no big deal; worst case, I’d take my hand off her knee and run. I’d rather some thug laugh at me than totally aablamboo my face. But this was the 285th day of the hostage crisis. Day 1 or 2 or even 20 was probably safe with this crowd. But after 285 days, even the coma cases knew something was going down at the Emma Sea in Teran–wherever that was. I just hoped she wouldn’t ask me where I was from, because no way I was going to be “Persian.” Hiding a personal embarrassment is one thing. But when your people do something shameful, disowning them hurts more than taking blows for them.
“So, where’re you from?” She asked inevitably.
“Iran,” I replied, nervously darting an eye to the pool table gang. One of the guys was so big he racked the balls from the same end of the table he stood to break from. There was more steak on him than you could get from a heifer.
“His name’s Big Meat,” she explained. “And he’s going kill you, Sweetie.”
“Why? I didn’t even lay a finger him.”
“You don’t have to.”
“Look, I don’t like this hostage thing any more than Big Beef.”
“Big Meat,” she corrected with a salami roll gesture. “’Cuz he’s so…”
“Look, if it were up to me,” I stammered, “The hostages would be home already.”
“Won’t make a difference to Big Meat,” she said sadly shaking her head.
“So he’s going to kill me just because I’m Iranian?”
“No Hon,” she sighed, slipping her hand out of mine. “He’s going kill you just because he’s my husband.”
Did I mention scorpions?
I planted a quick kiss on the surprised face of the beautiful arachnid, and took off running. She had just saved me from having it out with Big Meat over Iran.