"Canada 2003" story # 43

Oxford, Mississippi           November 17, 2003

Allie McClaire McBee.
     She was one of the most instantly alluring characters of the whole trip. - With her kitten-little, sun-yellowed blue eyes, made ever-teary-looking due to short, black eyelashes which stuck together like wet. Subtle veins of red coursed across her eye-balls. And the soft field around her eyes was skin colored pale as hypothermia, and freckled.
     She came from New Orleans. Her voice was scratchy and kid-cute. It was like the adolescent, wet-nosed bull, trying his hardest to pull the heavy cart. You just wanted to help Allie, when you saw how she just couldn't say it out without that debilitating scratch, no matter how screamingly emotional she was. She was small and jumpy. She had pale lips, and her woolly hair was the helpless yellow of a kid's whose hair hadn't yet darkened with age.
     I tried to kiss those lips once. I was infatuated by Allie every time I felt the emotion of her scratch shiver through my body. She - this little girl who grew up wild in those wild New Orleans nights - drew so much attention in a room she shined like Neptune.
     I met her in a crowded bar, when she fell backwards off her bar-stool into my friend, Meagan. She was overtaken by alcohol and pain-killers at this moment. We introduced ourselves, and she shortly whisked me away with her and her friends to a party.
     Allie's crazy side - one of her most common sides - bounced around the room, sometimes losing control and falling limply due to the pain-killers. She called for "Valium!" and her fellow collegians from the University of Ole Miss snorted white powders. I felt so bad for Allie. I just wanted to steal her wild attention, to talk to her, to talk through things. We were together in the bathroom when I tried to kiss her, but she was too peaked for such a thing. She just wanted to run around like a coyote pup.
     I took off. I walked through night rain to where I was staying with Meagan. Meagan I'd met in that same bar, several days earlier, and I promised her a chapter in my book.
     This bar was called Parish's, and it was in Oxford, Mississippi, where I hung out for a week. Parish's was the jolliest bar of my trip. Friendly, relaxed, and alcohol-loving people came there. It was a place sometimes fun, sometimes quiet, but always familiar, and none were turned away.
     I loved Parish's. Meagan loved it even more. She drank as many hours in a week as most people work. The first night I came into Parish's, she hugged me tomato-faced, but I don't think she could talk. She wore black hair, hacked off in front above her eyebrows, that embraced her head as pedals embrace a flower.
     Freckly Meagan, for all her drinking, didn't particularly handle it too well. One night while I was in Oxford, she got drunk and lost: her cell-phone, her purse, her coat, her credit card, and one sandal. Fortunately, she had a great sense of humor. And, nothing ever got stolen in homey, honest Oxford, so she got everything back save her shoe.
     Before Meagan, I'd stayed two in nights in Mark's home. Nice-guy Mark was an Ole Miss law student who studied most of his time, who had mild epilepsy. Before Mark, I'd stayed two nights at Autumn's house. Autumn was the Ole Miss librarian, a 29-year-old grad student, and the married mother of three-year-old Lila, curly-haired and cute-talking.
     While I stayed with Autumn, she called the school/town newspaper, which promptly interviewed me and came out with the article, "Global Hitchhiker Stops in Oxford." My popularity soared with the publishing of this story and photo. The question, "Are you the hitchhiker?" and the phrase, "I'd like to welcome you to Oxford," were directed at me by countless strangers. I was also then the recipient of many free beers at Parish's.
     One of the persons who recognized me was Will, a graduate student in marine biology. He gave me a tour of the Ole Miss marine science center. The headliner of this tour was the preserved giant squid! corpse Will had brought back from Alaska. It was white, with blood colorings in parts, and its tentacles were hard and rubbery. It was one of the coolest things I saw in Oxford.

Allie McClaire McBee could sometimes be very excited to hang out with me. "I'm with Justin! He's from Michigan!" she would yell over her cell-phone. She wanted me to stay a seventh night in Oxford, and I would stay at her place.
     The night began at a bar other than Parish's, where Allie wanted me to see her friend play in a jam band. Allie came cute in a light-green polo shirt. Meagan got really wasted, and she danced to the randomly-bopping-around instruments with Shelby, a guy celebrating his birthday by repeatedly falling on the floor.
     The alcohol really gripped Allie, and her food-less stomach, and she wanted to party afterwards. She became obsessed with finding the party, and she largely ignored me. She suggested we split up, and I felt tossed aside. I probably had no right to feel as I did. I told Allie I'd just camp out, then.
     I stood before little Allie, in her light-green polo shirt, and looked her in the eyes. "You really let me down, Allie."
     Her little, baby blue eyes searched around the area in-between our faces, for seconds, shocked, thinking of what to say.
     "Well, you know," she said, "you may be a person who always does what he says. And, I'm not that way. But, you know, I still, I still, you know, I still get things done."
     I kind of walked off then. Allie had to scream at me to get me into her friend's car.
     At a friend's house, almost no one was partying but Allie. She'd done her pain-killers. She kept falling around the room and saying crazy, sad things. She commented numerous times to her best friend Cal, who was with another girl, that she loved him. I tried to watch over Allie, to make sure she didn't fall down on her head.
     She hadn't eaten, so she raided the party hosts' fridge. She messily made up and ate tuna on crackers, and she expressed to me, "I hate money. I can't manage it. I hate money." Her dad had died and left her a lot of money. But, she sometimes didn't ration it for even food.
     She'd had a boyfriend in New Orleans for five years who she hoped to marry. He started doing hard drugs and left Allie for Houston.
     She talked a lot about what I'd said to her. She kept saying that I may do what I say I'll do, while she won't, but she still kind of does.
     Cal and I tried to get her to leave the kitchen and go home. Her eyes were wanderingly dazed, and she acted crazier. She danced and sang to another drunk guy's hokey-pokey song, "You put your bee-er in, you put your bee-er out," which was hillarious of her. I carried her to the front door. She went to get her purse, then yelled, "Food! Food!" and ran to the kitchen.
     Somehow, Allie and I made it to her house. She sobered up and made us soup with cheese on it. I happily had my chance to be alone with Allie. I wanted to understand her. I wished I could make her happy.
     She told of her successful siblings and called herself, "The Ugly Duckling" in the family. I said she was beautiful. I said she had beautiful, teary eyes. I said I loved her accent, the way she talked.
     She said the same about my accent. She was glad she'd met me.
     In her kitchen, again, she made me repeat what I'd earlier said to her. It was tough to do. I'd been such an ass-hole. But, she wanted to hear it. I said, "You really let me down."
     Poor Allie was sweet. She made sure I was set up on her couch and had everthing I needed. We gave many emotional hugs, and she kissed me on my cheek. Before she went to bed, I made sure I told her, "You really came through for me, Allie."
     The next day, Meagan and Allie drove me to the highway so I could hitch off. Oxford had been "the town that took me in," and I loved it. I was going to remember some people forever.
     "Safe travels!!!" little, scratchy-voiced Allie called big.

Later, Oxford pals!!! - Justin B.

Thanks to Mario; Eddy; and Kenny for the rides!
Much thanks to Autumn, Matt, & Lila; Mark; Taylor & Meagan; and Allie McBee, Potts, & Claire for the places to stay!

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