At the very end of my senior year, I was working my shift at Pizza Hut when my short, neurotic manager spun me around. Business was booming and pizza was flying everywhere.
“You have visitors. Two girls. Big surprise. You have two minutes and I need you back here.” She buzzed away. I looked up to the carry out window and there stood T with Scratch peeking out from around her.
My heart broke in half and fell at my feet. I went to her. We hugged. T asked me if I had plans after work. I said no without taking my eyes off of Scratch. T asked me what time I got off work. I told her without taking my eyes off of Scratch. T said they would be back to pick me up that night. Scratch reached around T and gave me a fist full of flowers and a balloon that said “Happy Graduation!”
“I will see YOU after work,” I said, pointing at Scratch.
That night at work I went through an array of emotions. Rage battled against love. Fear encircled me. Hopelessness fell from the sky like rain and through it all the possibilities of the night rose ominously at the horizon. When they picked me up I sat in the back of Scratch’s truck staring at her as she drove, totally at a loss for how I would deal with her.
Being in her presence again was dizzying. I wanted to kiss her. I wanted to hold her. I wanted her arms around me. And I ached to scream at her for leaving me. We picked up Walleye and roamed off into the night.
In a town called Devil’s Elbow stands the bridge. I have mentioned it before. It is complicated and beautiful and the home for my creativity. Those of you that were there know what that structure meant to me and the people I took there. If I were to dedicate the rest of this blog to the bridge it would not be enough to tell you what energy lives there, dormant until Artist steps out onto its surface. That night we went to the bridge.
When we got there Artist woke up as he always does. He began to speak, creating stories from the shadows. Turning the night air into a character in a living narrative. I let him speak. He thrives on the bridge and I let him shine. When it was all over and Artist was fading I saw my opportunity and I kissed T.
The next day when I got home from school a dejected Scratch and a cautious T greeted me at the driveway of my house. Walleye was in the bed of the truck waiting. I went in the house to drop off my stuff, trying to temper the feelings that raged in me the moment I saw the way the sunlight played with her. My mother met me at the door. “You’re not going with them,” she said.
“Yes, mother, yes I am.” My mother knew a fraction of what Scratch meant to me and she hated Scratch.
“If you go with her tonight you will do something you regret for the rest of your life,” she said.
I ignored her.
“I will not have that girl as a daughter-in-law if you get her pregnant!” my mother yelled.
With one hand clutching the door I turned to her and said, “Then I will not have you as a mother.”
I wanted Scratch so much I ached to simply brush her bangs out of her face and look into her eyes.
That night we went to Bruise and Heart’s. Walking in the door was like coming home. I hadn’t realized how much I missed Heart’s smile. She hugged me and said welcome home. Me and Bruise made fun of Walleye. T and Scratch whispered to one another and I showed off for Scratch. I looked at her often, unable to keep my eyes off of her and found her looking at me.
When we left we went to their motel. Scratch and T went into the office and rented a second room. T and Walleye went to hers. Me and Scratch went to the other. The moment I walked in the room my head started buzzing and my breath came ragged. We sat on opposite beds trying to talk but no matter how we fought our bodies would not hold back. She was crying when I grabbed her and kissed her. She murmured the words, “I’m so sorry,” between pressing, gasping kisses.
Time stood still and raced by us as we kissed and held each other. I told her that I loved her more than life and that I wanted her forever. I told her I wanted to marry her. I wanted a life with her. She cried a lot and I smeared away the tears with my hands as I held her face, and my lips as I kissed her. We didn’t have a condom. But soon we didn’t care. I wanted to get her pregnant. I was graduating from high school she was out long before me. We were ready to start our life. When I undressed in front of her she turned away from me. She said that she couldn’t and I didn’t care. I held her and made her promise she would take me wherever she had gone and we could be one.
She promised. The next day she was gone.
About a year later I was moving into a little shit one room apartment and she showed up at my door. She was pregnant. I don’t remember talking to her. I don’t think I did. All I remember is Teth taking all the pain and rage that bubbled from somewhere deep inside me. He picked up a loveseat by himself and tossed it from the truck to the door of the apartment. I left. Someone else dealt with her.
A few weeks later I was walking down the street on my way to Waffle House when a truck pulled up to me in the night. “Get in,” a man says. “I will take you wherever you want to go.”
“Why would you do that?” I asked.
“Because I have one of your friends in here with me.” I walked around to the passenger door and opened it. Inside sat Scratch, bursting pregnant with this guy’s arm draped over her shoulders.
“You have GOT to me fuckin kidding me!” I shouted to her. I slammed the door and walked away into the night that seemed to have no end.