I smelled propane. Elizabeth dug her knees into the brown and gold carpet of my trailer’s living room. She started scraping the last of her pens and paperclips and post-it notes and bookmarks and bits of shit off of the floor, throwing them into an old Lucky Lager box. I walked over to the stove. The pilot light had blown out.
“I think the last time we broke up was good for you,” Elizabeth said, resting her hands on her thighs and staring into the floor. I stood behind her, staring down into the sandy blond curls that seemed to spring from the top of her scalp. She turned her head around and up towards me where I stood in the kitchen. “It just seems like every time we are apart you do really great things for yourself.”
“Well, last time you and Jarred got a place of your own.”
“Well, you kicked me out of your mom’s.”
“I didn’t kick you out. We decided we needed a break.”
“You decided we needed a break.” I shot back. “And why did taking a break mean you had to fuck all our friends.” We had been over this before.
“They weren’t our friends. They were your friends. I never had any of my own friends, except for Luna. And I didn’t realize that until we broke up. So it was good for me. I needed to make my own friends. Our lives don’t always have to be exactly the same.”
“Then why not fuck some strangers? There’s thirty-thousand people in this town.”
“I’ll get to them.”
She thought she was making a joke. I knew she wasn’t.
Elizabeth continued on, speaking with certainty about how breaking up with me this time was more about a quest to discover her authentic self than because she was tired of taking care of me…something more about money…then she started repeating herself.
I zoned out. I was staring at the Jean-Michel Basquiat print of In Italian. Elizabeth had taken it from her mom’s garage and hung it on the wall above the couch when we moved into the trailer. I didn’t know anything about art, but this painting was the first I had ever formed a relationship with. She stood up and walked toward it. I panicked. She walked past it. I let out a sigh.
“Do you want coffee?” I asked. It was morning and I was getting ready for work at the hotel.
Elizabeth was back in the bedroom now, saying something about something and “this indifference that infects everything you do.”
When I first met Elizabeth I thought she was just like me. She seemed to share all my same doubts, fears and insecurities. And in the most romantic way a 15-year-old could think, I believed we were the two perfect people to cure each other. I was certainly looking for a cure. But then Elizabeth’s mom told her she was sorry about the divorce and that she loved her. And then the story that seemed to bind Elizabeth and I together was suddenly gone.
I looked down at the burners of my stove. They looked filthy. They weren’t. They were just beat-up and stained from everyone else who had lived there before me. I pulled out a brown Bic lighter from my pocket and relit the pilot light. It glowed blue and quivered with the draft from the window above the sink. I felt the draft on my arm. It was cold outside. I could always tell when it was cold outside because it was cold inside. Trailer living.
“This place stinks.” She was in the bathroom now. “Are you smoking in here? I’ve been gone two days and you’re already smoking in the house…” I could hear drawers being rolled open and slammed shut.
Elizabeth stomped back down the hall towards me. I panicked again. She passed In Italian. I let out a sigh.
She had stuffed some coats into a Channel duffle bag from her mother’s house. She stood with her hand on the doorknob of the front door.
“Luna is headed down here to pick me up. She’s been fixing up our new apartment.”
“Where’s the apartment?”
“I have to admit, I’m excited. I’m finally doing something for myself….my authentic self. Luna agrees.”
“Yeah. I bet.”
I’ll admit that when I first met Luna I had made some unfair assumptions; like that she was an attractive and nice person.
“I’m not coming back. For real. So if there’s anything you want from the storage shed, you need to come get it this weekend.”
“What’s in the storage shed?”
“I don’t know. That box of your dad’s junk and some of your recordings, crappy 4-track stuff. I think you have a rug in there too.”
“Where did I get a rug?”
“Fuck if I know. You probably stole it from the hotel.”
I didn’t steal anything from the hotel. I took stuff they were throwing away, or that they had extras of. I didn’t always ask but I didn’t steal stuff. I did take quiet a bit of stuff. Like sheets and comforters and brass lamps and little bags of coffee and little soaps. In fact, sometimes my trailer looked like a fake hotel room – a hotel room that was staged for some kind of low-budget porno shoot. So it wasn’t nice stuff I took. Just the extra stuff.
“Well can I have a key to the storage shed, or do I have to meet you there?” I asked.
“My mom doesn’t want you having the key. She has some nice stuff in there.”
“I’m not going to steal anything. I just don’t want her throwing my shit away if I can’t get in there this weekend.”
“If it’s that important to you, find a way to meet me there.”
“Jarred and I are supposed to work on Holly’s driveway this weekend. I need the money.”
“What do you mean?”
She paused and looked up at the corkboard ceiling.
“Well – actually, I don’t know. Am I more shocked that you are working this weekend or that you need money? That’s a tough question.”
“Don’t spend too much time on it. When can I meet you there?” I asked.
“When I get up. Probably sometime after eleven.”
“Eleven? I have to be at Holly’s at ten. Can we do it earlier?”
“Luna and I are going to a Michael W. Smith concert Friday night. Luna says he’s awesome. So we’re going to be out super late.”
“That’s a Christian singer. You’re not going to be out that late.”
“He is? Well Luna says he’s awesome.”
“I don’t think Luna even knows who he is…”
“Well she got the tickets from a guy she knows. So we’re all going together.”
“The three of you?” I asked.
“No. Four of us. He’s bringing friend.”
“Fuck if I know! Why are you acting so jealous?”
I could hear the tires of a car crushing the gravel as it came up the road outside my front door. Then a honk. Elizabeth looked between the two thin cotton curtains of the front door window.
“That’s Luna. Why don’t you just call me when you guys are done and I’ll see where I’m at.”
“My phone is shut off.”
“Tell Jarred I said bye.”
Elizabeth picked up the cardboard box of bits of shit off the floor. She turned the door nob and kicked the bottom of the door to swing it open. I could see Luna outside sitting behind the wheel of her mom’s car, staring straight ahead like a statue.
“Hi, Luna” I yelled, sarcastically waving at the car through the kitchen window. There was no reply.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes, turned back to me and then motioned to In Italian with her chin.
“Would you mind grabbing that for me?”
Shit. I walked over to In Italian and lifted it off the wall. The foam board it was printed on made it feel so much lighter than it looked.
“It looks like the corner got bent.” I said. “You want me to just trash it?” I asked. One last effort to keep it.
“Put it on top of my box.”
I balanced In Italian on top of her box of bits and shit. Elizabeth turned back towards the driveway.
She walked outside. Luna popped open the trunk from inside the car. Elizabeth threw her cardboard box, her Channel duffle bag, and In Italian into the trunk like a plumber throws his tools at 5 o’clock on Friday. She got in the car and looked straight ahead like a statue.
“Wait,” I yelled from the open trailer door before the car started to move.
Elizabeth rolled down the window and stuck her head out.
“What?” she asked.
“Can you drop me at the Cennex and buy me some smokes?”
“Why can’t you buy your own cigarettes?”
“Because all these new people working there are carding me.”
There was a brief conference inside the car. Elizabeth stuck her head back out the window.
“Fine.” she said.
I grabbed my wallet and my keys from the kitchen table, shut the door and hopped down the stairs. I reached at the car door handle but it was locked. I knocked on the window and the automatic lock opened from inside.
“Hi Rossss…..” Luna happily hissed with her forked tongue as I slid into the back seat. “Heading to work?”
“You can just drop me at the Cennex. Thanks.”
Luna hit the accelerator. The tires kicked a few rocks into the steel tongue of my trailer. They made a pinging sound like kids shooting bee bees at a tin can. The tires lifted the dust up from the gravel. I rolled down the window. The smell of dry oil filled my nose.
“So where’s your guys’ new apartment?” I asked Luna. I could see Elizabeth lightly push the knuckles of her left hand into Luna’s thigh. Luna didn’t answer.
“How are your brothers?” Luna asked. “I haven’t seen them in a while.”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen them either. I had a couple cops come by the house yesterday asking if I knew where they were.”
“I didn’t know that,” chimed in Elizabeth.
“Well, you were at the new apartment. I told the cops they could try there, but that I wasn’t sure where it was.”
“What did they do?” asked Luna.
“They broke into some dead lady’s house.”
“Oh. How did the cops know that?”
“Because apparently they did their laundry there. The cops found some of Max’s probation paperwork on top of the washer. They did bring me the laundry back though, to ask if any of it was mine.”
“You know, your brothers are really good guys. They just really need some direction.” Luna had slept with both my brothers. They claim at the same time.
We were moving slowly through the trailer park passing all of my neighbors. Most of them were still asleep. A few were outside scraping the frost off of their running cars, most parked next to cars that had not run in years. As usual William and Levi were bench-pressing on an old weight bench that permanently sat in their patch of yard. Everyone had a dog or two and they all barked and chased the car down the road in waves from behind their wire fences. We hit the paved road and the drive suddenly became quieter and smoother. Luna sped up and we started up the road towards the center of town.
“Oh my God. Are you going to class tomorrow?” Luna asked Elizabeth.
“Probably. Why?” Elizabeth responded.
“My mom doesn’t need me at the café tomorrow so I thought we could head to Landon’s for a little shopping! I need something for the concert.”
“I am pretty sure I have a quiz in biology tomorrow so I better go to class. Besides, I already know what I’m wearing.” Elizabeth replied.
“You know Michael W. Smith is a Christian singer, Luna.” I offered.
“He is?” Luna pondered. “Well, so what. So is most country music and you listen to that. Besides, I’m a Christian so it’s fine.”
“Really? You don’t go to church.” I replied.
“That’s because I think organized religion just makes something that should be personal into some kind of weird group thing.” Right away I thought of Luna having sex with my two brothers.
“What are you wearing Elizabeth?” I asked.
“None of your business. But I’ll tell Luna.” She bounced straight up in her seat and turned to Luna. “I’m going to wear that black sleeveless dress with the v-neck. But I’m still not sure about the shoes. Is this like country Christian? Could I wear cowboy boots? I never get to wear those.”
“That’s because you guys ride English.” I offered. I hated people who rode horses “English”. I could tolerate the ridiculousness of most things that rich people did because I could always recognize in them some sort of utility. I could find no utility in English riding.
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