They sat silently together on the porch. It was a pause in a longer conversation. A bit more time passed as they swung gently.
“I love this swing,” she said. “Was it here when you guys moved in?”
He looked off into the distance over the Eucalyptus.
“No,” he said as if his mind was elsewhere. “We had Jimmy Buffet’s people install it.”
She shook her head.
“You know me,” he said, “Strumming my six string, searching for my lost shaker of salt.”
“Whatever,” she said.
“You know,” he looked at her earnestly, “Some people claim that there is a woman to blame.” He laughed.
“Fuck,” she said. “Everything has to be a joke.”
“Well, you know,” he said, “It’s that New Mexican thing.”
“At this wedding once, I had to introduce my uncle,” he said.
“They said ‘Keep it short and funny.’ So I said, ‘They said keep it short and funny. This man is from New Mexico, where everyone is short and funny!’”
She looked over at him.
“That’s not funny,” she said.
“Yes. It is,” he said. “I actually had it checked out. It was funny. People laughed.”
They kept swinging.
“I don’t want to go back,” he said.
“We said we’d go back at Thanksgiving,” she said. “We should tell people there in person.”
He leaned forward and put his face in his hands.
“C’mon,” she said, and rubbed his back. “It’s not that bad.”
He just moaned. They kept swinging.
“Maybe there’s a way I can explain it,” he said and got up and walked inside. The screen door slammed.
She could hear him rummaging around. She folded her arms. Now she was contemplating talking to his mother. Their relatives.
“We’re having a baby!” she imagined saying.
She could see them sitting on a couch looking at the two of them.
“Que dice?” Grandma would say.
“Estan comprando un niño, mama,” an aunt would say.
“No, no,” he’d say. “We’re not buying a baby. We’re having one. She’s pregnant.”
“Who’s the father,” an uncle would ask.
Awkward. He’d grab her hand.
“I am the father!” he’d say proudly.
“Bueno, Darth Vader,” the uncle would say making the sign of the cross.
Then the uncle would burst into laughter.
“Now that is funny,” she thought.
The screen door opened and slammed shut, stopping her reverie.
“You guys have to fix that door,” she said.
He took his place next to her on the swing. He was holding a narrow and thin book with the word “Record” stamped in stationary-store gold in the front.
“Are we going to balance your check book?,” she asked.
“Fuck you,” he said. She laughed pretty hard now. She touched his hair but her laughter built.
“I’m not going to share this shit with you,” he said.
“Ok,” she said. “I’m sorry. I’m just thinking about how they’re going to react.”
“Yeah,” he said. “It’s going to be hilarious.”
“What’s in the book,?” she asked.
“It’s a diary I kept when I was in high school,” he said. “I was looking at it the other day.”
“And it explains why you don’t want to go back there?”
“Well,” he hesitated, “I burned that bridge. I had to. I was done with the place.”
He hadn’t been back since he left for college. He hadn’t spoken to anyone there, including his parents since he left.
“I know,” she said. “But we agreed, right, at least for her.”
“Her?” he said, “We don’t know that yet.”
“I do,” she said.
“Ok,” he said. “Read some of this.”
He gave her the book and pointed to a page. She started to read out loud.
“I have succeeded in removing every threat to my safety. I am safe. I am alone but I am safe. I am in control. There is power in this realization.”
“How old were you here?” she asked. “This sounds like Scarface.”
He grabbed the book back.
“Sixteen,” he said. “That was sixteen.”
“I’m sorry, honey,” she said getting close to him. “I know. You’re angry. You deserve to be. We both are angry, and we should be.”
She put her arms around him. She pressed her forehead to his. They looked into each other’s eyes.
“I see the doorway to a thousand churches,” he said.
“The resolution of all the fruitless searches,” she said back.
He pulled away.
“I’d drive around that town and listen to that over, and over again,” he said.
She took the book again and opened it.
“April 18th, 1987,” she started, “Loneliness is the debt we pay when we run out of friends and borrow time from strangers.”
“Brilliant, huh?” he said.
“It sounds like you,” she said. “Always about the exchange of value.”
“Yep,” he said leaning back and starting the swing.
“October 13, 1986,” she read “When I say I love you, I mean it.”
“Oh Jesus,” he said, reaching for the book.
She pulled it away.
“I will do anything to maintain what we have. I believe that we can run away, I believe that we can get married.”
He stopped fighting for the book. She read another sentence.
“I don’t just think it’s a fantasy,” she finished.
“Who was the lucky lady?” she teased.
“That’s not the point of sharing this,” he said. He took the book back and searched its pages. “It’s that I built myself on giving up, walking away from there.”
He pointed to another page and handed it to her. She started reading.
“It’s an outline, there are five Roman numerals,” she said with her finger on the page. “One is “Truth,” two is “Strength,” three is “Pain,” four is “Loss,” and five is,” and she stopped and looked closer.
“Five, Roman numeral five is ‘Never turning back,’” she stopped. “Then two points under it, little a is ‘bury the dead deep,’ and little b is ‘never dig them up again.’”
She stopped and looked at him.
“Did you kill someone or something, dear?” she asked only half joking.
“Of course not,” he said taking the book and looking at it. “Just that place and my memories of it.”
They sat in silence again for a moment.
“I know it’s angsty teenage diary bullshit,” he said. “But going back wouldn’t be easy anyway, but you and me and that.”
“That?” she said. “That!”
“This,” he said, “I mean, you know.”
“I could start I big fucking fight with you now,” she said. “But I just love that boy. I mean he’s you, so hurt. It’s so sweet.”
They turned to each other. The sun was drifting below the horizon casting a reddish glow.
“I’m, well,” he struggled. “I’m glad we’re going back together. I mean, I guess…”
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I love you. And whoever that girl was from October of 1986 better watch herself.”
Go back to At Last!