After blowing off grad school, I bring back the loan money John will spend dealing hash. He picks me up at the airport in Idaho. In the bar, I tell him I’m pregnant. I offer the information cavalierly, a light-hearted joke on nature, quickly assert I shouldn’t have it. Then we eat lunch with his friend. Sandwiches and Molson’s Golden. They reminisce about the weekend; they shot three bullets straight through the plate glass of the Cadillac showroom in downtown Idaho Falls. John tells the story as if it’s just high jinks, but I sense a fight with Deb started the shooting spree, which is less funny. I nod, drink and laugh, irritated that she showed up at a Blackfoot Bar. We drive back to the Best Western, register, have dinner and a drink. Back in the motel room, sex is better than usual, tender as unwanted pregnancy. That doesn’t hurt, does it? Tell me if it hurts.
For a few days I slept with the gun beneath my pillow. It was John’s idea, not mine. It made me feel safe: scared and powerful at once. When the phone repairman came, the gun’s presence rang loud. The clock ticking: I could kill you. Like taking a sick dog to the vet, its unknowing tail still wagging. After the man fixed my phone, I walked to the bluff and shot at cottonwoods in the dry creek bed. John’s friend found me there. He claimed I might have killed someone. I didn’t know who. John took the gun back a few days later, said maybe it was dangerous alone with a woman like me.
I melted red candle wax over hair stolen from his brush. Long brown strands curled as flame sizzled and hissed. With hot drips soft and slow, I molded his shape, the body of a man I could bury and keep under snow. Lazarus had soiled bandages too. I could not let go.
The woman is pregnant. She watches. He washes and sweeps the floors clean. She’s having an abortion tomorrow. They have not broken up, but they listen to blues songs and drink beer. The mountains are purple and white, covered in snow; sunlight flashes reflections in the picture window. Shadows dapple the table.
They won’t be living together two weeks from now. She cries in the kitchen, but only tears. She knows he knows. He isn’t mad yet; his sad eyes, soft and brown, yearn that it’s not over. But he will have to leave. Another perfect love affair dashed by the demands of reality.
Summer turns to fall and fall turns to winter. It’s been snowing two days straight, big white flakes. They will leave her place in the country for his mother’s in town. That’s where his family is, where his brothers share drugs, needles, women, guitars and of course, his mother. There is no father. There is no happy ending to this story.
Burning the linoleum was a bad sign; I was getting sloppy. I could eat a six-pack of Maple and Brown Sugar Oatmeal in one sitting. Wanting sustenance, wanting to be filled and warm. I didn’t know how to chop wood. John came up occasionally, claimed he was semi-comatose. I heard the stories. Vicki was still with Jerry. When it’s over, it’s over. I left. Left my blue curtains hanging. Left the burnt linoleum after the Spring Equinox.
I drove down past the flatlands he inhabited, past the farmlands, past the Valley of the Moon into the desert. Outside Salt Lake City, I looked for the town where Nicole, Gary Gilmore’s lover had lived. I understood why she loved him. Ronald Reagan was shot as I approached Las Vegas. The desert, the smog, that long expanse of nothing: then L.A.
Judy Huddleston received her BFA from California Institute of the Arts and her MFA from Eastern Washington University. Her memoir This is the End was published in 1991. She has recently completed her second memoir and first collection of poetry, and is currently teaching Literature, Writing, Film, and Composition at Globe University in the Twin Cities.