Last Day Out
Every Thursday at noon I have sex with Rick in room #213 of the Rainbow
Motel. Today, even though I promised my therapist I wouldn't come here again, I
pull into the lot and park beside Rick's black Ford Bronco. I cut the engine and
air conditioner and listen to stillness, to nothing, to heat. Sunrays splinter
the windshield. Heat from the pavement rises, stifling, around the car, around
me. No insects flutter in the brittle grass next to the lot. Trees don't rustle
with bird wings. A neon rainbow, mute and colorless by day, arcs over a sign
switched to vacancy. Only the little girl from India, daughter of the motel
owner, invigorates the stasis. Holding a string tied to a green balloon, she
races down the diving board and leaps into the swimming pool. With the windows
closed, I can't hear the splash. If she laughs, I can't hear this, either. For a
moment she disappears. The balloon gaily sways above the water. The girl pops to
the surface. She begins the game again.
The girl's energy exhausts me---as much as the stagnation of neon, air, time. I close my eyes. Still, I sense no darkness, no cool shadows, no relief from the scorching Georgia heat. Rather, a harsh light, white as a sheet, penetrates my lids as if I am caught in an unforgiving glare.
I worry the girl by the pool will see me. She's too young to know what I do here in the Rainbow Motel.
I should leave. I should leave here now. I should drive home and rinse pink gloss from my lips, wipe mascara from my lashes, change out of my too-short skirt and too-tight black lace blouse. I should cook a nourishing dinner for my husband. I should grasp the balloon and let it waft me across the sky, far from my implacable need for men. Dangerous men. Not physically dangerous. Emotionally dangerous. These men see me just as an object, a body. They are men incapable of love---even though I endlessly, addictively, try to convince myself that sex at noon for an hour with a married man has to be the real thing, must be love.
So I can't leave here. I need Rick. One last time. One last high. One last fix.
I should drive to the rehab unit and find my therapist right now.
Pausing outside the door of room #213, I hear the television: a car crash, urgent voices. I turn the knob and lock it behind me. Rick lies on the sheet smoking a cigarette, the remote beside him. He inhales. Exhales. Smoke swirls. I watch it disperse. An ash drifts onto the pillowcase. He doesn't notice. He hasn't stopped watching me since I entered.
He leans over and stubs out the cigarette. He clicks off the television and beckons me closer. A gold necklace nestles in his blond hair, a rich glitter of gold on gold as if chain mail emblazons his chest. Lying beside him, I curl short strands of his hair around my finger as if, in all this incandescence, we radiate love. His Eau Sauvage cologne is the only scent in the world I will ever need or want. I close my eyes, drenched in it. In him. I must feel Rick's touch, a drug surging through veins, trancing me as I urgently swallow oblivion and ether. Sex, a sweet amnesiac. The elixir drains through my body, thin as a flame. I crave this, need him---or You, Man, whoever You are---until I'm blissfully satiated. . . .
Is this bliss?
I open my eyes. He's leaning over me, his palm on the pillow beside my head. I can hear the second hand of his watch ticking beside my ear. His breath numbs the hollow at the base of my neck. Sweat gathers on his temples. The necklace taps my chin as he fucks me. A gift from his wife? I wonder. He kisses me. Strokes me. But this is just a repetition of all the other times with Rick. Nothing unusual. Just the basics. Routine sex. He doesn't even bother to try to impress me with fancy positions like Crushing Spices. Flower in Bloom. Dear to Cupid. Just the missionary position. Sometimes sixty-nine---but all Rick wants is to get the job done. Quickly.
Copyright Sue Silverman 2001. Reproduced by permission of the author.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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