by Misha Pettman
I remember frying sliced potatoes: sweat running down my legs, the bandana with the Texas state flag around your forehead– the one you gave me to remember you by– not stopping the sweat from rolling down your temples, the two of us slicing potatoes and scorching them in hot sauce. Everything was hot. Texas was hot, our bedroom was hot, the food was hot, your temper was hot. I remember that twin bed, you at 6’5″ with your feet dangling on the floor. I loved how tall you were, me at 5’8″ never knowing the feeling of shortness before. I loved your scraggly hair and your scraggly beard and your scraggly southern drawl. I loved your name, David West, like some story-book western outlaw. I remember two-stepping every Saturday at The White Horse, The Careless Smokers covering Conway Twitty and George Jones, you looking only at me, me looking only at you. I remember writing our duets, playing them in barrooms all over the state, living out a kind of musician’s fairytale of love. I remember the first night on the bus and three days later filing for a marriage license. I remember you crying that first night we spent together, me surprised at mattering so much. I remember us feeding the baby goats in the tall grass on that farm you were working, you bringing me the cutest ones. I remember you breaking down the bathroom door because I didn’t tell you I was going to take a bath, ripping the shower curtain down and walking away. I remember driving us to play that show, me refusing to answer you or let you touch me, you trying to run the Hyundai into a ditch, your hands on my throat, if I wanted to play the victim, you would show me what abusive really looks like. I remember that show, you sweet as honey, me, cold as ice, all the girls in love with you, comforting you, asking why you put up with me and my attitude. I remember our first dance on the patio of that tiny bar to the sound of you humming “Waltz Across Texas” in my ear. I remember us waiting for our turn to play outside that dive in Manchaca, nothing but grass for miles, you and me making wishes, not knowing they would never come true. I remember telling you I never loved you and never would, making you that ugly cake for your birthday, you picking out the bare wicks and licking them dry, the wax of the candles melted into the hot, soupy batter, I remember you rubbing me with frozen wash cloths when I cried because it was too hot to sleep. I remember the night you told me to leave, me packing up and you locking me in the closet to keep me from going. I remember lying on the floor of that closet, finding all the little scraps and scribbles of mine you’d saved under a box in the corner and ripping them up, you unlocking the door, lying beside me, squeezing too hard. I remember that June night, the heat still oppressive after sundown, arriving in Texas at your house, my new house, after all those months apart, just three days back in February to remember your face by, hugging you to keep from looking at you—the fantasy I knew best, the man I didn’t know at all. I remember the last night, looking at you and all the things I’d never know again, missing you, missing the way you used to look at me, both of us in tears, both of us knowing we were out of chances.
I wonder which things you remember—you, drunk again, holding me down, scratching me with your toenails, biting me all over, me saying I hated kissing you and you forcing your tongue in my mouth, us wearing our red-checkered shirts that matched the tablecloths at The Broken Spoke and dancing slow to every song, the cowboy all in black, the drummer for the show I snuck out to play without you and your waiting up at home to drag me around the neighborhood, screaming that I was a whore, the tickle fights in the morning before the sun turned the room into an oven, me rubbing you with aloe all night after you tried to prove you didn’t sunburn, you crying on the street corner because you couldn’t afford to take me to dinner, me packing up for New Mexico, you leaving kiss marks all over my windshield, hoping one would survive the rain, me driving back to you, six-hundred miles to spend one night with you, make-believe for the last dance—the last night, just like the first night—us wrapped up together, making promises we’d never keep?
I remember. Remember us, frying in the sweaty heat of a central Texas summer. I hope you remember. Remember fried potatoes. Remember I came 2000 miles with everything I owned to live in that daydream with you, remember promises that seemed so easy to believe, once upon a time in the rolling hills of Texas.
About the AuthorMisha Pettman is a published writer and decent bassist living in Nowhere, New Mexico.