Smoking Crack

Crack and Crime in Farmington

I was excited to discover a pool hall in Farmington. Scott’s was still Tina’s home away from home, so it was a convenient spot for an occasional date. It was a dive as pool halls go, but we’d gone there together once or twice and found the staff and patrons to be agreeable. It was cheap, too.

Even though we were out in Buffalo, one weekend, I arranged for Tina and I to get together with Donovan to shoot pool at Farmington Billiards. It’s about an hour and a half drive between the two small towns. Farmington and Buffalo were at opposite ends of the Twin Cities Metro Area. It was a drive I had to make on occasion for Tina’s sake, ostensibly to deliver her to her mother at Scott’s. I generally didn’t mind the drive. Though many of my stories are about strange and unpleasant events, I absolutely adored Tina’s company (particularly when we were alone) and our conversations made the travel time go by pleasantly. This time, taking her to Scott’s wasn’t the purpose, though.

Tina was excited to learn that we were going to see Donovan. A little too excited, I felt. It turned out that Tina had a shirt she’d been waiting for the chance to wear and seeing Donovan again was the occasion. She pranced off into the bedroom to fetch it and emerged in a new, form-fitting, pale-blue Superman T-shirt.

Donovan often wore Superman-branded clothes and Tina credited him with super-heroism for picking up Shayna and throwing her into my van, kicking off the disastrous end to our first date.

I frowned. It was the first time I noticed Tina’s way of mirroring a person she was interested in. She was triangulating me with my friend. I didn’t know the psychological terms or manipulative reasons at the time, but it didn’t make me feel good.

I set aside my jealous pangs. It’s just a T-shirt. Maybe she just wants to fit in, I thought.

We arrived in Farmington around 8 PM and met up with Donovan, his daughter and her boyfriend. That night was one of those infrequent, but occasional times when I was made to notice the age gap between Tina and I. Tina was closer in age to Donovan’s daughter than to me, but she still seemed more a peer of Donovan and I.

Tina showed off her shirt for Donovan, but whatever her message, it didn’t seem to land on him.

We were having a good time shooting pool, but after a while, Tina disengaged. She seemed distant. Eventually, she nodded across the hall toward a boisterous corner of apparent regulars. “See that guy over there? The one with the beard?”

I glanced over and nodded.

“He keeps staring at me and it’s starting to creep me out,” she said.

I looked back. He didn’t seem to be paying her any attention at the moment. “Do you know him? Maybe he’s trying to figure out where he recognizes you from. Then again, you are very pretty.” I smiled and gave her a quick kiss.

“I don’t know,” she said, thoughtfully. She seemed unduly concerned.

“Don’t worry. I’ll protect you.” Perhaps I was a tad glib, but I didn’t think the grizzled old drunk looked like much of a threat. Maybe I just didn’t recognize what kind of threat he posed.

Tina looked like she’d rather be anywhere else at that point. “I’m not feeling well. I think I need to eat something. Can we go get dinner pretty soon?”

“Sure,” I said. We were playing on two tables. Our game was finished, but Donovan’s daughter and her beau were still in the middle of one. “How about we go after those two finish up?”

“OK. Come have a smoke with me?”

“Sure.”

I stopped and quickly talked about our plan to leave with our companions on our way outside. It was agreed all around.

Out front, I lit Tina’s cigarette and then my own. We were only alone for a few moments before the thing Tina seemed to want to avoid happened. The older guy with the scraggly white beard who’d been eying her stumbled outside to join us.

He was plainly very intoxicated, slurring a bit and swaying on his feet. “Hey,” he said, looking right at Tina, seeming not to see me. I moved closer to her, protectively.

Tina blinked at him, seeming unsure of what to say.

“Hey. You wanna know what?” he slurred.

“What?” Tina took a drag off her cigarette.

“Hey, what are you doing tonight? You wanna smoke some crack?”

I moved closer to Tina so that we were shoulder to shoulder.

“No, thank you,” said Tina.

He took a step back, seemed to notice me for the first time. He grinned an odd grin and shook his head. Then, he took a step towards us again and I moved forward half a step to interpose myself, but keeping in contact with Tina.

I was flabbergasted by what happened next. This is the kind of thing that could only happen with Tina. When she and I were out in public together, people behaved in ways I’d never seen before in my life.

First, he made kind of a chopping motion with his hand, as if he was cutting Tina and I apart from one another. Then, he stuck his cigarette between his lips to hold it and free his other hand. He put both hands together like a wedge and physically forced that wedge between our persons, trying to separate us by moving his hands apart. Tina pressed in firmer against me and I put an arm out in front of Tina. He withdrew his very unwelcome touch and backed off a step.

I threw my cigarette down and balled my fists, keeping between Tina and the increasingly creepy old drunk.

“Hey, You don’t wanna come to my place and smoke some crack?” he said to Tina.

“No. I’m good,” she replied.

“You wanna go into Farmington and do some crime?”

“We’re in Farmington,” she replied.

“We’re not interested,” I interjected.

“Oh.” He waved his finger back and forth between us. “You two… OK…” he trailed off.

“Let’s see if they’re ready to leave,” I suggested, nodding to the door.

Tina snuffed her cigarette and led the way back into the pool hall.

“OK. Have a good night,” said the drunk.

I went up to the counter to settle the bill and mentioned the creepy drunk bothering Tina to the attendant.

“Oh, that’s just Bob. He’s had too much to drink. He’s harmless,” I was told.

“Maybe someone should call him a cab,” I suggested a bit darkly.

I paid our bill and we got everyone out of there in short order. We went down the road a few blocks to Carbone’s Pizza, hoping to get dinner, but the place was empty except for a skeleton staff and we were informed the kitchen was closed. Just the bar was open. We weren’t told that until after we’d been seated, ordered drinks and examined the menus we’d been provided. Further, the signage indicated 2-for-1 appetizer specials until midnight. It was about 10:30 when we arrived. That was Farmington!

After that night, Tina would often put on a dolt’s voice and repeat, “Wanna go into Farmington and do some crime?” I didn’t think much of it – it was just a weird occurrence to joke about later, but after knowing Tina for years, I realized there was more to it. She often repeated sentences or sentence fragments that had really bothered her. Sometimes, out of the blue, with no context but a sneer or sarcastic tone, she’d quote something someone had said to offend her, or something she wanted to reframe.

At the time, I assumed that the old drunk was just a crazy stranger trying to hit on Tina, but the whole story makes a lot more sense by changing that assumption. If He’d met her before and had reason to expect a more receptive reply, his behavior would have been more understandable. Looking back through the filter of what I now know about her double and triple lives puts that memory in a different context.

When I first told Tina about having discovered Farmington Billiards, she said she’d not been aware of it, but I wonder. A year or so later, Tina and I ran into Sean at the Cardinal in Minneapolis. He was an old friend of mine who was a master pool player. We got to talking about Farmington Billiards and it turned out that Sean knew Bob, the old drunk who’d wanted to smoke crack and do crimes with Tina. He was one of the owners of the pool hall, as it turned out.

The night Bob accosted us was the first time I’d seen him. Tina and I had been to Farmington Billiards a couple times prior, but it stands to reason that he was there a fair bit if he owned the place and it’s exactly the kind of place Tina would have wanted to hang out at, just a mile down the main road from her home away from Home at Scott’s.

Narcissists tend to lead double (and triple and quadruple) lives. Tina didn’t have a car back then, so her territory was pretty small, increasing the odds that her separate worlds would collide.

Whether Tina had smoked crack with Bob sometime in the past, I could never say for sure, but, if nothing else, she was a constant magnet for trouble and the downright bizarre.

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