BY NORM ROSOLEN
Copyright is held by the author.
I STEP onto the porch, fold the letter, and push it into the side pocket of my jacket. It’s too dark for noon. The wind is picking up and the trees are rustling, kind of talking, commiserating. Low black clouds are pressing down with soul sucking weight, and it begins to rain.
I jog to my pick-up and start it. The engine’s still warm and fat drops explode across the hood and quickly evaporate as we lurch down the driveway, hitting every pothole with a jar, splashing their filth over the sides of the truck. The old beast bounces, my hands squeeze the wheel, I squint at the fence line, and “Mary Jo Done Left Me” from Country 104.4 rattles from the tinny speaker.
I turn the radio off and turn onto our side road, in towards town. I look for a huddled figure under a see-through flower-patterned umbrella and cheap plastic rain coat, lugging a suitcase. It’s possible I’ll see her, but I figure it’s more likely she left hours ago, took a cab or maybe hitch-hiked, but you never know so I keep staring. I don’t know when she left, but I know why.
She changed after that law conference in Lakehead half a year back. Then it was a gradual, classic, dumping of our relationship, a work of art in the way women seem to know how to do it. She’s been to a lot of conferences over the last year. I park at the bus depot.
It was like, “Don’t be silly,” or “It’s work. I need the contacts.” Nice work if you can get it. And us? A couple of times after that conference. Last time, two months ago, I swear she was yawning, hardly moved an inch. Her leaving today is no surprise.
I met him once at a conference when I tagged along with her a few months before everything changed. Doctor of laws or some such bullshit. The guy’s twenty plus years older than her, two kids in college, a wife, ex-wife now probably. What’s not to like for an old fart like him about snagging a gorgeous, intelligent, blonde bombshell. A natural blonde.
I shoulda known better myself, her living the country life. It was never clear to me what she was running from, and why she clamped onto me. Maybe she was afraid, or maybe just bored. She never said, wouldn’t explain. The mystery girl had me in her clutches from the first second I saw her in the HorseShoe Bar. So she played me. Fine, but I’d like to hear it from her lips.
I watch a bus leave the exit ramp, gliding slowly onto Main. Inside the terminal on the Departures board, I see it’s going to Smithton. I show the snapshot of her I have in my wallet to the ticket guy. He sold her a ticket about three hours before. The bus will stop in Smithton for half an hour, then Ramseyville, then on to Lakehead where that rich lawyer piece-of-shit lives.
I sit on a bench and think. Drive fast, and I can catch her in Smithton or Ramseyville. Then it just happens, like I’m a school kid who stubbed his toe, and I start crying. I bend over and wrap my arms around my head. Tears roll and I stifle my sobs. It seems like I do this for a long time, and I finally straighten up. A bunch of people, standing and sitting around, are looking at me. I kind of smile, a sad one I’m sure, go to the washroom, and splash water over my face. I let the heat from the hot-air dryer wash over my hands and face, and I submerge my thoughts in the roar from the machine.
After that, I’m standing in the bus lobby and read her note for the fourth time, an apology no less, one of those, “it’s not you, it’s me,” bullshit pieces. I crumple it in my fist and toss it into the trash. I open my wallet and take the snapshot of her out and hold it over the trash bin. I can’t do it just now and push it into the back pocket of my work pants.
Outside, the sky is clearing, there’s a nice breeze, and the air is fresh and clean. I climb into the truck, turn the key, roll the windows down, and turn on the radio. The host says the next song is, “Mary Jo Done Left Me.” It’s good music, very popular this summer. I listen to the whole thing as I drive home.