By Patrick Alcatraz
Rio Grande City, Texas - "Why don't you ever call me?" Rachel was asking as the large truck carrying a full load of oilfield piping sped by. It was almost four in the afternoon as they sat on the concrete steps outside the LaBorde House, this after a long lunch that had come with all-out conversation to do with Daniel's lingering desire for a long, long kiss and Rachel's insistence that things take their easy pacing. In books to do with love, this was called the moment of not truth, but something more akin to opting for that crazy plunge into a darkened pool. It was the afterblow of the 18-wheeler that chased the rest of the outdoor chat.
"If you only knew how much I want to kiss you..." Daniel began, knowing he sounded stupid.
"Can't," is what he heard from Rachel. It was her look that perplexed him, cause it did say yes, and it did say it clearly. He bit into a small blade of dried grass and scanned the high sky. Way up there, a jetliner's contrail forced his eyes to follow its flight, headed south, perhaps to Rio or Buenos Aires. It was easy to think that such a place would yield a bit more romance. The land he walked-on didn't exactly throw the heart out into the streets. No, this was the proverbial best stage for gunplay, not love. Daniel cleared his brain of bullshit he'd kept there for moments like this one, a moment when he wanted Rachel to know, to feel, that he now needed to kiss her, and kiss her hard - one of those 30-minute fish kisses he'd invented. Women hated them, especially his last romance - a woman who'd invented "crying yourself to sleep." But it was his feeling that their complaints centered more on the mess he made of their makeup than on the pasting of lips. "I don't want Phil to find out," Rachel said next.
"I know," Daniel threw back. He was lifting his left arm to scratch at the upper right side of his back. It now served as handy commercial break. Rachel sat up and ran a hand through her long hair. For a moment, Daniel thought she was about to say something profound, some sentence to set things in order, perhaps even lead to some more talk that would lead to his understanding of things a bit better.
"I just don't want it to be a one-time thing," she told him.
Daniel nodded and inhaled deeply. He was hiking through the canyons of his brain, looking for the perfect reply, hiking and falling into ravines that held a pile of dialogue from previous relationships. It had always been easy to draw on conversations he'd had with his women. At times, they fit. Here, he didn't want to chance sounding like a bad a re-play. He played with his chin a bit and then turned to look at Rachel.
"It's on you," he said. "You tell me..."
Daniel thought he saw a glimmer in her eyes, but he wondered whether that wasn't just the bright sun bouncing light off the morning rainwater now evaporating off the blistering blacktop only feet away. Mother Nature played havoc with romance. If it wasn't a sudden rainstorm blowing it out on some picnic in a pastoral meadow, it was an ill-timed earthquake while walking into a movie, or, worse yet, a hurricane suddenly headed in, reports telling of 200-mph winds, just as they strolled into the beach-front motel. Daniel wondered if his fish kiss could withstand such winds. He told himself it could, without question, without a seawall, without fear.
Rachel was the first to get up off the steps. He followed her back inside the hotel. There were no bells ringing somewhere faraway, and there was nothing out of the ordinary about the manner in which they made their way back to their table in the restaurant out back. One step followed another. A waitress moved in their direction.
The only soundtrack available was the noisy roll of large trucks headed west.
Rachel said something about having to get home and Daniel said something about needing to gas-up his car. She led the way out the back door. From the corner jukebox, what they got was a ceaseless scratching off a record fighting like crazy to rid itself of a stuck needle.
"They're playing our song," Rachel threw out...
[To be cont'd]