(My friend Lance, who is really a friend to all, issues a 100 Word Song challenge this week from a group I had never heard of, Tame Impala, and a song, "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards", of which I was equally unaware but which recalls solo John Lennon for me, a description about which I can only say me gusta.)
She was eating a salad, while I had a sandwich. The cafe was half full with couples like us, pretty women with glasses and men who didn't deserve them. I sipped my beer, trying to make it last, not wishing to fight about ordering a second one.
"Are you happy?," she said.
"Yes," I said. I was.
"You don't think we are growing apart? It feels like we're stagnating. It feels like we only go backwards."
I didn't mind going backwards, I thought. I liked the past. I understood it.
"I don't think so. Do you?"
She didn't say anything.
Monday, January 21, 2013
(My friends at the Trifecta Writing Challenge, who agree with Gary Cherone that there are Three Sides To Every Story, issued their usual challenge with a multipurpose word, "Bitch".)
She always smiled when she handed us the keys. She was a pert little blonde, with wide blue eyes and a trusting mouth. Everyone had a crush on her, I think, and fights nearly broke out to volunteer to drive her back to the huge house behind the iron gates. It wasn't her sporty little car this time, but instead his, the big muscular Audi, which needed new brakes.
I drove her home this time, taking her up the hill in a Chrysler that was nice enough, but looked out of place in front of her magnificent home. She frowned as she got closer to the front door, as if the house scared her. She never said it directly, but she certainly gave the impression she was unhappily married.
"You'll call when it's done?," she asked.
"Of course," I said. "And I'll come back and get you."
"I'd like that," she said, flashing some thigh as she got out of the car.
I drove back down the hill, wondering why someone so beautiful would stay in a bad relationship, musing about what a bitch brake jobs were and how easy it would be to do the job imperfectly.
(For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Andrea gave me this prompt: Write something inspired by this quote by Marguerite Duras: "It was the men I deceived the most that I loved the most.". I gave Kurt this prompt: "I don't think anger gets anything done." -Jeffrey Tambor)
He had a Chicago Blackhawks shirt on. I thought that was stupid, because he wasn't from Chicago and didn't even like hockey all that much. But it had become abundantly clear he didn't care what I thought any more. I didn't intend for it to end this way. I didn't intend for it to end at all, but I certainly didn't intend for it to end like this. He opened the bathroom door with my bag in his hands. He had yellow foil packets in his hands. "I knocked your purse off the table," he said grimly. "What are these?"
"Jesus!," he said. His face got red when he exerted himself, and his forehead was looking rosy and pink. He was standing inside the bathroom door, which was something that he hated when I did it. I was in the position one assumes in that room, looking up at him, a mixture of guilt, fear, and revulsion gnawing at my guts. Well, I thought ruefully, if I'm going to throw up, at least I'm in the right room.
"Do you even know what the truth is, Sherry? I mean, if that's even your name! Jesus! " He stormed out of the room again. He wasn't an angry person, generally. He had never blown up at anything like this before. I knew I had blown it, lost it forever like your keys falling into a storm drain. But I didn't see any good reason to get up, so I just stayed there. I had been caught in little white lies before, but I could tell this one had broken him. There wasnt any good reason for me to have those little packets from Planned Parenthood unless I wasn't what I had told him I was.
We met three months ago. I was genuinely in desperate straits at the time- that part was true. I was standing under an awning, an enormous red duffle bag at my feet. I didn't know where to go, so I was just standing there, staring at the rain that poured down all around, a hard, judgmental rain. I had three books, two REM CDs, and maybe 5 changes of clothes. That, plus what I was wearing and $37.21, was the sum total of what I had to my name. Stephen had changed the locks, throwing everything that he said was mine into the duffle bag and leaving it outside the door, and not answering no matter how much I pounded on the door.
So I wrestled the bag down to the street, and just decided to stand there until something occurred to me. I could call Maureen again, but I could tell she was getting tired of me. I didn't feel like listening to Jeff's lecturing, and Mom was, for lack of a better word, impossible. So I stood there. I guess I looked pretty pathetic, because Allan stopped dead in front of me about 10 minutes later.
He wasn't bad looking. Kind of dorky, with dark scruffy hair that curled, an uneven mass of facial hair. He was tall, with the kind of pot belly and pallor that writers and gamers get from spending too much time inside and inactive. It's not like I had anything to speak about as far as bodies go, but it's true- Allan was pasty and weak and sad, but very kind. I knew him in that way you know people in your neighborhood. I would see him at the pizza place, at the coffee shop, waiting in line at the post office. I knew he lived somewhere nearby- he had to, the amount I saw him. I never saw him with anyone, so I assumed he was single. Or gay.
Allan stopped and stared at me. I had a white band t shirt on, along with a purple bra that you could see when the shirt got wet, and some tan pants, and a pair of old sneakers that used to be pure white. Allan was dressed much more sensibly, a light jacket, some thick shoes that looked waterproof and warm, a black t shirt with the beginning of pi spelled out on it, and jeans. He stared at me for a moment.
"Hi," was all he could muster. "You look sad."
I probably did. That wasn't a lie either. "Yes."
"Waiting for someone?"
"Not really," I said. "No one is coming for me."
"Where are you going?"
"I don't know," I said, and I started crying. The ability to cry almost instantly had served to short circuit awkward conversations with men before, but this was at least half genuine. I managed to sputter something about Stephen throwing me out and another woman and how I didn't know where to go, which was mostly the truth, and he gallantly offered his couch. I honestly didn't intend to work that angle, but once I saw that it was open, my instincts kicked in, and before I knew it, I was stripping inside his bathroom, taking a very hot shower while he washed and dried my clothes that I decorously handed out through the door.
The lies had accumulated gradually, little untruths that seemed harmless piling up like the stuff in a junk drawer you never clean out. A brother who died, a father in the Army, an abortion at 14, all little things that I slid into conversation to measure their impact in his soft blue eyes. I knew from the first moment I walked into his place that we were going to be lovers, but I let him do the work, pulling me out of my shell, establishing trust. I knew men like him needed a quest, a project they could work on and obsess over. Every time I lied, my stomach clenched, but I said it anyway, forgetting about the shame when his face softened and he embraced me.
I'm sure he probably thinks I don't love him any more. I would, if someone had done to me what I just did. But the thing was, I did. I cared about him. He was sweet, and so gentle, and his body wasn't perfect, but I had gotten used to it, the way it felt when he held me. I just couldn't stand my good fortune. I couldn't see how anyone could find me appealing, so I inflated and exaggerated and simply lied to make myself into the person I saw in his eyes. It was never a thoughtful matter- I didn't think about it, it just came out in a reflex like any other bodily function. I neverr had a plan, just a grifter's confidence that something would present itself to get me out of it.
When I heard him crying in the other room, I reassembled my pants and conspicuously washed my hands and face, staring into my reflection, drawn and thin with pain, wondering if I knew who was looking back. "Jesus," he kept saying. I came out of the bathroom, ringlets of hair near my face still holding droplets of water that refracted the light in the room. He was staring at the floor, his head in his hands, muttering "Jesus," to himself, over and over again. I was thinking about an REM song, the one on the CD that was going to end up in my bag again, the one where Michael Stipe sings, "you, you know where to run/you run electron blue."
I didn't know where to run.