Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Wanderlust part 49 "like a gentleman"
A very groggy good morning folks. I woke at 2 a.m. with a humdinger of a nightmare. One of those that simply wakes you up instantly. You are asleep and then...AWAKE! There is no transition. So I think I'm still sort of half asleep after finally dozing back off. I don't know what is going on with my poor sleeping mangled mind lately. I'm usually not much of a dreamer...
by Sommer Marsden
Johnny had pulled around the corner to a fast food restaurant and planted me at a small table. The kind of table that has the chairs attached. I rocked myself back and forth, back and forth on that rotating seat, waiting for him the same way a small child waits for a parent.
“Drink,” he said. “Pick your poison.”
He set a cold soda, a hot coffee, a sleeve of fries and some kind of biscuit in front of me. I sipped the soda and he started on the fries.
I had considered a pill and dismissed it. That was how this whole fucking nervous breakdown of the last 24 hours had started.
The brightly lit space was packed with tired looking parents, hungry, loud kids and old folks. And of course the living dead that were the wait staff. I twisted on my hard plastic perch until Johnny grabbed my arm and said, “Really, I know you’re upset, but if you don’t stop spinning on that thing I’m going to have to kill you.”
That was all it took for me to put my head in my hands and start giggling like a mental patient. “Sorry. Is this…” I waved my hand over our food and swallowed hard. “Is this all we have money for?”
It was his turn to laugh. “No. It was all my brain could pick off that board in a pinch with everyone jostling and crowding up behind me. I was more concerned with getting back to you.”
I blew out a long shimmering sigh. “Oh.”
I had tried to gauge him since my meltdown in the car. I had tried to read his emotions to see if he had disconnected with me in any way. If he was angry or sad or done with me. All I could get at the moment was a sincere concern and a bizarre patience. I simply did not get this man. Every time I thought he’d go left, he went right. Every time I expected a two-step he did the Tango.
“Now, where in the world do you think your wallet went?”
“I don’t—“ But then I stopped. I saw it all unwind in my mind like an old movie jittering along on its reel. “I dropped my purse,” I breathed.
“When I went to the convenience store while you were asleep. I didn’t really drop it, though—“
“Let me guess. Someone bumped you?”
I nodded. My face flooded with heat. I felt so fucking stupid. “He bumped me and everything spilled out.”
“And then he helped you pick it all up,” he sighed. “Like a gentleman.”
I snorted. “A gentleman with sticky fingers. I am so stupid.”
“No, you are an average person who wouldn’t think that way until it’s happened to them. He snagged the wallet when he was helping you.”
I sipped the soda and took a fry. How fucking gullible was I?
“Look, Really,” he said, taking my hand. “I know how you feel about anyone at home knowing where you are.”
I couldn’t stop staring at his fingers grasping mine. He was touching me. He didn’t seem to hate me so far. Weird.
“But I think you need to report it because of your driver’s license and all that shit.”
“What?” I was so fucking tired. I felt slow and muddy headed.
“I think we should report the theft because of your ID—“
“Oh!” I said. The light bulb had finally gone on.
I grabbed my purse and dug and dug. After all this shit, I was getting a smaller purse. And then I was going to staple it to myself so this would never happen again. “He didn’t,” I sighed. Relief flooded me and I felt weak.
I waved a small green pouch at him and smiled. “ID, my one credit card and…” I opened it up and rifled through it. “About one hundred and eighty dollars.”
“What’s that?” he was half smiling, half laughing.
“My change purse.”
“And a platinum card and almost two bills is your change?”
“It’s easier when I go shopping to slip this into— never mind. You know as well as I do that less than two hundred dollars won’t do shit.”
“But I have money. My last few paychecks went right in an envelope. My rent was so low it was almost a joke. And a big strapping strong-like-bull man like me can pick up day to day work along the way if need be.” He winked. “Between us, we might get to California. And then…” He smiled.
“We work. Have you heard of that before?”
I considered throwing my change purse at him, but remembered that I had unleashed on him to the Nth degree and he was still sitting here with me. He had taken it like a man, and though we hadn’t discussed it, he wasn’t headed for the door. Or punishing me with silence.
“I have, actually. Not that you’d believe me. But still—we have what? Maybe a few hundred bucks.”
“And a platinum card,” he said.
I blinked. “Nope. No, no, no. Consider that thing no more valuable than the plastic it’s made out of. I won’t use it.”
I was my own person. I was free to go and no one was chasing me down. Dad had shown no interest—much to my somewhat pained shock when we got down to brass tacks. Jackson was leaving me be. I might be on my own but the thought of using that card as a crutch gave me an ache in my chest.
I could feel the tightness in my jaw, the tension there as I stared at him. He reached out and touched my face, brushed my bangs out of my eyes and said. “Okay, that’s fine.”
“But we do have it. Just in case.”
Just in case hell freezes over…
Johnny smiled and then coughed. And then he coughed again. Before long I was pushing my soda to him and making him drink.
“I’m sure I’m fine,” he said. “Just a tickle in my throat. From eating all that crow,” he said.
I winced. “Yeah, about that—“
“Don’t’ say another word, Snowflake. I deserved it, both barrels and all.”
And then he coughed again.
In the car, we merged back onto the highway and I pushed my head against the cool glass. The watercolor world swept by as Johnny headed us toward Nebraska. I had never been to Nebraska. Knew nothing of Nebraska. Knew very little about the meandering route we were traveling. Each mile brought me closer to the man beside me, each mile marker brought me a touch closer to the Aurelia I was searching for. Each state put some distance between the me I did not want any more. The life that seemed to be drowning me.
I watched anonymous houses and buildings, I watched jersey walls and highway sound barriers, I looked into opens skies and I shut my eyes to the sound of Johnny beating his thumb on the steering wheel.
He didn’t hate me. I had told him the truth and he didn’t hate me. I hadn’t crushed, dented or mangled him. I had not broken his heart or his spirit. I had told him the truth and he was still standing. He was still talking to me. If anything, we seemed more in synch.
I had never experienced it before. I had heard of it, but thought it was the bullshit romance novels and chick flicks were made of. But no, it seemed to be true. And now that I was experiencing this strange symbiosis—I was terrified. Scared to breathe or fuck it up. I was a woman balancing a tray of China, maneuvering a floor scattered with marbles. The wrong move and I could fall on my ass and all the fragile beauty I was just starting to see could come crashing down around me.
“Go to sleep, Really,” he said, patting my leg. “I can tell you’re whipped.”
“Whipped,” I laughed. “You wish.” But my eyes started to drift.
“We’ll see. Maybe if you’re good,” Johnny said.
My stomach rolled, my body warmed, inside of me delicate hidden muscles flexed with arousal. Because what had jumped vividly into my mind was the worn, thick swath of leather he called a belt. And what it was like to see him yank it from the belt loops of those faded Levi’s.
fabulous change purse here. But YOU need to fill it. two hundred dollars and platinum card NOT included :)