Keeping Austin weird

By Holly Rillovick

It was a warm and muggy March day in Austin, Texas. Some birds were singing happily atop full, leafy green trees as I passed cafes and churches and walked through a flock of pigeons on Guadalupe and 21st. Many of the eager college-age students that were passing me by were chattering excitedly about the concert that was being held at 21st Street Co-op that night. I was planning on raging there as well, but I also had an adventure planned for the afternoon. I was on my way to Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve.

Later on, as I was passing a bus stop after dark in front of a Whattaburger chain on the walk back to 21st Street from Mayfield Park, some guy stopped me.

“Hey! You see those two stars up there?” Guy pointed to the only two stars that were visible that night, a ways behind the Whattaburger and away from the city. “Most people don’t know that those are two eyes, and one of them is always looking at YOU.” He pointed at me with a stiff arm as he said this. A group of people who were waiting for their bus stared uncertainly.

Guy started talking about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, his grandfather Christoff, and about how anyone who has touched the blood of Jesse James is forever cleansed. Of what, I am not certain.

He was jumping around, flapping his arms, and still yelling about Jesse James. After a few minutes of rambling as I politely stood and listened, he asked, “What’s your name, son?” I wasn’t sure how to answer. We gawked at each other awkwardly and wide-eyed for a split second before he decided to ask a different question: “Are you a boy or a girl?”

“I guess I’m a girl,” I said, nervous to get into any in-depth discussions about my gender with someone who had just been yelling about the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

He said to me, “You can be a girl if you want to. You can be a boy if you want to.”

Eventually I just left him there by the Whattaburger, hollering about Jesse James. I was antsy to get to the 21st Steet Co-op to party with my friends. I was nearly there when I passed another bus stop. A slender, gray-bearded man in what looked like a traditional ugly Christmas sweater said something to me that I didn’t quite catch.

“Huh?” I asked.

“Are you a young boy, or a girl?” the old man asked, seemingly startled by my androgynous appearance. Again, I really didn’t feel like getting into any in-depth discussions about my gender, so I told him that I am a twenty-year old woman.

Old man asked me what I do for fun several times. I gave him a different answer each time, since he was clearly senile and had no idea what was going on. The last time I said simply, “Whatever I want.”

Old Man crossed his arms and was looking at me over his left shoulder now. He looked from my face to the pizza box that I was holding, and back again. He leaned toward me looking bewildered, and asked, “Do you always have sex with Little Caesar’s pizza boxes in dirty alley ways?”

Everyone who was gathered at the bus stop stared.

“Uhh … no,” I answered. I stared back at the bus riders. They pretended to pay us no attention. Old Man did not seem to notice or care.

He asked me for probably the sixth time what I was doing here. I told him “South by Southwest, the music festival!” He did not seem to care much.

He abruptly asked me where I’m from.

“I’m originally from Massachusetts,” I said.

“That’s big!” he exclaimed, eyes suddenly wide.

“Not really,” I answered. There we were in Texas, where you could probably fit twenty or thirty Massachusetts’.

“But you can’t run to the harbor, can you!” he said, still wide-eyed.

It is true that most people couldn’t run to Boston Harbor from Austin, Texas. I just assured him that this was true.

He paused and said, “You look like you could be a communist.”

This interaction was getting more and more ridiculous by the second.

“I’m not a communist,” I said.

“What were you doing in North Carolina, then?” Old Man leaned toward me, arms still crossed, with a raised eyebrow. His face was uncomfortably close to mine now.

“I’ve never been to North Carolina.”

“Good.”

He said he wanted to get back to his beer. That was my cue to flee.

By the time I arrived at the co-op, it was a madhouse. Bands were playing and most people were a few drinks in. I was telling a friend about the day’s craziness when a very drunk man plopped down next to me and slammed a 30-rack of beer onto the ground in front of him.

“Heyyy, waa-na bee-errr?” as he held one out.

“I have one, thanks.”

He handed me one anyway after popping the cap off with the edge of a picnic table. Impressive. He smiled at me and then put his arm around me. Suddenly, I was bearing all of his weight.

He giggled and said, “S-sorry,” — he hiccoughed — “I’m drunk.” Drunk hugged me tightly, which was particularly unpleasant because he was quite sweaty. “I lubbyoo,” he said with his face buried in my shoulder.

“I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t touch me,” I said.

“I’m sorry,” Drunk answered.

We sat for a moment, eavesdropping and observing. I eavesdropped and he observed me.

Finally, he latched onto me again. “I lubbyoo.” He giggled again. “Yoorr Anthony, right?”

“My name is Holly,” I said.

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