Kasha was the girl in the revolving door joke.
Mike knew it could never be with her, but he couldn’t let go. They met at a café uptown called the Revolving Door. All the rooms were connected by revolving doors. They’d been going around together ever since. “It won’t last,” he told his friend, Nick, “but I can’t get her out of my mind. It’s love.”
“What’s her name?”
Nick was being polite, having not even the slightest interest in Mike’s latest flame. Nick had his own issues. His kid brother, Dennis, put a dent in Nick’s car and made jokes about it instead of paying Nick back. It wasn’t a big dent. Nobody said it was. You had to hunt to find the damn dent, but it pissed Nick off anyway. It was the tip of an iceberg of attitude issues with Dennis. If he’d damaged something of Dennis’s, there would have been a major uproar. Dennis tended to run in one direction.
Mike had his own troubles. A guy named Dan Smith had the idea that he could park his freaking junkheap in front of Joe and Betty’s place, Mike’s parents, making it look like a bunch of gypsies were living there. “Next thing you know, there’ll be a washing machine on the front porch,” Mike’s mom said.
“They call her Kasha,” Mike said, “but her real name is long and unpronounceable. The family’s from one of those places where they eat goat meat wrapped in grape leaves.”
“You know, Mike, you go off on these tangents, get involved with a foreigner like this. You can’t even say her family name. You have cultural issues there, Mike. People like that play hardball when it comes to courtship. If they think you’re playing their girl for a sucker, they’ll cut your heart out and make you eat it.”
“It’s not a tangent, Nick. It’s love. I wrote a song about her.”
“What did you rhyme with Kasha?”
“It doesn’t use her name. I’m going to do the tune Friday night at Barkley’s open mike night. The song is about veils. The idea is that a young girl has a beautiful face carved from ivory, but can’t show it in public, as if beauty was something to be ashamed of. I sang my song for her, kind of rapped it a cappella, because I didn’t have my guitar at the time. Kasha was pleased.”
“Really?” Nick acted interested, but could’ve cared less.
“She’s her family’s designated sinner,” Mike said. “She’s the only artist her family’s ever had. She does water colors and writes haiku. Her father calls artists parasites. He says art is corrupt. He’s certain she’ll be corrupted by it, if she isn’t already. He’s already forgiven himself for not preventing her downfall. Kasha plans to live on her own, earn her own living. She plans to have sex if she likes, so long as she loves the person, which is the point that goes right by her family. She calls them cultural thralls and crypto-fascists. It’s very sad. I told her about my plan for the Dr. Skinmag band. She thinks it’s strange.”
“Bands have strange names, Mike,” Nick said. “Entertainers have strange names. Maybe you can’t wrap grape leaves around it, but Dr. Skinmag is definitely a nutritious, radical and provocative name for a band. You hear it, you think of sweaty excess. You think of alcohol and drug abuse, chunky women with big sweaty tits. You think of power chords and snakeskin boots, trashed hotel rooms and packing heat to an awards show. You think of having your posse bust up some jive ass jock that won’t play your shit because his play list is pre-packaged out of Denver.”
“I have all this stuff, these words and phrases, all these rhymes, riffs and licks, all buried down inside,” Mike said. “If they ever opened me up, Nick, strange birds would come flying out, singing these amazing notes. My soul would come flying out, get itself lost out there in the wild blue yonder.”
“Animus, —whatever you want to call it,” Mike said. “I wasn’t aware of it until Kasha put me in touch.”
“Really?” More feigned interest from Nick.
“Putting this Dr. Skinmag thing together won’t be easy.”
“Invite your little girl friend down to see the show, bring her family. Get her up there to read her poetry. Give the manager a couple bucks, get the family right up front. Make sure you get them to whistle and stomp when she’s done. Do Kasha’s tune.”
“Dr. Skinmag’s band needs a name.”
“Dr. Skinmag and the Pervs?”
“That could get me mutilated.”
“If you really love the girl, Mike, it doesn’t matter that you can’t pronounce her name. It doesn’t matter that it will come to the point where you either marry her or they fillet your privates.”
“You’re getting drunk, Nick. Your speech fills up with grotesque Boschy images when the juice gets you going.”
“True enough, soldier,” Nick said, grinning broadly. “We’ll let it be known that Dr. Skinmag himself is going to let all the bats loose out of his belfry at midnight, when the volume will be, as they say, turned up all the way.”
“The place is small, and there’s usually a crowd up around the stage area. The players all bring their friends, to raise Hell when their guy does his tunes.”
“I was there,” Nick said indignantly. “If you recall, Mike, I was the one clowning around, doing fine with a couple of birdies I had on the radar, when I bumped into a guy and caused him to spill his drink on the blond witch with the unflattering red lipstick plastered across her kisser. You must’ve seen her. Next thing you know, it’s me and the mouthy boyfriend outside, where he can show what a big man he is by mopping up the parking lot with me. She’s crying all over the place, telling everybody how I ruined her Grandma’s silk shawl; like, ‘Right, always wear your grandma’s wedding shawl to some rat fuck bar on open mike night.’ You have to remember Dirk or Turk, the boy friend, whatever his name is. You’ve seen him around. He’s about to introduce my face to the parking lot gravel, he thinks, but he doesn’t get the chance because I light the fuck out of there. Zip, across the parking lot like a scalded monkey, down between the cars. I mean, I’m sorry about your girl friend’s paisley shawl, pal, but I didn’t invent overcrowding.”
“So, the open mike scene is not really your thing, Nick?“
“Oh, no, no. If Turk and the wicked witch with the paisley shawl show, I’ll be gone. She turned nasty after the house landed on her sister.”
“You’re getting drunk, Nick.”
“What time will you come on?”
“I’ll be there.”
“Dr. Skinmag and the Porn Kings, all the way from Yokohama. My man, Joe Dobbs, on the skins; his brother, Chuckster the Huckster Dobbs, on bass, ripping down the walls, tearing up the floor boards until four am. Crank it up. It’s only rock and roll, but it’s like making a baby. There’s sweat involved, a lot of pain, but it’s worth it.”
“You’re loaded, Nick.”
“I want to meet Kasha, Mike. I want to gaze into those big brown eyes.”
“We met at the Revolving Door, you know.”
“Been going around together ever since, eh?”
“She’s with you all the way on the Skinmag thing, is she? Shouldn’t bother a libertine thinker like her. She’ll be there for you, will she, when your turn comes? When old Dr. Skinmag opens up those lyrical flood gates, lets all those twisted syllables fly?”
“She’ll be there. She loves me.”
“You got yourself some girl there, Mike, hanging out with the band like that.”
“It won’t last, Nick. It’s a revolving door, and I’ll eventually have to let it go.”
“Bands never last, Mike. That’s not the point. You were there. You went for the gold.”