How d’ya put into action the rehabilitation you refer to? How did you change him?
“I hit him in the mouth.” Such was Nancy, sometimes brutish, mouthy, sassy, stubborn, witty, provocative, other times menacing, but eternally beautiful. As a rule, it was always that beauty that pulled him in, like what happens to fish, swiveling up to the surface of water to be twinkled on by some brassy brilliant tackle. Throw in a dash of mystery and a fistful of danger. And always he lived to regret it. They’d warned him to chill out before taking on a new woman. Even Nancy noticed how he had Dahlia Marie on the brain. Dahlia Marie was that exception to the hurtful rule.
The road through the California desert was, well, hot, burning hot, the kind of heat that turned people into impatient, nasty grumps.
“That rat bastard!” While driving at madwoman’s speed, Nancy repeated that simple iteration, along with the acid grievance, “throwing me to the wolves like that”.
That was her interpretation of what had happened, who knows, but Nancy had a way with the truth, of molding it like Playdoh into any shape or colour she wanted it to be, of giving it an elasticity and flexibility that it didn’t of itself possess. Besides, who but someone faithfully manic could possibly put their trust in someone like Fast Eddie, an Afro Dominican dwarf with gold teeth and a passion for jazz piano, who made a living scaling the walls of island resorts and breaking into rooms at night.
When we arrived in New Orleans, she went searching for him. I trailed after. I was sure I could see Fast Eddie ducking behind pillars when he saw us coming. Fast Eddie would do everything to avoid her, or make a deal. A childhood of living in shacks made of plastic sheeting, wood, reeds and even blanketsgave him the impetus to steal but not to rot in a crumbling sweaty unsanitary grey cement prison cell seriously overpopulated with others of the same underclass.
At night we checked into a hotel, where a moth-eaten clerk explained to us, as though it needed explaining in this town, that there was such a thing as a night person as opposed to a day person. The night person was the one who short-changed you or drove you in a taxi all over the place when your destination was close at hand.
Fast Eddie was a night person, and she wanted her money now.
I had my own troubles. Unbeknownst to Nancy I too was searching…searching for a way to reconcile with Dalhlia Marie, aka as Noketta, aka Little Miss Dynamo aka Ondine Paris, who’d fled here after our break-up.
She’d returned to live with her ex, and on the phone I was begging her to come back to me.
Why, I asked her, about her ex, why the devil would you continue living with someone who would continuously and violently throw you out of bed for not having sex?
He became part of her, of her blood and sinew, of her identity, she replied. And though she was not always sure if she really loved him, she concluded she could not possibly let him go, in spite of several previous attempts. Unfathomable and erratic he was and she was never sure when he would come home. He had a hold on her. Sometimes he would throw such a beam of light, like a warm blanket in the dead of winter, and ask her things about herself that meant a lot. And sometimes surprise her with his self-avowed vulnerability, the way he laid himself bare, like no one else she’d ever known. She loved him for that, and other ways of expressing sweetness and sexiness when he wasn’t an ass. His sister had told her he was to a certain degree autistic; that sometimes he could get himself out to the world, sometimes feel with it, other times positively not, and so what did she expect.
What’ll happen to you if you decide once again to leave, I argued. You have no skills, no trades to fall back on, and you refuse to do menial work for money. What then? She didn’t want to talk about it.
Nightfall groped at him as he made his way back to the hotel room, the sky was violet, and people jostled others on the busy sidewalk, some gyrating in that strange iconic Carnival boogie.
When he opened the door Nancy was lying in bed as naked as the day is long, and the dwarf was seated next to her. For a time, he’d forgotten he was walking on gilded splinters, now undeniable. Naked as she was, there was a core of steel beneath the exterior as she and Fast Eddie fixed their eyes on him.
Eddie broke the spell. “She’s with me now. We made a deal”.
On his way back from New Orleans, the desert sand had spilled onto the road after an exacting wind storm. In the distance, hitchhiking, sitting on a suitcase on the side of the road was a woman.
It was Dahlia Marie.