Archive for May, 2012
She knew why already, but knew he wanted her to ask him.
“My mother only has one grandchild, and it’s that crazy pill popper’s. She probably won’t even stay with my brother. He’s such an ass to her. And then he’ll have to battle with her to even see the kid.”
“I think you’re jumping ahead a little bit,” Ala said, touching his arm. She felt him tense up slightly.
“I don’t. I screwed up. My mother won’t be able to see me get married. She’ll never meet my kids. And all of that could have been done by now. She put her life into this family and won’t even see it grow. My father worked to make life comfortable for this family and they won’t even enjoy it. Neither of them.”
He was always irrational when he couldn’t control a situation.
“Jase, you can’t get married and have a family for anyone but yourself.”
He parallel parked on his street and they got out of the car. She let him walk ahead because he had the keys.
“I could’ve by now. We could’ve. There was no reason to not get married.” He opened the heavy front door and stomped up the stairs. She didn’t know if she should even follow him. She had to though because all of her things were in the apartment. And he would never forgive her if she didn’t.
“There was a reason, Jase.”
“Yeah,” he said, slamming the apartment door behind her, “What?”
She leaned against the card table in the dining room.
“To begin with, getting married is a big deal. It’s not just a next step because you’ve been dating someone for awhile.”
“Says who? Some feminist online publication?” He hit the top of one of the windows and opened it.
“No. I do.”
“Why did you even move here then?”
“Because I wanted to be with you. I moved here with love for you. But I realized that we weren’t working very well together.”
“You didn’t even try. You fled.”
“I didn’t try?” She put both of her hands on the table to steady herself. “I know you’re upset. This isn’t something we should talk about now.”
He paced the room, kicking off his shoes.
“I brought you into my whole life. Into my family. I consulted with you before I made decisions about my future. I thought we were building something.”
“I did too.”
This was a scene she had replayed many times since moving out of the apartment. He wanted her back. He wanted to make this work. He loved her as much as she had loved him. It was a dream come true. She could kiss him right now. He could lift her up and carry her into the bedroom and they wouldn’t have to ever look back. They could feel how they felt when they had first met. They could go back to their first time.
And she didn’t want any of it. It wasn’t that she was over him, but that she felt how she had dreamt of feeling when being in love. She couldn’t go back to what she had with Jase, because it didn’t feel as right as everything felt with Danno. She had known Jase for years and already knew Danno better.
Jase saw her looking out the window and slowly approached. He took her arms with both of his hands and turned her toward him so they were face to face, eye to eye. Her phone rang and her eyes darted to her purse. He held onto her.
“I know you’ve been with someone else,” he said, almost smiling. Ala wasn’t afraid of him or what he might do. She realized he was so upset about his mother and so upset about her not wanting be with him, that he could kill her. It was possible. But she was happy that she was telling the truth very plainly, no matter what the outcome. She had come here out of concern for Abigail and to show support to his family. Now he had turned the visit into their issues. Her phone rang again and he snickered. “Come on, tell me you haven’t been. Lie.”
The car ride home was quiet. Jase kept scratching the back of his neck. Ala hands trembled with the string of pearls that Abigail had folded into her hand as they were leaving. She had not wanted Coffi or Jase to see and Ala could not object without drawing attention to them. His mother had always enjoyed giving her gifts.
Ala assumed it was because she had never had a daughter. Coffi had a pill problem before getting pregnant that was never discussed and for all she knew, was still going on. Abigail did not approve of the marriage and Jase’s brother threatened to never let her know her grandchildren if she didn’t treat Coffi with respect.
How long did she have? And what did it matter? There was nothing left to do for her. Abigail knew that they all knew she was dying and that they were all watching her to see if the pain was starting. What a terrible feeling to know that everyone feels sorry for you and is crying for you and would give anything to make you well. It seemed impossible to keep dignity through illness.
Jase looked at her and then looked back at the road, accelerating slightly.
“What?” She asked, hoping they would not argue while he was driving.
“I’m so disappointed,” he said.
Jase’s father was not in love with Ala. They both knew this and the topic was never discussed. He adored her and because of his money and her being attractive, there were assumptions by extended family and friends. He had always asked her opinion and listened to her answers. The way Jase had loved her infused the entire family with calm feelings.
She wasn’t sure who knew they had split up. She was almost certain no one imagined she lived in Boston anymore. People lived in cities often though and stilled maintained relationships. Abigail’s illness must have hit very quickly, perhaps right around the time Ala had moved home. Jase had not called at all until the previous evening, which meant he was trying to stay strong. He was trying to stay away from Ala and trying not to love her anymore. Unless he didn’t love her and didn’t want to talk to her but Abigail had asked him to.
Ala looked into his father’s blue eyes, now rimmed with a thin glowing circle of pink. He must be staying at the hospital with her. Or he could be drinking again, every night. She went back and sat on the edge of Abigail’s bed now that Jase’s sister had taken a phone call in the hallway.
“How are your parents?” Abigail said, her voice cracking.
The mundane question was now impossible to answer, Ala realized as she tried to come up with a natural response. She had answered this question so many times in her life and now had no idea what to say. She did not know what they were doing, and frighteningly, did not want to know. Any clues she uncovered she immediately flushed from her mind.
“They are the same,” she lied.
“I’ll bet they’re using the boat quite a bit this summer.”
“A few weekends.”
“Your mother is so gracious. Please tell her I said hello.”
“I’ll tell her.” Ala thought of when Jase’s family had come to town and Abigail’s suitcase had been lost. Ala’s mother provided her with clothes the entire weekend. Some of the gowns had never been worn before that she had saved for the occasion, and she handed them right over to Abigail. It was out of character. But now Ala knew it was because her mother had thought she was going to marry Jase and wanted to be nice. She wanted everything to be good between the families. She thought there was a future.
Now there was Danno. She was excited just thinking of his face and almost felt guilty picturing him, as she sit at Abigail’s bedside. She neglected to care about her own parents accepting him, but was concerned about what Jase’s parents would think of him. Danno was a different speed. He was a man. Jase was also a man, but she had watched him become one. He knew as much as she did when they began dating. She felt her face burning up and pushed him out of her thoughts.
“How long are you in town?” Jase’s father asked.
“I’m not exactly sure.”
“Are you staying with your family for the whole summer?”
“Yes,” she said, feeling herself becoming anxious. She was afraid she would start to stutter.
“That’s a long time.”
“Well, I got a job.”
Everyone looked in her direction. A job meant permanence. She would be away permanently with no plans to come back to Boston.
“Doing what?” Jase said, growing tired of keeping up composure.
“I’m house-sitting for a friend who is away on business.”
“Oh,” Jase let out a chuckle, “That’s like a lifeguard job, or babysitting. A summer job.”
It infuriated her when he summed up her life in one phrase. He had a way of simplifying her experiences and making it sound like she never had any kind of vision for a long term plan.
“Actually, it’s not just for the summer. And it does pay quite well.”
“Oh I believe it,” Abigail said, spooning up a clump of ice chips into her mouth, “People will pay for peace of mind and you are very trustworthy.”
“Well, Jase is right. It’s no reason to disrupt an entire summer,” his father said.
The baby began to cry. Coffi stood up and pulled her skirt down with one hand, while bobbing him up and down. Jase’s brother turned from the window.
“Could you take him outside?”
She did and Ala watched him roll his eyes and go back to his call.
“I was looking for a job. It’s difficult now to find any. And this one found me.”
“That’s wonderful darling,” Abigail said.
“It’s still not a future,” his father said.
Ala received a call while Jase drove them to the hospital. She noticed he was cutting through neighborhoods by using alleys and figured he did not want to face any stop and go traffic. She answered in a whisper.
“There you are,” Gene said with a nervous flick at the end of “are”.
“I called you and didn’t hear back.”
“I know. I meant to call.” She could see the light bounce off the of the corner of Jase’s eye. He was watching her talk and did not want her to know it.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m fine.” She couldn’t stand talking on the phone using half of her voice. It felt like her throat was being squeezed shut. She didn’t like lying to Gene. Even though she hadn’t yet, she could tell it was coming. Jase sped up just as the light turned from a rusted amber to red. He nearly collided with a car that had the right-of-way. The brakes screeched as the car lurched forward. Ala clasped her chest as the strap from the seatbelt dug into her collarbone. “Jase!”
Panicked, Jase looked both ways and behind them. He was breathing heavily.
“You’re with Jase? Is he is town?” Gene said.
“No, I’m in Boston actually.”
“Boston? What for?”
“I had to come visit for a little while.”
“I’m mixed up.”
“It was a quick trip.”
Jase pulled over and got out of the car, slamming the door behind him. Ala saw him pacing on the sidewalk.
“Are you there?” Gene sounded irritated.
“Yes. I just am in the middle of something. Would it be alright if I called you back?”
“Sure. If you remember.”
“Gene-” He had hung up. Ala shoved her phone back into her bag and let herself out of the car.
Jase stopped pacing when he saw her.
“Why don’t you let me drive?”
He nodded. She climbed into the driver’s seat and adjusted the height. He closed the car door and put on the seatbelt. He put his hand on her wrist.
“I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
She shook her head and they pulled away. Slamming on the brakes and cutting off her circulation with the seatbelt, while knocking the wind out of her, didn’t hurt as much as them splitting apart had.
Fortunately, they were only a few blocks away from the hospital because Ala could not take the severe depression oozing from Jase. They had nothing to say to one another and the silence was thick and smothering.
When the elevator door opened, a lady who Ala recognized as one of family neighbors stepped out. She wore a large red hat with pink roses dangling from it and a tight cream suit that zipped up the back. She hugged Jase and patted his cheek. Ala stepped away to avoid hearing what they talked about.
Jase stepped into the elevator and Ala followed.
“Please. Do you know she’s sleeping with my father?”
Ala looked down and the dented scuffed linoleum. She heard recognizable voices as they made their made down the long hall. She averted her eyes from looking inside of the rooms.
The room Jase’s mother was staying in was bright and sterile. There were large pink and purple floral arrangements on every surface, along with all of the latest magazines, paper coffee cups and half empty water bottles.
Jase’s sister-in-law, Coffi, sat bouncing a fat infant on her lap while his brother talked business on his phone, while looking at the parking lot out the window. Jase’s younger sister was wedged on the bed with her legs half dangling off next to his mother.
His mother’s silvery blond hair was twisted up in a tortoise shell clip. It was flawless along with her light makeup. Her green brocade robe was placed over her shoulders, as if she had the slightest draft and her satin slippers hung from her tiny feet.
“Ala,” she said, her eyes turning a brighter blue as she held out her tan hand. “My dear.”
Ala walked over slowly and touched her warm hand. She bent to kiss her cheek and noticed that her skin felt more dry than she had remembered.
Jase’s sister smiled up at her. They hadn’t been close, mainly because she had spent years in rehab while Ala and Jase were dating and they never really were able to form a relationship. Jase’s brother looked over and nodded.
“Abigail, I brought you Jasmine,” Jase’s father said while entering the room. He nearly let the cup of scalding hot tea fall from his hand when he saw Ala.
“Hello,” Ala said and got up quickly to greet him. He wrapped his arms around his waist and gave her a strong hug.
“I’m glad you came back,” he said into her ear.
Ala didn’t remember washing, throwing wrinkled clothes back into her suitcase, or even locking the front door. She sat on the rubbery blue bus seat and let her head rest of the cold glass window. She was going to Boston and didn’t want to think about what she would do when she arrived.
Danno was quiet that morning, awakening her with nuzzling and then slipping into the shower. He asked nothing about where she was going or when she would be back, which to her meant it did not warrant a discussion, which made her feeling desperate to want to talk about it.
She had not told her parents she was leaving town. Her mother would ask too many questions and would say it looked pathetic that she wander off in a moment’s notice to be with someone she was not seeing anymore. Her father would have no opinion.
What was most alarming was her carelessness toward the house. The garbage had not been taken out. The housekeeper had not come and Ala had not inquired. That could all be dealt with upon her return.
She decided to have a drink in lieu of breakfast. The dining cart was open and serving breakfast burritos with egg whites tucked inside, or cereal. She ordered a Bloody Mary. It came think and lukewarm, tomato juice and vodka with a dash of pepper. She tried to drink it as quickly as possible.
A man wearing a leisure suit took the seat next to hers. She quickly stood and went to find her seat. After reading two pages of mild erotica from a book Gertrude had leant her, she fell asleep.
The sound of luggage being dragged out from the bottom of the bus awoke her. She stumbled out onto the sunlit sidewalk and waiting for her bag to be passed from smudgy hand to smudgy hand before finally reaching hers. She did not look to see if Jase was waiting for her and climbed into the first cab she could find.
The restaurants and parks held no reminiscent feelings for Ala. They pushed into one another as the cab sped past them. She wrestled with her purse to find her comb and compact. She was sweating between her legs and down her back, but did not have time to change clothes. Even though she had not set or confirmed a meeting time with Jase, her instinct was pushing her to arrive as soon as possible.
She threw a balled up twenty-dollar billed toward the front seat and ran around to the trunk to pull her suitcase out. The ivy on the side of the building had some new growth and the block smelled with damp grass, as it always had. She opened the heavy glass front door and opened the mailbox that had always had the defective lock to find the extra key Jase kept inside. She let herself inside and hobbled up the three flights of stairs with her bags.
The door to the apartment was open. She smelled dust and saw that the floors hadn’t been cleaned in awhile. No one was there. He wouldn’t have gone into work if he knew was coming, but she couldn’t remember whether she had said she would come for sure or not.
She took off her clothes and found a dress to step into. The weariness of the bus ride without fresh air hit her and she crawled into the bed she had spent two years sleeping in. The sheets felt rougher but otherwise the room looked the same. They had never put a lot of thought into what the space looked like. They didn’t entertain because they preferred being at home alone either locked in the bedroom or reading in the sunroom.
She buried her head under his pillow. The smell of his face was there and it sent cold prickles up her back, but she did not cry. She closed her eyes and thought of coming home to Danno.
What must have been a few hours later, she heard the door open, but was so relaxed she could not force her body to get up. The footsteps were steady until they reached what must have been where she put her suitcase, and then they increased rapidly until Jase was in the bedroom and taking off his shoes.
She turned over just as he climbed into bed next to her. He put his hand up the front of her dress and began pulling down her panties. Her mind was three steps behind and trying to register. She turned to face him and he kissed her very hard on the mouth. His arm wrapped around her and brought her on top of him. He pulled her dress down and began touching her. She could feel him beneath her and put both of her hands against his chest.
“Jase.” He didn’t say anything, but unzipped his pants and turned her so he was on top. She closed her eyes. She did not want this to stop. She had dreamt of this moment when he would realize that he was wrong and had made a mistake. She thought of Danno and the immediate cosmic ease she had felt. “Enough,” she said, rolling out from under him.
She stood and put her dress on, then looked down to find him red-faced and crying with one hand covering his face.
“I’m sorry, Ala. I can’t believe I just did that.”
She sat on the bed next to him and took his hand.
“Where is your mother?”
“At the hospital.”
“I think we should go.”