Sunday, October 11, 2015

Besame Mucho

The run-down blue trailer house at the end of Chismville Place was just as ugly as I remembered it.  It got bigger and uglier as I rumbled my way down the rocky dirt road toward it. It was still the same unappealing blue-grey, with a rusty brown patina creeping up from the bottom. The unvarnished wooden porch looked half-rotted from too many rains.  I was sure the patio furniture sitting on it was still draped with spider webs and coated with dirt and muddy paw prints from Drake's mother's enormous black Labrador, Lucy. The garage door was still missing, leaving the array of power tools, piles of abandoned lumber and the fat punching bag hanging from the ceiling visible from the road.  The open back yard was dotted with a broken down old car, a dilapidated tool shed, and a huge pavilion with an RV parked underneath it.

            I smiled at the sight of the RV.  Just a few years ago, when Drake still lived at home, he and I had decided to play a little outside. Drake just finished  painstakingly tying me up with his one uninjured hand and was forced to cut them with the scissors in his back pocket when he got a text. He had shoved me through the door of the RV in a panic, hitting me in the face with my clothes before he tossed the door shut.  After his dad had left, he told me how he was so terrified his dad might notice my shoes, which had been left on the steps of the RV.

That was one of my few fond memories of this house on the outskirts of Greenwood, past the hayfields and the strangely out-of-place housing addition and the manmade lake full of dead trees spiking up out of the water like pale brown daggers.  I had made the trip out here so often that I made the trip on autopilot, without really paying attention to where I was going and still did even after nearly a year of not driving out this way.

            Frank Sinatra's I've Got You Under My Skin came ominously out of my speakers while I made my way down the road.  I laughed a little at the strangely appropriate song.  He was under my skin, and here I was, driving out to the middle of nowhere to confront my faithless ex in spite of that warning voice Old Blue Eyes talked about in his song.  I liked listening to the smooth crooning voices of singers from that time long before me, back when men were men and weren't such cowards.


            Around Christmas of the previous year, less than two months after our second anniversary, Drake had run out on me without a word.  I'd come home to our apartment from my job at the library to find half of his things gone.  Calling him had been useless as his phone service had been turned off.  The only reason I hadn't called the cops was because he'd taken his things.   He'd dropped the Mustang at his parents' house here on Chismville and taken their old blue '95 Ford Escort to move up north. I had only learned where he'd gone and that he'd left his car when I had taken the rest of his things to his parents…well, the stuff I hadn't burned or sold.

            His parents were as baffled as to why he had left as I was.  His dad said he'd told him to sell the Mustang and just took off.  They had told me that he had taken the time to transfer his job to Minnesota, so I knew he had planned to leave me.  That hurt the most, I think. Being told that he loved me while he was actively planning to leave.  I should have known. For the last several months of our relationship, he'd gotten increasingly more distant.  He had gotten angry over the most trivial things and would ignore me for days. In those last few months, he'd started drinking again, and I would often find him camped out in the living room, sitting in his ugly green recliner with a bottle of Blue Moon surgically attached to his hand while he watched DVDs of UFC fights and King of the Hill

            When my friend Melinda had told me a week ago he was back in town, had been back in town for months, all of that pain had come flooding out from behind the partition I had jammed all things dealing with Drake behind.  For past week, I had paced the kitchen floor, trying to decide what I would do.  Maybe I should have done nothing.  Maybe I should have left it all alone.

            And yet, now, as I got ever closer to his house, I found myself wondering about what it would be like to have him back. Even though his appearance had changed--or so I'd been told. I had not seen it yet for myself--I felt, given my previous addiction to him, that I could ignore that. I mean, perhaps it wouldn't matter that he'd changed from the thing that had drawn me so. Perhaps, he would still be that drug my body needed so badly.

            My stomach clenched as I drove up and noticed that Drake was already outside.  He was bent under the hood of his black 2008 Mustang that rested under the small sheet metal carport perched on cinder blocks over the car.  Because the metal on one side of the carport was longer than the other, all I could see were his legs leaning against the fender. A salmon pink grease rag dangled out of the back pocket of the pair of black Dickies he wore.  He didn't look up from his work until I'd managed to pull up behind the Mustang and climb out of my truck, throwing the old door shut with a slam.

            There was a loud thump followed by a "Shit!"

            He walked around the side of the car, wincing a little as he wiped his hands off on the grease rag…which he promptly dropped when he saw me.  If my purse hadn't been slung over my shoulder by a strap, I might have dropped it too.  He looked so…different.  Sure, Melinda had told me that he'd changed, but, I guess I hadn't really believed it.  It had only been about nine months since I had seen him last, but clearly even that small span of time could wreak havoc on a body.



            He gave me a quick onceover with his dark brown eyes, the awkward feelings plastered across his face.  "You look…good."

            I gave him a similar inspection and let out a nervous giggle. "You look…fat."

I covered my mouth, trying not to let the awkward laughter out. He just didn't look a thing like I remembered.  Nine months ago, he'd been reasonably fit. He'd still had a small pooch of a stomach and his chest hadn't been particularly toned, but now he'd developed a bit of a potbelly and his chest was far more generously padded beneath the black-grey mechanic's shirt from Walmart Tire and Lube. Where he hadn't outweighed me before, he certainly did now. His black hair was shaggy and unkempt, and at some point he had clearly stopped shaving the unibrow that now sat low on his forehead like a plump caterpillar.  Thankfully, he still had the beard, the one familiar feature that kept him from being totally foreign and repulsive, although, coupled with the unibrow, it did give him more of a Neanderthal-esque  appearance.

            He glared at me, and, as the unibrow lowered sternly, I had to fight the giggles again.

            "Was that necessary?" he said.

            I laughed. "Well, it's better than what I wanted to say, but I didn't figure that you'd want to stand here for the hour or two it would take me to say it, and I'm not quite that mean."

            He looked at the ground.  

            "I figured I would do what you couldn't scrounge up the balls to do…that, and after hearing that you'd found the weight I lost, I felt the need to bask in your glorious weight gain." The words came out strong, but my heart was pounding so hard against my chest, I felt like it was trying to beat its way out of my rib cage.  I thought it would feel good to say that to him.  Lord knew I had thought up worse insults to hurl at him, but even that little dig had me worried about whether I'd hurt him.

            Drake plucked the grease rag off the ground and started walking to the house. "If we're going to do this, I guess you might as well come in."

I followed him up the gravel driveway through the garage. As soon as we walked into the garage, half a dozen tabby kittens scattered and dived into the nearest hiding places.  He kicked boards and tools out of the way to make a more acceptable path. The sound of startled kittens thumping against boxes and boards followed each swipe of his foot.  He stopped at the fridge sitting beside the door into the house and pulled a bottle of Blue Moon out of it.

            "Want something?" he said, looking back at me.

            "No, I'm good." I knew he usually had water and soda in the fridge too, but I was too nervous to bother.

            I followed him through the door and past the half-finished construction on the master bath that had been half-finished for as long as I'd known him.  The wall to the right wasn't even a wall at this point, just a few support beams and more lumber lain at weird angles on the floor.  A large stall shower with dark grey tiles had been installed, but was still unfinished. That had been here for the last two years as well.

            The kitchen was still as I remembered it, dimly lit and dirty. A mountain of dishes sat next to the double sink, one side spilling into the sink like an avalanche so it was impossible to tell if the chaotic pile was clean or dirty.  Cobwebs filled the window and dangled from the light above the sink, and I saw a few ants scurrying across the counter.  The dining room table on the far side of the counter was piled with broken appliances, boxes of papers, and a fair amount of dust. Yep, just like I remembered.

            I heard Drake pop the top off the beer and toss it into a trash can brimming with soda cans and crusted TV dinner trays sitting next to the entry way into the living room.  He slumped into right of the two recliners pointed at the forty-inch flat screen TV against the partition wall separating the living room from the kitchen and took a pull from the beer. 

"Have a seat," he said, and I obediently perched myself lightly on the end of couch that sat next to his recliner and sat my purse beside me.

            "Back on the bottle, then?" I said, eyeing it as he took another swig.  Drake had always been a bit of an alcoholic, but occasionally he would stop drinking to work on his fitness...or that's what he would tell me. 

            He cut me another look.  "How did you find out I was back in town?"

            "A friend of mine used to work at your store.  She said you used to creep on her when she worked there."

            Drake sat up, sitting the bottle on the end table between the recliners a little more forcefully than necessary. "I did not 'creep' on Melinda."

            I laughed a little. "See, now, that just makes it seem like you did, since you clearly know who I'm talking about." 

            He rubbed his eyes.  "What did she say?"

            I smirked. "She said you were distastefully arrogant, exceptionally creepy, and that you looked like you hadn't entered a gym a day in your life. Now, the first is true and always has been. The last I can believe now that I've seen you for myself.  Let yourself go in the icy reaches of Minnesota, did you?"

            His jaw ticked.  "Too cold to move in that shitty place."

            I scooted back to lean against the back of the couch.  "The creepy part, now that was new to me.  You never struck me as a creepy, but you never struck me as a lot of things." I fiddled with the hem of my shirt, trying to force out what I wanted to say next.  It was hard.  Saying things to him had always been hard.  It had been so easy to just to cuddle up against him and be quiet for hours.  The only thing allowing me to do this now was the sarcasm. As long as I could be sarcastic and he didn't make me feel bad, I could do this.

            He watched me for several moments as I nervously picked at my clothes, plucking minuscule balls of lint from the fabric.

            "Why are you here, Sam?" he said, finally.

            "I just wanna talk.  You didn't really think I wouldn't show up, did you?"

            "I didn't think you'd find me.  You don't go anywhere, let alone Greenwood.  I had to lend you my TomTom the first time you came here, remember?"

            "You go enough places for the both of us."

            We stared at each other for a moment.

            "Was she worth it?"

            He shook his head as if to clear it.  "What?"

            "Was she worth it? That Emily girl?"

            "What? How do you know about..,"

            "I used to see her name on your phone.  I think I first noticed it that first Thanksgiving at your Nana's house. I imagine you've been texting her the whole time we were together.  When you sent us both the same picture after your surgery and I replied to both of you by mistake, she replied to me.  I did a search on her number.  Came back as a Minnesota area code."

            Drake shot up out of his chair and sped back down the hall that led to the garage.  I sat there for a moment, wondering if the back door would open and close a second time or if he'd just ditched the question like he'd ditched me.  Finally, I got up and followed him out to the garage. He was standing there, a couple of kittens pawing at his shoes while he chugged another bottle of beer. I thought about the half empty one still sitting on the table by the recliner.

            "You running away again?" I said, leaning against the doorframe.

            The kittens bolted as he turned to look at me. 

            "I…" he started then took a drink from his new bottle.  He looked around a bit as if he couldn't find words or he was calculating just what to say.  He wouldn't look at me.

            "The one you have in the living room isn't empty."

            "What do you care about that?"

            "You know, Drake? I wish I didn't care. I wish I didn't give a damn about you or what you thought or why you left, but apparently I'm too much of a masochist, so you could at least do me the courtesy of telling me what the fuck happened."

            He took another drink and looked out at the yard, one fist on his hip.

            "What I did was cowardly," he began again, speaking very carefully. "I admit it. It's something I'm far from proud of. I regret not being a stronger person, not telling you when things started to go wrong. I regret everything you had to go through because of me. It's what made me want to change.  And I have changed.  I had a lot of time to think things over up there." He turned away from me, keeping his gaze on the label of his bottle.  "I thought a lot about how to apologize, but there are honestly no words that came to me, which is why I never sought you out when I came back.  All I can say is, I'm sorry for not being a better person to you, and I know that doesn't cut it. I know it doesn't make up for all of my crap those last several months.  If I could truly make all your pain go away, I would. I'm sorry for everything."

            It was a speech. I knew it was a speech, carefully crafted over the months since he'd been back or even since he left. It sounded about as real as that katana he had hanging over his bed in his room. I guess I couldn't blame him for it. It wasn't like I hadn't practiced a number of things to say to him during his absence, although mine were admittedly more vulgar.  

            "Why did you leave? What went wrong?  What was it that broke us?"  I said quietly, looking at the back of his head. It was the question that had been burning in my mind for the last nine months ever since I'd walked into my living room looking as if it had been robbed.  I had wondered what I had done wrong. What I had done to make him leave. I wished I had known how to fix it then. I wished he hadn't slowly drifted away when I would have done anything he wanted, just to make things good again. I would have done anything he wanted anyway, just to make him happy. All I wanted to do was make him happy. I guess I thought that if he was happy, I would somehow magically become happy too, even without the things I needed.  I thought I had given him what he wanted, the obedience he demanded when we decided to be together. 

            It bothered me that I didn't know why.  I needed to know why, to know how to fix the problem so it wouldn't happen again.

            He sighed, and I heard him take another drink. "I guess the answer to all of that is me. I got so sick of being me that I started losing everything that was important to me. I was falling out of touch with the things that did make me happy and I had to change that.  I took the first opportunity to do that that came my way.  Obviously, I didn't exactly do it right. I lost who I was and what mattered.  And I lost you."

            "I'm guessing Emily didn't workout?"

            He flinched. "We didn't do anything. She lived two hours away from where I ended up."

            "So…you left me for no reason." 

             "I had to get away, Sam.  From all of this, from this house, from this town."

            "From me? You were in my house in another town. You were away.  And now you're back, so you really did leave me for no reason."

"You deserve someone much better than me anyway and it appears as if you've found that.  I hear you're with Dale Shackelford now?"

            I left this time, walking back through the house to the couch, putting my purse in my lap. Drake followed, standing uncomfortably close, hovering over me where I sat.  

"It didn't work out," I said.

            "No?" he said, warily.

            "No.  It never got started." Dale had been a liar on a far greater scale than Drake had ever been. Drake was just deluded. Dale had been malicious. Fortunately, I'd never gotten past the negotiation stage with Dale.

            Drake sat back down and was silent for a bit. 

            "So…you're not with anyone?" He had a very strange look on his face. I recoiled slightly.

            "I haven't been with anyone since you left.  You've got me beat though.  First Emily, and  now I hear you're with some Meghan woman?"

            He grimaced.  "You're more well-connected than I thought."

            I shrugged. "You know Arkansas. It's one big small town."

            We sat there in another awkward silence, looking around the room. He took another swig of his beer.  I noticed that he still had the tan line from my ring on his finger.  I decided not to ask about it.  I wanted to know what he had done with it.  I can't imagine a personally inscribed ring would sell as easily as I had sold all the jewelry he had bought me over the course of our relationship. Asking about it would just make this all more awkward.

Eventually, I reached out and took the beer from him and took a pull from it.  I winced at the bitter taste. This must have been what piss tasted like.  Drake looked at me like I'd grown a second head.

"I thought you didn't like beer."

"I don't. But I'll be damned if you're going to have something to do while I sit here appraising your carpet."

He frowned and plucked the bottle from my hand.  I didn't bother to resist.  He sat it down next to his other one.

"Sam?" he said, looking back to me.


"Do you ever wonder what would happen—"

"—if we got back together?"

He looked at the floor this time.

"Why do you even ask me that? You have a girlfriend."

"I'm not happy. You're supposed to be best friends with your girl, you know? But she's been around a while now. Stays here all the time.  I don't feel that with her. Now she's just the bitch I live with."

I blinked.  "Well, why in the world are you looking at me? It's not like we were best friends either.  We barely spoke. Mostly we just laid around watching TV." 

"Yeah, well, I was a fuck up. That doesn't mean we couldn't fix it."

I knew at that statement I could have him.  He would walk away from the other woman and we could start something new.  He wouldn't have said it if he weren't willing.  For a moment, I seriously thought about it. Even the memories of things I might not have been so in love with at the time, I still remembered them fondly. There had been good moments.  I remembered cuddling with him in silence, sleeping on his chest and breathing in his scent while he watched some stupid cartoon that I was never in a position to be able to see myself. I remembered those small intimate moments where he would share pieces of himself and call me something sweet. He so rarely called me something sweet that I relished those moments every time the words fell from his lips. I remembered how his was the first kiss that ever engaged me. To this day, he was the only one who'd been able to turn me on with a kiss.

 But I thought about what he said about having become a new man, and then I thought about all of the construction in the house and how it remained unfinished. It would likely never be finished. He would likely never be finished. He would never change enough to be something good and new.  He would never be one of those men from my songs. He would never be a Frankie or a Dino.

"I wish we would have worked.  I wish I could have made you happy.  I wish I could have been what you needed, that you could have been what I needed.  I wish we could have parted on terms that would allow us to be together again, but, honestly?  You're right. You are a fuck up. You didn't want to fix it then. I don't see how you could now. My family hates you. And, honestly? I don't know that I believe you're not still a jackass."

               I looked past his chair through the dingy translucent curtains to see a dog run through the yard.  I felt empty, tired. I'm not sure what I wanted from coming here.  I mostly wanted to know why, and I figured I had earned the right to be a horrible person and mock him for his failings, but the desire to mock him had faded when presented with the flesh and blood man.  Despite his toxicity and his physical changes, I still loved him.  I would likely always love him at least a little bit.  He'd been my first everything, my first love, my first lover…As bad as it had gotten and as bad as it ended, something still drew me to the alcoholic jerk.  I didn't know what it was and probably never would.  I had my apology, my reasons, my little revenge in calling him fat.  He'd even given me the opportunity to get what I really wanted.  I guess that was all I could really hope for. 

              For months, I had imagined how this confrontation would go.  I had concocted a number of insults, penned speeches telling him just how worthless he was and how horrible he was to me.  I was going to tell him everything that was wrong with him and how he never deserved to have a good woman again.  It all seemed pointless now.  I didn't have it in me to degrade him, to insult him as ferociously as I had done in my fantasies of this moment.  He was still a liar, but I would let him lie.  It had always been easier to let him lie than to get the truth from him.  I'd never been much for confronting him.  That I'd done all of this was a miracle.

            A light touch of my shoulder startled me out of my reverie.  Drake was standing next to me, holding a stereo remote in his hand.  He held out the empty one toward me. I took it instinctively.

            "Okay, so we can't fix it, but maybe we could patch it a little? I have changed, even if you don't believe it. I don't want this stay as broken as I left it."

            "Why should I believe that? You'd have left it in pieces on the floor if I hadn't come today."

            "Come on, Sammy. Just one little taste of the old days? I know you think I'm asshole, but what could it hurt?"

            A lot of things, but it wasn't in me to deny him. It never had been. I wanted the taste that he offered. I wanted the whole damn thing, but I couldn't do it. Not again. I let him help me off the couch and he turned on the stereo in the cabinet below the TV.  The first notes of Dean Martin's Besame Mucho floated around the room.  It was the CD I had bought him for his birthday our first year together.  I could remember dancing in the kitchen to this song that night, the first cake I'd ever baked sitting half-eaten on the kitchen table. The ridiculous amount of sparkler candles I had jokingly put on the cake had lit up the dark little kitchen and even burned us a couple times.

Drake put his arm around my waist, and I leaned into his chest.  We danced around the coffee table for a few brief, pleasant minutes to that velvety voice.  And as we danced, I said goodbye to my past and to him, drinking in the scent of Irish Spring, Playboy cologne, and auto grease for the very last time.  

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked


  1. I had a feeling all along that she wouldn't get back together with him. Good choice, me thinks. Sometimes things are over for a reason...

    Rebel xox

    1. Damn good choice, I think. But, I'm biased. And I know him. ;)

  2. I definitely agree with Rebel. Some things are over for a reason...

  3. This did have an inevitability to it(thankfully), reading it, it didn;t feel like I was hearing from a woman who wanted to go back, but a woman making peace with the past.

    Flip xx