It’s never easy, or necessarily right, to tell someone you love that they’re acting like a cunt. It’s a bit abrasive I suppose, and, yes, that might be an understatement. But hey sometimes, for lack of better options, you just have to go all the way with it. Skip the, “Hey, could you not do that?” or, “What’s your problem?” or, “Listen, you’re pissing me off.” Stop beating around the bush.
“You’re acting like a cunt.”
“Oh, fuck you. Fuck you, Jack. You have no right to call me that,” Ricky says, her voice rising from a whisper.
“I have every right. When you do or say something, or whatever, that makes you sound like a six year old, I have the right to tell you that you’re fucked in the head, thinking like a child, and acting like a cunt. I mean, as your husband, I’m almost required to let you know.”
Ricky’s pissed because, to use her words, I ogled a woman from across the bar.
“Who else is going to tell you?” I say, pointing at strangers nearby. “Him? Her?”
This is how it starts, sitting at some shitty airport sports bar called “Pucks,” where the servers are wearing those red and white striped shirts and seem incapable of conveying any emotions other than ambivalence. There are a couple of business types gulping down double whiskeys, top forty on the radio, and I’m arguing with Ricky about some fantasy of hers that I’m cheating, or I’m still cheating, or I have cheated, or I’m a piece of shit, or it’s my fault that this argument started in the first place, or that somehow I’m to blame for her insecurities. All because I glanced at another woman.
Here’s a photograph of a man with a gun to his head, and he’s seriously contemplating pulling the trigger. I finish my beer and stare at the bartender.
“Another whiskey?” She says.
“You’re not going to get me another?” Ricky says.
“Actually, dear, this is the non-cunt section of the bar,” I say, “I believe the cunts are sitting over there.” I point across the bar to three pig-faced button-ups who have been hitting on the bartender for the past however long we’ve been here.
“Fuck you,” Ricky says, “I’m going to the gate.”
“Yeah. Okay,” I say.
I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to just grab her by the shoulders and tell her that I love her, tell her that she’s my best friend, tell her how much she means to me, because if I had any idea how to do that, then I sure as hell would. But I don’t, I’m not built like that. So, instead, Ricky gets the name-calling. She gets it, because she deserves it. She gets it because she’s wrong. Irrational thinking’s like a disease. Ricky’s ability to focus on some tiny, inconsequential detail and convince her self that not only is that miniscule thing important, but that it’s a keystone to some arch that’s also a figment of her imagination is uncanny. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never known anyone like her. She’s great. She really is. She’s usually great. She’s not great right now. Not at all. Right now she sucks. If she were a guy, I’d punch her in the face. She wouldn’t even have to be a random guy – she could be one of my friends. She could be my friend Chris. If she was Chris, and he was acting like this, I’d deck him. I wouldn’t even tell him that I was going to swing. I’d just punch him right in the nose. Watch his eyes well up with water and blood ooze out of his nostrils. See his expression change from hostile to hurt. The, “What the fuck was that for?” Well, sorry, Chris, but you were acting like a cunt, and I love you and all, but when you act like that I get to hit you in the face.
But Ricky isn’t Chris.
“You want to close out, darling?” Bartender says.
“Shot of Jameson. Then, yeah,” I say.
“Okay,” she says.
It looks like she wants to say something about the argument she just overheard from five feet away. It looks like she could have some amazing nugget of information that would help me, some words of wisdom that bartenders, for some mystifying reason, have in their back pocket. It looks like she wants to say something, but instead she walks over to the register, hits the screen a couple of times, grabs a bottle of Jameson and walks back over to me.
“Here,” she says.
“Thanks,” I sit for a second before I knock it back.
“Where you headed?”
“Seattle,” I say.
I laugh at that one.
“Fucking honeymoon,” I say, “it’s going to be great, I can tell already.”
“Thanks.” I give her forty bucks, grab my bag, and I’m out.
She had a chance. Couldn’t she tell that I needed something from her, some type of advice, some type of wisdom, something more than the standard where you going? She must be dense. Yeah, she’s definitely dense. Like when you see a woman suppressing tears, and a guy calls her a cunt, and the woman storms off, and you’re watching the whole thing unfold, and the only thought that comes into your head is, “Oh, I wonder where he’s going?”
I walk out of “Pucks” and start cruising towards Gate C 31 – two terminals away. You’ve got to love O’Hare International Airport. And by got to love it, I mean, of course, that it blows. Okay, that might be a little unfair to the airport. I don’t mind the amenities, it just the size of this fucking place. How long will it take me to get to my gate? Why don’t you take the tram thing? Because there is no tram, that’s why you don’t take the tram. The tram isn’t that hard to navigate. Yes, but in our current state, Jack, navigation has very little to do with it, and blind luck has everything – you can either walk there nice and slowly and enjoy the monotonous airport scenery, or you can take your chance with the tram that you aren’t sure exists, and even if it does you don’t know which direction to go. And considering the circumstances – Ricky, honeymoon, etc. – it would probably be in your best interest to make the flight. That is all you’re required to do. Make the flight. Walk.
And here I am. Three in the afternoon, Friday, mid February, drunk, walking through what seems to be a strange portrait of American life in where everybody has some place to be, everybody really wants to go there, but they also have time to buy crappy designer bullshit and eat slices of pizza, or calzones, or Thai food, or some moist, ten dollar croissant from Caribou Coffee, and stand in line as they pull out their phones and look like they’re doing something interesting, act as if they have something, anything important to do, when the sad reality of the situation is what they are doing, all they’re doing is trying to avoid talking to anybody, or make eye contact. Eye contact leads to conversation, and conversation means that you have to try to listen, or at least act like you’re listening, or, worse yet, pretend that you care, that you give a fuck. Eye contact leads to the possibility that you will have to talk to me.
A woman in a pinstripe pantsuit walks towards me. She’s a brunette, cute smile, nice tits, and a strong walk. I’d fuck her. Eye contact? Nope. We pass each other. I turn my head. She’s got a nice ass. If she’d only taken the time to make eye contact, then she could have sparked a conversation that would have lead her to discover that what she needs, what she really needs right now is to take me into the bathroom and fuck me. Why not catch some strange in the airport? That might change my mood.
How much further is this goddamn gate?
I look at my watch. I’ve only been walking for two minutes? You’ve got to be kidding me. All right, eye on the prize. Eyes. Focus. You’re drunk. Not really drunk, good buzz going. You think that’s why these people aren’t making eye contact? Because they can tell that you’re drunk? They’re not making eye contact, because they’re assholes. That’s why. It has nothing to do with you, you hardly exist to them, and they could care less that you’re here.
I have to piss. Bathroom. Where’s the bathroom? Restroom or bathroom? Restroom. Less vulgar. Subtle. What’s the British version? Lou? Lew? Hey Lou!
“Cuidado! Piso Mojado,” sign at the entrance to the restroom. Short bald guy with glasses, standing there with a mop. He’s not mopping.
“Why aren’t you mopping?” I say, “The piso’s mojado.”
“Is that supposed to be funny?” He says.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Yeah, okay, sport,” He says.
“Fuck you, man.”
“Oh no, I’m offended now,” He says, not paying me much mind. “How about you do me a favor and do whatever you’re here for, please, and then just leave me alone.”
Fucking bald retard. He’s probably retarded. That’s why he’s working in a bathroom at the airport, because he’s retarded. I wonder what he’s got. How did he even pass the airports’ minimum employment standards? There has to be a test to become an airport employee, right? Background? Something. They have to have standards. We can’t just employ fucking anybody, can we? An entire airport run by people missing various chromosomes would be mayhem.
I finish pissing and walk up to the sinks, where it appears an entire water polo match has just taken place. No thank you. I head for the exit. Oh hey, there’s my new friend. Hey friend.
“See you later, retard,” I say to my new friend.
“Have a nice day,” he says, his lips barely open when he speaks.
Sometimes it’s winning the ones that don’t matter at all, that matter. Speaking of which, what time is it? Where’s my watch? Watch is located on wrist. 3:17pm. Gate is probably twenty-five minutes away, and the flight boards at four-thirty. If you get there too early, then you are going to have to face Ricky. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal. She’s got to be cooled down a bit by now, if not all the way. Just for calling her a cunt. You could have let it slide, and called her nothing. Not gone down to her level. Not reacted. Not given her the ammunition to be pissed. But then what? Then you just take it? You just sit there and listen to her theories? Her conspiracy theories – weak, that’s what they are.
How she doesn’t believe that driving around helps you clear your head. How she doesn’t believe that you’re not going anywhere in particular, but that getting out of the house for a couple of hours is important. That you don’t always go to the bar, but you drive past it, and think about going in, but then you think about how pissed she’ll get if you go in, so you keep driving past, and go park in some shitty strip mall and watch traffic pass, and listen to music, and just sit there. No, you don’t just take it. You tell her that she’s out of mind. You tell her that she’s being irrational. You tell her to trust you. And then, when she doesn’t, you tell her that she’s acting like a child. And then she yells at you, so you call her a cunt. It seems just, though. Yeah, a bit harsh, but just – like when thieves in crazy countries get their hands cut off for stealing some bread.
And then I’m in another bar. This one’s called O’Hare Bar and Grill. Granite countertops, couple of TVs, nothing special. All you’ve got to do is have a couple more drinks, walk to the gate, and tell Ricky that you’re sorry. Then you can enjoy your week in Seattle. She’ll be in a good mood, and you can enjoy the trip. She’ll be off of your back, we’ll have make up sex the minute we walk into the apartment, and then you’ll have a nice evening with some wine and some Chinese food, and you’ll spend the night fucking and talking, and being nice to each other, and things will be good. This is just one fight. Another.
“How ya doin’?”
“I’m all right, man. You?”
“Just fine. What can I get you?”
“I’ll take a double Jack, rocks,” I say.
This guy seems nice enough.
“Sure thing,” he says.
“Here you go.”
“Where you headed?” he asks.
“Don’t sound too excited about it.”
“I mean, whatever, I’m sure it’s going to be nice. Grey, rainy, you know, the usual.”
“I’ve never been,” he says, “but from what I hear it’s pretty nice.”
Yeah, I wonder how nice it is when you’re traveling with someone who hates you.
“Yeah, it’s supposed to be.”
“Honeymoon,” I say.
“Ah, I see, and where’s the wife? Restroom?”
“Restroom!” I say. “A-HA!”
“Oh nothing, sorry. I didn’t hear you right, what?”
“Is your wife in the restroom?”
“No. That’s a good question? She left me at sitting on my stool at Pucks.”
He’s silent for a couple of seconds and gives me a once over. Probably wondering what I did, or what she did, or what she looks like based on what I look like. His silence means he’s thinking, he’s thinking about what Ricky looks like, but he doesn’t know that her name is Ricky, he just knows that she’s my wife, so based on what I look like he thinks he knows what she looks like.
“Not worth chasing after?” He says.
How adamantly I respond to this question has a direct correlation to how attractive he imagines Ricky to be.
“Totally worth it,” I say. “Just fed up, you know? Gotta clear my head.”
“You clear your head like my father used to.”
I raise my glass.
“Well, how long you guys been married?”
“Not long enough for this shit to be happening,” I say.
“It’ll get better,” he says, “it always does.”
“And if it doesn’t?”
“Well, then you and my father will have even more in common.”
He walks off to tend to a couple just down the bar. I can hear them. They sound chipper. I know they’re together, because they have matching luggage – black rollers, same size, same zipper pattern – definitely a couple. Weekend getaway. Weekend jaunt. Honey let’s go to Barbados this weekend and mix with the locals and drink rum and lie on the beach and talk about our plans for our lovemaking next month.
I stare at my whiskey, and it stares right back. I gulp at it, and start tearing at my beverage napkin. Beverage napkin. I rip small slices of the napkin off and then roll them into little wads. Try and flick each wad into the trashcan behind the bar about four feet away. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss.
The bartender apparently finds me more entertaining than the weekenders on stools three and four. He makes his way back over.
“Where’d they go?” I say. “Barbados?”
“Never been. You?”
“Yeah, once,” he says.
“What’s it like?”
“Good enough to see it once and not be bothered to go back.”
“So, why are they so, I don’t know, fucking chipper?”
“Them?” he nods over to the couple, and they smile in return, “They’re chipper because guy over there’s hung like a moose, and she’s got a vagina that’s as small as a paper cut on a mouse’s finger.”
I remember why I like bartenders.
“Well, shit. If that’s all it takes, then why the hell am I here talking to you instead of my wife.”
“No, you must have misheard me. I said he’s hung. Like a moose,” he says.
I choke out a laugh.
“You always this funny?”
“Only on Wednesdays,” he says. A nice fat grin smacks onto his face.
“Whatever. Details, my friend, they matter not,” he says.
“What’s that Confucius?”
“Who the hell’s Confucius?”
“Some guy who said a bunch of stuff that some people consider important,” I say. “Forget it.”
“Wow, you sure did your research on that one.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I say, “So, what’s your name?”
“Ben, Jack. Nice to meet you.” We shake hands. He’s got a firm grip, stronger guy than he looks.
“Yeah, hey, likewise,” he says.
See, Ricky, I’m not an asshole. I just made a friend, a new friend. Granted, a friend in an airport, a guy that tends bar in the airport, a guy that I’m basically paying to talk to me, but a friend nonetheless. See, Ricky, if I was such a fucking asshole, then Ben here wouldn’t have found me pleasant enough to keep talking to me. Sure it’s meaningless, it’s a tiny piece of nothing that will go nowhere and be nothing and turn out to mean nothing. But that doesn’t matter, because right now it’s something.
You’re probably sitting in some black leather airport chair, Ricky, all worked up, hoping I die, justifying why it is that you hate me so much, and how it’s my fault, and how I’m the asshole, and how you hope I don’t ruin our honeymoon. And I’m above all that, because I’m having a drink with my new friend. I’m not sulking, I mean, not really, because I’m above it. I’m not going to sink down to your level. I refuse to sink down to your level.
I finish my whiskey.
“You want another?” Ben says.
“Yes, sir.” I think for a second. “Double. Neat.”
“Here you go,” he says.
“Thanks.” I take another gulp.
The thing I’ve always loved about whiskey is that your first sip tastes just as good as your twentieth.
“Do you always travel this light, Jack?” Ben says.
“What are you talking about?”
He points to the two empty chairs at my side and then to the ground.
“The whole, no luggage thing,” he says.
I look down at my feet. Oh, you have got to be kidding me.
“Shit, man,” I say, “that’s not good.”
I start laughing.
“Are you fucking around right now?” Ben says, “or did you really just lose your luggage?”
“No, Ben, I’m not fucking around.”
I can hardly remember the past thirty minutes.
You’re drunk, and you lost your luggage. What the hell are you doing? You’re at the airport on the way to your honeymoon, you’re drunk, and you lost your bag. Not only did you lose your bag, you, no, that’s enough, you’re drunk and you lost your bag. There doesn’t need to be anything worse than that, that’s bad enough. If it wasn’t for Ricky going on and on about how she knows that you’ve been fucking around on her, then you wouldn’t have gotten drunk, and you probably wouldn’t have lost your bag. I mean, I’m sure people lose their bags in airports all the time anyways, right? Yeah, that’s got to be why the lady on the PA system is always like, “Keep your bag with you at all times…” You are truly pathetic, you have one job to do when you get to the airport and that is hold on to your bag. If you don’t let anyone mess with your bag, and you keep it with you at all times then you have done the simplest of things. Actually, you have pretty much accomplished all that is required of you. You managed to do the exact opposite of that, so, congratulations.
“Well, you, err, we’ve got to find it,” Ben says.
“Man, whatever, it’s gone now.”
“Look, Jack, I know you’re a little lit,” Ben says, “but you’ve got to find your bag. You can’t just leave your bag in the airport, man. People freak out at that sort of thing. There are entire departments of security whose job it is to specifically monitor and respond to unattended bags.”
Could you imagine that? If your entire job was just to watch for people who left bags in the airport? I suppose the job is necessary, but just the act of continuously traveling through the airport, scanning for abandoned bags. That job is like what it feels like to look for Waldo’s shoe in the “Land of Waldo’s” page. Fucking Waldo, what a queer.
“Hey, you listening to me?” Ben says, “You’ve got to get that bag.”
“Ben, honestly, man, I don’t even care about it anymore. I’m over it. I mean okay, if for some crazy chance I manage to track down the bag, me being hammered and all, and I do happen to retrace my steps, and the bag is still there, and it hasn’t yet been confiscated by police, or TSA, or some stranger, then what? I can’t exactly just pick it up and get on my flight.”
“Why not? What are you talking about?” Ben says.
“Look, Ben, if the bag is still there, then that means that either nobody’s fucked with it, or somebody has fucked with it, but they’ve left it where it is on purpose. Now if they haven’t messed with it, then everything’s cool. But if they have messed with it, put something inside of it, drugs, a bomb, whatever, then I’m not going near it.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Because think about it,” I say, “Right now, I got through security on my own accord and everything checked out, and since then, wait, I was, then I was at a different bar with my wife, and then I walked here, so, all I have to do is not leave here, and let the bag get found, and you can be my alibi, saying that I didn’t put any drugs or a bomb in the bag, because I was with you the whole time.”
“You’re drunk,” Ben says, “I’m calling security.”
“Really?” I say. “Ben, I thought we were pals?”
The next few minutes resemble what I imagine the Three Stooges in Guantanamo Bay would look like (or, at least, my image of Guantanamo Bay). Ben gets on the phone, and within, I don’t know, thirty seconds there is a security guard on my left, and he’s asking me questions, and I’m less than sober, and I believe the security guard doesn’t appreciate this. There are now four blue-shirted TSA agents standing in a circle around me, and asking me to come with them.
“Why would you do this to me, Ben!?” I yell, back towards the bar. I laugh a couple of times.
“Sir, this is not a funny matter,” says the guy who looks exactly like the love child of Mahatma Gandhi and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Ricky and I play this game all the time.
“Where did you last see your bag?”
“Honestly, Stone Cold Mahatma, I don’t know.”
“Sir,” says the lady on my left, “if you could simply act like an adult for two minutes, then I’m sure that we can get this all figured out. But, if you carry on in this manner, you are going to not be able to fly today, and we’re going to have to escort you out of here, possibly arrest you.”
She’s being condescending. Act like an adult. I’m acting like an adult. I’m letting it go. I’m not freaking out. I’m not caring about my bag and my things. I just wanted to finish my drink, not make a big deal out of everything, and then get on my plane. Just finish my whiskey, forget about my bag, walk to my gate, tell Ricky that I’m sorry, kiss her, and get on the plane, and now you’re telling me to act like an adult? Fuck you, you fucking screening agent. Telling me to act like an adult.
“Look, I don’t know where my bag is, okay?” I say, “Every bathroom in here looks the same, and I don’t remember which one I was in. Now, I have to get going to my gate, because my plane is boarding soon, and my wife is waiting for me at the gate, and we’re going to Seattle, as adults, which may surprise you…”
“Excuse me?” she says.
“Yeah, we’re going to Seattle as adults.” I say, “As adults who have jobs, who get married, who buy plane tickets, adults who go on honeymoons. And this adult, has to go to get on that plane so he can go on his honeymoon with his wife, right now, you…”
Wait for it.
Oh my god. Her face.
Her expression changes from annoyance to shock to hatred, like water cycling through the three states of matter in the blink of an eye. I smile at her. See, lady, you weren’t expecting that today, were you? Well, neither was I, but Ricky can bring it out of me, she really can. I’m not blaming Ricky, lady. I can’t blame Ricky, because I’m better than that. She doesn’t have that power over me. I just want you to know, lady, that I really didn’t mean to call you that, I’m just having a shitty day, and I wish Ricky would trust me, and I want her to know how much I love her, and all of that’s been on my mind, and you just said the wrong thing that’s all. I really didn’t mean to call you that, lady. I hope you can understand. And it wasn’t a personal attack, I mean I know how it probably looks to you, but it wasn’t really. I’m just having a really shitty day. And I feel a wave of energy go through my body, my muscles tighten, I feel hot, and then everything goes black.
I wake up. I’m in a room – a normal looking room – white-greyish walls, grey short fiber carpeting, a plastic-looking table, two chairs, no windows, just a cold silver door, and that stupid hospital lighting. My eyes burn. Why do my eyes burn? I’m naked. Why am I naked? Where are my clothes? They took my clothes. That’s weird. Weirdoes. Who just strips people down these days? I suppose prisons do, detention centers, too. Okay, so I’m being detained, and therefore the lack of clothes would make sense. My eyes burn, why do my eyes burn? I spot my shoes in the corner. Another scan reveals my pants against the wall to my left. I see my shirt near the door. They stripped me down and then scattered my clothes around the room. Animals. There has to be a reason. Maybe it’s some interrogation technique.
There’s a camera in the corner of the room, it’s in one of those little black bubbles. The kind you see at Wal-Mart. I stare at it.
“Really, guys? I’d like to talk to my wife. Or, my lawyer, or, or, my mother.”
The camera doesn’t respond. I wasn’t exactly expecting a response, an omniscient voice booming over a speaker that isn’t there, “Sure thing, Jack, we’ll get right on it.” A few minutes pass, or at least what feels like a few minutes. I don’t really know how long it’s been. I feel disoriented. I feel ill.
I wonder what time it is? I missed the flight. You definitely missed the flight, that’s not even a question. Did Ricky make the flight? Maybe she just got on the plane, and she figured that you got drunk in the bar, missed the flight, and you’ll show up on the next one. They probably contacted her over the loudspeakers, “Ricky Sandowe, Ricky Sandowe, please report to the nearest gate and speak to an airline representative.” She probably stood right up, ignoring the looks, walked right on over and said, “What’s he done?” Ready to figure it out. Taking no shit, not caring about people’s agendas, just finding a solution, and sweet-talking her way into getting what she wants. Of course, the loudspeaker could have also boomed, “Ricky Sandowe, Ricky Sandowe, your husband has just been arrested, tazed, stripped naked, and stuffed into a small room with no windows, please report…” She would react the same. Give them hell, and get me out of here. It was just a fight. She’s probably putting that female officer through hell right now about tazing me. She’s demanding that I be released and no charges pressed. Ricky’s got my back.
I hear the door handle turn, and then a man in a white shirt and tie, with a healthy head of hair walks into the room.
“Mr. Sandowe,” he says, “my name is Thomas, I am second in command of the TSA here at O’Hare.”
“Can I put my clothes on?
“Can you give me some privacy?”
“Just get dressed Mr. Sandowe.”
“Okay, fine,” I say, waddling over to my pants, then my shirt and shoes. My pants are wet. Why, exactly?
“Now, Mr. Sandowe, do you remember why you’re here?”
“Yes, I was going on my honeymoon.”
“No, Mr. Sandowe, not why you came to the airport, why you’re in this room.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Could you explain that to me, please. I just need to hear your side,” he says.
“I was a bit drunk, the bartender noticed that I had left my bag somewhere, I told him forget about it, and then I was being dragged to somewhere, one of the women was being rude to me and I called her a cunt,” I say, “and then I got tazed.”
He glances down at a yellow notepad.
“Yes, that seems to be what I have as well,” he says. “We have your bag, there was nothing tampered with, nothing found, you’re clear as far as the bag is concerned. Aside from the act of leaving the bag, unintentionally, according to your bartender friend, the only thing we are going to charge you with is public intoxication. It’s a misdemeanor and should only cost you a couple hundred dollars.”
“That seems like bullshit.”
“Does it? Mr. Sandowe. Let me tell you what could seem like bullshit, if you’d like to use that term in a more appropriate way. What would seem like bullshit, to you, I’m certain, would be if I decided to hold you here, in this room for the next six hours, I can have you cavity searched, and then I can take you down the hall and put you in a tiny cell, it’s a lot like this room, but far less comfortable. I can hold you in that cell without a phone call for the next 48 hours, if I so please. Then I can have a few witnesses say that they saw you resisting arrest, pushed one of my staff members, which are a couple of allegations that hold some shitty consequences. After that, I can call CPD, and tell them that you assaulted one of my staff, and on your way to jail, Mr. Sandowe, CPD will kick your head in, a bit, not too severe, but enough to really make you pretty uncomfortable for the next couple of days while you await bond, because I’m positive that your wife isn’t going to come back from Seattle just to bail you out.”
Ricky left. Shit.
“Now, I ask you, Mr. Sandowe, which one sounds like bullshit?”
“Yeah, okay, I get it.”
“Good,” he says. He opens the door.
“Thomas,” he says.
“Yeah, listen, Thomas, I’m sorry. Tell your lady that I apologize. I was acting like an ass,” I say, “didn’t mean for any of it to happen.”
“Apology accepted, but I’m still issuing a ticket,” he says.
“That’s fine. I fucked up. I get it. So, are we done?”
“Yes, we’re done,” Thomas says.
“So, I can’t fly today?”
“No, not today. Find a hotel for the night, and you can come back tomorrow,” he says, “just try and act a bit more like, oh, I don’t know, like you’re a nice guy.” He smiles at that one.
Oh, Thomas. You want me to act like a nice guy? Well gee wiz, I guess I will.
“I’m a nice guy,” I say, “just having a shitty day.”
“Okay, well, this has been riveting, exciting, enthralling, there are just too many adjectives to possibly describe it, so now I’m going to leave, which means that you have to come with me.”
I feel a bit, eh, whatever. We exit the room, and turn right down the long hallway. There’s absolutely nobody around, no windows, I count three doors in the entire seventy some-odd feet we walk, the back channels of the O’Hare labyrinth. He stops and opens the door on the right and grabs my bag from the room. He places the bag at my feet.
“So, Thomas, this it?”
“That’s correct, Mr. Sandowe.”
“I feel like I should hug you or something.”
“Don’t touch me,” he says.
He flashes his card against a small black box, pushes the door open with his left hand, and extends the right to me. I shake it. Why not? He’s all right. I step out into the terminal, terminal three, and the door shuts behind me. I’m still a bit drunk. Not much has changed. The people are still walking around with determined blank stares. I follow the signs that say, “Hotel.” I glance at the departures screen. It’s a bit after six.
Ricky’s phone goes straight to voicemail. Of course it does, she’s on a plane. She’s on her way to Seattle. You’re not with her, because you’re an idiot. She’s on the plane, talking to some stranger, telling them how her husband was “supposed to be here with me, but he decided to get drunk and arrested before our flight.” Stranger likely consoles her, and tells her that it’s not her fault, tells her that I’m a piece of shit, and I’m in the wrong, and I shouldn’t have argued with her, and if I am cheating, then I should come clean. Actually, now that Ricky tells a bit more, I probably am cheating on her. And Ricky’s probably eating it all up, sitting there smiling, knowing that this is exactly what she wants to hear from stranger, smiling at how little they know about our situation, but smiling because within the span of thirty minutes Ricky’s convinced them that I’m one hundred percent wrong. One hundred. And after an hour of this Ricky tells stranger, “Thanks for listening, I really needed to talk to somebody,” and stranger will tell her no problem, it was their pleasure, and you’re such a nice girl, and Ricky will have gained stranger’s trust, and stranger will exert negative energy onto me. Stranger will think poorly of me, and stranger will tell their friends about me, and their friends will dislike me, and none of them will know shit, except that somewhere in Chicago is a guy named Jack who’s cheating on his new wife, and Jack’s also an asshole. And he’s also a drunk.
Decent room, nothing crazy, but it’s nice enough. I turn on the TV. I flip through a few channels. Basketball, news, weather, sitcom. I land on this documentary about the life of a girl who spent her childhood trapped in her basement by her crazy father. Didn’t learn how to talk until she was twelve. Hadn’t seen daylight since birth. Escaped after her father had a heart attack in the kitchen of the house, he called 911 and then died. The EMTs went into the house, found daddy stiff on the floor, and then heard a grunting sound from the basement. It’s six years later and the kid is finishing high school. I had no idea shit like this ever happened. The beginning isn’t all that feel good, but when they show her at the end holding up her high school diploma, I mean, come on.
I try Ricky’s phone again. Voicemail.
“Hi Ricky, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for all that to happen. I should be in Seattle right now with you, and I’m not, and I know it’s my fault. I’ve got a flight tomorrow at three, and I’m spending the night in the airport hotel. So, look, I’d like to talk to you, but if you don’t want to call me back tonight I get it. I’ll see you tomorrow. Love.”
And that’s it. It’s eight o’clock, and I’m on the bed, staring at my cell phone, waiting. Staring at the TV, thinking about the cell phone, waiting. It’s better if she doesn’t call back tonight. She got a cab to the apartment, and she’s in the bathtub reading, trying not to think about me. And she’s probably doing a good job of it.
And she doesn’t call, so I let the TV drown me. I order room service, a cute hotel employee named Shailene knocks on my door and drops off my burger, we chat for a second, I eat, and that’s it. That’s the night. I sleep.
Take two at the airport. Everything’s the same as it was yesterday, except I don’t have Ricky in my ear, and I don’t have any whiskey in my system. I pass through security with no problems and get to my gate. Then it’s a waiting game. I spend the next forty minutes people watching. There’s an elderly couple in the seats across from me – they’re mildly entertaining. They’re in their mid-sixties, plain clothes, plain looks – plain lives I’m sure. The man is reading Time Magazine, and she’s reading Great Expectations. Every five minutes that pass this guy is tapping his wife on the arm, showing her something in Time, and she smiles at him. She stops reading, smiles, and goes back to her book. Nobody says anything. They seem comfortable in their silence.
“Flight 3120 to Seattle is now boarding,” the speaker says. I’m up, standing, waiting for my zone to be called. I’m in the plane. I’m in my seat. Everyone gets settled in for takeoff. Cabin check. Announcements. Taxi to the runway. The man at my right is staring at me. He extends his hand.
“Leonard Neeves,” he says. Oh hi Leonard, you must be interesting. You must really be someone who matters.
“Jack Sandowe,” I say.
“You fly often, Jack?” he says.
“An average amount.”
“Well, I’d like to say a prayer before we take off,” he says, “would you like me to include you?” Oh how thoughtful of you, Leonard, how perfectly wonderful for you to include me in your prayer. How, just, wonderful.
“Whatever,” I say.
“Are you a man of God, Jack?”
We are still taxiing to the runway, and I already have to explain my thoughts to this Dockers wearing Baptist? Why?
“I wouldn’t exactly call me that. I’m more of a free thinker.”
“Having the Lord in your life enables you more freedom than you think,” he says.
“Please,” I say. “Leonard, I’m having a terrible couple of days. If you could just, I just need some space, okay?”
“That’s fine,” he says. “Not exactly my type of person anyways, I figure.”
Exactly, Leonard, I am not that person. I don’t want to talk to you. I have no interest in your story. I’m not interested in you. I could care less about you, your God, your family, your great grandfather’s journey to this country, what your average score is in golf, any of it. I simply don’t care.
And so he’s quiet for the rest of the flight. I’m tempted to order a whiskey, but I don’t. Ricky will appreciate a sober knock on the door, an apologetic knock.
I look around the cabin at the people in the seats around me wondering if any of them happen to be undercover Homeland Security agents. There are two women seated across the isle. Are there female undercover agents? That sounds sexist. I’m sure there could be female agents, because all it would take to be an undercover agent is a crack shot with a handgun, a badass attitude, and maybe some light hand to hand combat skills. Most of these under covers have to be ex-military, or ex-police. I discount the women as possible candidates. They don’t seem to be surveying things with interest. You’d figure that if there is an undercover on this flight, they’d be quiet, interested in their surroundings, looking at people, tuned in to the people around them. There’s nobody in the six seats to my right that looks like they fit this profile. Hell, I probably look like the best candidate. Jack Sandowe, undercover airplane guy. No, it’d be more like Jack Sandowe, undercover Homeland Security Agent. Wait, I’d need to have a cover story, and it would have to seem mundane, inconspicuous. Jack Sandowe, elementary school band teacher. “You’re a band teacher? That’s so interesting.” I know, isn’t it? I just love music, and the kids are so much fun at that age, so eager to learn. “What’s your favorite instrument to play?” I love all of them. “You can play all of the instruments in the band?” Yes, I’m pretty much what you call a savant, except I’m not stupid or deficient in any other area of my personality or mental capabilities. “Wow, that’s impressive.” I know, because not only can I play all the instruments in the band, but also I have a Tazer in an ankle-holster strapped to my right leg, and my service weapon holstered under my left armpit.
It’s not really a glamorous job, though. You’d just be flying around all the time. City to city, airports, planes, shitty food, boring people, people like Leonard, ordinary people who want to tell you their story, who want you to listen to them. I’d rather teach band. Could I still have a service weapon if I taught band? “Listen, Kevin, I want you to play me C Major, top to bottom, and if you don’t do it correctly,” and then I’d whip out the gun… I’d have the best band in the country.
The plane lands. We taxi. We stop moving. The seatbelt light dings. Everybody stands in that awkward half-bend, waiting for their turn to grab their bag from the overhead, but unable to simply sit for a couple more minutes, thinking that if they somehow position their body in some odd way, like the early years of homo-erectus, it will increase the speed with which they can exit. They stand. They make the occasional noise, grunt, and scoff, indicating that they can’t believe how slowly the people eight rows ahead are moving. Dexter businessman standing in front of me seems close to yelling at people a couple of times. His body sways with anxiety, pulses with impatience. His head keeps swiveling back and forth, as if his waiting requires so much effort that his neck is having a tough time supporting his head. You poor thing, Dexter, you must have so much important stuff to do. You must have some deal that needs to get signed, or a loved one in the hospital that is going to die any minute, and if you don’t get off this plane right now, they’re going to die, and it’s all because of that mother three rows up with two kids and that giant tote bag, trying to leave, she’s the reason that you’re not going to be able to say goodbye. You should say something. You should let her know how much you hate her right now. No? Don’t want to? Say something. Do it. Don’t hold it in Dexter, that’s bad for you.
He stays silent. I grab my bag and exit the plane.
“Have a nice trip,” the flight attendant says.
“Thank you,” I say.
I step outside of the airport, and it’s a mild day, no rain, some clouds, but the sun is shining. I walk up to the row of cabs parked along the curb. The ride into the city is just fine. Not much traffic. The cabbie seems competent. He’s a patient driver, which is a nice thing to experience in a major American city. I still haven’t spoken to Ricky. I hope she’s at the apartment.
I give the cabbie an extra twenty to show him I appreciated his silence during the drive. The Apartment is in the center of the city, three floors above the street, and right next to Chucks Coffee, a restaurant named Au Vin, and Milk’s, the latter being a bar that, judging from the exterior, looks as if it has seen better days. The apartment belongs to Ricky’s friend, Gale. Gale and Ricky met at The University of Colorado.
Gale is an interesting woman, great body. She works as a consultant that deals in the financial sector and gets hired out by her firm to fly pretty much anywhere in the world to help companies reconsider how wisely they’re using their money. In her free time, Gale enjoys smoking extremely strong weed, and telling stories about, “this one time when I was high I was like, doing this, and then, I was staring at this thing, and it was really funny.” Repeat said story ad nauseam. Gale is currently in South Africa telling a high powered company that they need to do whatever it is she thinks they need to do, hence the apartment. Gale thought it would be nice if we got to visit Seattle on our honeymoon, considering the fact that neither of us had visited. Gale thinks very highly of Seattle, I don’t have an opinion on Seattle, but I’m sure that Gale thinks highly of it, because she found it suitable to recommend her best friend experience her honeymoon there.
I’m at the main entrance of the apartment building. I press the button for apartment 3-G. The speaker clicks on.
“Who is it?”
Oh come on, Ricky, you know who it is.
“Hello wife, it’s your lovely, caring husband,” I say.
“Hmmmm,” she says, “I’m not sure if I have one of those.”
“No, you do,” I say. “In fact, he’s standing outside of the main entrance talking to you through an intercom at this very moment.”
“Does this lovely, caring husband of mine do things like apologize when he’s acted like a complete asshole?”
“Yes, he does.”
And, she wants me to work for it. And I certainly will.
“And what does he have to say to his lovely wife who has enjoyed the first night and first day on her honeymoon alone, just fine?” Ricky says.
“He has to say that he’s sorry, that he didn’t mean to call her those things, that those things were uncalled for, and, and he was overreacting, and it would have been easier if he had hadn’t been so defensive, and that he would like his wife to consider that he thinks the world of her, and that she’s absolutely gorgeous, and that all he’s been thinking about since she left him sitting on a bar stool in the airport is her, and that he really hopes she takes all of this into consideration.”
There’s no response. I wait. Maybe I can will her into letting me up.
“Ricky, you there?” I say.
There’s no response.
Then the door buzzes.
I push the large, light-brown wooden door open and hop up six sets of stairs. There’s a shot of energy in my legs. I’m a little impressed that she let me up so quickly. I thought she’d make me work for it a bit more. Of course, she has all week to make me work for it. Or, maybe she’s already over it. Maybe she understands that I wouldn’t have called her a cunt if she hadn’t accused me of cheating on her for the however many times. Maybe it’s a wash. Maybe we’re even.
I knock, and Ricky opens the door. And there she is.
Ricky’s something to look at. There are these things about her that are so perfect, and, if they’re not perfect, they’re, at least, so perfectly unique.
Ricky has deep brown hair, in some light it looks jet-black, but in others it can shine a look – almost hazel. Her eyes are green, angular, and soft, and they do this thing, they have a tendency. She looks at you and makes a connection. She can speak with her eyes. The way she looks at you, you understand. And then she uses her eyebrows to highlight words, to hammer home a point. Like accents on letters. They can move, twitch, bend, and curve. Ricky’s eyes are great, but they don’t even touch her mouth.
She has the sexiest mouth. Nice pink, elastic lips that rest beautifully on a defectively wonderful set of teeth. Natural, beautiful teeth. No veneers, no major intruders or protruders, but instead just a bouquet of white, normal looking teeth that form this smile. This smile looks great in pictures, it looks great in person, it looks great when she’s getting away with something, and it looks great when she’s happy. The type of smile that is infectious to the point of controlling. She smiles, and you become happy. Rather, you are happy. Looking at her smile is like looking at a thousand great books on a bookshelf, you know there is so much going on, and you can simply be happy that you are in its presence.
Ricky’s wearing a grey, faded Stooges t-shirt that I bought her at a thrift store a few years back, a pair of grey slippers, and my favorite white cotton undies. She’s holding a glass of red wine. Her hair looks jet black in the apartment’s light, and it’s down in a wavy mess around her shoulders.
“Hey,” she says.
“Hey.” I put my bag on the floor to the left of the entrance and shut the door behind me. Ricky starts a lazy back pedal. Her eyes are sharp, angular, and they’re fixed on me. She smiles.
“You want some wine, Jackie boy?”
“Yeah… I’d love some,” I say.
“The bottle is in the kitchen. Pour yourself one.”
Ricky backs into the couch and flops down. I step into the kitchen and pour a glass of the red she’s opened.
“So,” she says, “how’d that whole mess you caused for yourself at the airport turn out?”
“It could have gone worse, I suppose. They let me off kind of easy.”
Ricky is sprawled out on the couch. Her left arm is hangs lazily off its side, and loose in her clutches, a glass.
“I got a ticket of sorts. It’s a misdemeanor. Just have to shell out a few bucks and it’ll be all over with.”
I walk out of the kitchen and sit in a wooden desk chair. Ricky rolls onto her side, and rests her head on her hand. She sips.
“And, so, the reason that you weren’t with me on the plane yesterday, is because you thought it would be just, I don’t know, a bit more fun to get a ticket for, I’m sure, being way too drunk and acting like an asshole in the airport?”
“Look, Ricky, I’m sorry. I really am.”
Ricky smiles. Her eyes bend. She shows me that she knows she’s won, or made her point, or proven to me what she wanted to prove to me.
“I know you are,” she says, “I just want you to know, that, if I didn’t love you so much, I wouldn’t be here any more. If I didn’t, wouldn’t have put up with you for as long as I did before we got married. And,” she pauses, “you have to realize that I’ve put up with a lot of shit to keep this thing going.”
The last thing that I can do right now is tell her how crazy she was acting before I got drunk. I want to tell her, but I’m not going to.
“I know, Ricky,” I say. “I don’t even want to think about yesterday, I really don’t. I want to forget the whole thing. Don’t want to think about our fight, you flying here alone, me getting fucking Tazed. I don’t want to think about…”
“You got fucking Tazed?”
“Yeah,” I say. “One word. Brutal.”
“Did you shit yourself?”
With that, she starts to giggle.
“No, but I pissed my pants.”
“So, you, you woke up with wet pants?”
I think about it for a second.
“No, actually, I woke up naked.”
“Not a thread of clothing to be seen.”
“So, how’d you know you pissed your pants?” she says.
“Oh, right before the interview or questioning or whatever, I put my pants on and discovered I had left myself a little souvenir.”
“Wait,” she says, “the guy questioned you while you were naked?”
“No. I had apparently undressed at some point before regaining full consciousness.”
“Why didn’t he tell you to get dressed before he started asking questions? Before he even walked in the room?”
“I don’t know, Ricky, the guy was a weirdo, maybe it was a power thing, maybe he saw my dick and thought, ‘that’s a good looking dick, I’m going to keep this one naked for as long as possible.’ Maybe his dick had been severed in a terrible accident when he was twelve, and he wanted to look at mine for as long as possible, because it had been so long since he had seen one. Maybe…”
Ricky’s eyes squint, and she purses her lips. Her head cranes.
“Getting worked up?” she says.
“No,” I say. “Okay, fine, yes, I am, look, I don’t want to fucking talk about it? Is that okay with you?”
“Okay. That’s it.”
Ricky sets her glass on the wooden coffee table as she stands. She walks over to me and sits sideways on my lap. Even though she’s almost naked, her legs are warm; I can feel their heat. She grabs my right arm just above my elbow, and her other hand snakes behind my head, moves up from the base of my neck until she grabs a handful of my hair. She smiles as she moves towards my left ear.
“I’m sorry too, Jack,” she says, and then she bites.
I kiss her neck and say, “Off with it.”
And we make love. It’s slow and passionate and fast and sweaty, and Ricky’s practically an acrobat so we’re all over the place, and we bite and scratch and nibble, and Ricky comes and she looks incredible while she does, and her body shakes and her lips quiver, and I come too but I’m certain I look more like a guy whose mind has just been erased and then hit in the head with a shovel. Then we lie in bed. I stare at the ceiling. I’m breathing heavy, and Ricky’s curled up on my side. Ricky’s silent, save small breathes. I hear a car honking outside. We’ve been married for five days.
Morning light comes through the window to the right of the bed, and I’m up. It’s weak light, more of a subtle grey glow. It’s misting, or it’s sprinkling, or it’s grey and wet – that’s what it’s doing. It’s the first actual look I get of Gale’s apartment. The bedroom is nice, not bad at all, actually. Forest green walls, light brown wood dresser and tables, spacious, giant book shelf on the wall opposite of the bed next to the bathroom door. The decorations are limited, but when there is one, it’s quality. There are two paintings from some Haitian artist, a couple of Polynesian sculptures, some type of old dagger hanging on the wall next to the book shelf. It seems that Gale’s ability to get really high hasn’t stopped her from creating a comfortable living space. I walk to the bathroom and take a shower. I towel off and get dressed. Ricky’s still asleep, so I make my way into the kitchen and throw on a pot of coffee.
The rest of Gale’s apartment is equally as simple and nice as her bedroom. The kitchen is modern, with a big, double sided sink, surrounded by black tiled countertops, deep blue cupboards above and below the tiles, separated by a white tiled backsplash. There are white tiles on the black countertops, and black tiles on the white walls – but only in small, centered diamond patterns. The living room is a soft sky blue, and filled with wooden furniture, it has one couch and three chairs surrounding the coffee table, and there’s a sliding door to a small balcony that stands about five feet from a big wooden desk. The main decorations in Gale’s living room are books and magazines. There is one photograph on the wall directly opposite the couch. It’s a pretty big print, or at least big for what I’m used to seeing in people’s homes, and it’s got this guy lying on his back in a field of grass, with one hand resting on his chest, and he’s smiling. It’s nice.
I grab my coffee and sit down on the couch. The rain has picked up a bit, and I can hear it slapping against the cast iron table out on the balcony. I leave the lights off in the living room and sip my coffee in the grey morning glow. Gale doesn’t have a TV. That’s strange. A stoner without a TV, there’s probably a story behind that. “This one time when I was high, I was, like, watching TV, and then I was staring at this book, and I just thought wow, books are so much more interesting than TV. It was really funny.” Glad to hear it Gale. The rain keeps slapping outside.
It feels good to know that Ricky and I are okay. The pressure from the wedding has passed, the stupid arguments that resulted from… The airport debacle is done with. We apologized and made up. The rest of the trip should go smooth. You aren’t going to be away from Ricky for too long on this trip, so she certainly can’t accuse you of cheating on her while we’re out here. She can’t go fucking crazy on you. What are you talking about? Of course she can. She can get anything in her head. She sees you looking at some lady walk by on the street and that starts the conversation, “Oh, do you like how she looks?” and the next thing you know she’s bringing up something from a month ago, or two years ago, or talking about Stacey – Stacey is my ex, we dated for four months before I met Ricky – who I haven’t seen or heard from in over seven years. Ricky can lose her shit if she wants to. Hopefully she wants to keep it together while you’re in Seattle, or, better yet, keep it together for the next few years. That would be nice.
I flip through the pile of magazines on the coffee table: Time, Newsweek, Backpacker, and Outside magazines. Hardly interesting right now, maybe I’ll read one later. I lie back on the couch and look out onto the balcony and watch the rain. I drink my coffee, refill my cup, and drink it again. I can hear Ricky start to stir in the bedroom. The shower starts up. I don’t move. The shower turns off. Time passes through the gentile lethargy of the soggy dim morning. Ricky walks into the living room.
“Hey,” she says. Her eyes make her look as though she’s been drugged.
“Morning. Sleep alright?”
“Yeah, but I feel groggy,” she says, leaning into the word Graaw-gy.
“I’ll throw on another pot of coffee.”
“Let’s grab something out,” I say.
“Perfect,” she says. She leans in and pecks me on the cheek and then walks back towards the bedroom.
We wind up at a diner just down the street. They’ve got a nice little bar, a couple of booths, and a couple of lifers filling up coffee and taking orders. Ricky and I sit in a booth right next to the door. Our waitress walks over. She looks almost exactly like Rodney Dangerfield with long hair and big tits. Ricky and I break into big smiles as she nears our table. She is not smiling.
“What can I get you?”
The waitress hands us menus.
“Two coffees, two waters, and an orange juice please,” Ricky says.
“You want a minute to look it over?” Rodney nods at the menu.
“Please,” Ricky says.
Mrs. Dangerfield waddles away. I start to chuckle.
“Oh my god,” Ricky says, “What creature was she on the Island of Dr. Moreau?”
“She must have had the operation that made her look like Rodney Dangerfield and Bruce Vilanch right after she returned to the mainland.”
Ricky laughs. She’s smiling.
“That’s exactly who she is.”
“Right before she escaped the island, she managed to eat Marlon Brando,” I say.
“I know,” I say.
“What are you getting?”
“Well, I was thinking about getting the biscuits and gravy,” I say, “but I don’t to want tempt our Orca friend into devouring my plate before it reaches the table.”
Ricky shakes her head. Clears her throat. Fat Jeff Daniels approaches.
“What would you like?” She asks.
“I’ll have the bowl of oatmeal with an English muffin on the side,” Ricky says.
“Okay. You?” Our new friend points her pencil at my face.
“I’ll take two eggs, over easy, and some wheat toast.”
“That’s it,” I say.
And that is it. Ricky and I sat in that booth for the better part of three hours. We talk about travel and what we want to do with the wedding gifts we don’t like or want – the coffee maker that has a terrible spout that spills everywhere when you try to pour any amount of coffee from the decanter at any speed that is considered faster than dribbling – the giant planter that Tera, Ricky’s second cousin, decided would look great in our foyer – the plant is not entering the house, because we don’t have a foyer. We talk about her mother’s latest boyfriend, who seems to have simply been purchased, whose greatest attribute is that upon opening his mouth everybody within a two-mile radius seem like they just split the atom. Ricky talks about where she wants to move in a couple of years – New York or Chicago. I tell Ricky that we should consider moving out of the country; see if we can completely alter our existence by drastically changing our comfort levels, forcing the issue. We talk about the highlight of the wedding, the delightful treat of my best man, Sam, calling me a fag and Ricky a whore and watching the expression on Ricky’s mother’s face change from displeasure to contempt. I try to convince Ricky that there’s no actual reason for why we don’t own a pinball machine. She spends ten minutes arguing that…
Cue beautiful lady entering diner.
Cue look of disgust.
Cue argument about infidelity.