“So, what’s your name again?” I had to ask, his face was so beautiful and I’d been forgetting things lately. I knew I’d put my other shoe here somewhere. I reached deep under the front seat and sure enough, there it was.
“Ta da!” I sang to him, my gorgeous scarlet heel held over my head like a torch. “I’d hate to lose these. Charlie just about shit his pants when I told him how much they cost.”
I looked down on the beautiful face and firm little body that had just given me so much pleasure. “Eddie. It was Eddie, right?” But he just looked up at me with those beautiful eyes. I knew he wanted to tell me, but with his hands wrapped around my French cross letter opener like, almost like a prayer, that and that little pool of blood starting, well, Eddie wasn’t going to be talking much any more.
I thought about taking it back, taking the cross back. I loved that letter opener and never in a million years thought I’d use it for anything so perverse. But Eddie had a big mouth. It always started that way. First they seem so beautiful, so perfect.
No, first it would start with my pleasure, what I needed to make me happy, to make me feel good. I didn’t put in forty hours a week to stay home on Friday and Saturday nights drinking myself into a stupor. Better to go out, spread it around, be spread around, spread it on to whoever looked good at the moment.
Last night it was the busboy at the Albatross, dear Eddie. I could tell he was checking me out. Right about my fourth gin, he gave me the twice over so I asked him when he got off work and then stayed until 2:15a.m., watching him clear tables, watching the old blue hairs giggle in their napkins when he dropped a salad fork or brought more sourdough for them to munch on, lazy cows, eating up all the free bread, not ordering drinks. They’d be lousy tippers too, I was sure of it.
At 2:16 we walked to my car, a new BMW Charlie insisted on buying for me. I opened the moon roof and drove us out to Pier 51, still under construction, no lights, no barricades, my hand in his lap, his tongue in my ear.
It always goes like that – can’t take them home to my place, they’re not ready to introduce me to their (pick one) wife, girlfriend, lover, dog, apartment, so I’ve found places all over the city. Places you can park a burgundy BMW at three in the morning and not be bothered for an hour or two or three or whatever it takes. Charles thought he was buying a big red stop sign, that I’d stand out too much at the Van Ness Street Super 8, be too easy to track down, all his cop friends.
But I’m better than that. I know where to hide and who to bribe. Charles thinks he’s going to catch me at something, something illicit, something solid he could throw at me for grounds of divorce. Charles doesn’t get it – never has. It’s never the touch, the kiss, the cock in the middle of the night. It’s never been the man, his station, his income or the conversation.
The pleasure has always been solely in the hiding, the camouflage. Changing into someone I’m not, covering my tracks with strangers, ripping my clothes off in Charles’ fucking red BMW, driving it home by sunrise and getting away with it. Always getting away with it.
“And you were wonderful, really.” I leaned down, close to his face to see if he was still breathing – little gurgling sounds. “You’ll be OK. It’s a small cut really, nothing to worry about.”
I leaned back and looked out the open car door to the night outside, the sickening smell of the tide coming. I could feel the wet mist on my chest and crawling into my hair.
“You know what I remember? My mother too passed out on the sofa to notice I’d brought home three different guys the last week of my senior year high school. We’d take her half empty bottles into my bedroom and party until one or the other had to eventually go home. I didn’t much like seeing the same guy more than once or twice. Once they saw what a shithole I lived in they usually didn’t want to come back anyways.
“My first year in San Francisco, Mrs. Neilson, our neighbor, called to tell me Mother had finally done it. The same old story – a lit cigarette on the sofa, too passed out to notice the smoke.
“Trailers go up in a hurry in the hot weather. I was glad I’d gotten all my stuff out of there when I did. And then I had all my holidays freed up.
I stretched my legs over Eddie and slipped back into my red heels.
“I sleep like shit. Always trying to wear myself out, knocking myself out so I can sleep and not dream about my mother’s hair – dyed red like a cherry with red flames pouring out of it, red on red, no blood, just ashes and wisps of red hair.
“I dream of her burning over and over, like it will never be finished, once she’s completely burned, she’s whole again and on fire again and doesn’t even know it, but I can see it, I’m watching her burn over and over and I can’t do anything about it.”
“Hey, I don’t even know where you live.” I grabbed his pants. He’d rolled them up in a ball and thrown them on the floor. His wallet didn’t help much, twenty bucks, a bus pass and a green card.
“Where do you live, honey?”
Then I figured it out. It was so perfect. I thought it was absolutely hilarious.
I pulled my dress back on, got in the front seat and started the engine. Why hadn’t I thought of this years ago? Had I actually enjoyed all these nights out? Was I that afraid of Charlie?
I could hear Eddie in the back seat, mumbling something.
“Don’t worry, honey. You’ll be just fine.”
I tried to remember if leather was combustible but I’d always been rotten in science. I drove the car up behind the greens at Charlie’s club, past the clubhouse and right to the edge of the cliffs, the Monterey Cyprus bending in the early morning breeze. The light was just coming up over the bay. It was a beautiful sight, really. I placed the two front tires as close to the edge of the cliff as you can possibly get them and cut the engine.
God, what a horrible time to not smoke. I opened the glove compartment and threw everything in it on the floor looking for a lighter. \Shit, no lighter, no matches. What’s a girl to do? Of course, then it hit me, waiters have matches, probably even busboys.
I dashed out of the front seat and opened the back door by Eddie’s head. He didn’t protest as I went through his pockets and sure enough, a cheapo plastic lighter. I stuffed his pants under his head. Not that he’d be feeling anything soon, but I thought it was a nice gesture.
I walked about ten minutes, just long enough to get past the club and the Legion of Honor Art Museum. The air was cold and cut straight through me. The fog hadn’t cleared yet, but would soon. I felt ten feet tall in my red heels.
I turned around a few times just to see the warm glow of the fire reaching up through the cypress trees. It was a beautiful thing to see. I thought, maybe I’ll start my day at the beach, maybe even get my feet wet.
Cheryl Diane Kidder has a B.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Her work, nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, has appeared or is forthcoming in: CutThroat Magazine, Weber–The Contemporary West, Pembroke Magazine, Tinge Magazine, Brevity Magazine, Brain,Child, Identity Theory, In Posse Review, and elsewhere. For a full listing see: Truewest – http://cheryldkidder.blogspot.com.
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