No Sign of StoppingAlmasi Hines
The girl walked over to the window. When her feet touched the wet carpet, she jumped back. “Eww,” she said. She and the man laughed.
She struck a match. It didn’t light. She threw it out the window. She struck two more before finding one that lit.
The phone rang. The man let it ring three times before he picked it up. “Hello?” he said. There was no answer. He could hear breathing on the other end. The other person hung up. The man hung up and looked at the girl. She was staring out the window.
“You know, I ain’t got nothin’ against blacks,” the girl said. “One of my old boyfriends was black.” The man didn’t say anything. He looked down at his brown hands.
“Thought my momma’s boyfriend was gonna’ kill Davon, my black boyfriend, at the time.” Her voice changed to a thick, redneck accent. “You bring that boy round here and I’ll blow his fuckin’ head off,” she said, quoting her mother’s boyfriend. She laughed again. The man sat quietly. He took another sip from his cup.
The girl looked over at him. She was drunk, he could tell.
“Oh, it was more jealousy than anything else,” the girl explained. “Roger, my momma’s boyfriend, just wanted me for himself. He could be as vicious and territorial as a pitbull.”
“That why you left?” the man asked.
“Naw,” the girl said. “I didn’t mind Roger so much. He wasn’t so bad. He bought me things and he won’t too bad in bed. Naw, it was my momma what kicked me out. She found out about Roger and me, and that was, ya’ know…” the girl trailed off. She took a slow drag from her cigarette. Remembering these things sobered her up. The man figured that the girl had shared more than she’d intended. But the man also knew that memories are like floods: once you open the door to them, you can’t really control ‘em, they just come streaming in.
“You ever been married?” the girl asked.
“Yeah,” the man said.
“How many times?” the girl asked.
“Just the one?” the man said.
“How long you been divorced?” the girl asked.
“I’m not,” the man said.
“What’dya think your wife’d say if she saw me in here with you?” the girl asked.
“I reckon she wouldn’t care,” the man said. The girl stubbed her cigarette out on the window sill and threw it out the window.
She took a swig from her bottle. The man took a sip from his cup. Thunder smacked loudly, rattling the lamp on the night stand. The lights in the room went out. The man sat on the bed in the dark. He could see the girl’s silhouette by the window. He watched as she gulped from the bottle. She wiped her mouth with her forearm.
“You cheat on her and she kick you out?” the girl whispered. She said it so softly that he could barely hear her. He didn’t say anything.
“Men are funny that way. I ain’t never met a man that wouldn’t sell his momma’ for some snatch,” the girl said.
“I ain’t cheat,” the man growled. He didn’t know what it was about this girl. He couldn’t tell if she was over-confident, naïve, or just plain stupid. He figured she was probably a combination of the three.
“Why are you staying in Roanoke Rapids, anyway?” the man asked, changing the subject.
“Ran out of money,” the girl said.
“Then how you staying here?” the man asked.
“I got a friend what works at the motel,” the girl said. “He says I could stay here for free a few days.”
The man didn’t say anything. He was thinking on his wife. How the words had gotten away from them. Their home so cold, they could feel their bones breaking under the pressure. It had been no way to live.
Tomorrow, when I’m sober, he thought, I’ll mail her a letter. Explain to her how I’ve been feeling. He tried to put together the first lines of this letter in his head. No words came.
The phone rang. The man made no move to pick it up.
“That her?” the girl asked.
“Just a wrong number,” the man said.
The girl raised the bottle to her lips. The man could hear the whiskey slosh around in the bottle. The sound reminded him of being in the hull of a ship, back in the Navy.The girl walked over to the bed. The room was pitch dark. The man couldn’t see her. Could only hear her footsteps. He felt her body make a crater in the mattress as she sat down.
“Why’d she leave you?” the girl asked. She lay back on the bed.
“Cause I killed our boy,” the man said. The man felt a rock in his throat when he said this. It matched the brick in his stomach.
“Jesus,” the girl said. He felt the mattress tremble. He heard her take another swig of whisky.
“It was an accident,” the man said. He didn’t say more.
In the dark, he reached for the bottle. The girl handed it to him. He took a hard swallow. He stared out the window. The rain showed no signs of stopping. The girl’s breath was soft and low. The man wondered if she was falling asleep.
The phone rang. The girl stirred, but only slightly. The man leaned over her and picked up the phone. He hoped it was his wife on the other end. He meant to say he was sorry. He meant to say that he wanted to be let back into their home. He meant to say something that would ease her pain.
He placed the phone to his ear. “Hello?” he said. There was no answer. “Avery,” the man said, “is that you?”
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