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Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Marks They Left On Each Other

It's a departure.  Sorry -- I didn't mean to.  :-)

She is dizzy with panic.  Her hand on the phone on the kitchen wall, her palms are slick with the sweat borne of fear.

She has been calling everyone she can think of since Saturday morning. 

He hadn’t come home Friday, had simply left a message on the answering machine:  Going out after work.  Talk to you later.

And since then, she’d made a nuisance of herself, first among friends, then relatives, into a downward spiral of increasingly frantic calls to her mother, to the police, and, finally, to the hospitals.

There are a lot of police departments and hospitals between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

She starts cooking dinner late that Sunday afternoon, but the seasoned chops never make it to the oven.  She strips the corn on the cob, but can’t bring herself to cook it.  Adrenaline runs through her veins; and every now and then her muscles jump, as if she’s been startled.

Off in the distance, a small yellow sports car shoots toward the house, takes a right at the county road just a half-mile away.

Her chest pounds with such ferocity that she places a hand on it, the better to keep her heart from breaking through.

She runs out the kitchen door, onto the deck.  The sun is just setting, and it casts a warm, amber light over the simple summer day.

The car rolls into the parking lot.  He steps out, lopes easily up the flight of steps to their second-floor duplex, long hair and long limbs.

The smile on his face breaks her heart.

“What’s going on?” he grins.

A rage washes over her.  She picks up the hockey stick leaning against the side of the house, shakes it at him.

“What’s going on?”  She bursts into tears, swings wildly.  “Where have you been since Friday?”

He sneers at her, so young, so beautiful.  “What are you, my mother?”

She sees spots before her eyes.  She lifts the hockey stick and swings with all her might, connects solidly with his upper arm.

“OW!” he shouts.  “What the hell are you doing?”

“What am I doing?” she screams.  “What am I doing?”  She swings again, hits him.

“OW!” he screams.  “Back off!”

He opens the door, moves from the diffused light of a failing summer day to the blue-and-white cheer of a country kitchen.  She throws the hockey stick down, follows him, tears running down her face.

“Where have you been?  Where have you been?”

He opens the oven.  “No pork chops?”

Her lips quiver uncontrollably, her chin weak.  “Where have you been?” she whispers.

He whirls on her.  “You’re my girlfriend, Pearl, not my mother.”  He walks to the table, sits down, stares at her.  The room falls silent.  “I was with friends – guy friends.  We were just drinking.”

She turns away.

He was just drinking.

And just like that, she knows this to be true.

He was just drinking.

Suddenly she is dizzy.  She starts to laugh.

She walks to the fridge, pulls out a bottle of wine given to them almost a year ago.

Neither one of them drink wine.

She twists the cap off of it.

“What are you doing?” he says.

“What’s it look like I’m doing?” she says. 

“Don’t,” he says. 

She throws the cap in the sink.  “Yeah, but I wanna be like YOU.”

She raises the bottle, takes several hasty drinks.

“Stop it,” he says, sharply.  “You suck at drinking.”

“Why should I?  You drink.”

He stands, walks toward her.  “Give me the bottle.”

She raises the bottle again, holds her left arm out.  Stay away.  She turns away from him, spins to keep her back to him.

She drinks.  And drinks and drinks and drinks and –

He grabs the bottle, now almost three-quarters gone, pushes her away.  She stumbles toward the fridge, knocks into it.

He pours the last of the bottle into the sink.

 “You could’ve called,” she whispers.

He looks into her eyes, looks away.

“Where were you?”

“At my cousin’s.”

Tears roll down her face.  “I called your cousin.  She said you weren’t there.”

He looks at her and swallows.

“No.”  She shakes her head.  “She lied?  I’ve been sick with worry, and she lied?”  She leans against the fridge, slides down the front of it into a splayed-leg seat on the kitchen floor.  “I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  I thought you were –“

She chokes.

She looks up at him.  “I thought you were dead.  I called everywhere.  I wanted to make dinner tonight, you know?  For us?  For our Sunday dinner?”

He nods, his eyes filling with tears.

“But I coulden.  I coulden do it ‘cause if you were dead, then the police would come while I was settin the table.  They would tell me, oh, that guy you love?  He’s dead.  Sorry.”  Her words grew heavier, simpler.  “And then for the res’ o’ my life, I could never ever eat pork chops again.  I would never eat another ear of corn, because that’s what I was cookin’ the day he died.”

He drops to his knees, his arms out and she presses into him.  “I love you,” he says.  “You know how much I love you.  I’m so sorry.  I’m not dead.  See?  I’m not dead.”

She pushes her face into his neck, sobs his name.  “But I thought you were.  You coulda been, and I wouldn’t have known ‘til the police came during my Sunday dinner!”

He puts a finger under her chin.  She looks into his eyes.  “I didn’t know,” he says.  “I didn’t know.”

She belches suddenly, leans away from him.  “I’m gonna be sick.  Oh, God.” 

She pushes away from the floor, pushes away from him, veers into the oven, then the kitchen table. 

“Here,” he says, laughing.  “I’ll help you.”

He puts his arms around her, helps her to the bathroom, where she collapses in front of the toilet.

"I luh you," she says.

"I know you do.  I love you, too."

“Don’t looka me,” she says.

He sits on the edge of the tub.  “I won’t,” he says.


Shelly said...

You are so gifted, my friend. So gifted.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

It's a hard thing, loving someone who drinks too much. That panic while you wait at home is well captured here.

Pearl said...

Shelly, thank you. :-)

Green Girl, it still has the power to get me worked up.

Pearl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diane said...

I felt that. Every bit. My stomach is churning (and it's not the plague). Amazing work, my friend. Amazing.


Oh my gosh....I was so into this!! I was there, with the fear, the sadness, the temper, the FEAR!! So, so good.

Nessa Locke said...

I do believe this is a side of you I've never seen before.
You're frickin' awesome.

Sioux said...

Pearl--If THIS is what you write when you don't mean to, I'm scared sh*tless over what you could write when you were deliberate and intentional about it.

(And I would also avoid you when you had a hockey stick in your hand.)

Daisy said...

All your writing is gripping Pearl, but this one - well, I wanted to kill him with the hockey stick!

Pearl said...

:-) Thank you, everyone. I actually got pretty tense writing this.

Anonymous said...

I think I might have had better aim with that hockey stick..... powerful writing Pearl.

Ray Denzel said...


jenny_o said...

SO GOOD! Dang it, girl. Have you written much in a serious vein? Because you should.

fishducky said...


The Vegetable Assassin said...

Yep add me to the "this was awesome" set, miss P. It made me fidgetty as really, we've all been in similar worrying situations and that just brought it right back.

Also, I knew you had serious hockey skills. :)

Geo. said...

Well-written cross-section of that series of detonations by which relationships get organized.

Douglas said...

Note to self: make sure hockey stick is tucked safely in the garage... also the axe.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
............. okay. Speechless.

YA((((((U)))))))M xxx

Mandy_Fish said...

Been there for one reason or another, with one boyfriend or another. I'm too old for that shit. Would not go back to it. Aw hells no. Of course now I'm wondering if you stayed with him? And if so, I'm assuming he grew up a bit. This was great. Like everyone else said. I ripped of a man's jeans one time. Well. That's a story for my own blog. Don't know if I have the balls to tell it. Ha.

Sorry this was so stream-of-conscious. You put me in a mood.

Daisy said...

Powerful piece, Pearl. Well done.

Leenie B said...

Pearl, pen (okay, keyboard but that doesn't rhyme)and pork chops--a dangerous combination.

Elephant's Child said...

Oh Pearl. You have transported me to the times when gut-wrenching, nauseating worry transformed in seconds flat to ballistic rage. I am not thankful to go back to those times, but do admire your skill.

Joanne Noragon said...

Well done; not only was I in the moment, I felt you there too.

Christian at Point Counter-Point Point Point said...

You are very talented Pearl. That's all I can say.

Gigi said...

Oh wow, Pearl. Just....WOW!

Jono said...

Nicely done and something many of us can relate to. Thanks.

Esme Weatherwax said...

Beautifully done, you talented lady. Tummy flipped along with yours, sick with worry and rage, but love still seals your fate to be there the next time "oh I didn't think" happens. Maybe that earns you the right to upgrade to a baseball bat with a nail in it?! Lovely Pearl, don't let anyone ruin pork chops for you! ;) xxx

Anonymous said...

Well this is redundant, but wow, well done you. No wonder you started hanging out with your cats. I'm sure they would have placed a interim bender call, at least.

vanilla said...

Oh, my. Made my heart hurt and made my stomach turn over. Conservation of words, vivid images, roiling emotions. You write!

Robbie Grey said...


Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I felt the pain you wrote about. Terrific writing, Pearl.

Rose L said...

Is this the start of a drunken romance novel...or an episode for the soap opera DAYS OF OUR LIVES?

River said...

Oh Pearl, I've known that fear too, from Hubby#1. After that first time, whenever he fell asleep drunk on someone's couch, that person would phone me so I wouldn't worry.

Linda O'Connell said...

With such brevity and sheer emotion you hit your readers' buttons. Willy better watch out:)

the walking man said...

I don't drink or smoke weed but get the same reaction if i don't call...the odd thing is I get the sound of exasperation when i do.

The Geezers said...

That was a hard one to write, I'm sure. The good ones always are. Like opening a vein, as they say.

Very well done.

Diane Tolley said...

Rocked my socks off, girl!!! You've got it! I was feeling everything she did! My stomach is still clenched! Wow!

Jayne Martin said...

What an inconsiderate jerk. "Pearl" deserves much better. I could feel the panic in my own heart as the waiting and wondering went on and then, well, it's good it was a hockey stick and not a gun. I could not have shown such restraint. Well done!

Pat Tillett said...

Pearl, you are an extremely funny person and it really comes out in your writing. Occasional, you write about more serious feelings. Like this post. I really FELT the emotion in your words. You are so darn good.

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I don't know how I missed this, but I'm glad I scrolled back and found it. Fabulous. The same keen powers of observation are at work here as in your funny pieces. The result is unforgettable.