What Was… And What Will Never Be
The idea was to do something romantic, so he pulled down the gravel drive, followed the tunnel carved by his headlights until the road fanned into a clearing. Parking was romantic, wasn’t it? Making out in the moonlight, and all that bullshit. Getting laid to the whine of mosquitoes.
He ignored her questioning look, popped the door, and vaulted onto his hood. He leaned back against the windshield, soaked in the cloudless vista above. Stars and more stars, soundless pricks of light wrapping all creation. Several long moments passed before she slipped out the door. Each one seemed a kind of measurement of all the garbage she had to climb to reach him.
“The way it was…” he said, smiling at her from the corner of his eye.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“The sky. It’s like looking into a hole two billion years deep.”
“Man is a fucking microbe.”
She said nothing.
“E. Coli,” he continued grinning. “Nice to meet you.”
“Chlamydia,” she replied. “How do you do?”
He roared with laughter.
“Have we met? I’m positive we’ve met!”
He stared at her, waiting for a reply that never came. A scowl climbed into his expression, and he looked away back to the stars.
“Nancy had a lot on her mind today.”
He stiffened. “Yeah? What did she say?”
“She wants to go back to school.”
“She hates her job–I mean, with a passion. You should hear her go on and on. Cecilia, her manager, always books her on her days off, no matter what she puts on her availability sheets. And then there’s one client of hers who keeps coming back every week, like some kind of fatal attraction sort of thing. Ugh. Could you imagine?”
“Well… it must be rough, waxing all those old cougars.”
“She even cries sometimes.”
This was meant to make him feel guilty, he knew. She hated it when he used the word ‘cougar.’
“Yeah. You know, what happens when someone causes you to be miserable.”
“Oh, that’s what it’s for. I always thought it was like windshield washer fluid, you know, something to clean away all the bug spatter.”
“Exactly–oh, fuck! I forgot to tell you! Your mother called this morning.”
“Mom? When was this?”
“Almost the instant you left for work.”
“And you actually answered it?”
“I was distracted. I forgot to look at the call display.”
“So what did she have to say?”
“That she never loved you as a child…”
He held his hands out in a fan. “Just fucking with you–relax!”
“She said that your Uncle Tony was in the hospital. He’s having bypass surgery tomorrow… Something like that, anyways.”
“Uncle Tony, huh.”
“She said it was quite serious. She sounded like she was about to break down…”
“You mean, cry?”
“Ah… Good one. Scoring points against me while your uncle lies dying.”
“One can only hope.”
“Now that’s cold. You hope your mother’s brother is actually dying?”
Another long silence.
“What’s going on here, babe?”
“Apparently Nancy told Cecilia to go fuck herself yesterday.” She laughed as if at the madness.
“Like I said… What’s ah… What’s going on here?”
“She was five minutes late getting in–you know, because of the construction there on Horton. So she was late–five minutes, that’s it, and Cecilia starts talking about docking her for a full hour. So Nancy says nothing, just stomps around, you know? The way you just pretend assholes aren’t there until they go away? But of course they never go away, or at least Cecilia never does. It’s like she’s goading her, you know, daring her to say something–anything! And Nancy’s worried, you know. She thinks that maybe Cecilia has some kind of ace up her sleeve, that she’s using the five minutes as a… as a… provocation… a way to provoke Nancy into doing something really bad, something that she maybe can get shit-canned for, you know?
“And then she realizes: What the fuck is Cecilia going to do? I mean, really. Think of all the shit that she get’s away with. I mean the scheduling bullshit is bad enough, and then there’s the magical timesheets–oh, and let’s not forget the paycheck fiascos! Really, what is Cecilia going to do? Fire her? Nancy brings in about 3 thou a week in business–at fucking least! Is Cecilia really going to kiss goodbye to 3 thousand dollars per week just because of a lousy five minutes? I don’t think so…
“And it’s like, she has this revelation. For the first time she see exactly how valuable she is. For the first time she realizes how she’s just being used… and not just by Cecilia, but by others as well, people who should be there, you know, in her corner, but never are, because all they do is think about themselves, about how fucking cool and smart they are. Nancy sees. She finally fucking sees.”
“Enough,” he says. “Please… What are you doing?”
“Yes, Nancy sees… So do you know what she does? She walks up to Cecilia, as casual as can be, she walks up. She grins, you know, like the two of them were in on something together, some kind of trick that only they knew about. Cecilia is freaked–I mean freaked. It’s like she can smell it or something. Smell it on the wind, like a hunted animal. She doesn’t say anything, so Nancy just blinks, and she says, ‘Any excuse, eh, Cecilia? Anything… even five fucking minutes…’ Cecilia’s eyes are about rolling backward in her head now. She thought Nancy was weak, you see. The same way everyone thought Nancy was weak. The sweet one. The compassionate one. The fucking the prairie flower. ‘Any excuse,’ Nancy says. ‘It’s pathetic, don’t you think?’”
“You asking me?”
“No. This is what she asked Cecilia, who just stood there like a fucking dolt, her mouth hanging open in a way that made Nancy want to hang a Cock Wanted sign from her nose!”
“Why? Why do you do this?”
Another long, star-searching silence. “Don’t you want to hear my story?”
A long sigh. “Go ahead.”
“It’s not important… Why bother…”
“It certainly sounds important.”
“Not to you.”
“Well, as much as I like the idea of Brazilians, I’m rather fond of the hair on my ass.”
“Yeah. I guess it’s just a big joke, huh? What Nancy does for a living…”
“Everything anybody does for a living is a joke.”
“For you… The guy who laughs at people who cry.”
“Yep. I’m that guy, alright.”
“Yep. You are that guy.”
“That’s why you love me, Nancy.”
“Love you?” she said with a sarcastic snort.”Baby. That’s just the way it was…”