Lost Love, Serendipity and Titties
Cancun, Mexico. 1997 Spring Break.
Joe Francis sat alone in the dark, a cigarette dangling unenthusiastically from his lips. The cigarette was more ash than cigarette at this point, but Joe Francis didn't have the energy or spirit to give it the simple flick required to send the ash sinking to the floor of his van. It was like a last-man-standing match now; the ash was building up and building up, waiting for Joe to give up and snap it away, and Joe Francis, with his stoic, bitter indifference, was content to sit and wait for the ash to abandon the cigarette as a result of its own weight. Whether the ash fell of its own accord or if Joe Francis actively flicked it away, sooner or later, someone had to win. Regardless of the outcome, Joe Francis knew he certainly wouldn't feel
like a winner.
If anyone ever thought to put words to it, and if he'd ever allow anyone to see him in this state, people might say that Joe Francis most closely resembled a broken down carousel: It was clear that, at one point, he was capable of great joy and energy and light, but all that remained
was the shell, and the memory, the idea
that, once upon a time, Joe Francis had within himself the potential for brilliance
The van of the door slid open, the Mexican air warming everything in the van except Joe. Joe's cameraman, Randy, stood in the open doorway, his hands full of camera equipment, his pockets full of contracts and his eyes full of concern.
"Joe, man, you OK? We're ready to shoot out here." Randy indicated the scene behind him: thumping bass, tiki torch fires and dancing twentysomethings, the ink on their tattoos still fresh, practically dripping. Joe thought it looked more like some kind of ancient ritual than a party. And, he supposed, in a way it was.
Spring Break, that is.
"I'll be ready in a second," Joe said into the floor of the van.
"You know, Joe... We don't have
to do this..."Joe let out a soft, empty chuckle. Yes we do
, he thought, and you know it
. He took one last drag, not concerning himself with the fact that he was down to the filter at this point. Let it burn
, he thought.
Let me feel something.
Joe raised his eyes to Randy for the first time and stood up.
"Let's do this."
The ash floated lazily down to the floor.
The Joe Francis that strutted down the beach was a different animal from the Joe Francis who sat borderline catatonic in the official Girls Gone Wild
minivan. Confident, cocky, he had a presence that demanded your attention. If the Joe Francis in the van was a broken down carousel, the Joe Francis that stormed the sand was a new rollercoaster; you knew at a look that he was dangerous, but you also knew that maybe you liked it. This was how Joe Francis found his participants.
At the sound of some not-too-distant nervous and excited giggling, Joe Francis turned to Randy, who, professional that he is, already had his camera at the ready. The gentlemen nodded to each other and, by the time he'd turned to face the source of the giggling, Joe Francis was already armed with his charming, Cheshire Cat Grin.
Caption: Joe Francis, concealing years of inner turmoil.
It used to surprise him how quickly and effortlessly he could "turn it on." Nothing surprises him anymore. Joe licked his lips, flipped on his microphone and made a silent prayer to coax the lump in his throat back from whence it came. Had to be a quick prayer. The victims were approaching. Time to go to work.
"Ladies, ladies, ladies," Joe called to the excitable young women. "I must be in Anaheim or heaven; either way, all I see are angels!" The girls laughed enthusiastically and Joe Francis felt sick to his stomach. "What are you ladies here for?" He already knew the answer he was just trying to gauge their level of intoxication.
"Sprling Breeaaak," the girls slurred in unison.
"Oh yeah? You girls lookin' to have some fun?" Say 'no,' Joe Francis willed silently, say 'no,' and leave. End the cycle.
"Whooooo," they answered, a universal and resounding 'yes.'
"Alright, now that's what I'm talking about. We've been looking for some party girls, we were wondering where they were hiding."
"Right here," the tallest of the three said. She tried adjusting the already crooked tiara in her knotted hair. She just made it worse. Her eyes were familiar. She reminded Joe Francis of Noelle.
But, then, everything reminded Joe Francis of Noelle.
"Where are you girls from," Randy asked.
"Glassboro University," the brunette answered. Her breath was thick with tequila, she wore a too-tight shirt that read 'Yo quiero BEER!' and featured a little Chihuahua with exaggerated features. Noelle loved dogs.
"Glassboro," Joe Francis said derisively. "Forget it, Randy, turn the camera off. Glassboro girls don't know how to party." The three girls simultaneously attempted to slur an argument to the contrary. Randy, knowing his part, lowered the camera.
"Nah, you girls got nothing on some of the other chicks out here. We're looking for some real party girls. Some..." He paused to let Joe finish. Joe obliged.
"Some wild girls."
"We're wild," said the tall one. She was the most sober but that was by no means an endorsement. It simply meant that, if there was a bonfire, she was the least likely of the three to burst into flames as a result of her blood alcohol level.
"How wild," Joe Francis asked, his eyes narrowing as his grin spread.
wild," the girls said. Randy's camera was already back on his shoulder. Such a professional. Noelle would've really liked Randy.
"Oh yeah? Prove it." The girls looked to one another, brilliantly playing the part of the sorority sisters who didn't know. As if they didn't know what the camera was for. As if they hadn't seen the unmistakable Girls Gone Wild
van pull up. As if this wasn't the moment they'd been waiting for all night. We all have a part to play
, Joe thought.
"How about you show us a little skin," Joe asked. When the girls responded according to the unwritten, unofficial script, which is to say, with mock shock and exaggerated outrage, Joe Francis a veteran performer in this particular play, shrugged his shoulders.
you they weren't party girls, Randy. They weren't ready to go wild
. I guess... " Joe paused before going on. He knew what was going to come next, what had
to come next. He knew that the events had already been set in motion, that the outcome of this night had already been decided, and that he couldn't stop it. That didn't mean he couldn't delay it. Several seconds passed. "I guess these girls
want some free t-shirts.
The sorority sisters shrieked and drunkenly lifted their tops before Joe Francis had even finished speaking. Cameras flashed, any bystanders still sober enough to see straight cheered, the rhythm of the flopping titties syncing up with the rhythm of the distant dance music. The sorority sisters wiggled their young bodies like seasoned professionals, like they were born for this exact purpose and, in a way, they were. It was serendipity that brought them here, serendipity that arranged conditions so perfectly such that these women were destined to end up shaking their breasts on camera, for a VHS tape to be sold to millions of men across America for $12.99. Serendipity that put these women in front of Joe Francis and Randy's camera at this exact moment. The same serendipity that felt it necessary to separate Joe Francis and Noelle forever.
With the focus of a sniper, Joe Francis quickly scanned the exposed bodies of the young women. He clapped his hands and screamed "Wild!" but, make no mistake, Joe Francis was studying and looking for a unique birthmark. Noelle's
birthmark. He didn't find it.
On some level, he knew he never would.
"Oh my God, so wild
," Joe said as he tossed three t-shirts to the still-shrieking women. Joe looked up briefly. There wasn't a cloud in the sky but, to Joe Francis, it was always raining.
"Let's keep going," Randy said. "It's going to be a long night."
They all are,
thought Joe. They all are.
"No doubt," Joe Francis replied. "Waazzzzzuuuuuuppppp?!"