A proposito di questo oggetto...
Non un racconto horror per un oggetto maledetto.
When I was sixteen, we moved to Minnesota because my mother hated Kentucky.
That's how Dad likes to tell it. He didn't want to move to Red Wing, and he didn't want to live in that big brick house they bought, either. "I'd live in a trailer," he's always saying, "if it weren't for your mother." You have to understand: Dad's a doctor and he feels guilty that he
makes a lot of money, so for a time he made less money in the Appalachia foothills while my mother sweated and was miserable. Now he flies to Nicaragua and Guatemala to help
oppressed Indians. I once heard him say about these countries that he loved the children there like his own.
I didn't mind moving. I wanted to. My sister had left for college the year before, and my brother was about to begin his freshman year at a school near Chicago, so I would soon
be the only one at home, except for my mother. While there were people in our town who were my friends, I did not realize it. Mostly I spent my time in our basement watching tv, eating cereal, and dunking graham crackers into milk. I was twenty pounds heavier then, and ashamed. At night I took walks by myself. I thought about many things while walking, like movies I'd direct and star in. And boys, of course: one boy in particular, Jim Bell, who
had leukemia. The spring before, he returned to school with stubbly hair and a big wad of gauze taped to his nose because of an infection that wouldn't heal. I imagined us in love, and how I acted when he died (prostrate but full of dignity). Sometimes I was the one with the cancer, and everyone praising me as I lay in my coffin.
Things were complicated late that summer. School started in Red Wing almost a month before my parents could move, so I was sent to Minnesota Labor Day weekend, to stay
with a Dr. Rawling, an internist at Dad's new clinic. No problem, I assured everyone.
Mrs. Rawling was a fat woman. Dad told me this so I could find her in the airport, and she identified me easily, too, maybe by my weight, but also by my height: I'm very tall, you see. I shot up five inches by the seventh grade, and for this I wore a Milwaukee brace until my junior year. On the drive to Red Wing, Mrs. Rawling described the high school where her own two kids had gone. Her daughter was a nurse now in the Twin Cities, and her son,
David, lived in Rochester. David was visiting them this weekend, she said. I told her that was my dad's name, too. She talked about her girl, and I watched the corn we passed that was much higher, but not so green as Kentucky corn. The cows here were Holstein. While it was summer, it wasn't very hot. Even so, Mrs. Rawling turned the air conditioner to high: I crossed my arms, tucked my hands into my armpits, but she didn't seem to notice. I asked
what was for supper, and informed her that I was a vegetarian, which I'd just decided on, because I was going to start a new diet. "We're all vegetarians in my family," I told her.
"Vegetarians and Democrats." Mrs. Rawling said that was too bad, because she was thinking of frying up some chicken. "I eat poultry," I said. "I prefer white meat."
She told me that was fine, and started humming. She was quite the opposite from my mother. She wasn't nervous or sickly. She smiled a lot, and her upper arms wobbled while
she drove. When I was little, my mother was often in the hospital. "Your mother's not feeling well" was the normal state of things: "Your mother's in the hospital" followed right behind. It was only much later when I learned that all that sickness came from depression. We visited
on Sundays while Dad made his rounds, and he kept us busy with paper and pencils. Funny, that's what I remember most, those pencils where you peel the wood strip back. I'd peel my pencils all the way to the bottom, leaving only an oily, slippery black stick that smeared my
The Rawlings' house smelled faintly of mold. Otherwise it was nice. I waited for supper up in my room, their girl's room, which had a canopy bed with a puffy quilt. It was a
fine room, though somewhat chilly. I crawled under the covers. Downstairs, Mrs. Rawling was singing: Dad liked singing, too. I started to hum one he sang when we were little, "The Rainbow Song," we called it, because we didn't know the real name. It goes like this:
I'm saving my money to buy you a rainbow, a rainbow to put on your finger.
And after I've bought you the rainbow, I'll go out, and I'll buy you the moon.
Then for awhile, I thought I might cry, but I decided against it. Dr. Rawling came home at six and we had dinner fifteen minutes later.
We didn't talk at the table, we ate. I thought of pulling off my chicken skin, but decided against this, too. Dr. Rawling watched baseball on tv. In our house, when we ate
together, tv wasn't allowed. Of course we didn't eat together so often: my brother was out, Dad was operating, and my mother was never hungry. "Goddamn Hrbeck!" Dr. Rawling shook his fork at the tv. "Now why in hell would you swing at a mess like that?" I said he probably hadn't meant to, and Dr. Rawling looked at me. His glasses were thick, his forehead shiny. He turned back to the tv. When Mrs. Rawling brought out a cherry pie, I figured my
diet could wait another day. I said the crust was nice and flaky, and she thanked me with a smile that made her cheeks bunch up like apples.
"Didn't you say your son was home?" I asked, regretting my question at once, watching that smile waver, then disappear.
"Slide, slide, slide!" Dr. Rawling shouted.
"You need some more milk, honey." She got up quickly, for a fat woman, and filled my glass. She stood beside me, patted my shoulder, and I ate my pie and drank my milk and
didn't ask any more questions.
That night I woke to a scraping outside my room. I was about to go and see if maybe the Rawlings had a cat they'd failed to mention, when the door shot open. I huddled under
the quilt. Someone stood in the doorway, swayed a bit. The light flicked on, and I pulled the quilt higher. Their son leaned against the doorframe, eyes half-closed under his Twins cap, fingering his dark mustache. I could smell the liquor. He didn't speak, and neither did I. We just looked at each other. Finally, I smiled a little. He blinked and staggered away. I waited to hear a door close before getting up to turn off the light. I wasn't able to fall back asleep again for a long while.
The next morning I came downstairs late. It felt like I might be getting a cold. Mrs. Rawling heard my throat-clearing and my cough, and made me some jasmine tea. He wasn't around. She asked if I was ready for school tomorrow, I was to be over there at eight to register. "I'll go with you," she said. I told her that wasn't necessary.
Mrs. Rawling had a picnic planned for our Labor Day lunch and when Dr. Rawling came home from rounds at noon, we piled into his Lincoln with a basket. He had a camera
around his neck. "Show her the town, John," Mrs. Rawling said, and he drove us up and down the streets, past the big houses, as big as theirs, stucco houses, and brick, and old Victorians, painted pastel purples and greens. Flags hung over the porches. Mrs. Rawling pointed out the house designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and Dr. Rawling said, "Damned uncomfortable place. Architect ought to be shot." I commented on how big the trees were here. Where I lived the trees had been cleared away mostly for the houses, that, and from the strip mining. Mrs. Rawling said there used to be elms here, lining the street on
either side, like a wedding canopy. "Dutch Elm Disease just devastated our town," she said.
It didn't seem devastated to me. It seemed like the most beautiful place I'd laid eyes on. There were churches everywhere, stone churches with thin spires, and a stretch of park leading to downtown with twin fountains and a yellow gazebo. We drove up a winding road
to another park, where the prairie grass hunkered down in the wind. Mrs. Rawling's skirt whipped around her, showed off stumpy calves and white nurse's shoes, and we stood at the edge of the bluff, watching the town below that sprouted along the Mississippi.
"Parade's over," Dr. Rawling said. "Good. We missed it."
Mrs. Rawling asked if I'd wanted to see the Labor Day Parade. "It's really only a tiny thing." I told her I didn't mind missing it at all since Labor Day honored a capitalist system that was inherently oppressive. Dr. Rawling gave me a long look. "What are those things
way out there?" I asked, pointing to two white domes in the distance. "There's smoke or something."
"That's Prairie Island," Dr. Rawling said, and added, "The nuclear plant. On the Indian reservation." He sounded pleased with himself. "You disapprove?" he said. I nodded.
"Tough," he said.
"Dad says places like that are always put where the disenfranchised live, especially Native Americans. It's environmental racism. He'll do something about it, too. You watch. He's a man of action."
Dr. Rawling turned to his wife. "And this guy's coming to work with us."
"Now, John, you met him. You liked him." She put her arm around me. "And here's his beautiful daughter, staying at our house. Everyone has a right to his own mind. Now,
let's go have our lunch. I made cheese sandwiches."
"You got anything against cheese?" he said quickly.
I blushed and told him no.
When I was maybe thirteen, Dad was out running with our dog one morning and he heard a gunshot, then another. An old man stood on his lawn in slippers and a robe. He was
holding a rifle.
"Did you shoot at me?" Dad said.
"Get over here, you sonofabitch," the man said. "Your dog crapped on my lawn." Dad walked back. "You pick up that dog turd, mister. Pick it up with your bare hands." My
father refused, even with that rifle pointed at his head: he refused to pick up that shit until the old man got him a newspaper. I told the Rawlings this story while we ate our sandwiches, sitting on a bench by the Mississippi, the hills of Wisconsin across the way all covered in birch
trees. I also told how Dad's nurse got herself shot in the back by a neighbor for burning leaves, and how one of my classmates was shot in the chest, right through the wall of his house, by someone who had a gripe against his father. I told these stories with the pride of
"To think things like that really happen," Mrs. Rawling said. "What a place to grow up!"
"Of course things like that happen," Dr. Rawling said. "You were a nurse. Don't play stupid." Then he said to me, "You don't have much accent for a Kentucky girl." I explained we'd lived all over. "Your dad a military man?" He laughed. "No, I don't guess so."
"He just likes moving."
"What about your mom?" Mrs. Rawling was pulling the Saran off another cheese sandwich: her second. "I'd hate to uproot so often."
I shrugged. I hadn't really thought much about how my mother felt, about most things.
"Woman moved because her husband said to." Dr. Rawling winked at me.
"Well, you're certainly well-adjusted. A lot of kids have trouble with all that moving."
"Some kids," Dr. Rawling said, "just have trouble." He was quiet a moment. I heard water lapping against concrete and wondered what the Rawlings would do if I jumped in.
Dr. Rawling shook his head. "I tell you what. If it was me, I'd have picked up that crap barehanded."
He grinned. "Your dad's a pistol! Just tell him to keep that pinko stuff to himself."
Later, he took my picture with the river behind me. It went up in his study, next to
pictures of a different girl, a thin girl, and one of a boy with dark hair and dark, amused eyes.
Maybe it's still on his wall, though that seems unlikely. It's a picture of a girl at the end of
summer, framed by brown water and green trees. A girl who smiles with discomfort. Whose thighs are too big. Whose left shoulder, if you look close enough, is lower than the right.
I had trouble falling asleep that night. Insomnia is something I've struggled with most of my life, that gets worse as I grow older. When I knew the Rawlings were no longer up, I pulled on my clothes, and went downstairs and rummaged in their cupboards. I found a bag of Keebler Elfwich Cookies and I ate them. As quickly as I could. Blocking open the refrigerator door, guzzling milk from the carton to make the cookies go down faster, finishing
the bag. Scraping cherry pie goo off the plate with my fingers. I forced myself to close the refrigerator and got into the cupboard again for some Fritos, taking the bag with me and the empty bag of cookies, and outside under a half moon, slipped the cookie bag into the metal garbage can, tearing open the Frito bag, heading down the block.
In the middle of the night, small town streets are quiet.
Street lights glint off black windows. Trees glow yellow.
And what you think about is finishing the Fritos, chewing and swallowing. Before anyone sees you. The bag's half-full, not half-empty because you're an optimist, and then it's a quarter-full, and then it's gone and you can walk it off, walk it off, unsnap your shorts and that's better, no puking allowed because that's pathetic--are you crazy?--this is just the same routine as always. To think moving would make a difference.
When my heart stopped pounding and my breathing lessened, I headed back to the house.
David sat at the kitchen table, drinking a beer. No hat this time--he was losing hair, like his father, like my father. He raised his can to me. "Here's our Kentucky girl," he said. I prayed he didn't notice my shorts were undone. "You all are out kind of late," he said.
"What's you all's name, Kentucky girl?"
I told him my name and that I wasn't from Kentucky.
"Want a beer? No, that's right, you don't drink. You're a sweet young thang."
To show him, I took the beer from his hand, my fingers brushing against his. He watched me hold the can to my lips. When I set it down again, he leaned over and cupped
my knee in his palm. "You got nice knees," he said. I stepped back, and he smiled.
"Goodnight," I said.
"Night, sweet Rose," he called as I climbed the stairs. "Night."
All during the first week of school, I coughed.
My colds were always chest colds as a girl--a chest cold got me my brace when I was twelve because Dad, thinking maybe I had pneumonia, ordered x rays--that's when they
discovered my crooked spine. I sat in his office, shivering, and he held up the x rays for me to see: there was my spine, all right, twisted. "We'll fix you up," he told me, "don't worry." But I wasn't worried, I was happy. I was stoic, not weak, and I wanted him to see. Now I sat in my classes and mostly tried not to cough. Not coughing takes a lot of concentration. It's a feeling that starts at the top of your stomach and fills your chest and
throat, and if you don't let it come, your eyes tear up, your face goes red, and you grunt a little, very quietly. But I'd rather that than hacking and drawing attention to myself among these strangers. I could control this part of me, this coughing. Once, after some early morning fight, I chose not to speak to Dad, and he dragged me into the living room still undressed, in just my back brace and t shirt and underwear, my arm twisted up behind me against the metal bars of my brace. He sat me down. "We're going to talk this out," he said, "and you're not leaving until we do." I stayed in my hardback chair, staring straight ahead, chin held up by metal, silent, with him sitting across from me, his big hands pressed together like he was praying. On the side of my face he couldn't see, I cried. My other eye was dry, I swear it. A matter of control. By noon, he finally gave up trying to get me to talk. I don't
know when I started speaking to him again.
Mrs. Rawling worried about my coughing. She suggested I might stay home a day or two. I told her I was fine. What I couldn't bear was sitting in that cold dark house. At school, there were distractions, like not coughing. It was a very large school compared to my own, where my junior class had only forty-two students total. Here, with each class, were new faces. At the bell the halls filled with people. I stayed close to the wall. I didn't eat at the
cafeteria, I couldn't, I walked back to the house and had my lunch with Dr. Rawling, who came home every day at twelve sharp. We didn't talk at lunch. We watched tv.
On Saturday the Rawlings went to dinner at the local Ponderosa and then to a movie, The Empire Strikes Back. Dr. Rawlings wanted me to come, said we'd get me a potato with alfalfa sprouts, and after the movie, we'd eat ice cream and I could "explain how the evil
empire's a metaphor for the United States." I told them I wasn't hungry and thought I'd just stay home. After they left, I went to the cupboard. I'd replaced the Fritos and the cookies from earlier in the week, and was planning to eat them again--only slower this time. I took a stack of ten cookies and settled on the couch in front of the tv with a big glass of milk. A cookie every commercial, I thought. They were gone within the first five minutes. Oh hell, I thought, and got up to try again. That's when his car pulled into the driveway.
I was on the couch when he came in, my feet up on the coffee table. "The lovely Rose is home," he said, and went to the refrigerator. He popped a beer, and pointed to it, eyebrows raised. He brought two beers in and sank down on the couch, propping his work boots on the table next to my bare feet. He smelled sweet and smoky, like mixed nuts. "What are you doing here?" I said, holding my can in both hands, staring at the tv.
"What kind of a question is that? Aren't you glad to see me?"
"Not really," I said.
"Be nice, Rosy. You're breaking my heart."
"Don't call me that."
"What are you watching so intently? There's nothing new in there. Look at me." His pupils were so dilated there was hardly any iris. "That's better," he said. "Drink your beer.
Then we'll go out. I'll show you the town."
"I've seen it," I said.
"Drink your beer."
He drove a Lincoln, like his father. We passed the churches and the park leading to downtown, all dark now. We headed out sixty-one. Near the edge of town, we turned onto an unpaved road--"Old Main," he said, "otherwise know as Red Lane." Our shoes crunched on gravel. The air smelled slightly rotten here, of stale grain--malt, I'd learn later. I pointed out there weren't any trees and he didn't answer. The only light came from the few scattered
neon signs. We stopped at a bar called Chief's Place. "Ever been in a bar?" he asked and I said sure. Across from where I sat, two Indians were playing pool, their bellies hanging over their jeans. One had a picture of Liza Minnelli on his t shirt and a beaded strap round his
forehead. When he caught me looking, he grinned. His teeth were bright white. I looked away. David came to the table with mugs of beer and shot glasses of whiskey. "Don't
worry," he whispered. "They won't hurt you."
"Don't be ridiculous," I said, embarrassed to be caught out. In truth, Indians made me uncomfortable back then. I guess I resented them a little.
"Ever had a boilermaker, Rosy?"
I sipped at the whiskey, then quickly drank some beer. He watched me, smiling. "I'm not some baby," I said. "In Kentucky, we went to the bootlegger for our liquor. Ever been to a bootlegger?" I told him how we drove up into the hills, a carload of girls, up to a building like a hamburger stand with a drive-through window. "I can drink a pint of J.W. Dant like nothing." I was telling the truth. Those girls were my friends.
David just smiled. After awhile, he reached over and took my whiskey for himself.
The bar was empty except for us and the Indians.
"He keeps looking over here," I said.
"Who? The Injun?"
"That's because you're so pretty." He patted my leg.
"It's because he knows I'm sixteen."
"You're sixteen? We better get you home then, darlin, before the doctor starts to worry." He began whistling. "That's your song, right?--'Old Kentucky Home'--'tis summer
and the darkies are gay."
"It's not my song. It's disgusting."
He grinned. "Lordy, lordy, somebody done brought you up proper." And kept on whistling.
After a while I said, "Why do you come back here on the weekends?" When he didn't answer, I said, "I know the reason," and maybe I did, and he said, "Good for you."
How much we want their attention, even if we're grown.
We finished our drinks, and David ordered us more boilermakers, and this time I dropped my whiskey in my beer, like he did. "Atta girl," he said. He laid his hand on my knee. "You mind my hand there?" he said. "Just tell me and I'll take it off." I didn't say anything and he leaned in close. "You watch yourself, Rosy." His voice slurred slightly, teasing. "You'll make a fool of me." I felt good. I asked him what he did. "This," he said.
"No, I mean, what kind of work?"
"I don't work," he said.
I asked him if he was in school, and he started humming. "Everyone does something,"
I said. "Don't they?"
On the drive back he said he felt like swimming. "You feel like swimming?" I told him I didn't have a swimsuit. "What's wrong with going naked?" Then he repeated his question, like he was running his tongue over the words. I said it was getting late. He drove to the park by the river. There were no cars, no people.
"It's late," I said.
"Don't be afraid. Stay in the car if you want."
"I'm not scared of you." I sat in the car. I wasn't afraid, just undecided: I'd been with boys, not men. No boyfriends. Only isolated incidents. A boy and me in a closet, at some party. He dated a girl who'd died from a drug overdose. A dead girl had her hand there once.
I could hardly see David. His white form by the river, a splashing, nothing. Across the way would be those hills, all those birches. I got out of the car, surprised, seeing myself stand up. He was there at the river's edge, head bobbing on black water, white arm waving.
My arm waved back. I pulled my shirt over my head. I nearly fell stepping out of my shorts.
I didn't fall. I was glad it was so dark out: maybe he wouldn't notice my spine. "Is there glass?" I said.
"There might be glass."
There was mud. The water was cool and the mud was cool. My teeth chattered. Chest deep, shivering, I ducked under, swam, came up close to him, water to my throat. His
shoulders were thin. "Hello," I said, and like a woman, I put my arms around his neck. I kissed him, felt his mustache, his penis against my leg. "Do you really think I'm pretty?" We kissed again, he put his tongue in my mouth and I let go and swam a few strokes away. "It's
late. We should get home."
It wasn't so late that his parents were back. The clock said only ten and it felt like midnight. David held my hand and led me into his room, a plain room, a guest room. I crouched on the bed with him, I was lying down, he was taking off my shorts and underwear, they caught on my sneakers, he untied the sneakers. "We'll get dirt on the quilt," I said. He rolled my shirt over my head, took awhile unhooking my bra, his chin digging into my shoulder. His breathing was loud. "I have a cold," I said. He sucked my nipples. He moved down my stomach, between my legs, and sucked me there too and I wondered if I'd showered that day. He told me to put my knees up more. From this angle, I saw his bald spot easily, he'd be bald in his thirties. I reached to sweep his hair over his skull. He looked up from between my thighs, and I waved. "Howdy," I said.
"I know what you want," he said.
He came up and I smelled me on his face and didn't want to kiss him. I felt him fidgeting with his pants and he was on top of me, I felt his hips, his penis was out of his jeans he was holding his penis between my legs, pushing, it didn't really hurt, it felt strange, filling me. This is what a penis felt like. I lay still. After a short time he stopped moving. Had he come in me? His belt dug into my stomach. "David?" He was asleep. I crawled out from
under him, got my clothes, and went into his sister's room. I was afraid I might bleed on the sheets so I laid out my t shirt. I did feel something wet between my legs and turned on the reading lamp. It wasn't blood. When the Rawlings came home they turned out the light in
I wasn't hungry and this made me happy. Dad called Monday, during supper: I told him I had a cold. He asked me some questions, said it sounded like I was all right. Of course
I'm all right, I said. Good girl, he said. He told me he'd be driving to Chicago to drop my brother off at school, and he'd be up early Friday to look for houses to rent. Then it's back to the office by Monday morning. When I asked if I'd see him, he said yes, but only for a little
while because he'd scheduled a meeting with Indian Health Services Friday evening, and he had to start back at least by Saturday afternoon. Your mom's not feeling well, he said.
Imagine that, I said. Rosy, don't, he said. I'll skip school, I said. No you won't. You want to talk to Mom? My supper's getting cold. When I hung up, Mrs. Rawling offered me cake and ice cream and I passed.
Several days of small meals and no dessert makes your clothes fit looser. My cough died down. For the first time in my life, I took a test I'd not studied for in the slightest. I looked around at my classmates leaned over their exams, and felt vastly older, like I'd been to
war. At lunch (cheese and an apple, 170 calories), Dr. Rawling asked, "You all right?" and laid his hand briefly on my forehead. His hand was soft. "Don't want that dad of yours to think we're not taking proper care of you."
What I did when I got home from school was lie on their daughter's canopy bed and think about David. I imagined us walking by the river, holding hands, and thought about us
married. Rose Rawling, I thought, and corrected myself: I wouldn't change my name. He'd have to go to school. I'd put him through medical school. Of course, he was older, which meant he'd die sooner. Would he come next weekend? I had to assume so. I went to the drugstore and bought some contraceptive sponges. Dad once told me and my sister that he wanted to know when we became sexually active so he could get us on the pill. My sister told him to mind his own damned business--have I mentioned how much I admire her?
He did show up, the same day as my father. When I got home from school, he was there on the couch with Dr. Rawling, the two of them watching a baseball game. David had
his can of beer. My heart fluttered. "Make room for Miss Rosy," Dr. Rawling said, and I sat between them. David barely looked at me. I despaired. Mrs. Rawling announced she'd invited my dad to dinner at seven o'clock, and David leaned over and whispered, "Doctor keeps doctor waiting," and I soared again. Behind us, I could feel Mrs. Rawling watching.
She asked David if he'd be staying. He said he might.
"Stay," I said.
Dr. Rawling, still watching tv, said to David, "Just so long as you're not planning on making an ass of yourself." David tipped him a salute with his beer can. "John, please," Mrs. Rawling said.
Dad still wasn't there, which isn't unusual--doctors are often late. I imagined us hugging, my eyes tearing up and me holding onto his neck. The pens in his pocket poke my
cheek. Next to Dr. Rawling he's so tall and strong looking--an athlete at forty-five who still
runs every day. He shakes Mrs. Rawling's hand and thanks her for taking care of his little girl. She's been just a pleasure, Mrs. Rawling would say. A regular dream child, I'd say, and then, Dad, I want you to meet someone.
At eight o'clock, Dr. Rawling started grumbling. At eight thirty, David got up, stretched silkily, and headed for the door.
"You're leaving?" I said, panicked. "Where are you going?"
He was going out for a drink.
"Imagine that," Dr. Rawling said. "Our son's going out for a drink."
"Shut your hole, old man," David said. "Nobody's talking to you."
"What did you say?" Dr. Rawling was standing. He didn't move. "Get out, you sonofabitch."
David held up one finger, like he was testing the direction of the wind. "You ought not talk about your wife that way."
There are moments you wonder about the rest of your life. Because I left, too, and I'll always see Dr. Rawling's face as I shut the door behind me. A stunned face, that children make the wrong decisions. David was just starting the car when his mother rapped on my window and tried the door. I'd already locked it. "Don't go," she said through the glass.
"Please. You don't want to go with him. He's a bum." She was crying. What must it take for a mother to talk that way about her son? As we pulled out of the driveway, she was still standing there, holding herself tight, and I wished more than anything that I could crawl into
those great arms.
We went to several bars and got drunk. I thrilled at his hand on my thigh. It was nearly midnight. "I'm going back to Rochester tonight," David said. I told him I was going
with him. I held his hand in the car. He pulled up outside his parents' house and the lights were still on, my dad's truck was in their driveway.
"Why are you stopping here?" I said. "I'm not leaving you."
"You don't want to be with me," David said. "Go inside. Your father's waiting."
"I'm staying with you."
"Please go inside." He was dragging his finger over his lip. "I'm too drunk to drive."
"Give me the keys," I said.
It is over an hour from Red Wing to Rochester, on road that's hardly traveled, at least so late. David slept next to me, slumped in his luxury leather seat, and I concentrated on staying in the lines. Sometimes on the curves, I failed. I sang songs. I leaned over the wheel,
close to the windshield so I could see, though there was nothing out there, really, to see. I thought about David and Dr. Rawling, and my brother and father, young men and old. This summer, we were in Dad's truck and my cocky, beautiful brother, heading off to college in the fall, told Dad his generation was past, it was time for him to step aside, and I was shocked. Dad told him to shut his stupid goddamn mouth. I thought about my father at the
Rawlings' house, waiting for me to call, calm, always calm in emergencies, and I imagined us in an accident, I could swerve off the road easily, down an embankment, the car turning over and over. Or else there was a deer I tried to avoid. Either way I was dead and my father was
But there were no accidents. In Rochester, I had no idea where to go and David wouldn't wake up next to me, so I pulled into a parking lot, got out and peed behind a
dumpster, then crawled into the back seat and tried to sleep, and sometime that night I did sleep, because I woke up and it was early morning and David was driving.
We went to his apartment.
Going up the stairs, he said, "You should know, I don't live alone."
"You have a roommate." And when he shook his head no, I felt it in my heart. "You have a girlfriend."
"I live with a prostitute."
I said I didn't believe him and he smiled.
We fell asleep again on his waterbed, or her waterbed. We slept on a giant black and white striped zebra quilt, and then David woke me up, and started undressing me. I felt a
little sick at my stomach. He rolled me over and I lay face down on the quilt, rocking slightly. He was taking off his clothes, he was straddling me, his hands on my back--and I jerked out from under them. "Not that way," I said. I wound up on top of him, not sure how to move, my thighs coming down on either side of his hips, the bed waving and gurgling. I wasn't sure what to do with my hands: I wanted to use them to cover my breasts and
stomach. He was so thin, had so little chest hair. "Poor boy," I said. He was so deep inside me I felt it against my cervix. "Ouch," I said, pulling up. His penis flopped out like a wet fish. "Oops," I said.
Without speaking, he put it back in.
Afterwards, I took a bath and lay in hot water, knees up, head against cold tile. The grout was moldy. I dripped hot water over my head, I felt light-headed, ill, still a little drunk. Then came voices, a knock at the door. "Rose?" It was my father. I scrunched down in the water.
"I'm taking a bath," I said.
The door opened and his hand poked in with my clothes. "Finish your bath and get dressed." When I came out, David was still in bed, his back to us, asleep maybe, and that was the last I saw of him, his white back. I followed Dad out into the hall and down the stairs, our footsteps echoing in the stairwell. I asked how he'd found me. I was trembling. The Rawlings gave him directions. They hadn't come, though. I couldn't blame them. I wouldn't forgive them, forgive her, for a long while.
Maybe forgive's too strong a word.
"Did you have intercourse with him?"
"He didn't rape me."
"We'll get breakfast."
"Did you find a house?"
"I found a house. Your mom will hate it, but it's only temporary."
In the diner where we stopped he ordered pancakes and sausage and coffee and I asked for an English muffin. Then I realized how terribly hungry I was and ordered eggs,
too, and bacon, and a large glass of whole milk. "Did you use birth control?"
I said yes, and then no.
"We'll get you a morning-after pill," he said, "and check you out for venereal disease.
Don't worry." He laid his large hand out, palm up, and I set my hand in his. "Rosy," he said, "do you want to go back to Kentucky? Is that what this is all about?" I started to cry. It seemed very clear suddenly what part needed playing. Yes, I wanted to go home. I wanted
us to be at home again. "We'll fix things up," he said. "Don't cry." I wiped my eyes. "We'll figure something out," he said. "Don't worry." And I sat with my hand in my father’s hand, and I let him believe he could fix things.