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August 15, 2022

Life Less Love 4

By Peter Driscoll

Truth Is In A Tall Beer...

I

Their vows were barely audible through the wind. Jaylin couldn't help but wonder why anyone would ever get married outside. He was sitting in the bride's section, though Marissa went to great lengths to explain how difficult a choice it was to make.

She was dabbing her eyes along with the other bridesmaids. At a distance it might've seemed like a sort of collective consciousness, to tear up all at once when they saw this convergence of sanctified life. But Jaylin saw the truth. Marissa didn't cry until the maid of honor did. And the girl behind Marissa didn't start until she saw Marissa bring her hand to her eyes. It was a reaction. One after the other. Like dominos. Like if they weren't crying they were missing out.

The bride looked out into the front rows, to her parents, and that's when he knew it was over. The last words of the preacher wafted to his ears between wisps of wind. Some music started playing as the photographer danced around the beaming couple as if he were some sort of invisible being.

Marissa found her way to him as the crowd followed the newly married couple to a nearby hotel, where the liquor and food waited.

"You hate weddings, don't you?" she said as he stretched in the wind.

"What?" he laughed. "Where do you get that?"

"You weren't moved at all."

"Well, I don't know these people. They're your college friends. I almost cried at my sister's wedding."

"Really?"

"Depends on if you think that makes me less masculine or not."

"I think it's sexy for a man to show his emotions."

"Well, then one single tear did pop out," he smiled.

"You're such a liar," a tiny smile creeping around her lips.

"Come on, let's go get drunk and eat some sweet appetizers. I'm sure all your friends are dying to meet me."

"Oh yeah, Jaylin, you're all they're thinking about right now," she laughed.

The two walked slowly towards the hotel, taking their time.

"Could you hear the vows? I could barely hear and I was standing right next to them," she asked.

"No. I couldn't hear anything. Anything good?"

Marissa shrugged. "They were both sweet. Probably nothing you would be interested in."

"Did they talk a lot? Or say anything wasteful?"

"Wasteful?" she asked.

"Yeah, you know, like that theory I have."

"What theory?"

"About words. I never told you about that?"

"No..." she looked up at him, a questioning look on her face.

"All people do is waste words. It's ridiculous. We're all guilty of it. We just spit these words out for no reason. No meaning. We waste words just to fill space. To make things less uncomfortable."

"Do you waste words with me?" she asked.

"No. Do you waste words with me?"

"Well, I've never thought about it," she rested her head on his shoulder as they walked. Her dress weighing on her. "I don't think I have."

"You haven't."

They walked without speaking for a while. Reaching the foot of the hotel door. She pulled her head off his shoulder and looked dauntingly at the reception hall.

"Can we hang out outside for a while? I want to just not step in there for a little bit."

Jaylin led her to a nearby bench on the side of the building. They sat watching the silhouettes of people through the tinted windows.

"So, did they waste any words?" he asked.

"Too many," she laughed.

She took her heels off and laid her feet on Jaylin's lap. He began massaging them and looked over at the girl he was pretty sure he was dating now.

"What kind of wedding do you want?" she said through closed eyes.

"Hmm, I think that's a question you better answer first."

"No, I asked first. You tell me." She opened one of her eyes and squinted it at him. "I'm not one of those crazy girls who is afraid of never getting married. I'm not judging or testing you, I'm just asking because of the occasion." She closed the eye and leaned her head back against the bench rail.

"Honestly, I don't want anything big. I just want me and my wife and our immediate families. I want to do it somewhere crazy, way out of the way. What about you?"

"I want it just like this. Outside, with all my friends and family. And all the attention on me."

She lifted her head and swung her feet off Jaylin's lap. With reluctance, she slipped the shoes back on and used his shoulder for balance as she stood.

"Okay, let's get drunk."

II

"How about a night cap?"

Jaylin stood in the doorway of Marissa's apartment as she walked in backwards, swaying. Her long-sleeve cardigan easily sliding off her shoulders and bundling on the middle of her arms.

He stepped inside the apartment, glancing around the dark living room. She had found her way to the freezer and was deciding between two bottles in her hands.

"I don't know. I still have to get home. I might end up passing out if I drink anymore. I'm feeling pretty good right now as it is."

She went with the bottle in her left hand and replaced the one held in her right. She filled two glasses with ice and closed the freezer. She looked at Jaylin as she poured vodka in each glass.

"Well, then why don't you stay the night?"

Jaylin took two more steps into the apartment and stood where the living room carpet met the kitchen tile. The hall door eased off his shoulder as he moved away and it closed. The noise startled him and he turned to it. Marissa laughed and opened the fridge. She pulled out cranberry juice, orange juice and a can of diet sprite. She mixed equal parts into both classes and stirred them with a spoon. She seductively put the spoon in her mouth, pulling it out slowly. Making sure he was watching.

"You really want me to stay the night? No joke?"

She took a sip from her drink and then walked cross the tile to him with the other. She kissed him and undid the bottom button on his dress shirt, untucking it from his pants. She broke away and smiled.

"Yeah. But you have to drink this with me. Cheers."

She held up his glass and he clinked his to hers. They both drank as they smiled. She walked to her bedroom, leading him by the hand. They undressed with anxiousness, finding breaks between their fumbling to kiss each other. The hall door slammed closed again. Jaylin jumped.

"Shit, it's probably my roommate."

"So?" he asked.

"Nothing. It's just that, she's going to want to meet you."

"Just lock the door, I can meet her tomorrow."

"You don't understand. That will only make her more curious. Ugh," she sighed.

Marissa got off the bed and pulled a hoodie over her bra. She tossed Jaylin his dress shirt and he began buttoning it up. Marissa went out into the hall, leaving her bedroom door open just a crack.

A few seconds later, a younger version of Marissa with brown hair burst through the door and stood in front of the bed, her hand exaggeratedly held out.

"Hi, I'm Kimberly, what's your name?"

"Uh, I'm Jaylin. Nice to meet you, Kim."

"Kimberly," she smiled too wide. ""Were you guys about to have sex?"

"Cut it out, Kim," Marissa said from the doorway. "Jaylin, this is my sister. Just ignore her sarcasm. She thinks it's cute."

"I guess not cute enough. Not all of us are lucky enough to bring strange boys home."

"Just because you don't know him doesn't mean he's strange. Okay, now you've met him, you can leave now."

"Are you guys going to have sex?" she turned to her sister.

"Yes, okay, Kim? Now get out of here."

She turned back to Jaylin, still smiling wider than was normal for her face.

"Watch out for her. She brings lots of boys home. She gets bored easy."

"Kim!"

"I'll try to keep her on her toes then," Jaylin said dryly.

Kimberly shrugged and walked out of the room, looking at her sister as she left.

"You're such a jealous bitch sometimes," Marissa whispered as she passed.

She closed the door after he sister left and locked it. She smiled at Jaylin and took two sips from her drink. She peeled off her sweatshirt and unstrapped her bra, letting it dangle on her arms, as she kneeled on the bed and kissed Jaylin. She helped him undo the buttons of his shirt as they fell to the bed, him below her.

"I had a fun time tonight," he said up to her as he took her bra the rest of the way off. "We should do it again soon."

"As long as we stay at your place next time."

He smiled as she leaned down to kiss him again. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a shadow flash below the door. There was something behind what the sister told him. It wasn't just jealousy. There was a feeling that this girl would only lead to heartbreak.

III

"You have to be kidding me. I honestly thought I was the only one who liked that movie. Every single person I've ever talked to about it absolutely hates it. I don't even bring it up in conversation anymore because I'm afraid the person will say they hate it and I'll have to stop talking to them."

She laughed, his long-windedness amusing her. She poked at her chicken and took a small bite, brushing her hair out of her eyes after setting down her fork and staring into his retinas. She could feel a smile creeping onto her face as his mirrored hers.

"Well, good thing I brought it up, Jaylin. You never would have, would you?"

"Nope. You're too perfect. I want to avoid any possibilities that may hint that you aren't."

"So you're never going to have any opinions?" she asked.

"Nope. Not 'til you express yours first. And if I disagree I'll just change it and you'll be none the wiser."

She laughed again. He joined in.

"Yeah, we'll see about that," she said.

"What does that mean?"

"I think I've got you pegged pretty good. We may have only been on three dates, but I've got an idea."

"Oh yeah, well I do too," he smirked.

"Do you? What do you know about me?"

"Well. I know you're pretty. And funny. I know you teach third grade and you love it. I know you went to Emerson and wish you were still there. I know I want to take you out on another date."

"Hey! That last one was about you, not me," she said, her smile growing wider.

"It was about both of us."

They peered at each other for a while. Marissa broke first and went back to her plate, giggling lightly to herself.

"Your smile is contagious, you know that?" he said.

"Maybe."

"Well you should know it. You probably slay hearts with that smile. So what do you say? Can we do this again?" he asked.

"Hmm, I dunno. Maybe if we get some dessert it'll help persuade me."

"Oh really? That actually doesn't sound that bad. But I get to choose. And if I choose something you like you have to go on another date with me."

"Okay, deal. But I have to let you in on a little secret first," Marissa smiled as slyly as she consciously could.

"What's that?"

"I like everything on the dessert menu."

IV

His hands were cold, especially for July, and she didn't get to feel them until they were on the Dizzy Dragon. Looping around the heavy metal cylinder anchoring their cart as they dipped up and down, sliding in their unharnessed seat. She wasn't scared, or even dizzy, as the eponymous dragon promised, but she saw him grasping the safety bar with his right hand and his left lying dormant on the seat. Feigning shock she took her right arm off the bar and grasped the outside of his hand, lacing her fingers between his. She turned, mouth agape, to see him smile and roll his hand over so they were palm to palm. They stayed like that until the ride halted.

Later, after he bought them cotton candy, they walked down the aisle of games and ate slowly from the puff of sugar. He slid his hand into hers as she plucked from the mound he was holding. He looked straight ahead, gauging her response out of the corner of his eye. A smile came to his face as it came to hers and he turned to look at her head on.

"Thanks for bringing me to the carnival," she said. "I haven't been to one since I was a kid."

"That's why I come every year. They remind me of being little. Of fun, you know? You can't have a bad time here. It's impossible."

They walked a little slower as they neared the end of the booths. The Ferris wheel loomed ahead.

"Can I ask you a clichéd question?" he asked.

"You want to ask me if I want to ride on the Ferris wheel, don't you?" a sly smile spreading from the one already on her face.

He laughed. "Yeah, you want to?"

"Absolutely."

He spent fifteen dollars and still couldn't win her a stuffed animal. An assumption of embarrassment and failure filled him, despite the fact that she didn't really want one anyway. She held his arm as they walked back to the car, quickly taking his mind off the carnival games with a story of how she got lost at the movies when she was eight.

They sat in his car for a while, both waiting for the other to make a move. He put his hand on her seat as subtly as he could, inching it towards her jeans.

"I still can't believe you got lost," he laughed. "There were only six theaters, how hard could it have been?"

"Oh, shut up, I was eight. They all looked the same. Just like those stuffed animals."

He winced at her words and thought back to the little toy horse with the hole in its belly. Shooting it full of water fifteen times in a row without winning once. Always second. He bowed his head and leaned towards her seat as the thoughts trickled around in his head. But before he could dwell too long she bent down with him until she found his eyes, then kissed him until the only thought in his head was the prayer for the moment to never end.

V

Everyone seemed to not notice or to not care. Maybe they thought they'd be bothering her. Or maybe they thought she was just desperate for attention.

Jaylin's cell phone vibrated in his pocket and rattled against the wooden bench. On the other side of the park he could see his softball team waiting to get on the field. He still had a few minutes before they were even warming up. Ignoring the call, he took a deep breath and got up from the bench.

He crossed the narrow walkway to the bench opposite the one he had been sitting. The girl didn't seem to notice him at all. He looked around and saw only a few people moving along the path. A jogger ran by without glancing in his direction. He looked back at the girl, her head still in her hands.

"I'm sorry, are you all right?"

She looked up, startled. A look of fear and anger and sadness melded on her face. She looked into his eyes, painfully, then laughed in a quick exasperated breath and inhaled with the same laugh. She sniffled and wiped the tears from her left eye with the back of her left hand.

"I didn't mean to scare you. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

"No, it's fine," she laughed again, embarrassed. She used her right palm to hemorrhage the tears from her right eye and stood up, straightening her skirt with her hands. She stared at the ground.

"A girl as pretty as you shouldn't cry. You should save those tears for happy times," he said to the top of her head.

"Is that some kind of line or something?" she looked at him harshly.

He nodded slightly in awareness. "No, actually. It just kind of felt like the right thing to say. Listen, I just wanted to see if you were all right."

He started down the path, towards the softball field, mad at himself for even approaching her in the first place. Knowing things could only end the way they did.

"I'm sorry. I'm not all right."

He stopped and turned around. She was looking down again, swiveling alternately on each leg. She took two steps towards him.

"I'm kind of mad at all guys right now, it isn't you. My boyfriend just broke up with me. I probably would have gotten mad at you no matter what you said."

"Well, he's an idiot. To break up with you."

She smiled weakly and then turned around. Walking pointedly back to the bench.

He took a few steps toward her but she didn't look at him.

"Hey, you really are pretty. I know that probably sounded like a line before, but it wasn't. I went up to you cause I thought you were pretty, but I also wanted to know why you were crying. That wasn't a line. It was just the first thing that popped into my head."

She laughed.

"What's so funny?"

"Your clothes."

"What about them? I've got a softball game. I don't wear this all the time you know," he laughed back.

"You still look like a dork."

"I see. Well, I'm actually going to be late for my game, so I've got to bring my dorky self across to the other side of the park. But it was nice to meet you..."

"Aren't you going to ask for my number before you go?

Jaylin paused, not knowing what to say. She laughed at his awkwardness.

"But then wouldn't that prove that all I was trying to do was hit on you? Wouldn't you get mad at that?"

"Well, isn't that what you trying to do? No one else in this park came up to me. Just you. You must have wanted something."

"I wanted to make sure you were all right."

"Well now I am. So I think now you should ask me for my number."

Jaylin took out his cell phone and opened it up. He ignored the alert to the missed call from his girlfriend and opened up a new contact in his address book.

"What's your name, first?"

"Marissa."

"I'm Jaylin," he said while typing in her name. Then she gave him the number.

He closed the phone and stared at her for a while, both unmoving.

"I thought you were going to be late for your game?"

"I am, but it's okay. I just want to remember this moment for a second. Who knows. It could end up being the best memory of my life."

Article © Peter Driscoll. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-04-12
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