How now in the contemplative evening of his days, the pious Bildad reconciled these things in the reminiscence, I do not know; but it did not seem to concern him much, and very probably he had long since come to the sage and sensible conclusion that a man’s religion is one thing, and this practical world quite another.

Chapter 16, The Ship

 

 

Her first instinct was to be repulsed as he bent down and reached between her legs.
“Left my drink under your chair,” he said turning his head to look up at her and flash, what he mistakenly assumed to be a winning smile.

She countered with a stony look drawing her knees in and off to the side twisting away from where his head remained practically resting in her lap. It was going to be a long six months.  On the road, one tour bus, forty interchangeable set pieces, a hundred costume changes and

three

other

human beings.

Day in.

Day out.

And he was one of them.

. . .

She had taken to changing openly backstage.  The costumes were just cumbersome enough to make it a matter of timing.  She’d twist her back away from where he stood in the shadows watching her as she pulled her shirt up over her head.  Let him watch.  He who thinks he is so irresistible.  Let him suffer.

She tried to avoid speaking to him, except, of course, when she was in character.  Then it was unavoidable.  At one point, nightly, she had to kiss him, in character.  Country clubs, nursing homes a peck would suffice.  But the military base wanted more.  So they gave it more, for the troops.  It was the least they could do, for their country.

A world can be exchanged in a kiss, even under lights, five hundred soldiers watching.

The next day, as the van swallowed up the highway, he fell asleep against her shoulder and,

this time,

she did not push him away.

. . .

The hotel they’d been booked in had placed the actors in a room overlooking the lobby roof.  A long pebble and tar stretch punctuated at the end with a Mississippi state flag, billowing arrogantly in the Gulf breeze.  She had just pulled back the curtain and the sight of it accosted her.  She froze, the heavy scotch-guarded polyester of the curtain weighing on her hand.

“My ancestors died preserving the union of this country,” she said out loud, to no one in particular

Three

other

human beings.

Day in

Day out.

”That is an abomination.

You lost,

you

assholes.

Accept it.”
He was suddenly by her shoulder, taking the curtain from her hand.  He pushed it aside, leaned to unlatch the window, and, without missing so much as a beat, walked through the open window onto the stretch of roof. A confident stroll took him to where flag flapped noisily at the edge of tar.

With the complete authority by which a good actor can easily impersonate a maintenance engineer, he grabbed the rope and in a series of quick strokes lowered the offending flag.  Taking it from its post , he draped the flag over his arm and turned to stroll back into the room where she stood mesmerized by his boldness.

“Surrendered,” he said and and pressed it into her hands.  She couldn’t help it.  She was smiling.

. . .

The months passed, the tour ended, they left together to join another and when that ended he asked her to move to the far edge of the west.  She agreed but in the short winter days they quickly wore on each other.  Theater is a demanding craft and performing in separate productions for the first time since they met challenged their bond in a way they had not thought to anticipate.

She had not thought to anticipate.

There was less and less of a they, she thought, now that she was isolated out on the edge of an unfamiliar ocean, alongside a silent Sound.  What a curious thing to call a body of water over which the sun seemed to constantly hover by no more than an inch, popping up just enough to make an appearance late each winter morning, before lazily retiring in the afternoon.

And the rain.  Not like the rain she knew.  Not a warm gust weighing of thunder and lightning spinning itself out along a black edge of sky racing headlong across the blue to swallow the summer sun.

Not that Texas rain that calls a girl to dance barefoot.

This rain

was small,

needle pricks of cold that made her wrap her coat tight against her with her bloodless fingers.

When he gave her the address of the clinic  he delivered his lines with the complete authority by which a good actor can easily impersonate a medical expert.

He stated it blankly:

“I have chlamydia–
must have gotten it from you.”

“How?–You’re the only person I’ve slept with.”

He shrugged and looked away “The doc said you can get it from, you know, one of those girl part things–like yeast infections,urinary tract infections–one of those sorts of things.”

“Oh. . .Okay.” She had never had such things.

Three days into the penicillin she broke out in hives and decided to stop by the clinic on the walk home from work.  When the doctor walked in and saw her perched on locked elbows at the table’s edge, a spattering of hives he seemed to want to say something, but then, thought better and shook his head.

“You didn’t know you were allergic to penicillin?”

“No,” she said “Never had any reason to take it before this.”

He raised his head and looked into her face.  A pause,  Again, did he want to say something?

“No, . .
you shouldn’t have even needed to take it now.
It was a precaution.”

“How can it be a precaution?  I have chlamydia.”

“Maybe, maybe not.
He has chlamydia.”

“But he said he got it from me.”
Another pause.  The split second it takes a doctor to weigh doctor patient confidentiality.

“No,” was all he said, then he turned and left the room to get a prescription pad.
As he handed her the sheet across the checkout desk he waved his hand dismissively,
“No charge.
It’s the bastard’s fault.
Not yours.”

It’s the bastard’s fault.

. . .

Twenty years later she is cleaning up the toy room and pauses to sit on the couch.  Chlamydia, they say, can scar your fallopian tubes.  There was a chance she may have never had children, but now she has three.  She reaches down and picks up the remote.  She realizes this is the opportune time to wipe some of the mental detritus off the  DVR.

Which is that one with the freaky blue jay and the stupid raccoon? –she wonders, and hits a button.  Yep, that’s the one.

She presses through the series of delete. . .all. . .stop recording..series information, are you sure you want to erase all.  Yes, god yes, she thinks, then something stops her.  There, in the program information.

“Oh my god. . .” she whispers to the empty room. . .

“That

raccoon

exposed me to chlamydia.”

 

 

 

As a general rule.  I hate country music, but every now and then a song strikes me.  This one swept me back to a moment on an Idaho llama farm that was housing the members of the Boise Summer Shakespeare troupe.  We had considered the strain which a summer apart may put on us, but I would drive the five hours every so often to maintain the bond.

When he went to rub my back something,

something

about the way he was moving told a thousand tales of new experiences of intimacy.

When I couldn’t see his face,

when his mouth wasn’t moving,

then I could hear the lies.

 

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