Thirty-Four

When Donnie told me I couldn’t look more beautiful, he wasn’t saying it to be nice. He was saying I was a peach on the day it falls from the tree.

“I’m not giving you kids yet,” I told him. “You can’t scare me into it.” I said, “If you want kids, quit working at the bar.” He knows the deal.

Later I walked downtown to see a movie, a romance between a bartender who is deathly allergic to alcohol and a pretty, hard-drinking research scientist. It’s all carnival rides and mini-golf until the bartender sips the scientist’s gin-spiked ginger ale. I guessed all five of us in the audience saw this coming. The scientist rushes to the lab and develops a cure just in time to save him. Hollywood ending: check. When the usher asked me how it was, I gave him a horizontal thumb. I thought the movie might help me understand Donnie and me, but he’s a bartender who drinks, I got a C in chemistry, and not once did that movie bartender dump the pretty lady’s birth control pills in the toilet tank to be discovered later by the lady when the water in the bowl turned pink.

Walking home I saw myself in the window of a beauty salon: my hair parted down the middle, hanging in two flaps. I thought to shave them off and hang them behind the wheels of a semi-truck. I have a feeling if I were bald people wouldn’t say things like, You’d make a good mom. They wouldn’t say, What are you waiting for?

When my car died last week, a semi with wheel flaps picked me up and drove me back to Kansas City. I wanted the driver to know things I didn’t. Like why my cat Wilma rejected one of her kittens and if free will is a thing. He talked about the Chiefs and curing meat, kind of like a lot of guys. When I stepped out at the Flying J, I hadn’t learned anything that would help me leave the man I love while I still loved him.

If I were a peach, and I’m not saying I am, I might like life after the fall, the ants crawling over me, the sun baking my skin, my flesh cracking open, revealing the pit inside. There would be no decision in it. No Donnie and his Irish coffee breath, no preoccupation with the unevenness of his face, no wondering if his smell means our immune systems are different enough to make strong babies. Just the slow turn of the sun in the sky, the sprout breaking through me, a small pressure.

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