Play Nice

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[This is where the summary would go if I'd bothered to write one.]

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Having it All

Her secrets were never very good, though she liked to think they were. I think she got a kick out of pretending she’d had a life worth talking about. Don’t we all? There was also that one year she disappeared, not a call or a letter. People said she’d finally gotten sick of the place, had finally decided life wasn’t going to wait around for her.

I don’t know. I always sort of knew she’d be back, she wasn’t the type of person who’d stay away long. Now, her brother, he was another fish all together. He always liked to say he was too big for this pond. I thought he had seaweed for brains, but you can’t tell some people anything. Last I heard he was selling cars down in Houston. Not really the big life I would have planned, but his momma tells me he’s the number one car salesman in all the region. I can believe that, he always did know how to peddle bullshit.

For a while people thought she was with her brother, but he flat out denied it. Then people stopped talking about her. It was like the whole town was upset that she’d left. Some places, once they get a hold of you, find it very hard to let go. Sleepy little towns count on sleepy little people to keep them going, get up and go people tire everyone out.

I waited, figured she’d eventually come back. See, I knew her biggest secret of all. She liked this sleepy too small town. Oh, she always talked a good game, all full of plans, places she was hoping to visit, people she wanted to meet. But it was like she was talking about characters in a book, you get attached to them, you think you know them, you may even love them, but deep down you know it’s all make believe and that eventually you have to close the book and get on with the real people.

She knew this, I knew she knew this. I could guarantee that wherever she was, she felt the pull every day, a vague feeling like she’d misplaced her keys. Someone who leaves and never attempts to make contact is a person who is afraid, afraid that all it will take to bring her back is a word, a sigh, the slight trembling of a voice when it says hello, full of hope. She was afraid. I knew her fear better than I knew my own at times. At night I lay awake in bed, closed my eyes and imagined that I could see the types of days she was living. They were good days, I was certain of it. I was glad too, because that meant she’d had stories to tell when she returned.

The day she called I was the only one in the store. “I’m done,” she said. “The bus gets in at 2:15.”

Simple as that. I picked her up at the bus station, she came back with the same suitcase she left with. She simply smiled at me in response to my questions. In the pickup truck, as we bumped along the old roads, she rolled down the window, leaned her head back, closed her eyes and fell asleep.

“I’m tired,” she murmured as she turned her head to gaze at me through sleepy eyes.

“From what?” I asked.

“Oh, this and that.”

That’s all she said. This and that, no matter what questions people asked her.

Soon they stopped asking, but she didn’t seem to care. I think she liked that there was this part of her nobody could touch. It didn’t matter that she was back in the place where everyone could tell her about the time she threw up on the preacher’s shoes, or her first date that ended with a kiss behind the garden shed. It didn’t matter that people always assumed they knew how she was doing and so didn’t bother to ask, or if they did it was merely as a way of saying hello.

They could have that, she said to me. They can have all of that. I have the other things. I’m good with that.

Published 10/06/03 in Writing • | Views: 1861 times | Print

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