|Blogs > sparkee58 > The Cunning Linguist|
his pride and joey
his pride and joey
Joey had been gone for three nights. She left sometime Thursday and when Dylan got home there was no message, no phone call, no Joey. He stayed around the apartment all weekend, feeling foolish, waiting to hear from her. Everytime the phone rang he anxiously grabbed it from its cradle, but it was never her. Finally, on Sunday evening, as he finished up the News and Observer, she called sounding breathless and urgent.
"Meet me at Darryls on Hillsborough Street," she said.
"Forget it, Joey," he told her. He inhaled slow and deep to control the rage he felt. He swallowed. He didn't want her to know how disappointed and utterly alone he felt.
"Why don't you come home right now?"
"Baby, I can't. Trust me. Meet me there. I'll explain everything later."
'Alright, I'll meet you. What time, slut?" he asked with a bite of venom. They hovered in silence and he was suddenly sorry he had said it. He knew he had unleashed painful memories in her mind.
"Look, I didn't mean it," Dylan said.
"What time, really?"
"In about an hour. Let's say...eight?"
"I'll see you then," he told her, hoping she would say what he needed to hear.
"Fine. Bye," she said and hung up.
Dylan walked the three blocks to Darryls in the darkness of a cool October night. Going through the swinging glass doors, he was momentarily dazzled by the glittering lights and the sounds of many voices. There was a loud CLINK of glasses. He walked over to the rectangular, wooden topped bar and studied the crowded room. Silverware rattled on plates in the dining room farther inside. TVs were displayed like Monets; a running back tore across the glass canvas. Music by Don Henly fell like soft snow.
He sat down on a high stool so he could look out the large windows facing the street. Live ivy climbed down from hanging wicker baskets to get at the morning sun. Couples walked by outside, arms entwined, talking excitedly. Dylan ordered a gin and tonic and sat on the edge of the stool. On both sides, high up, thick wooden beams were carved out to hold fake flowers and plastic ivy. A red brick archway cut the beams in half. Exposed black water pipes ran in a strange mechanical order.
The bartender had on a crisp, freshly starched and pressed white shirt. His name tag read Myron.
Dylan watched him make the drink. First, the ice cubes clinking in the glass, then the double belt of Tanguerey from the green bottle from the liqour rack, finally the lime and the red plastic stirrer. Then it was in his hands and he gently squeezed the lime and tasted the drink.
"Alright, sir?" Myron asked.
He dried a glass and steam rose from the white cloth. He was young and had the precise look of an engineering student at NC State across the street. The dried glasses hanging upside down from the brass racks were orderly as a NASA countdown.
Myron walked away.
A couple walked by outside. The man was tall and had a trim beard. Joey was with him.
When Myron came back, Dylan asked him, "Have you ever read much Hemingway, Myron?"
He looked at Dylan quizically.
"I think we read a story by him in freshman english. I don't remember what it was about, though. Something about a bullfighter, I think. Why?"
He raised his eyebrows. Precisely.
"I was just thinking about this great line that he wrote. It goes "...the hell with it. The utter complete hell with it."
Myron polished another glass, smiling slightly at the mystery of it. He scanned the bar for empty glasses.
Dylan looked at his watch; a Swiss Army with a woven black band. It was eight fifteen. Sitting back, he took a long drink to try to calm down and relax. He trembled with a simmering rage. There was a feeling of lightheadedness near the bottom of the glass and presently he would find it. He felt a hand on his shoulder, turned, and there was Joey. She looked beautiful.
"Hello, baby," she said and leaned over to kiss him. He turned his head and she grazed his cheek with her wet, slightly open mouth. The touch of her lips was light as a whiff of cloud. She picked up his drink from the bar and tossed it down, grimacing in fake agony. There was a clash of icecubes; a paper napkin clung to the bottom of the glass.
"Whoa," she said, "I forgot you drink gin."
Shoulder length dirty blond hair danced on her neck as she sadly shook her head. For a second she appeared old and tired and lines sprouted around her eyes sudden as mushrooms after a summer storm. She smiled and the tiredness vanished. She was Joey again.
Her large brown eyes roamed over the crowd. She saw an old friend, waved and walked over. Her stride was that of an easy athlete.
Dylan watched her, trying to be objective. She was a short woman, about five feet five inches, with small, childlike feet encased in what she called her "fuck me" pumps. Slim calves rose up to muscular thighs built up by mountain biking at Boone where she had gone to college. Age was starting to play around the edges of her beauty. Her waist was getting thicker and her breasts drooped downward with dark, pink nipples.
Her blue dress showed off her cleavage and Dylan looked at the small mole there. Her arms were hanging graceless at her side. As she talked, a charming smile played across her solid features like a slight wind teasing a limp sail. Her face was wide and a smirk turned up the corners of her mid size mouth. Her square jaw jutted out as she pouted to amuse.
Dylan ordered another drink and heard her deep laugh fill the loud room. Her voice was brassy and full of chuckles and whispered confidences. It carried far. She walked back over and sat down.
Dylan leaned over, put his face into her neck and inhaled deeply. Her natural scent was like a mixture of wildflowers on a sea breeze. No perfume could ever improve it. Further down, in that mysterious delta, among that thick forest of tangled, light brown hair, her smell, when aroused, was heavy and thick as her laugh.
On work mornings she was always up and running late. A shower, a layer of makeup and a squirt of hairspray that destroyed her natural scent. With a dab of perfume she smelled like a vat of sweet chemicals. Sometimes, after her shower, Dylan would hold her damp towel to his face and let the aroma engulf him.
"Waiting for someone?" Dylan asked.
"Yes. How did you know?" Joey looked at the front toward the bathrooms and, turning around, glanced at a group of students with backpacks walking along the brightly lit street. Her hand went to his shoulder and lightly squeezed.
"Oh. I see," she said. She smiled weakly.
"Do you?" he asked. "Do you really see?"
Dylan's words were beginning to slur and the sarcasm in his voice was more forceful than he intended. His glass empty, he turned to get Myron's attention.
"I wouldn't talk like that, Dylan," she said, looking at his back. "I haven't changed. I'm the same person that I was when we first met. You knew how it was going to be."
Confronted with the truth, he was silent. Joey stroked his hair. Myron set the drink down and looked at Joey. She sadly shook her head. Dylan felt an almost overwhelming urge to fling the drink in her complacent face. He thought about John Updike's character Rabbit Angstrom and the green ashtray he was forever wanting to bash his wife's brains in with and the moment passed.
Her friend, hands in his jacket pockets, walked toward them from the end of the bar. He looked the two of them over with his blue eyes as Joey made the introductions. Robert Con reached over to shake hands. Joey nudged Dylan and they shook.
There was silence. From the way he watched Joey, Dylan could tell he had it bad.
There was an empty booth over by the wall so they ordered drinks and moved over to it. Joey was provocative as always in her blue dress with her breasts half exposed. It was short, almost a mini, and Dylan knew she was not wearing panties underneath; she had always gotten a thrill from "givin' a little peek". Joey sat down beside Dylan and her new friend sat across. Robert nervously got out a pack of cigarettes, took one out, lay the pack on the table and searched his pockets unsuccessfully for a lighter. Joey watched with a slight smile. She took a cigarette from the pack and Dylan lit hers. He lay the bar matches on the table. Robert Con picked them up and lit his. He looked at Dylan as if deciding something.
The drinks came and they remained silent as the waitress put them down. Dylan watched the sway of her prominent rear as she walked away. Robert jumped right in.
"Joey tells me that you're a writer," he said, looking at her for approval. He took a deep draw from the cigarette and blew smoke up at the ceiling where it was swirled high across the room by the whirling brass fans overhead. His deep blue eyes were set in a long, nervous face. His mouth twitched at the corners and now, in the light from the wall mounted fixture, Dylan could see the wrinkles. He wondered whether the nervousness was natural or chemical.
Robert Con overpowered the most simple gestures; the way he blew the smoke away like a noxious gas and how his eyes never rested. The speed with which he drank the twelve year old scotch. He looked across the room, flicking ashes toward the ashtray, missing by inches.
"Actually, I'm a rocket scientist," Dylan said. Arched eyebrows warned him to stay away from personal questions.
"Oh, really? I suppose you worked on the space shuttle, then?" he said and smirked. Finishing off his drink, he looked around for the waitress. He missed the ashtray again.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. When I wasn't flying it."
"Did you work on the one they had a little trouble with? The one that blew up?"
"We were trying out a new toilet design. It didn't flush quite right."
Joey sat through this exchange by silently smoking and looking out the window across the room, ignoring them. Now she lightly clapped her hands and stared at Robert Con with a faint smile of amusement and boredom.
"Touche, Dylan," she said. "Let's not be like this. It's too depressing. I need another drink."
She looked around for the waitress, who stood talking at a table crowded with students on the other side of the room. She leaned down listening intently, then suddenly she rose up as the entire table laughed at some joke.
"I'll get it," said Robert Con. He looked over and raised his eyebrows. Dylan covered his drink with his hand. When he was gone, Joey slid over close and kissed him. This time he didn't turn his head. At first he tried to resist, but when her wet tongue tickled his dry lips, he felt a sudden release. Her eyes were large brown pools and sparkled with light from the lamp.
"I missed you so bad, baby," she said.
"I almost went crazy this weekend," he said, squeezing her arm. "Your friend has it pretty bad, you know?"
Joey thought about that and said, "Yes, I can see that now."
She said this matter of factly. He followed her gaze to the bar where Robert Con stood, money in hand, looking over someone's shoulder to get Myron's attention. The bar was now two deep in places, with people standing behind the stools.
"Let's go home now, Joey," Dylan said.
"I owe him money. A hundred dollars."
There was silence. She looked down at the table.
Dylan took the last swallow of his gin and tonic and rocked the heavy glass in his hand. Ice cubes rattled like dice in a cup, slightly muted by the lime slices.
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about," Joey said finally. Her face looked stricken.
Dylan got out his leather money clip, counted out five twenties and lay them on the table. She took the money and folded it small in her palm. The muscles of her face relaxed as she stirred her empty drink. Suddenly she was faraway, lost in her own thoughts.
"I'll wait for you at the front door," Dyaln said and stood up. She nodded vaguely as if contemplating melting ice.
Dylan went to the bright, clean bathroom and then sat by the reservation desk. After five minutes, he walked outside to get away from the loud, crowded foyer. It was getting late and the Raleigh traffic was slow. The streetlight shone down on the green canvas awning over the front doorway. A ragged man pushed a haphazardly loaded shopping cart, liberated from Winn-Dixie, up the hill. The air was crisp and fresh and fall whispered on the breeze.
Dylan thought about how it would be to live alone, to sleep in a bed full of so many memories. He looked at his watch. Five more minutes, he thought, and I'm gone. He waited and thought through a dozen scenarios and then looked at his watch again. He took a step toward the curb to cross the street and the glass doors swung open and there she was.
Robert Con drove a red BMW. Don't think that meant anything to Joey, but it did to him. Thursday afternoon she met him in the parking lot of the Food Lion at Cameron Village. She had been shopping for dinner and was walking back to her car when he pulled up and said hello. The first thing she noticed was how time had chiseled at his face, he looked slightly different than he had ten years ago. He smiled and she was swept back into his life.
They went to 42nd Street Oyster Bar for a drink and that turned into several and then into dinner. She meant to call Dylan, but at first it was too early and then she was drunk and it was too late. Now it was Sunday afternoon and Dylan seemed remote as the moon. She was sick to death of Robert Con and his pretentions, though. Wherever they went during those three days and nights, his face would inevitably adorn every mirror in sight. He got his exercise inside like a prisoner and his tanned body was never touched by the sun. He used mousse in his thin black, slightly graying hair. She was ready to go home.
She called Dylan while Robert Con took a shower, a long, steamy, drawn out affair. Though she only meant to tell him she was alright, when she heard his voice, comforting and familiar as a father's arms, she knew she had to see him tonight. A sudden confusion jumbled her thoughts and the phone trembled in her hand. A sense of urgency left her breathless.
"Meet me at Darryls on Hillsborough Street," she told him. Robert Con had made reservations for two at nine.
At first he refused, his masculine pride wounded that he couldn't keep her in a cage. Then he called her a slut and it had brought back such memories that she was struck silent. Doors creaked open that had long been closed. She remembered college and all the different lovers. Free love was the thing then; the camping trips and sex in cars and dorms and then trying to keep from bumping into each other on a small campus. All this was before her in a flash, all the men she had loved called out to her, forever lost.
"What time, really?" Dylan asked.
The doors closed. Her mind cleared.
"In about an hour. Say eight."
In desperation, she waited for him to tell her what she needed to hear. Despite her way of living, which she could not and would not change, she wanted acceptance. She needed someone to love her without conditions. All of the men who she had ever truly loved had loved her and accepted her the way she was.
And here was Robert Con. But he was not of the same breed.
"See you then," Dylan said.
Robert Con parked the red BMW so the white line of the parking space was underneath the center of the car, taking up two spaces. Joey's Honda was still at the Food Lion full of shopping bags. They got out and walked around Weatherman's Jewelers with it's display of Rolex watches and diamond rings on gold bands. The rings caught her eye and she stopped. He watched her with an amused, man of the world smile. A gust of early fall wind blew, but his hair remained as immoblie as the red brick building. His smile quickly faded to an astonished stare as she rummaged through her purse, pulled out an engagement ring and slipped it on her finger.
"That feels better," she told him. The simple act of putting on the familiar ring planted her feet solidly back on earth again.
"Don't think it's going to be that easy, Joey. I'm not going to let you just walk away," he said. He gripped her arm as if to shake her; to jar Dylan out of her life and plant himself in. His grip tightened and Joey started to feel uncomfortable.
"I won't leave you alone," he said.
His voice was ominous as a black thunderhead. She pulled his hand down and entwined their arms. They walked silently to the entrance to Darryls. She needed time to think.
"Dylan is inside waiting for me," she told him. They were standing before the doorway facing each other. He scowled down at her.
"I'm not leaving, if that's what you're trying to tell me," he said, the perfect martyr. His blue eyes were set in a grim determination. His bearded chin jutted out like a forrested outcropping of rock.
"Look, Robert. We tried ten years ago and nothing came of it. I don't love you and I never will. I love Dylan." Joey tried to reason with cool logic.
"Just talk to him. I'll leave the two of you alone and you can tell him how wonderfull this weekend was, and..."
"..and maybe he'll bow out gracefully?" she finished for him.
They were silent again. He rubbed his hands together. His eyes had the nervous, betrayed look of a chained, hungry pet with an overturned water dish. Cars lined up at the red light on the corner and then it turned green and they snaked away into the darkness. Joey watched them until their tail lights vanished over the hill. A red Cardinal cab blasted it's horn at a stalled car and the spell was broken.
"Okay, Robert. I'll talk to him, since you insist on having a scene."
They walked through the glass doors.
"But I'm not promising you anything. Remember that."
She let go of Robert's arm as they walked in. The front room was full of people waiting for tables. If Dylan were here, he would be at the bar drinking that horrible gin, she thought. Joey tried to imagine his face but it was like recalling a surreal dream from the night before. He was so close, but remained as foggy as her distant memories of college.
Robert walked over to the small reservation desk to confirm the table. Then he nodded to Joey and walked toward the bathroom.
"I'll meet you in the bar," he said over his shoulder.
Joey walked around the partition separating the two rooms. Dylan sat at the bar. The bartender walked over to him and they exchanged a few words. She went over to him and touched his shoulder from behind.
"Hello, baby," she said, immediately wanting to fall into his arms. She leaned forward to kiss him, but he turned his head and she caught him lightly on the cheek. To cover her embarrassment, she grabbed his drink off the bar and turned it up.
Dylan's eyes were narrowed in a silent rage and the muscles of his mouth were tight like kissing a dreaded aunt. Thinking it best to let him stew for a few minutes, she walked over and talked to an old friend. When she returned, visions of life without him and of being alone once again were conjured by his aloofness. Joey suddenly felt old and selfish and very much responsible for her own undoing. She pushed away those melancholy thoughts and smiled.
"Waiting for someone," Dylan asked.
"Yes. How did you know?"
Instinctively, she looked toward the bathrooms to see if Robert Con had emerged. Turning back, she saw people walking on the street outside the large windows and she knew Dylan had seen them walking arm in arm, talking intently. At that second, she realized something had to be done to assauge his fears.
Let a man think anything, Joey thought. Let him think you were on a three day drunk or a coke binge, but never admit that his darkest fears are, indeed, true. How could she tell him the meaningless men in her life were her way of finding herself? To be blunt, to look him in the eyes and say,"Dylan, I love you more than anybody in the world, but I sometimes get this uncontrollable urge to be fucked senseless by a stranger with a long, fat dick." Admit this, Joey thought, and you'll live your life alone.
She tried to comfort him by messaging his shoulder, trying to work out his jealousy like muscle cramps. A lone man jogged by the window in shorts and an NC State t shirt and she thought again at what he had seen.
"Oh, I see," she said.
"Do you? Do you really see?" he asked. Sarcasm dripped from his words like deadly venom. She set the empty glass down and Dylan turned to get Myron's attention.
She took a deep breath and thought, I don't want it to be like this. I just want to go home.
She looked at his back and said softly, "I haven't changed, Dylan. I'm the same person that I was when we met. You knew how it was going to be."
Her own pride had appeared suddenly like a hungry bear from hibernation. There was a tinge of warning in her voice. A small lie was one thing but, in the end, she still had to live with herself. She stroked his thick dark hair and his rage slowly passed like a dark cloud on a windless day.
Robert Con came over to join them. They warily shook hands as Joey made the introductions. There was an empty booth behind them so they ordered drinks to be brought over. She sat beside Dylan and they both faced Robert Con. He took out cigarettes and unsuccessfully hunted for a light.
When she saw Dylan wasn't going to offer, she took one herself and Dylan lit hers and then lay the matches on the table. She smiled icily at Robert Con.
That she had sat down beside Dylan should have amplified to him the direction she was intent on taking, but he ignored her. She could see the longing in his eyes. And his anxiety. His movements were distracted; he blew smoke like a harsh winter wind. A pink tongue slipped out to wet his lips, as if preparing for a speech. Having no idea what cards he was going to play, or even if he had a plan at all, she feigned indifference and stared out the window.
"Joey tells me you're a writer," he said.
She knew Dylan was in no mood for that. If there was anything more important to him than me, she thought, it is his writing. It was bad enough that he had invaded our relationship, but here he sat, like some petty Napoleon at the gates of Moscow brushing the first snowflakes from his shoulder, ready to walk the minefields of Dylan's passion for his art. There followed a brief exchange of nonsense, each trying to outdo the other in absudity.
Joey drained the last of her drink and thought, "Why are men always such assholes." Without her intervention they would soon be at each other's throats. Both men seemed primed for a fight; Dylan trembled with a barely controlled rage. And Robert Con, his face blushing red, was taunting him on. It wasn't hard for her to imagine the pictures that formed in Dylan's mind as he scowled at the man in whose arms she had been only this morning.
"Touche, Dylan," she said, distracting them both.
"I need another drink."
She knew the waitress was busy across the room and hoped that Robert Con remembered he was going to let her speak to Dylan alone. She looked at him expectantly. He got up and walked to the crowded bar.
She had her plan now. Sliding over, she put her arms around Dylan and pulled him close. At first he resisted, but she tickled his lips with her wet tongue and she felt his taunt muscles relax and then his arms were around her, squeezing her flesh and she knew she was home again.
Aware that he still wanted an explaination, she told him she owed Robert Con a hundred dollars. He knew she had dabbled in it before, so it was no great surprise when this lie went unchallenged. He gave her the money and told her to meet him by the front door. He walked away without looking back.
Robert Con returned with the drinks. When he saw Dylan was gone a triumphant grin rushed to his face along with a blush of victory. She had seen him look at his car with the same arrogant leer of ownership.
She did not smile, but met his eyes and slowly shook her head.
"I'm going home, Robert."
"What! But you can't. I love you, Joey," he replied, his voice breaking. He sat down on the bench and slumped over the table as if the energy had drained from him. Even his hair looked limp. He took a long swallow from the twelve year old Scotch.
"What about this weekend?" he finally said.
"This weekend meant nothing to me. It was relatively new, it was fun, but now it's over. I'm going home with Dylan."
"But we have reservations," he stammered, as if that would keep her there. When he saw this logic had no effect, he grew angry. His face flamed red around his beard and his eyes narrowed. The gentle blue turned icy. He set the drink down with a crash. His eyes bored into hers.
"I won't leave you. I'll follow you home. I'll...I'll..."
"You'll leave us alone," Joey said with as much force as possible, not caring now whether they caused a scene or not.
He started to protest but she held out her hand to stop him.
"Don't think that I lead the kind of life I do without meeting a lot of people. I mean a lot of people, Robert."
Joey looked over to the two hundred pound ex Wolfpack quarterback she had been talking to earlier and they waved across the room. He was surrounded by his buddies and they all stared at them.
She leaned across the table and took his resisting face in her hands. She looked deeply into his eyes so there would be no mistake.
"Some of them would do anything I asked," she continued. "Anything."
She got up and stood over him. Both his hands were wrapped around the empty glass. He didn't lift his eyes.
"Don't fuck with me, Robert."
Joey felt a sudden pity for him, for his way of life, for his hair and the red sports car that she would no longer adorn. It had been sweet at first and she had felt brand new again, however briefly. But like a slice of orange left in the sun, the sweetness always faded and it was never again as fresh. She leaned over to hug him. It turned into a lingering kiss that they might always remember and then she walked away toward the front door.
It swung open and she stepped into the cool fall night and saw Dylan standing and waiting.
3/28/2006 12:25 pm
hope that's all she forgot...|
4/6/2006 6:27 am
Wonderful tale indeed.|
I sense a strain of realism.
I am not dead yet
4/7/2006 9:34 am
very deep almost melancholy.|
I sense a thread of realism as well, maybe some personal demons.
very nicely done sparkee.
and thanks for visiting my humble blog.....m.
4/8/2006 2:17 pm
I too liked the dual perspectives given in this this story. The tale is well crafted, and it's author knows his art well. This was a great read, sparkee! Thanks. |
4/9/2006 4:08 pm
Very nice. I liked the dual-perspective approach, and you have a very descriptive style.|
I may have to stop by your blog more often.
4/9/2006 5:45 pm
Yeah, I'm still [blog 1hotwahine]
4/10/2006 3:26 pm
Enjoyed this greatly, very decriptive. I love the feel of resignation that hangs around it.|
4/28/2006 5:05 pm
I think your writing is excellent.|
Your characters have depth and your talent for details is evident.
I look forward to reading more
5/29/2006 11:14 am
This has all the ingredients of very good writing.|
The verbs are strong and the figurative language is excellent.