He was all lanky limbed, cowboy on the town shiny, with just a little edge of mean. She wore too much make-up, too tight jeans, acting twenty, looking forty, and feeling a hundred. He had that easy way of flirting. He threw out the lines and she caught them, smile painted on in Luscious Pink. A couple of hours later they were both nineteen again, heading out the door to his red pickup and her apartment.
There was no good reason to get up except she had to pee. She ran her hand down the empty side of the bed and found the slip of paper with her phone number on it. She picked it up and dropped it in the trashcan with the picture of Elvis on it. She added another regret to the pile already lying on her pillow. The stack of regrets, drunken pledges of love, promises to call, was big enough that old mattress ought to be sagging to the floor. She fluffed up the lacy pillows and straightened out the pink comforter.
She started the coffee and dry-swallowed a couple of aspirin. Her mouth tasted like morning-after alcohol and she could smell Old Spice and sweat on her skin. While the coffee pot worked its magic she stood in the shower washing the night before down the drain. Too many nights, bars, and men. Maybe she had been going about this all wrong. For a moment that hole in her heart opened up and it was filled with broken glass. She slammed that door shut — didn’t want to go there. She turned off the water and stepped out, dried off and used the towel to wipe the steam from the mirror that had stopped loving her a while ago. The bright light was not kind and she frowned. Maybe she should use some tips to go down to the department store and buy that red jar of age-defying moisturizer she had seen advertised.
She brushed her teeth and hair and pulled on a tee-shirt and sweats. Barefoot she imagined cooking bacon and eggs and morning laughter and quiet talk. All the things she wished for. Coffee cup in hand, she curled up on the wooden swing on her back porch, and wondered why she kept trying. The faces of all the men blurred together. They had each taken a piece of her but they had left a tiny bit of themselves behind too. Did that make her less for what was taken or more for what was left? Didn’t feel like more. If mama was alive she would have told her to get herself to church but she didn’t need a preacher to tell her she wasn’t living right. She was sitting here on the swing alone and that was enough indictment right there.
She brought the cup up to her lips and realized it was empty. Glaring at the cup, she realized she could sum up her life in that piece of china. It was crazed and cracked, a leftover from her mother; it didn’t fit her, but she didn’t know how to let it go and if she just continued the way she was going it would end up broken and useless. Wishing wouldn’t fill it up.
Standing up on the back porch, a tear ran down her cheek as she squared her shoulders and threw the cup as hard as she could. It hit the old oak tree and shattered. “Time for a change!” she thought. She went in the house and found the flyer advertising night courses at the junior college. She tugged on a pair of jeans, grabbed her purse and the flyer. It was time to do a bit of upgrading on her own life. She was going to get out of the cafe, get out of the bars, and get out of this town.
Her mama used to say if you wanted to have a friend, you had to be a friend. Maybe the same principle worked with men. You want to meet better men? Be a better woman. After she got herself registered in some business classes she just might shop for some new dishes.
Dee Martin has lived in seven states and has stories to tell about all of them.