It was the end of the line for me.
I couldn’t complain. Life is fleeting for my kind, and I had enjoyed a pretty good run. Still, I hadn’t imagined that I would meet such a grisly fate.
I was moments from being crushed by the next downtown local.
That’s when he found me.
“Oh my God, where did you get that balloon?” Avah laughed.
Jefferson tugged on my ribbon. “It was hiding behind a post. Can I keep it? Can I keep it? Pleeease?”
“Only if you take care of it,” Avah smiled. “Balloons are a big responsibility, you know.”
“Oh, I know,” Jefferson nodded. He poked me. “You’re my new best friend, blue balloon. And I’m taking you on an adventure.”
The train that had been destined to destroy me sped into the station. It did not splatter me into blue confetti and a wisp of helium; instead, it took me, intact, along with my new protectors, to my very first concert.
I heard that it was Avah’s second.
“It’s going to be very hard to be the hottest people here tonight,” Jefferson said. “I mean, look at this crowd.”
“Don’t worry, baby,” Avah replied, patting his hand. “We’re very hot.”
I scanned the concert hall. Apparently, I was the only balloon in attendance. That might have made me feel conspicuous and uncomfortable, but instead, I felt rather unique.
“I think I’m in the minority,” Avah noted. “Being a girl.”
“Maybe,” Jefferson agreed. “But you remain in the majority by virtue of being a cocksucker.”
The lights went down and Jefferson tucked me under his seat. I felt as cozy as an egg waiting to hatch.
My skin began to shake to unpleasant loud thumps.
“What do you think?” Avah shouted.
“I think it is the worst opening act I’ve ever seen, bar none,” Jefferson shouted back.
A loud voice slurred that the act was from Kingston, Ohio. “Let me amend that,” Jefferson added. “This is also the worst band I’ve ever seen from Kingston, Ohio. Tonight, at a gay club in Kingston, someone is asking someone else, ‘Hey, where are those two annoying faggots? You know, the really fucked up ones with no talent?’”
The lights came back on.
An hour and a half passed.
Of course, I can’t tell time—I’m a balloon, not a clock. I know how much time passed because Avah kept asking, “Is it supposed to take so long before the real band comes on?”
Finally, the lights dimmed again. Everyone stood and cheered. Jefferson tucked me between his knees so that I wouldn't float away.
Suddenly, my skin began to vibrate. My helium began to throb. What was happening to me?
“God, I’m so excited!” Avah said, squeezing Jefferson. “The Scissor Sisters!”
“Awesome fabulous,” Jefferson nodded.
Scissors? Balloons dread scissors. When they cut my ribbon, I thought I was going to pop dead.
But this sensation was like nothing else. If I had exploded on the spot, I would have evaporated a happy balloon.
I bounced contentedly between Jefferson’s knees.
At one point Avah shouted that Jefferson was filthy, and contended that she, Avah, was gorgeous. The roar of the crowd stretched my skin.
“C’mere, blue balloon,” Jefferson said. “I want you to see something.”
He held my ribbon so that I was level with his eyes. I blinked as bright lights shone through me, turning my blue to greens and violets.
And then, I saw them. Projected over the stage, as large as a movie screen—two bouncing pink balloons. The balloons shook and shimmied, back and forth, as I had never imagined balloons might do.
I wriggled open my knot, just a little, to let out a whistle. It was that exciting!
After the concert, I was led back onto a subway, once again thwarting death.
We emerged in lower Manhattan. My helium contracted in the cold night air.
My innards relaxed as we entered a place called the Pussycat Lounge.
I blinked as once again, lights filled me.
Jefferson and Avah pulled me through a crowd. At a table, they met Simon Valentino, a beautiful porn actress who was signing copies of her new movie, The Bi Apple.
I gathered this was a party for the movie, directed by Jefferson’s friend Audacia Ray. It’s about an apartment in New York City where people meet for bisexual orgies.
Pretty improbable scenario, if you ask me. Still, balloons have an affinity for apples, so I kept an open mind.
Jefferson seemed to know a lot of people. A handsome man named Mmmark let Jefferson sip from his cup of bourbon. A beautiful woman named Les admired his leather motorcycle jacket.
Another fellow, Thomas, said it looked like Jefferson had picked up his jacket in the nineteen seventies.
“Near enough,” Jefferson nodded.
“You should’ve left it there,” Thomas said.
“Thanks for the consult, Mary,” Jefferson replied. “By the way, you’re sporting a nice jacket. They carry Miami Vice in boys’ sizes?”
I was floating pretty high by this point, so some things got lost in the din. But I was drawn back when Lolita approached Jefferson.
“Have you ever played with electricity?” she asked.
Jefferson gripped my ribbon. “Uh, no,” he stammered.
“I’d like to put an njoy plug up your ass, wire it to a connector on your cock, and shock you,” she grinned. “You’d do that, right?”
Avah clapped. “You should totally do that,” she giggled.
“See?” Lolita said. “Avah’s on my side.”
“You want to fry my cock? How about . . . well, can we just wait and see about that?”
Lolita turned to Avah. “He’ll do it. You can watch.”
“Oh, goodie!” Avah smiled.
A crowd of people pushed toward a stage, where two naked women were licking each other’s bodies. I floated up for a better view.
Pretty soon, Audacia Ray joined the performers. She was accompanied by a woman with a spiky Mohawk. Spikes scare me, so I was especially concerned when I saw so many pink balloons bouncing on stage. What if they should burst?!
Evidently, though, those balloons were made of sturdy stuff. The spikes poked and prodded, but the balloons only bounced all the more.
I squeaked with joy.
Soon, we were back on another subway, joined by a group of people from the Pussycat Lounge. When we emerged into the cold again, Jefferson looked around and smiled.
“Two weeks ago, I was in Paris watching Rufus Wainwright sing Judy Garland. Tonight, I saw the Scissor Sisters, went to a bi porn release party in titty bar, and now I’m on Christopher Street after midnight. Man oh man, am I queer or what?”
“Yes baby, you’re queer, all right,” Avah smiled.
“Oh, it’s not like it used to be around here,” Selina said, looking wistfully at the Duplex. “Too many yuppies now.”
Several tables were pushed together at a restaurant. Jefferson tied me to his chair so that I could survey the room.
The waiter was round, like me. He seemed to enjoy having so many people talking about sex at his restaurant. He tried to participate, though he felt a little awkward about it.
“This man offered me his telephone number,” he complained to Boymeat. “But I’m not gay.”
“You should keep an open mind,” Boymeat suggested.
“ . . . but we’ll keep the man’s number,” Jefferson added.
Later, the waiter brought Jefferson some mustard and added, as an unordered side, that he had recently had sex with a teenage Swedish tourist. “It was so hot,” the waiter noted.
“I’ve seen old porn films like that,” Jefferson nodded. “Actually, I think ‘Teenage Swedish Tourist’ was one of the titles.”
When the waiter left, Boymeat turned to Jefferson. “He needs us. We should totally . . .”
“Yes,” Jefferson agreed. “We totally should.”
“So, did you read my fantasy about Jefferson in chains?” Lolita asked Avah.
“Yeah, that’s a nice one.”
Lolita nodded. “Yeah, and he’s already said he would do it.”
“Wait,” Jefferson interrupted. “What am I doing?”
“I’m telling Avah how I’m going to put you in cut-off Daisy Duke shorts.”
“Yeah, I think you mentioned that. But what’s this about chains?”
Lolita smiled. “It’s a new inspiration. I want to do you up like Christina Ricci in Black Snake Moan.”
“I don’t remember agreeing to chains.”
“Oh, you should totally do that,” Avah laughed.
“See?” Lolita pointed. “Avah’s on my side. You have to do it.”
“What I have to do is keep you two separated,” Jefferson sighed. He changed the subject by asking a man across the table about toys that go up people’s asses.
I had certainly been rescued by an interesting group.
Outside, the crowd said goodbyes. Some were looking for cabs, others were headed to the subway.
Jefferson was too cold to linger. He took Avah’s arm in his, held my ribbon and walked quickly down Christopher Street.
A train was coming into the station as we cleared the turnstiles.
“Should we wait on the others?” Avah asked.
“It’s after three in the morning and they are dawdling, so no, let’s go,” Jefferson replied. “Quick, get on the train.”
A chime sounded. Jefferson held me close.
“Blue balloon, I need you to wait here. Tell our friends we went ahead.” He held my ribbon outside the closing doors. “Thank you for a lovely night.”
Suddenly, a hand took me from Jefferson.
“Hey, thanks man,” a young man laughed. “Yo, check it out,” he called to his friends. “That guy just gave me a balloon.”
I looked back. The doors had closed and the train began to leave the station.
Through a wiindow, I saw Jefferson kiss Avah as my new protector tugged me away.