Two neighbors cling to each other in an attempt to escape the isolation of their marriages
|You walked in the front door and slung your jacket over the arm of the sofa, even though Valerie had asked you so many times to put it up in the entryway closet. The first time she had snapped at you to put the jacket in its proper place you had laughed, because the closet she referred to was where she also stored the vacuum cleaner and a mop bucket, but here she was referring to it as the "coat-closet" as if the single-wide trailer you shared with her had suddenly sprung a vestibule. You kicked your shoes off and pushed them back behind the door where it would swing open and hide them and you sauntered down the length of the trailer to your bedroom at the end of the hall. You plopped belly first over the length of the bed and looked under your side for the cigar box that you kept there. Valerie would not be home for another hour and you figured you could roll a quick joint and maybe even catch a nap before she got home with the kid.
You opened the cigar box and pulled out the plastic baggy full of mostly stems and seeds, and you proceeded to roll up the small bit of weed and smoke it down in three long draws. Feeling a little more relaxed you slid the box back under the bed and sprayed a couple of bursts of the floral scented air freshener Valerie kept in the bathroom - no need to get her worked up. You walked back into the living room and plucked your jacket from the sofa and pulled it back on. Opening the "coat-closet" you fished out your pair of brown corduroy slippers and slipped them on before walking out into the brisk afternoon. Looking toward your neighbor's - Mike's - trailer you noticed that his car was not in the gravel driveway, which was all well by you since you could barely stand that prick anyway and all you wanted to do was go over and try and get a dimebag from his wife Julie before Valerie got home.
Last time Mike was in and you had to carry on a conversation with him and Julie you nearly blew a snot bubble through your nose trying to hold back a laugh as he waxed on about the stock market and his recent decision to invest in WalMart. Looking at his piece-of-shit trailer covered with blobs of last year's mud and flakes of three different colors of paint you thought he might be better off investing in a power washer.
You walked over to their trailer and stepped up, balancing on the cinder block steps that served as their veranda, and knocked out a little pattern that had, you thought, become a rather cute calling card. Rap-a-tat-tat-tigity-rap-a-tat-tat. After a moment, Julie opened the door slowly. She stood in the doorway, smiling, and brushed the hair from her eyes. She was wearing an oversized tee shirt and a pair of fuzzy pink slippers and you thought that she looked lovely all rumpled and natural. The way she smiled at you reminded you a little of the way Valerie had once smiled when the two of you were a fresh, new couple. Valerie had still been in high school then and was naive and pure and you were soiled and broken but still mysterious, having recently returned from a four-year term in the army. Since the boy had been born and you had begun to work in the paper mill and Valerie had taken a job at the bank, she no longer smiled like that.
Julie asked you to come in and you did, brushing against her as she stepped aside to hold the door for you. The brief contact thrilled you and for a moment you felt guilty to be here. The scent of sandlewood incense overpowered the damp and sour smell of the trailer. You walked into the living room and made your way to Julie's green tweed sofa, sat down and kicked your feet up on the battered coffee table. Julie laughed and said, "Make yourself at home," as she shut the door behind her.
"How's everything going?" you said, feeling a bit self-conscious about being alone with Julie in her pajamas and not knowing what else to say.
"Fine," she said and walked over to a rattan chair that sat in the corner of the room, plopping down ungracefully. "How's Valerie doing?" Julie and Valerie had been friends in high school, but in the last few months Valerie had been avoiding Julie. You had asked about it a few days earlier and Valerie had said that she had decided that Julie was a bad influence on your son.
"I guess she's okay. I'm not sure we really talk to each other anymore. Seems we talk at each other these days."
You both sat in silence for a moment. You felt compelled to speak.
"Wanna smoke?" you said. Julie nodded and grinned and then flipped around in the chair, her knees in the seat, and reached behind the chair's back for the box where she kept her stash. You could not help looking as her panties showed from beneath the hem of her shirt. They were pumpkin orange. She turned back around and you looked up quickly, but not quickly enough, you thought. She made eye contact with you for a moment, but her face showed no expression. She looked down as she opened the box and pulled out a baggie of weed and a packet of rolling papers, setting everything out on a black metal tv tray. She plucked a spongy bud from the baggie and quickly broke it up onto the tray.
"When's Mike due home?" you asked, and then wondered if that had sounded like a come-on. You added, "I'm not sure he would be too happy to see me smoking in his living room."
She shrugged as she folded a diagonal crease in the rolling paper and sprinkled on the broken leaves.
"Oh, he's working late again." Her face contorted a little as she said this, and against your instinct not to get involved, you probed. You told yourself it was for her sake.
"Everything okay with his job?"
"Everything's fine." She nodded as she said this, as if to add extra support to the statement. "He's just got this hang up lately about getting some promotion that really sounds to me like it's going to be twice the work for nearly the same pay. He says I would never understand how the business world works, and that he's got to pay his dues before rising to higher management. I said that I didn't think that Valve-Co qualified as "the business world", and he told me to fuck off. Anyway, I don't expect him back until around seven or eight tonight."
She ran her tongue along the glue strip of the rolling paper and rolled the joint tightly in her fingers. She displayed it proudly to you before lighting it in a long slow drag. The two of you smoked it in silence. She dropped the roach into a pill bottle which she put back in her box.
"You need a little for later?" she asked. You were grateful not to have to ask her.
"I would love some. How much do you have to spare?"
"I can come off with a bud or two. I should be getting another half-ounce next Tuesday."
She broke off a small amount into a plastic sandwich bag and you gave her twenty bucks. She put the money in the box with the rest of the weed and she climbed back up into the chair and reached over to put the box back in its hiding place. As she did this, the pumpkin orange panties showed again from beneath the hem of the tee shirt, and you thought that maybe she was aware that you were watching. Maybe she was displaying them to you. You stood up from the sofa as she turned around.
"You leaving already?" she asked. She rose from the chair.
Without a thought you crossed the room and grabbed her into your arms and pressed your lips to hers. Her mouth parted easily and her tongue slivered against yours like a snake in the grass. How unlike Valerie's tongue, which filled her mouth like mounds of cotton and enveloped yours. Julie pulled you in tight against her and pressed her back against the wall. She reached down and grabbed you, and you ran your hand down her back. She grabbed at your belt, pulling it open with one hand while her other found your zipper. Her confidence thrilled you - so different from Valerie who was meek and controlled in your lovemaking. The foreignness pulled you out of the moment, and you were suddenly aware of how the two of you must look - standing in Mike's trailer, you holding his wife while your own wife was at work. You backed away from Julie.
"Julie. I am so sorry. I have no idea why I just did that."
She let go of your belt and put her hand over your mouth. "Shhh," she said. "Don't fuck this up with words."
You reached up and took her hand from your mouth and pulled her close into an embrace, kissing her on her forehead.
"No, Julie. We can't do this. You know we can't do this."
You continued to hold her, feeling her deep fast breathing slow down and watching her chest begin to tighten. Then the slow breaths gave way to a soft sobbing and she pressed her face deep into your shoulder. You were aware that your pants were still undone and your belt was almost pulled away. You kissed her on the top of her head and closed your eyes as you reached down to fasten your belt one-handed.
The reflection of headlights through the window and the sound of tires crunching up the gravel driveway pulled you from your silence. You peeked out the window and saw that Mike's car now sat in the driveway, his engine humming. You jerked behind the door and quickly yanked your pants up - buttoning and zipping and fastening until everything was back in its place. The car engine continued to run, mocking you, and Mike's car door had not opened and you knew that he was waiting for you to come out. He would not make the first move. Passive-aggressive prick, you thought to yourself, feeling that this would not likely end well.
You looked back out the window and saw that Mike was leaning over into the passenger seat, but you could not see very well with the headlights in your face. You wondered what he might be reaching for. He did not seem the type to carry a gun, and he was not athletic enough to own a ball bat. You waited, not wanting to run but not yet ready to meet the situation head-on. Finally you heard the car door open and heard feet scuffle on the gravel and then the door shut again. The feet stopped moving. No point in waiting any longer. You reached for the handle of the hollow aluminum door to the front of Mike and Julie's trailer and turned. You waited, listening again for the footsteps. After a moment, they began to move. To your surprise, they were moving away from the trailer - towards your house. Maybe, you thought, Mike didn't know. Maybe you were being paranoid. You looked at Julie and she shrugged.
You pulled the door open and looked outside. Mike was still in the car.
Then you noticed that Valerie was walking up the path of concrete pavers that led to your front door. Her car was nowhere in sight. As she stepped up the gravel path, she adjusted her blouse, tucking in a loose section in the back. You cursed under your breath and wished you had left your damn coat on the sofa after all.