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Witnesses say that Brenda van Dam went out in the parking lot with her friends. Was this what she was thinking? Was it?

Out in the parking lot you ratchet up your high another notch or two and you are feeling no pain. But there is a slight sense of urgency that seems somehow misplaced. Everything, after all, is all right. Everything’s taken care of. Damon’s home with the kids. They’re all three tucked in, Dylan and Derrick and pretty little Danielle. You love the way the back of her neck smells. You love her. You flash on her toothless grin when she peeks over the covers. The dope has plastered a happy smile across your own face in the lighting of the white Dad’s Café sign, but it seems unattached to you at the moment.

Denise and Barbara are laughing at something one of the guys said, bringing you back, snapping you out of something. You’re trying to laugh too, but for the moment you’ve been dislocated. You’ve been jerked out of the here and now, and you see a fat man in a gray beard on a witness stand saying something about “…blowflies and mummification…maggot mass in the pelvic area.…” Something about coyotes. And you want to scream. What was that? Where did those images come from? But it passes, and you’re going back in with your friends, and you can hear that Santana song they’re playing inside. “Supernatural.” That’s what it is.

Another drink. They keep coming. Your neighbor is buying. One of your friends (Barbara? Denise?) is brushing her palm against your right breast, her head thrown back laughing. Your neighbor, David, not Donald, that’s it, is laughing too, his eyes gleaming transient colors in the dance-floor lighting. And then you’re dancing with Denise and then Barbara and one of the guys, and you’re doing a little grind with someone. Who? Barbara? David? The other guy? Someone would later describe it as “huggy-huggy dancing.” Who would that be? Who said that? A shot of tequila at the bar. Dan is buying. Or is it Dave? That’s it. David. With his little stage-magician’s goatee. Catch your breath. Why not one little shooter? And then the music has become Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On.” With your palms and splayed fingers you trace your waist, hips, and thighs to the music. The song is crude, insistent, with an urgent, sexual heartbeat. The only melody is some mindless, repetitive video-game riff that seems to hold the night together, keeping it from spinning off into a million different fragments that can never be put back together again.

The song/riff is over and goateed magician man has disappeared. You laugh to yourself, thinking he has gone home to one of his adult barbecues, and you see him for a moment standing over the charcoal fire with tongs like a little pitchfork, his squinty eyes catching the coals like distant dance-floor lights. It is about 1:45, and you suggest all of you going back to your place. You know Damon will be glad to see Barbara and Denise, and it seems suddenly important to go home, but not to end the evening.

You’re clearheaded but high. The night seems to go in and out of focus at intervals that get farther and farther apart. And while you can’t articulate your fear, you somehow know, in some corner of consciousness, that it will be a very long time before anything is really in focus again.

Away from the lights of Dad’s Café, along Poway Road, the night congeals into a different order of darkness like a stifling blanket of unthinkable possibilities.

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