Darin Barry CC
It was a fling until her sister flung herself off a hotel balcony in Mexico. Then it was cemented. That was the night she told me she loved me. She told me she loved me like it was an accident, caught up in the moment, tangled together on the couch.
She never let me in her bed, not at first anyway. She said she didn’t let any men in her bed. I didn’t believe her, seeing from the hallway purple velvet Velcro hand restraints wrapped around her headboard’s posts. She said with a wink that those were for girls (it turns out we share one in common, just not at the same time) and I believed her. I believed her when she said she loved me, too, like a conqueror who believes those he subdued are loyal to the new throne. I believed her when she whispered it and covered her mouth as if in politeness after a faux pas, lying exposed on her back. She grinned with duper’s delight. She’d said she didn’t love anyone anymore.
She’d spoken of love the day before. She had a habit of being seasonally obsessive. In February, for example, she’d ornamented the house with hearts, and in March she’d adorned the halls with shamrocks. This month it was pumpkins. There were at least 30 pumpkins on the back porch of her house. We were sitting out there smoking cigarettes when she said she thinks love is like a pumpkin, as smoke escaped her nostrils like souls from inverted crematorium smokestacks.
“Just look at them,” she said, gesturing across the gourd-pocked landscape with her cigarette. “They’ve got a tough, rind-y exterior which, when it’s cut, gets all messy and everything falls out. And people give them nasty faces to scare everyone away. But despite all that, when they cut it open and spill the seeds all over the place, and carve the scary faces to keep other people or demons at bay, they feel the need to light a fire in them until they’re eventually left out to rot. Oh!” she added as an afterthought, “Those potential pumpkins that are seeds get literally chewed up and spit out, sometimes. Love, and those in it, are like a pumpkin.”
She told me about a time she was five, soon after her dad had disappeared. She was standing on the balcony of a motel in San Antonio, looking out over the railing at the illuminated pool with shadows of floating leaves and bandages and cans. She held in her tiny hands her favorite toy—a little green Playskool glow worm. It looked like a green bean or pea pod with a cherub’s head and nightcap on top, and when you squeezed it, it lit up. She squeezed it and wanted a better look over the railing, so she stepped her little foot up on the rail three inches off the ground and slipped and grabbed the railing to stabilize herself. That’s when she dropped the glow worm.
She watched it fall, bounce, and ricochet all the way down the cement. Its light when out. There were tears in her eyes when she said, “And it never lit up again.” She instantly threw herself into me, sobbing and kissing simultaneously, and asked if I’d choke her. And slap her around a little. I didn’t want to, but that’s exactly what I did.
She found out about her sister’s apparent suicide when the two-day husband called her up and very matter-of-factly laid out the details. He said that she'd been acting strange. That she left dinner early to go back to the hotel room. There was something about screaming, or shouting, and maybe the husband was there or he wasn’t but the downstairs tenants sure heard something—at least that was in the policía report. That, and her body was flat on the pavement.
There was no autopsy. Mexican hospital. The body would be repatriated in an urn. This roused her suspicions even further, and she was sure the husband had drugged her. None of it added up, she said. It was nothing like her sister to jump off a building. Her sister was the good one. She told me about the nights their dad would come into their room when she was four and close the door and crawl into bed with her sister, smelling like booze.
We got drunk that night on Canadian whiskey. About two hours in she took a photo album out and showed me pictures of her and her sister that she said she’d never shown anybody else. I didn’t believe her. She told me she loved me again and told her I loved her too because that’s what she needed to hear, and for the first time since I’d known her I saw her soften. Not give in or succumb like she was accustomed to doing, but brighten and collapse at the same time.
But then over time she began to become all the anger and angst and uncertainty of the 90s. She’d smoke weed until she was hoarse and then ask me to get rougher, sometimes make tacos or whiskey runs, or to go down to the train tracks with her to hop the train and see where it took us. The night I accidentally gave her a black eye she said she’d be getting off on it for days.
After a while, she either forgot or didn’t care about the conspiracy surrounding her sister’s death, and wanted to go out somewhere.
“You wanna do something?”
She stood up and walked out to the porch where all the pumpkins were. “I hate these things,” she said. “Let’s go to the bridge. Let’s load up your truck bed and take them down to the bridge and throw them off the bridge and smash them to pieces. Every last one.”
And that’s exactly what we did.
Ty Hall Lives in Texas, makes up stories, and tries to be good. He has been published in multiple literary journals, and has won the "English Faculty Prize for Best Fiction" (McLennan College, "A Story"), Swaggerfest Film's "Best In Show" (script, "9 Words"), and an ADDY for commercial copywriting.
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