Marshy Graves. It still sounded spooky.
|Salty Love Tears
By Marilyn Mackenzie
She was born Marcie McGee. Marcie McGee. How she hated that name. She had never quite forgiven her parents for that name. It just didn’t sound right. Her parents thought it was cute that both her names began with "m" and ended with the "e" sound. Yeah, real cute.
Then she met Steve, Steve Graves. Maybe she never really met Steve; she just always knew him.
He appeared in her life sometime in her elementary school years. Even then, she knew she would marry Steve. Years later, after they had exchanged wedding vows, Marcie realized that Marcie Graves was a name even worse than the one given to her by her parents. Marcie Graves. It always came out "Marshy Graves." Spooky.
She wondered if hating the name Marcie Graves had any effect on her life. She wondered if it helped bring about her divorce from Steve less than five years after they married.
Why was she thinking these stupid thoughts? Insignificant details from the past. Marcie never was one to remember the past. The past was over; today and tomorrow were more important. No, she never thought much about the past. Then one day Eric announced that he wanted to write a book about her.
She licked her lips and felt the salty taste of tears. Tears quietly escaped from her eyes without her even realizing it. They trickled down her cheeks and dropped on the table in front of her. She stared at the droplets that had escaped her eyes and were now pooling on the table.
When had she cried last? She didn’t even remember. Had she cried when they divorced? She couldn’t remember crying. By then, she had shed so many tears that she didn’t think there were any more left. She hadn’t cried for a long time. The release of emotions felt good, freeing.
Eric had been Steve’s friend. Marcie never liked him much. He was a weird fellow. Really strange, in her opinion. The first time they met, Marcie noticed that his arms were pure white and smooth; there was no hair on them. He always had a rumpled look. His clothes always looked as if he’d slept in them and his hair was never combed.
It wasn’t until much later that she learned that his arms had been burned when he was just a child. That’s why they were so pale and had no hair.
His rumpled look was easily explained too. He worked all day in an office to pay the bills and spent each night writing stories and poems. He was working on a novel too, hoping to be published one day.
If she had cared to notice, she would have realized that Eric often wore the same clothes for days. He probably worked through the night on his latest story and had no time to shower or shave or dress again, before rushing off to his 9 to 5 job.
As the years passed, Marcie continued thinking Eric was odd, even after she understood his past and present. She really thought he was strange now that he wanted to write a book about her life. What had she ever done that was interesting? She hadn’t even been able to hold on to the husband she had dearly loved, still loved.
Eric and Marcie sat in her apartment now, ready to start the book about Marcie. Her apartment was neat and clean. She kept it that way, just the opposite of how it looked when she and Steve were married. She even emptied the ashtrays before the cigarettes were hardly out. She’d probably start a fire one day.
When she had been married, Marcie didn’t have any plants in the apartment. She couldn’t keep them from dying. Now her apartment was crowded with plants; there were plants on every table, on every shelf. She didn’t know their names, only that they didn’t die. Everything was different now that Steve was gone from her life. She should be happy...
"Ah-hum," Eric said, bringing her back to the present. Marcie jumped. Having forgotten he was there, his voice startled her.
"You’re wasting the tape, Marcie. I can’t record your thoughts."
It still seemed like such a joke to her. But she started anyway, "Baby girl McGee, born of blond, blue-eyed parents, lay mistakenly in the arms of the wrong mother. The hospital nurse, thankfully, noticed her mistake, and placed her into the arms of her real mother. Thus began the action-packed life of Marcie McGee twenty-seven years ago."
"Is that the kind of stuff you want me to say, Eric? I don’t understand why this will interest anyone. You said to start at the beginning. Did you mean...?"
"Yeah, yeah. Go ahead. We’ll decide later what to put in the book, Marcie. Just keep talking. You’re wasting the tape."
"You know you’ll never sell this book, Eric."
She stopped talking when Eric glared at her. Then it seemed that the glaring look turned to one of hurt. Had she hurt Eric’s feelings?
Once she started, Marcie related in detail many of her childhood experiences and memories. Some memories were cute and funny. They might have made good submissions to Reader’s Digest. But Eric was crazy if he thought anyone would be interested in a book about her life. Marcie was ordinary.
Something in Eric’s eyes told her he was bored with her childhood memories. What, then? Her years from high school and beyond included Steve. Was that it? He wanted a book about Steve and Marcie? The perfectly happy couple, whose marriage ended in divorce?
Marcie told of their first date in 8th grade. It was his first date ever, and she acted as if had been hers too. They were both nervous. My how she had loved him as only a 13 year old could!
Marcie related how her family had moved to another part of the city, and that after a year of waiting, she had finally gotten the nerve to ask Steve to attend a party at her new home. After that, he visited regularly, even when he couldn’t borrow his parents’ car.
She laughed as she remembered that he would sometimes stay past the last bus and then have to hitch hike over ten miles home. At 2 a.m., there was often no one on the road, and he had to walk (run?) most of the way home, sometimes in cold and snow. Yet he always came back. He must have loved her.
Stock car racing had been a passion of hers, since her parents took her to her first race when she was only 3 months old. Marcie introduced Steve to this world, and together they loved the excitement of racing. They had even followed a truck towing a stock car on their honeymoon, so they find a local racetrack. They went to a stock car race on their honeymoon!
Marcie remembered the last anniversary they spent together. She had introduced him to restaurants she often frequented at lunchtime. Marcie treated him to both lunch and dinner out that day. His favorite thing, next to loving her, had always been eating.
Steve bought Marcie some jewelry and clothes for that anniversary. He’d finally remembered that those were her favorite things, next to him.
Marcie sat quietly for what seemed like forever, thinking.
"Zzzzzzz snort zzzzzzz," Eric snored.
"Imagine a stranger being interested in this, if the writer falls asleep," Marcie said to no one.
She reached over Eric’s foot, which rested on her coffee table. She might as well listen to what she had said. Maybe it would put her to sleep too.
She pressed the buttons on the tape recorder, but nothing happened. As she flipped it open, she frowned. There was no tape! Puzzled, and angry, she wanted to shake Eric awake and yell, "What kind of joke is this?"
But Marcie smiled instead. She knew that Eric had been trying to get her to talk about Steve, to remember. She wondered what Steve was doing right now.
Without even glancing at the clock to see the time, without thinking, lest she talk herself out of what she was about to do, Marcie reached for the phone. She dialed Steve’s number and it barely rang before he answered it. She wondered if he sat by the phone at night.
Before she realized what she was saying, before she could collect her thoughts and compose the perfect words to say, she suddenly blurted out, "I still love you, Steve."
"I still love you, too, Marshy Graves."
They talked for just a few minutes, promising to meet for coffee in the morning to decide what to do. Before he hung up, Steve said in a whisper, "I’ve learned to pick up my socks, Marcie."
Marcie licked her lips again and felt the salty taste of tears. Love tears. When was the last time she had cried?
She left Eric sleeping on her sofa and snuggled under the covers in her own bed. She smiled. What could go wrong? He’s said, "I’ve learned to pick up my socks, Marcie."
Marshy Graves. It still sounded spooky.