RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas – Shorn of all recent memory and the desire to go look for it, Patrick parked his pickup outside a bar on the western fringes of this falling border town and walked in wanting – needing – a taste of the hard life. Things with Rachel had warped-off, and again he thought a dive into the unknown would be one answer. She was gone; the old bar by the side of the road waved him in. You could fall for the feelings men hate and go rot in some corner, or you could push it away, push it so hard that the imagery of loss would melt into the rising afternoon scorch. Patrick pushed his pickup’s door shut roughly, the bang of rusting metal coming together serving as metaphor for the fast-flashing finale that had been the end of his brief romance with Rachel. He thought he’d heard from one of her friends that she'd flown to Florida, to forget him under a cascading waterfall of booze to be found in nightclubs along the ritzy beachfront hotels, there with the wily Cubans. Patrick stepped into the bar.
He wanted to merely amble over to a table by the back wall, over alongside the dusty jukebox. What was it about the two-three days after a break-up, is what occupied his grass-whorled brain. He’d been running that question across his mind on the highway and still had no answer when he asked the arriving waitress for a bottle of any Mexican beer. First, he’d thrown an old Beatles CD into his truck’s dash player and raised the volume to the clouds. Then, he’d pushed the off button and sailed for miles watching images that really weren’t moving across his vehicle’s windshield: Rachel splayed all over his living room couch, him seated on an easy chair across from the ancient, wicker coffee table between them, Rachel smiling and then saying she would not cheat on her husband again, him throwing his legs and boots atop the coffee table and leaning back as far as he could go on the chair, Rachel rolling around before finding her seated posture, him asking the whys and what nows, Rachel declaring some freedom from lies and betrayals, him wondering if she’d be up for one last ride, Rachel saying she had to go, him nodding forlornly, Rachel popping up to her feet to blow him a kiss, him saying, well, it was a chapter, Rachel shaking her short skirt into place and then skipping toward the house’s front door, him holding his place on the chair, Rachel saying she was sorry, him saying, sure, that’s an ending.
“Glass?” the waitress was asking as she set the bottle down on his table.
“Nope,” Patrick said in reply.
“Snack? We have chips and salsa…burritos...queso dip...”
“No, but thanks.”
He watched her turn and retreat to the bar, where a lanky, high-throated dude sat on a barstool smoking a cigarette and bullshitting with a portly, mustachioed bartender who looked like a cross between a hog and a walrus. Rachel had to be drinking, too. The winds blowing in from the east carried a certain feeling. Patrick could think that she was drinking with him, only 1,000 miles apart. His idea of the perfect love affair always began with a long kiss, moved to the gorgeous warmth of evening loving, and forever ended with the bindings of ragged feelings that required a quick escape.
The waitress stared at him from the far end of the bar. She was not a pretty woman, more utilitarian than anything else, someone’s idea of a quick porking and, sweetheart, it’s off to the card game, that kind. Patrick usually took a week between women. He rose and turned a bit to front the battered jukebox. Then he scanned the song selections, settling on one after a minute or so. “Fuckin’ Phil Collins,” he said to no one in a soft voice, announcing his choice.
Love has no memory, he told himself. Not real love.
It flirts with the joy and the pain, the stretchings and the tugs, the ins and the outs, the mixture of arrival and departure, like a birth. Real love couldn’t stay. Like even the neatest song or the loveliest movie, it had its end.
Real love, he'd heard somewhere, forces you to be as a page that aches for a word which speaks on a theme that is timeless. Patrick knew that song like a sonofabitch, its lyrics played well with his rolling philosophy – the one that said all he could know was his own time…
- 30 -