Peter Applebome's "Bad
In the late summer of
that year we lived in a condo in North Dallas that looked
across the tollway to the discos and honky-tonks of the Rue
St. Bubba. We were young and our happiness dazzled us with
its strength. But there was a terrible betrayal that lay
within me like a Merle Haggard song at a French
"The Great Landry
says the Cowboys will be back,'' said the girl.
"Then it must be so,"
I said, though I knew it was a lie.
"When football season
comes, then it will be cold. Like Switzerland. But not now.
The cold will come later.
"Pass the Doritos,''
I said, and her eyes shone like the stars
I could not tell the
girl about the woman of the tollway, of
her milk white BMW and her Jordache smile.
There had been a fight. I had punched her boyfriend, who
fought the mechanical bulls. Everyone told him, "You ride
the bull, senor. You do not fight it." But he was lean and
tough like a bad rib-eye and he fought the bull. And then he
fought me. And when we finished there were no winners, just
men doing what men must do. And the pain was washed away,
but the image of the woman stayed with me like a blessing
and like a curse. We went that summer to many clubs. We went
to the Longhorn
Ballroom and the Palm and to a honky-tonk in
Fort Worth that was what Harry's Bar would have been like if
it had eighty-five cent Pearl Beer and a barmaid whose
peroxide hair could damage your eyes as if you had seen an
eclipse. That night we visited them all, but as we drove
home I did
not think of the Pearl Beer and I did not
think of the peroxide. I did not think of the girl who sat
beside me. I thought of the woman of the tollway and I could
feel my heart pounding in the heat of the summer
"Stop the car," the
girl said. There was a terrible look of
sadness in her eyes. She knew about the woman
of the tollway. I knew not how. I started to speak, but she
raised an arm and spoke with a quiet peace I will never
"I do not ask for whom's the tollway
belle," she said, "the
tollway belle's for thee."
The next morning our
youth was a memory, and our happiness was a lie. Life
is like a bad margarita with good tequila, I thought as I
poured whiskey onto my granola and faced a new