Roger had given me a two-day window during which he might appear. Sometime between Saturday morning and Sunday night. At about dusk on Saturday I was seriously wondering why I had agreed to this. I wasn’t really sure why we came up with that plan in the first place. Was he worried about my bus ride taking longer than his driving? And so to, avoid having to wait, he dillied and dallied and waited till the last minute to actually get his ass in the driver’s seat? And why the separate routes, anyway? He said to throw everyone off our path. But the truth was, no one would even be wondering about us until Monday.
The sun was going down as I made my five hundredth visual scan of the area. A Greyhound bus had dropped me off there at about 7:30 that morning. There was not much in the way of entertainment. A small bar and grill, with a little house behind it- most likely owned by the proprietors of the bar. A gas station, with a small grocery store. And a couple battered picnic tables, about 50 yards from either place. My humble resting place. I got some Hostess donuts from the gas station and began my interminable wait. I tried to think about my future plans, but they seemed too complicated and frustrating. My mind felt better in a quiet reverie, recalling events from my childhood. Happy memories. The types of things that you try to think about before going to sleep, hoping that they will inspire pleasant dreams. I remembered family on a trip to Australia. The cute blond tour guide that my brother razzed me about, telling everyone that I wanted to marry Crocodile Dundee. My family, long before the accident changed everything. I lingered at the picnic tables all day, with only one break to get a burger and a few cocktails at the bar. Looking out the bar’s window every few minutes like someone hoping for good news but expecting bad.
The only thing different now was the sky was growing dark and the businesses were turning on their neon signs. A boy of about eighteen approached me at the picnic tables. I saw him earlier, in the store, talking animatedly in Spanish to the clerk. I thought that the clerk might have been his older brother. I imagined the bartender to be their father, and the small, graceful woman who was helping with the kitchen to be their mom. And I guessed that they all lived in the little house, and I envied the simplicity of their lives. They seemed relaxed and happy. The boy offered me a grin and asked “Waiting?”
“Yeah, pretty much.” I said. He pulled a lighter out of his pants pocket and rummaged around in his jacket. “Ooh… could I have a cigarette?”
“No cigarette.” He pulled out a pipe, lit up, and then offered me a hit. I don’t smoke weed often but I figured I needed a little distraction. “Pedro,” he said as he handed it to me, so I figured that was his name and answered with mine, “Alison.” He sat next to me with his eyes narrowed; the way men’s eyes do when they are trying to get in your pants. “You are nice girl, Ally-san” he grinned, and the way he pronounced my name was like Pat Morita in the Karate Kid saying Daniel-san. I started to laugh and he put his hand on my left breast, like it was the most natural thing in the world to do.
“What the fuck is your problem?” I asked, still laughing, and pushed him away. He stood up and looked at me, smiling. I put the pipe to my lips and inhaled deeply. It had an odd sickly-sweet flavor and it made me wish that I had eaten dinner. What the hell was I supposed to do, sit out there all night hungry and freezing?
A minute or two passed before he spoke again. “You come with me?” he asked earnestly, as if he had never so much as laid a finger on me. He startled me, because we had been quietly smoking and not speaking and I was beginning to feel very mellow from the weed.
“Why should I do that?” I asked no one in particular. It seemed like he didn’t speak English that well at all. I noticed the small woman approaching us from across the lot. Pedro quickly put the pipe away. She walked up to us, beaming. “You come, have dinner. Come inside.” She reached out her hands toward me so I figured what the hell. I followed the two of them inside. She said something to him that I could not understand, and they both laughed. Then he looked at me and said something else foreign. I was wishing that I had taken Spanish in high school instead of French. Much more practical.
Their house was the most brilliant home I have ever seen. Each room was brightly painted and hung with decorations. And each decoration clashed with the next leaving the rooms in a state of confusion that I found beautiful. The living room contained a large framed poster of Marilyn Monroe, with a small religious icon plaque next to it. On the opposite wall was a large oil painting of an elderly Spanish man, maybe the patriarch of the family? The kitchen was best of all, with a poster of Christina Applegate, of all people, holding court with a portrait of the virgin Mary. The table, already spread with food, was in a corner housing a collection of decorative plates and a lit up sign showing a buxom woman holding up a bottle of Coors Light, no doubt liberated from their bar. My stomach growled when I saw all the food. “Sit, sit…” instructed Mama (no one ever did tell me her name). A little girl ran up to me and asked, “Who are you?” in English, clear as a bell.
“My name is Alison,” I said. I didn’t know what other details she would need.
“Are you eating dinner with us?” she asked, and I told her yes. Pedro and his mother had gone into the other room for some reason, and I asked the little girl if Pedro was her big brother. “No! He is my uncle. I live with my grandma and grandpa and my daddy and my uncle Pedro. Daddy is still at work in the store. I was at my ballet class today. Do you want to see what I could do?” She leapt up and bounced across the room. Pedro and Mama returned and she was scolded. At least I think she was scolded, judging by the tone. She sat back down and said, “My name is Cynthia and I speak English more better than my whole family. Aren’t you glad?” I smiled at her, and Mama poured me a large glass of Sangria. Pedro sat down next to me, his knee pressed firmly against mine. Mama regarded me with a warm look, as though I was Pedro’s fiancée, brought home to meet the family. I felt stoned and happy, and the food tasted like heaven. It crossed my mind that Roger might have pulled up outside, but I figured he would look inside the bar or the store. Probably Papa and Pedro’s brother knew about my presence at dinner- Mama had stepped out briefly to bring them each a plateful. I wondered where Cynthia’s mother might be, but decided that was a question best left unanswered. Cynthia regaled me with tales of ballet class and of her second grade teacher’s unfair workload of homework assignments. I drank glass after glass of Sangria and didn’t think much about Roger, all things considered. At around nine o’clock Mama took Cynthia off to bed, but not before they both gave me a warm embrace. I sat next to Pedro and thought about him grabbing my breast as though he had every right to. He sat and stared at the wall across from us, possibly at the titty girl with the Coors. I decided to retort by reaching directly between his legs with no preamble. Instead of being shocked or offended he gave me that narrow-eyed glance again. I was the one who ended up shocked, when I felt the size of him. He was already hard. Maybe I was really stoned or really drunk but at that moment I didn’t care about impropriety and I thought Roger could go take a flying fuck. So instead of pulling my hand back, I gave Pedro a nice long stroke. He took me by the hand, presumably leading me toward his bedroom. “But, your mother…” I started to say.
“Shh, is okay…”
“How old are you Pedro?”
He laughed, “Twenty-two. Don’t worry, Ally-san, nothing wrong.” He kissed me, and I kissed him back. I was turned on like the neon sign outside. He laid me down on his bed, and opened my shirt. He ran his tongue along my nipples and I ran my hands through his hair, which was shaggy but soft and clean. He came up to kiss my lips, and his tongue moved expertly in circles with mine. He kissed my neck and all down my belly and then undid my jeans and continued down. It felt so wonderful that I started to think about how many women on the road he had made love to in this room. But I didn’t really care. He had his lips on me, and his fingers in me, and I came in no time at all. He sat up and quickly grabbed a condom and I caught a glimpse of him and thought that he would have no trouble getting a career in pornography. Then he was inside me, slowly, and I could feel the whole length and width of him and suddenly Roger and money and driving didn’t matter and he was in and out faster and faster and I was full of him and making low moaning sounds like an actress. But they came from me without any thought or effort on my part, the opposite of when Roger is thrusting and looking at the wall and no doubt recalling some porn scenario and I am yelling and screaming dramatically and thinking just finish, why don’t you, so I can go to sleep. I was feeling the sky and the stars and the sweat and tears and I realized that this was the first time that I have ever actually had a real earth-shattering orgasm in my twenty-nine years of life. It seemed like forever, in a good way, and then Pedro’s soft moans turned louder and he stopped moving and I could feel the pulsating of him coming, even through the condom I felt the whole thing. And then he moved next to me and kissed me softly on the neck and held me like I was the most precious thing in the world. And he asked “Music?” and I said sure and he turned on the radio and there was speaking in Spanish and next, improbably, a song from my childhood. Rita Coolidge singing “We’re All Alone” and I began to cry. Sobbing like a little girl. And Pedro was asking no questions, just stroking my hair. And then I fell asleep.
The next morning sun is streaming through the window and Pedro is softly snoring and I think of Roger and our plans. About the two hundred thousand dollars that we took from the asshole that we worked for. He had so many enemies that he trusted no one and instead of using banks he kept his money socked away all over the place. He wanted to keep two hundred thousand in “mad money” at the factory where we worked and Roger offered him a safe that he had inherited from his grandfather. And the boss, having known Roger for twelve years- long enough to trust him, placed the money inside. I imagine he kept it for impressing out-of-town visitors and buying drugs and God only knows what else. He is a man who thumbs his nose at all the yuppies and corporations while being at heart just as materialistic as any of them. I used to laugh to myself when he would wear his shirt to work that said “Don’t suck corporate cock”, didn’t he realize the only corporate cock around there was his? He put his money in Roger’s grandfather’s safe. Only Roger and myself, the girl he had been fucking, knew that you could change the combination any which way but you would always be able to open it with the secret release on the backside, underneath. I never understood if Roger’s grandfather was a magician or a con artist, but the next thing I knew we took it, on the Thursday before a four-day weekend-- and we were going to leave town with it. And our boss could not really do shit about it, at least not involving the law. Because he never let on to our federal government exactly how much money he had made, in his lucrative jewelry/drug smuggling business. Roger’s idea was to meet in a far away, Podunk town and take two different routes to get there- potentially covering our tracks. So here I was and where was he?
I was not stupid enough to let him hold all the money. I had one hundred thousand and so did he. We were going to California; he wanted to be a musician. A musician and not a rock star. He had that tiresome attitude that commercial artists where somehow less noble and he was going to do his own thing and not “sell out”. He thought he was the most brilliant thing out there when in fact his lyrics had all the emotional power of a jingle advertising cereal. And fuck this “selling out” shit anyway. There is music I like and music I don't like and I am sure it is the same for everyone else. And whether you are Bob Dylan or Britney Spears, somewhere someone has your picture on their wall. And if you inspired someone or made someone happy or hopeful, even in the most insignificant way, how can it be bad?
So lying there in Pedro’s bed I decided, fuck Roger-I was going to go and make a new start by myself. Who needed him? What I wanted was the joy I felt as a child and since there was no way to get that back I would stop settling for whoever liked me and get the hell out of town and maybe see new things and meet new people and maybe I would find my own simple life and have a husband and a little family of my own. To take to the zoo and the beach and the museum. And maybe I would stop living every day worrying about the tragedies that can happen without warning.
Pedro woke up and he pointed to a door. I had assumed it was a closet but it turned out to be a bathroom. Apparently Pedro had lucked into the master bedroom of the house. “Ally-san, you can take shower if you like?” I did like. I went in the shower and Pedro joined me and we made love once more. I knew I should leave as soon as possible before I lost my nerve about ditching Roger. Pedro was shaving with a towel wrapped around his waist when I slipped out of the bathroom and hurried into my clothes. I hopped out through his bedroom window to avoid the rest of the family and the inevitable questions… I was hoping they would sleep late so I could wait for the next bus with no interruptions. I was hoping Pedro would just let it go.
I ran across the parking lot towards the bus stop. The bright sun dazzled me so much that it took a moment before I realized it was Roger’s blue hand-me-down Toyota pick-up that was idling in front of me. “Where the fuck have you been?” he yelled though the driver’s side window.
“Did you expect me to sleep outside on the picnic table?” I said, and my heart was sinking. I climbed into the passengers side, and Roger did a three-point turnabout to get out of the awkward position he had driven himself into. We headed towards the road. Roger never even noticed when Pedro ran out, following us. He was wearing only a towel and yelling something towards the car. I watched him through the passenger-side rear view mirror as he gestured wildly, stopping only to grab his towel before it slid off of his hips. Roger looked ahead at the road, oblivious. Johnny Cash was on his stereo. We drove along for a moment, and then he glanced at me with a smirk. “You ready?” he asked, in a tone that made it sound like I was a little kid that he was taking someplace I had always wanted to go.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I replied. I was thinking about the two-day window he had given me, and wondered if he used it to look up an old girlfriend and see if she wanted to run off with him instead of me. If that was the case, she definitely had better judgment than I do. I looked at the road that stretched out before us. For me it held as much promise as a prison hallway that leads to an electric chair. I closed my eyes and went back to sleep.