Teeth

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Chapter 12 - Coming Clean

March 1992

The next best lie I ever told was that —I was free. I could do what I wanted when I wanted. I didn’t answer to anyone.

“You have to get tested for VD,” I tell my husband over the phone.

“What?” Chuck asks from .

“The Ob-Gyn ran some tests… said I had to because I’m pregnant, and he found out I have Chlamydia. You need to get treated for it.”

“How d’you get Chlamydia?”

“The doc said I could have gotten it a long time ago. I’ve never been tested.”

“When did’ja get it?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never been tested. Probably sometime after high school. Just go to your medical officer there and get treated.”

“I’ll go,” he grunts. He knows. “How’re ya doin’?”

“Good, except for this.”

“How’s the baby?”

“Kicking my guts out.”

He tries to laugh.

“I only get a few minutes, and I won’t be able to call for the next few days. I’ll call when I get to the base,” Chuck says.

“Okay, I love you,” I say.

The line goes dead. I can’t breathe. As the dial tone begins to hum, I bury my thick, nail-bitten fingers into my cropped blond hair, crush my eyes shut, and try to breathe.

Chuck and I are pregnant. It’s his; I’ve done the math over and over again in my mind since I peed on the little home pregnancy test strip and it came up positive. The Chlamydia isn’t his. My husband came home for emergency leave in December when I begged him to come for just a little while. I told him that I was mugged on the beach in . His commanding officer gave him leave, and I made love to him every night while he was home. The home pregnancy test stick turned blue at the end of December. My due date is September19th. The military doctor has gotten tired of me asking if he is sure about the due date. Now when he enters the room for my checkup, he starts with,

“Your due date is September 19th, so let’s see how that baby is growing, shall we?”

I am sure it is Chuck’s baby. It has to be.

I’ve lied so much since all this began that I can’t remember the truth anymore, so I hold on to this one truth that the doctor confirms. The baby is his, or at least it isn’t Sarge’s.

Chuck calls every day from Okinawa to check on me, and he’s due home again in five days.

I avoid home except to talk to him on the phone. He is the only reason I’m still in Hawaii. Waikiki is always open and busy, even at four o’clock in the morning, so I never have to go home. When I do take a cab back to my apartment, I knock on the neighbors’ door so they know I’m home, following my husband’s request. To make him feel better about having to go back to Okinawa, he made an arrangement with our neighbors to watch out for me. I call him Grunt. I don’t know his wife’s name, and I really don’t want to.

I quit my job at the engraving shop on base in order to avoid people I know. During the day, I go to the beach in Waikiki. It’s like a parking lot for brownish bodies—mere inches separating them. Tourists flood the bright beaches, so I blend in. No one asks questions there, and I don’t have to answer any. Most of the tourists are concerned with enjoying their vacations, and not much more. Mixed drinks with umbrellas adorn the beach side café tables. Moms and their children build sandcastles and relationships that will eventually wash away with the tide. The children swimming in the ocean splash and play while all I think of are the sharks swimming, feeling those vibrations, contemplating which morsel seems the tastiest. I never wear a bathing suit.

I have a farmer’s tan from coming to the beach dressed in a t-shirt and long, blue jean shorts.

I usually read while I lie there on the beach listening to the tourists,

“If you don’t get out of that water right now, Katie, I’m going to come in there after you!”

“Daddy said I could,” and Katie swims a little further out while mom contemplates whether to make her authority more important than her husband’s or to risk messing up her hair to chase her kid down. Katie’s mom looks at her oblivious husband and then sits back down on her towel to wait for her daughter’s exhaustion to lead her back to her mother.

I try to forget my mom and my life by listening to the conversations around me. I have tried drawing with charcoal a few times instead of reading and eavesdropping. Once using almost an entire crayon on one drawing, I decided that was not the most economical outlet for me—or a very productive one. I‘d start with drawing a palm tree on a beach for my grandma so she could see where I live. While attempting the palm leaves, the picture changed to sharp points digging into the sea or sand. I would draw a flower, and the petals would turn into sharp teeth. My charcoal would be worn completely down and the picture would be black. I never finished a drawing.

Now when I am at the beach, I sit, read, listen to the minutia of other people’s lives, and try to forget. I used to read romances, before. Jude Deveraux’s books about strong and emotional women fighting for their love inspired me to look for some man who was honorable and always there to save the day. Her books gave me hope. Now, I read joke books or mystery novels—not a stretch really. Romance is a joke. Honorable men don’t exist. I have to save my own skin. I used to read the Bible, before. Somewhere there’s a passage about a time to heal and a time for peace. I haven’t found any of that here, so the Bible seems to fall into that joke book category. I know there is a passage in that particular joke book about judging others. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been. People always think the worst. They judge before they know anything about me. The families around me try to ignore my presence for the most part. They don’t consider me, other than a girl in shorts, a t-shirt, socks, and flip-flops looks out of place on the beach.

I always do find someone as out of place as myself to talk to at the beach. And if I don’t find someone at the beach, I can find someone in one of the bars along the beach. Because I am already heavy, at two months into my pregnancy, I show a little, but not much. There is always some smiling guy sitting by himself on the beach or at the bar, looking at the slim and trim beach bunnies and unsuccessfully trying to gain their attention. When he can’t, and he rubs his bottle in his hands, empty and dry, I’m a friendly convenience sitting next to him; and just like a genie’s gift, I have a safe place to stay for the night, and he has comforting arms to hold him.

Whatshisname starts the conversation with, “Are you on vacation?”

“Yes, and you?” I ask.

“I’m here for...” insert business, vacation, with my family.

“That’s nice. Where’re you from?” I ask, and he answers with some city from some mainland state, usually.

“Where do you live?” he asks.

“,” I reply.

“I thought I heard a Southern accent. How long is your stay?”

“I have two more days,” I lie.

“What have you done in ?”

This is where I insert all the touristy things that most people do on vacation. The list varies, but I always end with, “and the thing I want to do that I haven’t done yet is make love on the beach.”

That statement usually either chases the guys away, about one in seven. The other six move just a little closer.

The conversation varies at this point, but it generally ends the next morning with, “Can I call you a cab?”

“That would be great, yeah,” I say.

“Can I call you tonight?” he asks.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

“Why not?”

“I have to spend some time with my family,” I lie.

“Your family? Are you married?” he asks finally after the alcohol has left and he remembers how that might have been a good question to start with the day before.

“No, no. My mom and dad.”

“How old are you?” he asks as I laugh inside at his panic.

“Seventeen.”

At this point the guy of the moment can’t wait to get me out of his hotel room or into a cab from the beach.

I come home every morning. Chuck calls every morning at 09:00. At 10:00, I’m at the beach again hunting for another safe barn to hide in while the tornado passes.

Sometimes when I can’t stand the thought of a pathetic tourist encounter, I ride the bus for hours to go to the North Shore to watch the surfers. They are strong and alive, and they are free. They have their own community, their own language, their own beliefs. I can never be a part of them, but I’m used to being alone in a crowd. I can’t surf, and I don’t speak their language—or smoke weed. But every so often, one will look my way out of curiosity. I’m like a novelty for the freaks in a freak show. The conversation is different at the .

He asks in his pidgin, “Who are you. A hauli or da kine.”

I love pidgin. The sound is musical. The questions are always answers, and the answers questions. Hawaiian pidgin speakers are the wisest people. They know their answers are never the only answer.

“Yeah,” I smile and admit the ultimate fault.

“How long you here for.”

“Two days.”

“What do you stay here for.”

“I’m watching. Surfers are amazing.”

“You want to see good surfing.”

“Yeah.”

“Watch dis?” he speaks the last as he grabs his board and heads for the surf. He paddles past the breaking surf and waits. Ten minutes later he glides along a wave, twisting and turning. He rides it nearly to the beach and steps off his board as though he was simply taking a step onto solid ground, graceful and perfect.

“You’re good, the best I’ve seen,” I say as he returns for his praise, which I lavish upon him.

“Cool,” he says, trying to keep from showing how the praise makes him feel. “What are you doing latah.”

“Nothing really.”

“Want to hang out here for a while. We’re having a party latah?” he says.

“Sounds good,” I say as he picks up his board and heads back to his friends. Like a quarterback’s girlfriend at the state championship game, as long as I stay where I am, he will come to me when he’s not busy and wants to talk. I can’t walk over to him and his friends, or everyone will leave. So, I sit like a good anthropologist, and try not to scare the natives.

Later, I smoke cigarettes while Shaka and his friends get high. After the midnight toking, I’m suddenly part of the group. These are the nights that I usually end up finding my own ride home.

“You want Spaz to take you home,” he asks.

“No. I got it,” I say.

“Shaka sista.” That’s pidgin for “thanks for the sex.”

“Goodnight,” I say as I climb into the cab that returns me to my apartment.

I don’t hang out with surfers too often. It’s too much trouble. I have to make sure I never see the same guys, and surfers have territory and habits. Despite the weakness and pathetic predictability, Waikiki tourists are best.


Three days until I see my husband again.

The blaring noise from the receiver still pressed to my ear from Chuck’s call brings me back to my life. I wipe at the tear that managed to escape and find its way to my chin. It’s all I can do. Hard and cold is what I need. I hang up the phone, grab my stuff, and head for the door. Only five more days of this. I pull open my front door.

“Su-gar, long time… no see,” Sarge’s teeth grin at me as his stormy eyes take chunks out of my flesh.

“What are you doing here?” I ask trying to keep my throat from closing on the words, and I back up.

“I missed my girl,” he says this as he presses his body into my doorway.

“I’m not your girl,” and I fall back into the kitchen where I know there are knives, a frying pan, a rolling pin in the drawer. I might not make it. My baby might not make it. I push myself hard with everything I have and grab a butcher’s knife out of the blick on my counter.

He looks at it. “Aww, sugar, now you’re still not holding that night on the beach against me are ya?” He is too strong and he probably knows how to take a knife away.

“Fuck you!” I yell at the top of my lungs. He flinches and looks behind him as the door opens to my neighbor’s apartment.

“What’s going on in here?” Grunt’s wife asks as she steps onto her porch and looks into my apartment.

Grunt’s pregnant, condescending wife, the blessed virgin—holier than me, and always will be—stands staring down the shark that has been circling for months. She’s fearless. Grunt cannot possibly have ever banged his psychotically uptight wife. But at the moment, I exhale and thank God he sent the pregnant virgin to watch over me. I hate her even more for needing her.

“Sarge was just leaving, for good,” I reply to the question as I shove the startled worm off balance and out of the door. He looks shocked that I would identify him aloud. So I’ve learned since that day, predators are more successful when their prey doesn’t see them coming, and they like to hunt in private. He stares down at his boots, tries to avoid the virgin’s line of sight, and slinks off to who knows where. She gives me the “look” and closes her door. As the locks turn, I step back into my apartment to gain my nerve to swim off my island and past the great white. I lock my door, push a chair up against it and sit down. I need a cigarette. I light one and wait.

After about ten minutes, I check outside my door, grab my bag and walk to the bus stop.

I sit on thumbtacks waiting for the bus. Normally, I call my mom at the payphone next to the bus stop while I wait. I never really say anything though, just small talk, another relationship washed away by the waves. Today, I can’t. I will break if I call her. I really need a cigarette and a drink.

I’d never smoked in high school. I was the good girl always doing the right thing. I went to church every Sunday, believed what my parents told me about God always protecting the ones who believed in him. I did whatever the Bible said to get to heaven and to be a good wife. Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go. Since I have descended into the lowest level of hell, I’m up to a half a pack a day, and I’m using the bible for toilet paper when I run out. Tapping a cigarette out of the pack, I switch positions again. The bus pulls around the corner just as I light the thing, and I have to snuff it out on the bottom of my shoe. After showing the driver my pass, I board the white and canary bus. The back is filled with locals, the front with soldiers on weekend leave. The locals don’t scare me like the soldiers do, so I make my way to the very back between two very huge, very angry, very tattooed, Samoan-looking men. I also don’t want to puke in front of everyone. I taste that metallic, tongue-tingling bile making its way up.

I hear the doors slide shut and the bus begins to move as I sit on the molded bench. I nearly slide off the seat when the bus suddenly stops and the doors slide open again.

Sarge gets on the bus.

I inch closer to the big guy on my right. I inch so close that he moves. No, don’t go. I need you to protect me. Too late. The Samoan is gone, and Sarge pays his fare and walks to the back of the bus. He sits down next to me.

I have to use my emergency plastic bag.

He lounges while I puke. After I finish, he smirks and says, “So, how’s my girl?”

“Kiss my ass.”

“I might like to bite it, if you bare it.”

“Right after the Devil takes up hockey.”

“So, when are you gonna tell your man about us?”

“What us?”

“Me and my baby.”

“It’s not your baby. If it were, I would’ve gotten an abortion.”

His dead eyes roll back under his protective eyelids and his thin lips pull across his sharp white teeth into a slow grin.

“It’s my baby, and I’ll prove it when it’s born. Your hubby will shove your ass onto the street, and you’ll have to come to me. You have nowhere to run, sugar”

He’s right. I have no place, no money, no protection at all right now, but I remember the eyes of the small crowd; that those eyes belong to other soldiers. I feel the sunny daylight and remember the fact that the bus is still on base. All of this makes Sarge weaker than he thinks. And I find strength.

“It’s not your baby. I got pregnant in December, and I’ll be glad for you to show up when my husband is here… and the police.” I say this last loud enough that Sarge flinches and believes me; at least for this second, I might be capable of hurting him. I saw that the big Samoan men who were working so hard to avoid a clinging, puking girl became a bit more interested in the possibility that they might get to pummel a soldier because they stood up behind Sarge. They could have just been trying to get a better view of this side show, but Sarge stopped talking, pulled the cord for the bus to stop, and got off the bus at the next stop before it left base.

I could feel the eyes of everyone on the bus. At once, my protection morphed into my judgment. I moved to the farthest corner in the back to bury my head in my hands. My hands were quivering, but no one asked. They stared. I didn’t watch out the window as I usually did as I made my way to Waikiki. I kept my head down. Nothing to see here people.

When I finally got to downtown Honolulu, the bus occupants changed a few times, and there were only one or two soldiers still on the bus who saw our confrontation. I scampered past them and their averted eyes. I chunked the bag of vomit in a dumpster as I walked to the beach. I need a drink. It’s only 11:00, but I need a drink. I’ve had to kill this taste in my mouth. I didn’t have time to wait for the bunnies to hop away and leave the dogs salivating. I needed a drink now. I’ve had five bucks for lunch, and I decided to wager my eating today on an early lucky strike and tossed sheets to the wind with a five-dollar double of Jose Quervo. Sorry bartender, no tip.

I tapped out the Marlboro red that I started earlier, flipped open my cigarette lighter, and struck the flint. The flame jumped up about an inch and a half. I don’t like waiting to die; I want it quick.

“Can I bum one of those?” a tenor voice from behind me asked. Don’t …that…feel… good…sugar? It made me jump slightly, I let myself relax. It’s not Sarge.

I stared into the mirror behind the bar reflecting the calm sea behind me as I replied to his reflection, “I’m not a rich woman. What do I get for the cigarette?”

The man who owned the tenor voice stopped short and his eyebrows rose at this reply. I guess regular people don’t extort strangers for cigarettes. He thought for a moment, and rubbed his whiskered jaw.

“How about another drink?” he replied.

“Sounds like a plan. Tequila.” I turned to him and handed him a cigarette. He ordered my drink and a Mai Tai for himself. Typical tourist. Mai Tai was about six feet tall with gorgeous dark blue eyes hiding behind dark brown frames and coke-bottle lenses. His hair used to be brown and still is underneath the sun-bleached surface. He looked local.

“Are you from around here?” he asked.

“No. Texas,”

“On vacation?”

“Yep,” I say in my most country accent.

“Are you here with anyone?”

“No. Not really. Just my family.”

“What family?” he asks.

“Mom and Dad,” I reply. This was going the wrong way. The news about my family and my “17 year” age is after I’ve gotten a night in a hotel out of him. I’ve had to hustle. “They wanted to bring me for my college graduation gift.”

“Well, congratulations!” He looked a little more interested. That’s new.

“Thanks.”

“In what field did you major?” This guy sounded and looked like a professor with his proper grammar and glasses.

What’s this guy playing at? I guessed it’s too early for sex on the beach. I scrambled in my brain to think of a major. I didn’t even know what a “major” was. I thought back to high school and just rattled off a subject I was once good at.

“English.”

“Are you going to teach?” he asked.

I hope not. I barely knew the difference between a noun and a verb. “I don’t know what I’m goin’ to do, yet,” I replied telling a piece of truth about my life mixed in with the lie.

“I know exactly how you feel.” How do I feel? “ I’ve been in your position.” Never. “It’s a hard world out there if you don’t know exactly what you want to do with your life.”

It’s still hard, plans or no plans. What does it matter? Does he know hard? I down the Tequila. “Thanks for the drink,” I say as I try to escape from the Hawaiian Aristotle.

“Hey, where are you going?” he asked startled by my sudden bolt.

“I’m goin’ to lay out in the sun and read a book. Why?” I asked.

“Well... I thought we were having a nice conversation.”

“We were, and now it’s over. I thanked you for the drink. You thanked me for the cig. We’re even. Have a nice day,” I smiled and grabbed my bag. No lunch for you today chick. I didn’t have time or patience for “real” conversations. Maybe once the guy’s had a few more Mai Tais, I’ll come back.

I wandered along the beach and found a place. The beach looked pale, almost white from far away, but sitting on the loose sand, looking closely at it, pieces of trash tourists have left were buried beneath the white surface. Bottle caps, bits of plastic from grocery store bags, even articles of clothing were buried randomly—carelessly. Where the waves lap onto the beach, the sand was marbled. Darker brown where the waves always reach, lighter brown where they sometimes manage to infiltrate, and even lighter where only the most determined waves can occasionally chase the feet of the beach dwellers. My place was just beyond that front line.

Lying on my mat, I used my bag for a pillow. The sun cooked my face as I opened my book to page 121 and read about a deranged husband stalking his wife that he thought to be dead on page 23. I felt someone watching me, and a shadow fell slightly across the page.

“Hi,” I heard the tenor voice above me.

I looked up to see Mai Tai. “Hi. What’s up?” I asked.

“Nothing. I just thought I would say hello. May I sit by you?” he asked.

“If you can find a slice of beach, sure.”

He laid his towel out next to my mat, touching it really, and sat. “What are you reading?” he asked as he lounged back on his elbows and looked over at what I’m reading.

Sleeping with the Enemy.” I noticed he held a book in his hand. “What are you reading?”

The Awakening by Kate Chopin.”

“I’ve never heard of it. Is it good?”

“It’s a classic. I’m surprised you didn’t study it in college.”

“I never said I went to Harvard.”

“Ah, well, it’s about a woman who falls in love with one man, cheats on her husband with another lover, and winds up swimming into the ocean and drowning for lack of a way out. Actually, the book doesn’t say she drowns, but I assume she does.”

“You say she swims into the ocean and drowns?”

“Yes.”

“Does she know how to swim?”

“She learns in the beginning of the story.”

“Is she a bad swimmer?”

“No,” he says.

“Then why do you think she drowns?” I ask.

“Well, Chopin writes that she is really tired and too far out from shore, and then the story ends.”

“That’s it? She ends the story with her swimming in the ocean, and you assume she dies?” I said this with a little more intensity than a casual discussion over a book should have.

Mai Tai shook his head, “It’s not just me. Many people believe that she dies.”

I tried to find a reason a woman would give up, “Is her life so hard that she had to kill herself over it? Was she poor and abused?”

“No. Her husband was wealthy. She was well cared for and treated kindly if not affectionately,” Mai Tai was remaining calm, but he looked like he was trying to find a way to escape from my sudden irrational wrath.

“So, what’s her beef?” I asked.

“She feels trapped in a world where men control everything,” he explained.

“Well, what’s new about that, and what makes her so special?”

“It’s just a story,” he cajoled.

“Well it sucks.”

“You should really read the story before you decide.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to get all riled up,” I said, smiling. “What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a teacher.”

“You teach English?”

“Yes.”

“Where at?”

“Here. In . I teach high school,” he explained.

“Really? Do you like teaching?” I asked.

“Yes. I like the kids and conversations like these.” He smiled at me.

“High school would be really hard to teach. All the bull they try to pull. I remember the students used to torture Mrs. Clark. She was my high school English teacher.”

“I actually enjoy watching their imaginations run wild, and they are fairly harmless.”

“You must be a saint.”

“Not really. If I were, I wouldn’t be drinking Mai Tais on the beach at eleven in the morning.”

I laughed. A truthful laugh. Not one reserved for too drunk tourists and their lame jokes. We talked through the next few hours, and we both got hungry around two. He bought me lunch at L&L drive-in—my favorite place. Over Chicken Catsu and macaroni salad, he told me about his career and how much he liked teaching, and I told him nothing about my truth.

At three, we walked along the strip at Waikiki. We shared laughs and talked about the tourists in their matching aloha shirts. It sounds like a cliché, but yes, people really do buy matching aloha shirts when they come to Hawaii. Something happens to tourists’ brains as soon as they land, walk into the open airport, and sniff the pineapple laden air.

Then came the question I have been waiting to hear and confirmation that I might have a safe place to stay tonight. “What are you doing later?” Mai Tai asked.

“Nothing,” I gave my stock answer.

“Would you like to take a ride to with me and see the other side of the island?”

“That sounds wonderful.” Gotcha. We made arrangements for me to “go back to my hotel, tell my parents, change my clothes” and meet back at the bar where we met this morning in an hour.

An hour later, after changing into the clothes in my bag at a McDonald’s, I arrived refreshed.

“Are you ready to go, or would you like a drink?” Mai Tai asked.

“How about a tequila for the road?” I asked Mai Tai.

“Sure. Tequila with salt and lime for the lady.”

The bartender hurried and I was thankful. After shooting the tonic, “I’m ready when you are,” I said in my sing-song voice reserved for serious flirting.

“Great. Let’s go.”

We walked to his Volkswagen Thing parked in the lot near the park.

“Cool car,” I said as I slipped into the passenger’s seat.

“Thank you.”

“It looks like a surfer’s car. Do you surf?” I asked pretending to be awed.

“Sometimes,” he replied.

Now, I know he’s not a surfer. Surfers don’t surf “sometimes.” He may be learning, but he’s no surfer. Either that, or he’s lying.

“Sometimes I surf, but most of the time I’m swimming after my board,” he explained.

I laughed.

We drove along the Pali Highway and arrived in Kailua. He turned right following Kailua Road, past Hahani Street and right into some apartments. They were two story apartments with peeling blue paint. These apartments were very familiar. I lived in them for two months when I first arrived on the island.

“Home sweet home,” Mai Tai said as he parked directly in front of his door and hurried around to my side to open the door for me.

Lying again as I get out of his Thing, I said, “This is a nice place.”

“Well, nice isn’t what I would call it, but it’s relatively cheap and convenient for me.”

I walked in behind him through his front door.

He had white wicker furniture with periwinkle blue cushions. I didn’t think men could have wicker furniture—especially white. Some law somewhere explicitly defines a bachelor’s pad as unkempt, possibly leather swathed, and absolutely free of all things feminine. Periwinkle blue is definitely feminine.

“I like your furniture,” I said.

“Thanks, but it came with the apartment. I hate it, but I don’t have the money to switch it out right now,” Mai Tai said as he goes to the fridge. “Would you like a drink?”

“Sure.”

“I’ve got Coke or Sprite.”

Not exactly the kind of drink I was needing, but, “Coke’s great.”

He pulled out two Cokes, and we drifted to the living room.

“Would you like to sit down?” he asked as he gestured toward the couch.

He put my Coke down on the coffee table, and sat across from me in the chair.

Huh?

“What would you like to do this evening?” he asked with a sweet smile.

“I don’t know. What do you wanna do?” I asked smiling and leaning forward slightly to show my cleavage.

The cleavage wasn’t lost on him, thank God. Mai Tai noticed. When he looked back at my face, he blushed slightly.

“Why are you sitting across from me?” I asked. He blushed again, and I can’t help thinking he has never been with a girl before.

“I don’t know. I just wanted to talk,” he said.

“Well, could you move closer, so I don’t have to yell?”

He grinned and moved to sit beside me. I inched closer to his side and simply looked at him. His hair was tussled like a little boy’s, and he put his thin hands on his knees, not on me. I stared at his profile, not hearing his words, until he turned his face towards me. Then, I kissed him.

He kissed me, long and sweet. I wanted more of that sweetness. He pulled back and looked at my face as I looked into his blue eyes. When our eyes connected again, he didn’t pull away. He pushed in close, wrapped his arms around my back, and pulled me so close that I start seeing Sarge’s teeth and feeling his body wrapped around mine. Mai Tai felt my panic and let up on his grasp, and I relaxed, again in control. While I kissed him, I moved my hand to his groin and rub softly. At first his back stiffened and Mai Tai tried to pull away again, but I keep rubbing just softly and kissing his sweet mouth.

He relaxed again, and I was still in control. I unzipped his pants, slid my fingers down into his BVDs, stopped kissing him, and watched as his eyes rolled back into his head. I kept caressing until he was wild for me. Mai Tai couldn’t stand it anymore, and he pulled me on top of him.

“Do you have any condoms?” I asked him.

“No. I’ve, well, I don’t keep them.”

“Hang on,” I said as I reached for my purse.

I grabbed the condoms, opened one, and slid it onto Mai Tai. He smiled and reached for me again. I climbed on him and kissed him again. He rubbed my hip and smiled. He stopped me for a moment, looked into my eyes, and told me that I was the sweetest woman he had ever known. Guys sure do like to use that line. I made love with him on the couch.


“Would you like to go to a movie?” Mai Tai asked.

“No thanks,” I said with slightly too much bitterness.

He looked confused by my attitude, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“You didn’t,” another lie. But it wasn’t his fault I’m upset.

“You sound irritated,”

“I’m not.” The denial sounded even more irritated. “I just don’t like movies—or the dark.”

“I see.” He really didn’t see. But he’s being nice, so I let him.

“Well, how about renting some videos, and we can stay here and watch them?” he suggested.

That sounded closer to the point of my charade, a safe place to stay, “Sounds like fun.”

“What would you like to watch?”

“How about Sleeping with the Enemy? I’m reading the book, and I’m anxious to see how it ends.”

“Okay. What else?”

“I don’t know. You pick.”

“Alright. Do you want to walk with me to the video store?”

“Sure.”

We stood and he allowed me to lead out of the door. I turned left and headed toward the old strip mall behind the apartment complex. He locked his door and followed me. We walked across a few parking lots and to the local video rental store. He went into the store while I waited outside, smoking. He picked up my movie and another one as I took drags off my cig. I was picking something off the tip of my tongue with my pinky and thumb when Mai Tai smiled at me through the glass door and exited the store.

“I think you’ll like the one I picked out,” he said.

I smiled. “I’m sure I will.” It’s probably a porno. I turned back toward the apartment.

“You have a good sense of direction,” he said as we walked.

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

I followed you to the video store,” Mai Tai explained.

I screwed up again. “I just saw it when we drove in.” Lame.

“Where are you really from?”

Shit.

“It’s okay. No big deal,” he said as he read the panic on my face.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

“I’m from Texas, originally,” I began. “but I’m living here for a few months.”

“With your parents?”

Shit. Back to the beach. At this point, I was losing my safe place, and I might as well just lay it all out. Like a band aid, it’s better to rip it off and put on a new one.

“No. I’m married, and my husband is in the Marine Corps.” Rip.

“So you’re not here on vacation… and you’re married,” he’s pissed and incredulous.

“Yeah, and I’ll just go on home now. Thanks for lunch and the conversation. Bye.”

I turned to walk up Oneawa to the bus stop and lit another cigarette. Exit, stage left.

“Hey!” Mai Tai called out behind me. “What about your movie?”

I turned around. I guess he don’t mind married. Too bad. He seemed like a nice guy.

“Do you still want to hang out?” I asked as I turned back.

“Come on. You have to know how the book ends, right?”

“Good point.” We walked back to his apartment, each thinking and not talking.

When we got back to his wicker furniture, Mai Tai asked, “Would you like some popcorn for the movie?”

“Okay.”

He popped some microwave popcorn and returned with it in two separate bowls.

“Thanks,” I say as he sat opposite me in his chair after putting in my movie.

“You’re welcome.”

The movie started. We didn’t say a word during the movie. He was not a talker. He didn’t have to comment about every scene. He watched me, instead of the movie. He let the story play out, and by the end, I was in shreds, crying convulsively. Mai Tai was still and confused.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“For what?” he asked.

“For not telling you the truth. You must think I’m insane.”

“Not insane, but I think you have a story that you’re not telling. Does your husband hurt you?”

His sympathy was something I had never felt before, from anyone. I wanted to explain to him. I wanted him to understand.

“My husband’s in the Marine Corps. He’s never home long enough to hurt me,” I cried out.

“Oh, is it that you miss him?”

“Yes.” That must be it. “I’m sorry. I’ll be okay in a minute.”

I cried for several minutes, but I finally sucked it up.

“Would you like to see the movie I picked out?”

“I don’t think I’m up to anything kinky,” I explained as I shifted in my seat, hugged myself with my arms, and balled up my knees and my shoeless feet onto the couch.

“It’s The Little Mermaid.”

I guffawed and, after remembering my manners, said, “Sure.”

Mai Tai put the movie in while I tried to compose myself. Almost at once, after I had my thoughts buried in the pit again, I got lost in the story. The sea witch took the mermaid’s voice. She couldn’t tell the prince that she loves him, or what is happening to her. This time my tears didn’t stop flowing.

Mai Tai was silent.

I can’t. I can’t do this anymore. “I’m not okay,” I got out.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

“Will you listen?” I asked, not sure if he will laugh, choke, or pack my shit into his car and drive me to the loony bin.

“I’ll listen.”

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