“But she promised she’d say good-bye,” Max said as he swigged a glass of lager while we sat in our usual back booth at “Let’s Get It On” bar. Just a side note about the bar – it was about the last place anybody would ever think to “get it on,” unless that meant to get shit-faced drunk before noon on a weekday. That’s what Max and I were trying to do on that Wednesday at 11 am – but we were distracted today with thoughts of love and death. “Yeah,” Max continued, ”I should have known I was going to get screwed to the wall the second I saw her. All that eyeliner, for Christ sake, and that red and yellow stripped jumpsuit she loved to wear. What self-respecting woman goes around looking like that, for the love of God?”
Max was a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic who went to 7 o’clock Mass every morning at Blessed Sacrament Catholic over on Sunset, then after a brief snooze, managed to be at the bar by 9 when it opened. I, however, was a fallen Jew who had traded Shabbat with my extended family on Friday nights for daily worship at the bar with Max. I had become almost a Christian under Max’s influence since he liked to call our ritual of meeting “the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine for the love of Christ.” The only difference was there was never any bread, beer replaced wine and I didn’t believe in Christ. But besides that…
Max finished his glass and raised it for the waitress to bring another. “Yeah, and who calls themselves a professional clown and then wears their clown suit all the time – day and night – and never seems to go to the circus or carnival or wherever the hell clowns are supposed to perform? Is that insane or what?”
“Crazy as hell,” I said, then raised my glass in memory of Sadie. Yea, Sadie was her name and she may have had her faults, but that woman had hooked us both into pure love for her. It probably was that jumpsuit. God almighty, every curve, mound – if you know what I mean – practically every mole was visible since it was skin-tight, and, I can hardly keep from salivating – yes, I know that’s gross, me saying that, but it’s the truth – even thinking about how round her breasts were and how her pant leg would slip up every once in a while and you could see this smooth-as-silk-skin that would make any man – or lesbo, I suppose – melt with longing. Oh, god, that skin – all of her skin – milky white and smooth like some piece of ice sculpture except it wasn’t cold – hell no. And yes, I did know…and not just from copping a feel. That girl could writhe with heat as if she had a volcano living inside her. Holy shit. God. Yes. What I would give to see her walking in that door about now.
“So, what time’s the funeral?” Max asked and glanced up at the neon Schlitz sign.
“Noon,” I said, and tried to forget that there’d never be any more of that heat for me from our girl Sadie.
“Why is her service at that lame-ass Episcopal church, for God’s sake?” Max asked. “Those people are just wanna-be Catholics.”
“She told me she liked that church. People were nice to her there, even fed her breakfast a couple of Saturdays a month when she didn’t have any more money for food. A good home-cooked meal. You can’t fault a church for that.”
“I can fault any church that’s not Catholic,” Max said. “That’s the one true church.”
I reached in my pocket. “I thought I might wear this for her,” I said and held up a red and yellow striped tie. I think she would laugh.”
Max shook his head. “It’d be weird if we found out she hanged herself with a tie.”
“Or her jumpsuit,” I said, thinking the nylon material might have been perfect to form a good noose.
“Where’d they say they found her?”
“Hanging from a tree limb in West Hollywood Park.”
“Yes,” he said, gulping the last of his beer before standing up, “there are some good trees there. You ready?”
I stood up, too. It was odd seeing us dressed up like respectable guys heading off to pay our respects. It was a good feeling to see that we both cleaned up pretty well despite our bad habits. “Yeah, let’s head out.”
Henry, the bartender waved as we left. “Light a candle for me,” he called. “She was a good woman.”
We squinted as we stepped out in the bright sunlight, and then Max stopped and pointed at an old truck that was lumbering by. Right there on its rusted side was a faded Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus logo and below it was a picture of a bunch of clowns with a much younger Sadie in her red and yellow striped jumpsuit, grinning from ear to ear.
“I’ll be damned,” Max muttered. “What do you think of that?”
I shrugged. “I guess she really was in the circus.”
Max smiled. “You know what that was, don’t you,” pointing to the truck as it rattled on down the road.
“An old rattle trap that got retired a dozen years back from Ringling Brothers?”
Max shook his head. “Hell, no. That was Sadie making good on her promise to say good-bye.”
I stood silent for a second. It was weird-ass timing, that was for damn sure.
“She’s letting us know she’s doing okay. That’s what that was. She knew we’d feel bad and she’s saying, “Relax, boys, I may spend some time in purgatory, but it won’t be long.”
“I thought Catholics believed all people who committed suicide were doomed to hell.”
“Nay,” Max said, as he started walking in the direction of the church. “That’s just for dumbasses who don’t understand God’s love.”
“But I’m pretty sure — ” I said.
Max gave me one of his shut-the-fuck-up looks, and I stopped before I ruined the moment. Besides I liked the idea that Sadie was going to heaven and I might get to see her again at some point in the future. I mean…if there was heaven, after all.
There were four of us at the service besides the priest and an acolyte. The other two people were an older man and woman who bore a remarkable likeness to Sadie. Her mother and father, I was sure.
The woman came up to us afterwards and said, “It’s good to see our daughter had at least two friends.”
Max and I said in perfect unison, “She had lots of friends.”
Her father dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief. “It’s good to see she had some upstanding people in her life. I feel better knowing that.”
Max and I exchanged glances before shaking their hands, then he headed in the direction of the bar. “We have some toasting to do,” he said, waving at me to follow.
I watched as Sadie’s parents got into their black Prius and drove away. A Prius, for God’s sake. Crazy Sadie’s parents were socially conscientious. Who would have ever thought?
“Come on, man,” Max called, but I shook my head. “Go on back without me,” I said. “I think I’ll just walk for a while.
“Suit yourself,” he yelled, “but it’s going to be a lame going-away party for our Sadie.” He turned and headed back down the hill to the bar.
As for me, I walked all the way to West Hollywood Park. I wanted to see the exact tree where Sadie had met her end. I also wanted to enjoy looking like a respectable human being for just a little while longer. It felt strangely good. Besides I had the distinct feeling that Sadie was smiling, wherever she was. And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was not in hell. No way. That was one of the great things about being Jewish. We don’t believe in hell.