“Tulsa? Why Tulsa?”
“Because that’s where I’ll be…”
Immediately I’m hearing George Strait singing, ‘Amarillo By Morning.’ This jackass. The balls on her, really.
“Did you hang up on me?”
“Thinking about it.”
“Don’t be so sore, dammit. I can hear you grinding your teeth; stop that already.”
She used to listen to me grind my teeth in my sleep. Denise, Deneser, or just Neeser to our crew, would wrap an arm around me and talk into my ear to stop me from destroying my dental work under stress. Neeser, the way she smelled, her skin seemed to bloom springtime with every laugh, every shimmy, every quake I gave her in bed. I missed her so damn much, but I couldn’t let the fact she left me for HIM, go. So I slap her with it.
“And what about Bernard?” I overemphasize his name, in case she wasn’t sure I was being sarcastic.
Her antagonized sigh carries over the phone and hangs between us, a rope bridge joining two steep cliffs, neither one of us trying to cross first. I hate that I’m being an asshole, but how else is she going to know she hurt me?
“It was over a while ago, babe. Went to Cali, came back to Lawton, and shit just…” Neeser’s breath indicates a painful, maybe volatile break up. Now I really feel like an asshole.
I hate to hear her hurt. I can do something about it, maybe. “So. Tulsa?”
Neeser’s voice lights up. “Yeah. Come see me.”
I open another tab on the browser and search the distance from Macdill AFB to Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“Tulsa in 19…”
She makes a weird whimper into the phone. You wouldn’t think an Air Force officer would make such childish noises. But it excites me, it makes me feel she cares, and that’s all I wanted. She and I fit so well, but we let the world get in the way. Life’s too short for the bullshit, right? But…wait. What if I’m jumping the gun here? What if I’m making all the effort and it’s just a flash in the night for her? Here I am, trying to rekindle something magical, something true and real. But what’s in it for Denise? A conquering? A, ‘I-told-you-so’?
talks to her parents on the other line jaws on about her parents in Tulsa, I look at the map for the impending road trip to my long lost love. Through Tampa, hit Tallahassee, Montgomery, Birmingham…
“My parents want to see you when you get here,” she says mockingly. Her parents, so sweet and naïve, letting two young women share a bed in their home like that wasn’t gonna lead to anything.
“So you’re coming? Please say you’re coming. I dyed my hair red; you’re gonna love it! When are you coming? My leave starts Thursday afternoon…”
My fingers stop moving at Memphis.
“Oh, what? Why do you sound all serious now?”
I flub my lips, lean back in my chair, and cross an arm over my chest. Memphis. If I go through Memphis, I’m gonna have to stop. To rest.
To see him.