“I got a DUI a year or so ago. Anyone can get one. Do you mind driving?” he asks, charmingly, hopping in the passenger seat.
“Sure,” I say, honored.
“Use those side mirrors. You don’t need to turn and look,” he coaches me along the highway.
“Oh, okay,” I answer, eager to please.
“You don’t have to turn on your blinker when you’re already in a turn lane.”
Grateful for the lesson, I say, “I never knew that.”
“Pull into that spot, right in front.”
“I’m not very good at parallel parking,” I apologize. “And the spot looks kind of small.”
“Hey, let me do this, so we can get in there and get a drink. It’s okay if I just park the car,” he reassures. He spins the steering wheel one way, then the other, deftly maneuvering into the tight space. He turns the tires to the curb, jumps out of the car, tosses my keys at me, and speed walks into the bar.
I stand at the curb looking after him, adoringly. . .
Once inside, I watch him hug the tall, model-quality blond and slap her on the butt. He exchanges high fives with a table of people. I’m not positive they even know him.
“You old salty dog,” a male friend says, shaking his hand.
“What does a guy have to do to get a drink around here?” A Vodka Cran materializes in his hand. The rough looking, darkly beautiful, bartender kisses him on the cheek. He dips her in a grand one-handed gesture and kisses her on the mouth, without spilling a drop. The table of people laughs and cheers.
The music starts. He grabs the hand of the closest woman and begins to twist, low, right down to the floor and back up. He shimmies seductively, behind her, his body not quite touching hers. She tips her head back, laughing wildly.
“Wow, he gets around,” the guy standing next to me says.
I say, “I’m with him.”
He looks at me with pity, “You okay with that?” He nods toward the dance floor.
“Yes, I think I am,” I say.
The guy shakes his head and walks away. I don’t care.
I’m not jealous. I’m transfixed, awed at being in on this secret I have never known.
He looks at me. His blue eyes, glittering like diamonds, pierce mine. He whispers something in the other woman’s ear and walks toward me, leaving her flushed.
I want to look away, but his hold on me is so intense that it feels surreal.
“Let’s get out of here.” He grabs my hand and kisses it.
“You’re amazing. You owned the room. You should consider running for mayor,” I say breathlessly, only half joking.
He looks at me strangely.
“Oh,” I think to myself. “He thinks I’m so weird.”
“No one has ever said that to me before,” he says thoughtfully.
And for the first time, really, in all my life, with a couple of Vodka Tonics and a splash of lime in me (I have never known how to order mixed drinks before.), I’m desirable. I’m fun.
“A toast to you; a toast to me; a toast to this whole wonderful place full of magnificent, electrically-charged people,” I say, my tumbler held high, drink sloshing over. I laugh loudly . . .
“You’re funny,” he says later, as we sit by a bonfire on the beach, at his place, his baseball cap askew and a bottle of wine stuck in the sand between us.
“I’m funny!” I think gloriously.
He gets up to fill our plastic wine glasses and kisses me on the lips like we’ve done this a million times before.
I love the crazy lovemaking that follows (though I find myself saying, “I’m not sure how to start. I’m a little rusty.” He replies, “Start by taking off my shirt. Then it will all come back to you.”).
I think about how comfortable he is. I think I could love him . . .
I can see him through the rear window of his car when I pull down the driveway to pick up my stuff. He is slumped over the steering wheel. His foot is on the brake pedal. The brake lights shine festively in the night. The car is running.
I throw open my car door and run to him. Before I open his car door, a picture of my sister injects itself into my mind. She lies, lifeless, a cancer-ravaged skeleton, in her hospital bed two weeks before.
I am sure he is dead, too.
When I open his door, he raises his head slowly and gives me a sloppy smile, letting his head drop back down to the steering wheel.
He is drunk, disgustingly, pathetically drunk. White hot anger burns inside of me.
“Where were you?? Tell me!” I scream.
He lifts his head and smiles crookedly. I see the pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce that stains the better part of his shirt front and sleeves.
I want to strangle the bartender who overserved him, every bartender who has ever overserved him for the last three and a half years I’ve shared a bed with him. “Where were you!” I scream again. He chuckles into his arm.
Only then do I think clearly enough for a moment to turn off the ignition and pocket the keys.
I grab his arm and attempt to pull him from the car. He is dead weight. He stinks of hard liquor and red sauces. “You have to get out of the car. You’re too heavy for me,” I order, knowing the futility of my request. I am crying.
“I just . . . want . . . to sleep,” he mumbles.
I drop to the ground and sit, pounding my fists in the dirt. I wail. I wail harder than I ever have. I hurt more than I ever have.
He reaches out and pats me on the head, without lifting his. I throw his hand from me, a poison dart.
I turn and grab his feet roughly from the brake pedal and gas and pull his feet out of the car. Standing, I drape his 220-pound, 5ft. 10 in. frame over my back and drag him up the steps to the house and inside. Hoping he will fall to the floor in a heap, I let go of him, but he stands, grinning stupidly, wobbling.
“Go to bed,” I command angrily.
He staggers to the couch and falls on it, fumbling with the afghan. He crawls under it with his shoes on.
“Now what,” I say to no one, worried about what he will do, though he is clearly incapable of doing anything.
“What the hell am I supposed to do with him?” I plead.
The Universe is silent in response.
I relive seeing him a few days earlier, pulling up in his red convertible Buick, top down, to the golf club bar we used to frequent together. “Ah, it’s a great day,” he declares, giddy, on his way to a good bender. A crowd of admirers gathers around his classic machine. Even at his worst, he is vibrant. I feel so nothing without him.
I stand in the background, clubs loaded for a game of golf, wishing that I were sitting in the Buick beside him.
“Let’s go,” my friend says, firing up the golf cart. “You don’t need to see this.”
“He’s going to get himself into trouble,” I fret.
“He’s not your job anymore,” she says. “Get in.”
I can’t hit the ball. I can’t think about anything besides him.
My friend turns the cart around and heads back to the club house. “We’re done.”
“I usually only golf 9 anyway,” I explain weakly.
“No you don’t. You golf 18 now. You only golfed 9 with him because he had to get to the bar. You gotta let go. This guy’s trouble.”
“But I love him,” I whine.
“Oh, for cripes sake, you’ve given up every shred of self-respect you’ve ever had,” my friend says, fuming. “And I’m mad at your sister for dying at the same time you guys broke up. She created the perfect storm.”
“It’s not her fault,” I cry.
She dumps me off at my car.
He is talking to admirers still. I am drawn to him. I ask, sweetly, “Do you think you’ve had too much to drink?” I try to kiss him.
He turns away, like I have the plague.
“Bartender, get my friend a drink.” He slaps his friend on the back, dismissing me . . .
“Please, what do I do?” I cry out at the lump on the couch.
He has the wherewithal to make a lewd suggestion.
“Screw you,” I say, sickened. He laughs.
“You’ll do anything I want you to,” he taunts drunkenly and begins to snore.
*I am a 31-year English teaching veteran of students, grades 6-12, in the small, rural community of Orting. As a native of the Tacoma and Gig Harbor areas, I attended Jefferson Elementary, Mason Middle School, and Peninsula High School. Living most of my life in “beach cabins,” I have a great appreciation for the Puget Sound. I have two children in the Air Force, one a pilot, the other in Global Intelligence. Want to play golf? I’m a golf addict.