XIII

I have not stopped at Jewel’s to talk since that church service. I still pass by her and see her out on the porch, and sometimes I wave at her, but I keep walking. I do not stop to talk to her.

I miss talking to Jewel. But now I do not know what to say. I feel like I said it all before I dipped out of the service and out of her life. It is a rotten thing I am doing. Jewel cannot get to me. Only I can get to her.

Her life must me tough. She is wise, and kind, and once beautiful, but she is blind. People like me must use her all the time. You can have her but she can never have you. You can talk to her when you want but she can only talk back when you talk first.

What makes it even sadder is her wonderful temperament. You might think that she would get so lonely and tired of being ignored that she would talk anybody’s head off that makes contact with, but she does not. She sits there and listens. She talks softly and asks questions. She cares about people that she must know are using her.

At least she knows I love her. At least she knows I care about her.

After I think that I hope that I am not rationalizing. I hope I mean it. It is too hard to really tell. It is what it is. Or it is what is isn’t.

Today I am sitting in the diner waiting on my food. I sip coffee and smoke a cigarette. Camille flirts with me and I flirt back. I love to watch her walk away after she serves me. She can make the littlest things sexy.

I see a man in the corner sneak a look at Camille as she passes him. He is sitting with his wife, who currently has her head down and is talking. I study them. I look at his ring finger. I look at hers. They are married.

Marriage is like religion, I think. It puts a lot of pressure on you that does not need to be there. On the other hand, maybe there is some merit to it. It makes you more committed, it brings you closer with one person. It creates families that love each other.

But what is marriage but just an idea? What makes it a tangible, real thing? Why are people so upset when people who are not married have sex? Is not sex ours for the having? Who tells us what to do with our bodies? Do they not belong to us?

I cannot understand marriage and how it got to be but I try to respect it. I just do not want it for myself. It must be so much pressure to be committed to one human, and to realize you are still attracted to other people, and they are attracted to you. Now you cannot follow your heart, you follow the rules of marriage.

I do not know, maybe it is better that way, with structure, maybe not. I know marriage is not something we are born with, though. It is an idea that we, or some god, created and passed down to us.

I watch the couple laugh and seemingly enjoy their meal. They are flirtatious, but refined. I figure they have probably been married for a good amount of time. They look pretty young but older than me. They are sitting across from each other, and not touching each other, so they cannot be newly-weds.

“How is everything for you, sir?” Camille says, approaching my table.

I look outside at the blue sky and then back to her.

“The view’s great.”

She smiles. Now she bends over, moving her chest close to my head and points out the window to the sky.

“If you look closely, you can see everything.”

I look. Boy, do I look. She is wearing no bra. And I like what I see. A lot.

I want to make a real move for a second, but I continue with the flirtatious banter.

“I‘d like to place another order,” I say.

Guess what I say next.

“I’d like the waitress.”

Then I pause and hit her with my devilish grin.

“Topped with whip cream.”

She laughs.

“Let me see what I can do, babe,” she returns.

She picks up my plate and coffee and heads back to the kitchen.

I want to go for it. I should ask her when she gets off.

I sit there smoking my cigarette, wasting time.

She comes back out.

“I get off at 5.”

I look at the clock. It is 11 something. I could come back in five hours. I wish I could know she was serious.

I tell her I’ll be here. Then I go my way.

I walk out into the world. I light up another cigarette. I pick up my feet and move around. I cross the street without looking. I hear a loud honk. I put up my middle finger in the direction it came from. They hit the horn a couple more time and yell something at me.

“Have a lovely day,” I mumble back as they pass behind me.

I walk up the street. I look at the world around me. People rush from here to there. Lights change. Car tires screech. Pedestrians go from brisk walks to hurried jogs. The suns sits up in the sky and laughs at us. What a mess we have made.

I walk to a clothing store and go in. It is a cool, vintage-looking place. I waltz around, listen to the cool music and check the place out. I am greeted by an employee who tells me there is some deal going on but I do not listen. I tell her thanks and continue my browse.

When I am ready to go I go. I walk back out into the world and make my way nowhere. I might go to a beach. I might go to a park. I might walk up the street to a condo building with a nice pool out back. I have been to parties there before. It is easy to jump the fence and go for a quick swim.

I make my way to the building. I go around back and walk to the fenced in pool. I jump it. It is that simple. Nobody is out there, which makes sense at this time of day.

I sit down by the pool under the shade of an umbrella and chain smoke. I find a bit of peace hear. I start writing lyrics in my head.

She’s always on the edge of a break down

She don’t understand but the words in red

She’s tired of people telling her keep her head up

What’s the use in a pretty face when you’re dead?

I decide to go back to the apartment and write it down. There I will figure out the rest with my writing guitar. I might go to Louie’s and play this tonight. Why not? I really like the way it sounds in my head.

I do it. I play around with it until I figure it out. I will play two parts three times over: A, B, A, B, A, B.

I like it. I will play it just like that tonight. It is sad but not too sad. It is cool. And it is easy to play.

I do play it just like that at Louie’s tonight. There is a good number of people and it gets an interesting reaction. People seem to vibe with it. Everything slows down. People pay attention.

After I am done I go out back and light up a cigarette. A girl walks up behind me and taps me on the shoulder.

“I loved your gig, man,” she says. She kind of spits it out. Maybe she is nervous. I kind of laugh. No need to be nervous. I am nobody special.

I noticed her sitting at the bar alone about half way through my set or so. Then she moved to a table closer. She is cute. Nothing special, but cute. She is short and has big brown eyes.

“Thank you,” I say as I blow smoke into the air.

“What was that one song about? The one that goes like-.” She hums it out.

“You know, she don’t understand the words in red? That one.”

I grin.

“I do know that one.”

She laughs.

“Nah, but it’s ‘she don’t understand but the words in red.”

“Ohhh,” she starts, “why? Can I ask?”

“I don’t know, really, I don’t,” I say, “but it’s important. She don’t understand but the words in red.”

“No reason? Really? But you sing it with such a passion, man.”

“Yeah, I don’t know. What does it make you think?”

She pauses. She makes some weird noises while she thinks about it, some “huhs” and “hmms.”

“Words in red are the words Jesus said,” she says. She continues to think.

She starts to giggle and tells me she does not know.

“Just tell me, please.”

“I want to hear what you have to say, really,” I answer, I mean it.

She pauses again. Then she finally answers.

“This girl, she doesn’t understand anything but what Jesus says, right?”

I grin.

“She is depressed, about to break down, she believes in Jesus.”

She sighs a hard sigh.

“Ugh, I need some time to think about it.”

I tell her she can find me here. I will be here every weeknight from about 1 until it closes. She says she will be back as soon as she can.

“Well,” she pauses, “goodbye.”

She laughs awkwardly.

I wave as she walks away. I wait around smoking for a little bit. Then I head back to the apartment. As I walk I watch the sun begin its ascent.

I walk up the stairs and go straight to bed. Julia is laying there, sound asleep. I get undressed and crawl into bed next to her. She rolls over and wakes up.

Then she kisses me. I lay there staring into her eyes. She stares back into mine. In the next instance, she rolls back over and takes the blanket with her.

“Oh, no, ya don’t.”

We wrestle around and end up on the floor.

Wrestling usually ends up in love-making, but not today. We stay on the floor, the blanket around us. We end up talking until we fall asleep in a tangled mess.

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