My mom once asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was eleven years old at the time, and we were driving through the backroads of Texas for some reason. Probably to talk to a guy about hay. When you have horses, you do that a lot, talk to people about hay.
“I don’t care,” I told her.
“I said I don’t care.”
“What do you mean you don’t care? You have to care.”
I thought about that, about that I had to care. Something about it didn’t seem right.
“I learned what the word ‘notorious’ meant the other day. At school.”
“Oh, yeah?” She asked, slowing the pickup and stopping. Train crossing, although it didn’t have the lowering rail to tell you to watch out. In rural areas, you only have the little white circle sign with the black X and R’s on it, and you if you aren’t smart enough to stop and wait for an oncoming train, you end up on its windshield. Growing up where I did, every couple years or so, I’d hear about someone getting drunk and getting creamed—either not paying attention or trying to race the train.
“Yeah.” I sat, thinking it over. “I want to be notorious.”
“You mean famous.”
“When you’re notorious, you’re generally associated with the bad guys.”
“I know what it means.”
She stared straight ahead for a while. The train went by, and we watched it in silence. Once the train was gone, we crossed the tracks and continued down the bumpy dirt road. A pickup passed us going the opposite direction, rusty and sun-faded to a deep maroon. The old rancher behind the wheel tipped us a wave, and both my mother and I waved back. That’s what you do when you pass someone on the road in places like that, is tip a wave even if you don’t know the other driver. Common courtesy, and if you don’t do it, you’re either an outsider or a jerk.
“You know? Don’t use that word anymore,” my mom said.
“I won’t. Just so you know, though—I will be.”
I don’t remember a whole lot of my childhood. I wonder if other people do, but I’ve never asked because I’m a little concerned that they’d say of course they remember their childhood, what kind of a monster doesn’t remember his childhood.
And then the cat would be out of the bag, so to speak.
I’m that kind of monster.
“Tell me what you want.”
She says it, but she doesn’t mean it. I told her what I wanted, she’d never stop running.
Do I even know? Probably not. Some days, it’s love, commitment, all the things I never had growing up. Other days, it’s a threesome with her, her mom, and her sister, with plenty of anal involved. Whatever.
Nothing about me is real. It’s one of the few things I actually understand about my life, but no one else seems to be able to catch on.
“Don’t hurt me.” That’s what he says, and he’s so beautiful that I almost fall in love. But love isn’t on the menu, not tonight, and hurt is. He doesn’t know it, of course.
He won’t know it for awhile, not until it’s too late, when he’s choking on tears and heartache.
“I won’t hurt you,” I say, and I stroke his face to cover the lies.
She was there, and I went to her, and to this day, I don’t know which one of us was the more desperate, pathetic one. It went like it always did. Like this: alcohol and then to the club, dancing, writhing, back home, more alcohol. Laughter or anger, then, depending on how the night was going. Early hours of the morning spent discussing or screaming, and no matter what, there was always the sex to end it.
I give up, okay? That’s the thing, and you can call me whatever you need to call me. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I can’t care. Not anymore.
Tell me your stories of heartbreak, of adventure, of hard luck. Tell me if you have to, but don’t expect me to listen or to care or to remember.
You and I, what we are is complicated.
It’s not friendship, not exactly, not anymore. You and I, we’re parasites addicted to each other’s lunacy.
She finishes this rant and she takes another drink, expecting wine, tasting tequila, which explains so much. She wonders if his red eyes are from the booze or if he has been crying. She wonders how much she has forgotten.
The time for being human is gone. Right now, we’re just animals. Nothing more than creatures working for our own pleasure. Her moans increase my own arousal, so I work harder to make her moan. She works harder to make me make her moan. The world doesn’t exist; there is only her. Her and everything about her: her scent, her sweat, her breath, her body, and her eyes as she looks down at me, not seeing me, but seeing what she needs most right now.
The climax isn’t like an explosion. It’s like two wild beasts shot down while running. She collapses down onto me, and I drape one arm over her, and we’re both muttering and neither of us know what we’re saying.
And then there is darkness.
I pull myself out of bed and into my skirt, pull my shirt down over my head and almost lose my balance. I decide to skip the bathroom completely—I don’t even want to know what I look like this morning.
My breath alone could probably power a jet, that’s how evil and full of alcohol it is. My head feels like beehive and my stomach feels like an over-filled cement truck. Gotta pee, though, so skipping the bathroom might not be an option.
I glance back at him as I leave the room. In his sleep, he’s one of the good ones. He doesn’t snore, he doesn’t fart. He cuddles just right and he smells nice even when he shouldn’t. In his sleep, he’s everything you could want in a guy.
I decide to for sure skip the bathroom—don’t want to wake him up and ruin the moment. I make my way down the hall and out the front door, vowing to myself that this will be the last time.
I watch through slitted eyes as she escapes, and I hate her and I hate myself, and I hate that we will never work as a couple even though we work so well together. I hate that she is the closest thing I’ve ever known to love, and I hate that I don’t love her at all.
I wait, wondering if she’ll use the bathroom or just leave. Once, she made coffee, and she poured it all into a travel mug and replaced the pot on the burner. Didn’t turn it off, and it stank up the entire apartment. She left a note, “I owe you a cup and some coffee. Don’t call me again, please.”
She leaves without peeing, and I think good luck, baby, that’s a helluva walk. I know—I’ve made it from her place back to mine, a hungover fugitive wanting nothing more than to get home and start erasing the memories.
The door slams behind her, and I hear her make her way down the stairs. I pull myself out of bed and into my boxer shorts, and walk to the bathroom.
The phone rings, and I can’t decide if I want it to be her or not.
I check the number, and it’s my mom.
I answer, and she immediately starts asking questions about the wedding. I find that I still don’t care, and I still want to be notorious.
Maybe I could introduce the woman who just left to my fiancé.