two MARGARET part 2

photo: J.R. Schaefers

< part one

All I needed that day was a shred of peace. Enough silence and sacred space to recover from another eight-hour-long punch in the face disguised as employment.

I took my breaks at my desk and did crossword puzzles. Spent sixty silent minutes hunched over my phone in the lunchroom, nibbling on sadgirl snacks packed in plastic containers with snappy tops. Visualized the ritual murders of my supervisors, a sick exercise meant to distract my mind from pinpointing the moment I fucked up my life and landed on the night shift, diddling a ten-key under a frozen clock and proofing bank transactions in a cold basement.

When I came home I only wanted the place to myself. A few minor comforts. A hot shower, the cleanest pair of my cleanish hand-washed underwear. My favorite sweatpants, an effective dose of pills and a trashy movie. Instead I walked onto the set of a bad telenovela.

I read that a Navajo woman can effect a legally binding divorce by placing her husband’s saddle outside their front door. He comes home and sees it, he can’t miss it, and that’s it. Divorced.

I haven’t researched that to confirm it as fact but I really want to believe it’s true because it’s fairy-tale tragic to the point of romantic. And such a fuck-you genius way to silently say something that should be screamed out loud:

This is over.

We met on the job at a Seattle recording studio a year after I dropped out of school. He was a session musician and I came onto the project as a backing vocalist. I heard his voice between takes but I couldn’t see him from my booth. I was with someone at the time so I wasn’t exactly breaking my neck to get a good hot look.

When the vocals were down I watched from the control room.

The band ran through more takes and Vincent sat with his back toward the glass. Hooked one heel in the rungs under his stool and tapped tempo on a thick remnant of red carpet. He did everything the producer wanted, cutting fresh new slices of sound from the same sheet music every time after time. Opened up the spaces between the notes and went there.

Another take and he stood, head rolling over his shoulders in lazy eights, lower lip tacked under a tooth. All the affectations I hated and mocked when I saw other artists with far less talent trying them on with far too much effort but now I inhaled sharply and watched. Heard everything. Believed what I was seeing.

We wrapped and met for drinks at the Rainbow Tavern. The session drummer’s jazz band was tuning up to play.

I sat with the other vocalists and when Vincent came in I cleared my coat from an empty chair I’d refused to give up. Didn’t know I was saving the seat for him until he walked past me to stand at the bar with the recording engineers and a blast of hot air rushed over something red beneath my ribs.

You fucking fool.

I took my sweet time pretending to check my coat pockets for something I couldn’t find and I waited. Finished my drink. Stirred the ice and laughed along with the end of a conversation I’d not heard begin. Risked a peek and saw him looking at me.

What happened next was not an emotional response, please give me some credit. It was something tangible. Heavy like a rare coin. An odd chemical reaction generating its own sparks and smoke.

I inhaled, pushed my bottled breath against a pressure sealed inside me and that’s when I knew. That look created something. Connected us. I didn’t know his name but all at once it was clear that we were now two parts of a new and unknown One.

That sounds absurd, doesn’t it? It sounds ridiculous to me saying it now but if you were there, if you’d been me then you’d know every word you just read is true and you’d get the fuck off my back and listen.

Men are allowed to act recklessly upon things women are expected to defuse delicately. Things like anger. Instinct. Obsession. Men are forgiven when their gambled actions fail and create deficits, even disasters but women have to be sure, we have to be damn sure before we take a step toward securing the things we need or else we’re silly. Emotional and stupid.

In fact we are the species who have to really know things. We’re not allowed to fail and learn and try again so we research. We gather data, sniff the wind. We measure and observe.

In a crowded room, an airport terminal, a restaurant. I can spot a couple and I know when they have it, something real but I won’t call it love because that word means different things to different people.

Not everyone calls it love. Most of the things we truly need don’t have names.

If I could learn the words for all the things I knew when Vincent looked at me I wouldn’t need him to be part of it. If it had a name, then I could seek it out, find it on my own. Plan the motherfucker properly and get exactly what I want with someone else.

He sat beside me.

Said nothing. Didn’t look at me as he reached and ran one hand into my hair, slowly pulled his fingers through.

He did it again and when the band took a break he looked at me and said:

Let’s go home.

And I knew. I was so fucking sure.

We walked out together and drove home in the rain.

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