My girlfriend Deloris is snoring. The in-flight movie flickers
across her face causing the wrinkles around her eyes to pulsate. Her tanned face
takes on the look of a mud facial and I notice a small spot of something red from
lunch on her chin.
She has the padded arm rest pulled down between us. A partitioning of the romantic turf. The holiday is over and something more than Mexico is being left behind.
I try to relax but the airplane's aluminum skin vibrates and twitches in the turbulence and my mind wanders to disaster scenarios. I am alone in the dark with my fear. Sharing only the dry communal air with my fellow passengers. They watch the movie, or sleep with earphones pinching their heads, oblivious to the terrorist bomb in the cargo hold. Unaware of the defective fuel pump, manufactured in a third world sweat shop. In the cockpit emergency bells and flashing lights arouse our flight crew's futile efforts.
The eternal moment of terror. We spiral earth-ward with beverage glasses and salted peanuts flying about the cabin. Mangled corpse and bits of flesh to be identified by grief stricken relatives. Piles of aluminum scrap meticulously reconstructed in some disused airplane hanger. Pictures on the news. Grieving relatives. Sincerity in the eyes of the news caster. And after the commercial, politics or the economy or the situation in China.
Deloris dozes beside me clutching her complementary blanket to her ample breasts, like a religious medallion imbued with the power of protection. Her eye lids flutter as she dreams. Her hair, usually piled high and held in place by some form of magnetic levitation, is temporarily crushed flat on her head.
As the movie ends I lift the plastic window shade. The sun hangs on the wing tip in a cloudless spring sky. I watch it twist away as the plane banks sharply setting up our landing approach.
"Do you have to?" Deloris whines. "The bloody light's in my eyes!" It's good to see her feeling better. The headache giving way to peevishness.
I remind myself how valuable talking is in a relationship. Express your true feelings the magazine articles say. Communication is the key to a good relationship. I pull the curtain back down and decide to keep my thoughts to myself.
"Sorry dear," I say. "We're about to land."
Don't get me wrong about Deloris. We had some good times over the last week. Some rough spots as well but all told no worse than some we've been through. I spent the week smiling, being amiable, trying to keep her in a good mood. Hoping for some romance of the erogenously explorative nature. Coping with disappointment in the privacy of my own shower. Doing what a man has to do.
Our pilot manages to get us on the ground without breaking anything. After customs I ransom my car from the Park and Lock and pick up Deloris at Arrivals. Her huge bag barely fits in the trunk. I stuff the rest of her souvenirs in the back seat with my small bag.
On the airport expressway we run into rush hour traffic. An ethnic person pulls up on my left, cuts straight across in front of me and careens off at the exit. I hit the horn, slam on the brakes and miss him by inches. Deloris lurches forward theatrically and grabs the dash.
"What the hell are you doing?" she yells. "You almost hit him!" I want to point out that it was entirely the other guy's fault. But I only manage a strangled "Sorry." My shoulders are hunch and I grip the wheel with white knuckles. Out of the corner of my eye I see her dig something pharmaceutical out of her purse and swallows it dry.
I tell myself to relax and look around for something distracting. The sky is clear and blue. Spring is in the air. The occasional scrawny tree by the side of the road looks ready to burst into leaf. Ready to give it one more desperate try. It's enough to make even the most cynical heart experience joyful anticipation. Sure, right!
I find a parking space just up the street from Deloris's building. I drag her suitcase out of the trunk and make a second trip back for her carved porpoise, clay mask, and little dog house made out of sea shells and dry wall mud.
She is waiting for me in front of the building
. "There's that slut from the sixth floor," she says. I see are convertible coming up the street. The top is down. The driver, female, fortyish, tanned with bleached yellow hair pulled back and tied with a ribbon the same color as her car. Her male companion looks like an ex-tennis pro or golf instructor. He holds a coiffured poodle in his arms. A silly red bow wrapped around a tuft of fur sticking up from the top of it's head.
"From what I hear she's slept with half the guys in the building," Deloris says contemptuously.
Even as I'm formulating my witty response I know it is a big mistake. I'm lured to disaster. Driven to self destruction.
"Have you got her telephone number?" I quip.
"You're an ass hole," she snaps and stalks into the elevator leaving me with her bags. I have to wait for it to come back down.
I let myself into her apartment and put her things in the bedroom. Bits of kitty litter stick to the bottom of my socks as I pass the reeking box in the hall.
The living room curtains are drawn. The room is dark. I can barely see the photos that cover the end wall. Pictures of Deloris with her children, with her parents, with her sisters and with her cat.
Deloris sits on the couch with her head on a frilly pillow. The television is on. Muted sound. Her cat sits on her lap. He eyes me suspiciously.
She is wearing her flannel housecoat and whatever she took in the car has kicked in. Her eyes have taken on the look of someone trying to focus on a distant mirage.
I sit beside her careful not to let our legs touch. She pulls away into her end of the couch. I feel one of those icy cartoon clouds hanging over us.
Deloris speaks without lifting her eyes from the television. "I don't think we should see so much of each other."
I'm tempted to quip back. What, like keep some clothes on in bed. Maybe my socks so you can't see my feet. You're going to wear a bank robbers balaclava so I can't see your face. For once I resist the temptation.
"Maybe we need a break from each other," I say instead.
"Yeah," she says nodding her head on a rubbery neck.
Decisions. Funny how quickly they change a life. At a corner you are faced with a left or right turn. In one direction life goes on as usual. The other way you walk for a block and are suddenly crushed beneath the wheels of a large smelly sanitation vehicle.
So I get my tooth brush out of the medicine cupboard where it lays jammed in with her collection of prozac, valium, birth control pills and laxatives. Uppers, downers, shakers and movers. I pack it with my bathrobe and spare underwear in a plastic shopping bag from A&P.
Back in the living room she's curled up on the couch snoring. I kiss the side of her neck and let her hair run through my fingers. I leave my keys on the kitchen table and the cat watches as I let myself out.