Liked to have cried, but I didn't. Sucked it up. Got no one to blame but my own self. No sorrier words ever come out of my mouth than I don't know.
Knew I should of went after Ennis, but I didn't. Instead I picked the note he left me off the night table. No phone number. Was an address. 19443 B-2 Milton, Cee Vee.
Cee Vee? Damn. That address had to be The Osage Stables-- place was home to more Kentucky Derby winners than spots on an appaloosa's ass. Ennis didn't just get him a job, he got him a future. Wondered if he realized what having me in his life might do to his career.
Just couldn't go there. Not now. Too many questions of my own I couldn't answer, adding one more for Ennis would get me nowhere.
Help for answers is what I needed. Got out my wallet. Card was there. Dialed out on the grimy-looking phone. Miss Calhoun answered, and Dr. Malone was in. Sat on hold, chewing my nails. Finally, the doc came on-- said he'd cancel an appointment and see me in a half hour. I got my things together. Turned before I left-- last thing I saw was Ennis' blood stains in the carpet next to the bed where we made love.
Didn't feel no better talking to Dr. Malone. That man was always so full of questions but never any answers.
Asked him, "Couldn't you just give me some advice for once?"
"I don't think you want advice, Jack. I think you want answers."
He got that right.
"Those are for you to figure out," he added. Expected me to supply the answers? Me? The man who says, "I don't know?" Damn.
I tried another avenue. "So how 'bout no answer, just advice? How 'bout that?" I asked. I sat up on the couch, and Doctor Malone, he scratched his beard. I reckoned that was something Freud might do too.
"Alright, Jack. This is my advice. Look inside yourself. You know the answer."
"That's not advice," I said, waving my arms above my head. "That's a riddle."
"Ah, but it's not so hard."
"Hard for me."
"Alright, Jack. We've talked a lot about your dreams. Let's try what comes before and what comes after. I want you to think about what I ask you before you blurt out anything. Understand?" I nodded. "Now answer this: What do you think about before you go to sleep at night?"
Used to be my day. Used to be work. Used to be Bobby. But now. Weren't hard to answer. I waited a few moments like he asked me to do, then answered, "Ennis."
"What about Ennis? Think."
"Some nights I'll think about sex." I cleared my throat. Was going to say, 'sex with Ennis,' but left that part out. Think he knew anyhow by the way he raised one eyebrow. Decided to close my eyes so he wouldn't distract me. Doc told me once that it might help me open up more, and I sure as hell needed help right now.
"Mostly I imagine things," I continued. "You know-- what it would be like ta have a life with him. Sometimes we're sittin at a kitchen table, end of the day. I imagine we're talkin to each other about our day, and he's tellin me about horses he's trained, and me, I'm tellin him about my rodeo days, but it really ain't so much what we're sayin-- it's how we're lookin at each other. Way he looks at me like I'm the most important person on this planet. Way he smiles, laughs at what I say."
He waited for me to say more. I didn't. But I thought more-- a whole lot more about those laugh lines around his eyes, and how his arms feel around me, holding me. How his lips felt kissing me. How his fingers moved inside me. How he pushed me into the mattress as he fucked me. And how he whispered "li'l darlin" in my ear after. All this I kept inside.
He waited. Then asked one last question.
"What is the first thing you do when you wake?"
I wait, eyes closed and frown. "I turn over, open my eyes and see Lureen next to me, and there's this ache in my heart because for a second I thought--" I stopped. Just looked at him. Hard to admit to myself.
"I thought I'd roll over to see Ennis next ta me."
I got home all hang dog. Got plenty to think about and got some time to do it in. Lureen, she was at work. Note was on the table-- said "call me." Had a lot of explaining to do, never just took off all night before without calling. And today was one of them half days of school for Bobby. About time for him to come home. Note said he'd be taking the bus. Must be after last night Lureen didn't trust me to pick him up.
I got a beer then sat down in my recliner. Wasn't going to call her. If we were going to get into it, I didn't want it to be over the phone.
TV was off. Turned it on for noise. Heard the familiar Jeopardy! music. Always liked watching that show even if I could never answer most of the questions. Figured I'd learn something from Art Fleming-- maybe I'd learn something that might help my son with his homework--
I'll take Ancient History for 80...
...And the answer is...
Ass ached. Cushion helped. Lureen hated the chair, but never getting rid of it: the old recliner and I formed an intimate bond after all these years.
It's the only Latin novel to survive in its entirety.
I think about the answers I gave Dr. Malone. I think about how although my ass still aches, that it ain't so bad since it reminds me of Ennis.
...What is the Golden Ass.
I stare at the TV. Art Fleming. Shit. Is he my shrink now too? He has answers. Maybe I should listen to him instead. He already knew I'm a golden ass.
I'll take Fairy Tales for 20...
Perfect. Fairy Tales. What am I gonna tell Lureen? How am I gonna tell her? Should have called her last night. Or this morning. She knows I ain't happy even after going to this Dr. Malone. And she sure ain't happy. Putting it off is only prolonging the pain-- I just didn't know the best way to tell her. Truth was hard.
...And the answer is...
But that'd be easy compared to telling Bobby his mommy and daddy were splitting up.
He gave the miller's daughter three days to guess his name or else he took her first-born child...
'Course he didn't have to know the details-- didn't even know if I should tell Lureen the details.
...Who is Rumpelstiltskin?
No, not him. Ennis.
I put my hands over my face. Bobby, what have I done to you? How can I tell you? All that mattered was his mom and dad wouldn't be together no more. That's a sad state of affairs for any kid. Broken home. All because dad likes men. Well, a man. One in particular.
Door slammed. Thump went the books on the kitchen table. A muffled, "Dad? You home?" came from behind an open refrigerator door.
I stood up. "I'm here, bud."
He walked in, feet scuffing the floor and a worried face. I hugged my boy. Kids know more than you think. Way he was sizing me up, I knew wheels were turning on wheels in his head. I sat down at the kitchen table with him and helped him with some history homework, both of us pretending like nothing was wrong. Later, he went to play with his friend Tom. I think he was making excuses. I was still sitting at the table when I heard Lureen's Buick pull into the drive. My chest tightened as I heard the doorknob turn.
My biggest fear was that after all I had to say to Lureen, I might not be able to see my son.
She dropped her purse and keys with a hollow thunk. I could feel her eyes boring a hole in my back.
"So, Jack, where were you?"
Wrong answer. I turned around. She stood, back pressed against the counter and her eyes narrowed. I was fucked.
She snorted and crossed her legs at the knees.
"You go to your psychiatric appointment." Her red nails tapped on the Formica counter. "Four o'clock comes and goes. And when I call the office, they tell me you left at the usual time. I sit here all night, worrying. I call hospitals, all your friends. Nobody's seen ya. I go to bed, tossin and turnin all night expecting you to come through that door. When I get up, and you're still not home. Bobby asked me, 'Where's daddy?' What was I supposed to say, Jack?"
"Ah, shit, Lureen. I'm sorry. I know I should have called."
"Where were you?"
"Don't know where to start."
"I think you'd better start. Explain. Now. This isn't just about your pa dyin, or your mama bein alone--"
"Sit down, Lureen."
I nodded. She sighed and plopped down in the chair next to mine. She sat straight up, then turned her chin up. "Spill, Jack."
"I'll always care about you, I will, and Bobby. I can't think about a life without him--"
"But you can think about a life without me? Is that it, Jack?"
"I'm sorry, so sorry, Lureen, but I'm in love with someone else."
I looked at Lureen. Face all washed out. Seemed almost a relief to her. She lifted her chin a bit higher and looked at me.
"Guess I knew, but it wasn't like you had much time fer someone else, all them hours you work-- just never thought."
"Wasn't lookin for it. Just happened."
"Isn't that what most people say, Jack? 'Just happened, or just one of those things?' I thought you were better than that-- what's the matter, fast-talkin Jack Twist has no excuses?" She spat out the words like they was poison. "Christ, don't know why I'm cryin, not like we been any kind of couple for a long time."
I bent in instinctively to wipe her tears, but she pulled away.
"Shit, Lureen. Excuses ain't gonna take this away."
"So this is it?" she asked wiping her nose with the back of her hand.
I nodded. How was I gonna tell her the rest? Had to tell her it all. Now was as good a time as any since I was confessing.
"There's more," I said, weakly.
"More? What? Is she pregnant?" She started tapping her nails again, this time on the table.
"No." I choked out a bitter laugh.
"I know her name," she looked at me like she'd caught my hand in a cookie jar. "That's why I suspected. Her name's Edith. You say her name in your sleep some nights. It's that Edith who works for Norton's Feed, isn't it? Seen the way she looks at you like you're the whipped cream on top of a chocolate pie."
"No," I hesitated. I reckoned this would almost be funny if it weren't so damn sad. That Edith made so many passes at me and never once gave it a thought to sleep with her. Didn't even consider it. But Ennis Del Mar, I see him one time and I can't leave him alone. Lureen's got to know the truth. If I don't tell her now, she'll find out some other way, and I care about her too much for her to hear about it through gossip. Here it comes. "It ain't her, Lureen. Name I was sayin was Ennis."
"Ennis? Where'd you meet her?"
"Ennis ain't a her-- Ennis is a he."
Her nails stopped. Her mouth pulled into a thin line. Eyes grew wide. Stunned is what she was. Looked like the wind was knocked out of her.
"What are you sayin, Jack? Are you sayin you're, you're--"
"Queer? Yeah, that's what I'm sayin."
She laughed into her hand. Wasn't the reaction I'd expected, that's fer danged sure.
"Psychiatrist says I'm bisexual."
"Psychiatrist?" she choked, eyes flitting around the room, thinking. "You sure? I mean, he can cure you, can't he? That's it, isn't it-- why you decided ta go ta him."
I sighed. "No, Lureen, it ain't. I thought at first maybe I was sick, but that ain't it. Always been this way, just pretended I was someone I wasn't. Can't do that no more. Ain't no cure for this. It's what I am." Didn't get into it all with Lureen, how part of going to the psychiatrist all these weeks was coming to terms with these feelings I had for Ennis and other feelings I had for men but tried pushing away.
"Guess I could have found out some other way. Come home and found y'all in a compromising position--"
"Come on, I'd never do that to you. No way I'd bring him home here and have you find me with my pants down. Ain't respectable."
"You think any of this is respectable?"
"No, but I won't do that. Not to you or Bobby."
"Glad you told me. Guess it's better than catchin you with your tongue down his throat." Color was starting to come back into her face. "You sure there ain't no cure?"
"Guess I've always known."
"Wish you would have filled me in."
"Guess this means the D word."
"We can talk about this some other time. If you don't mind, Jack, I think I need to go out and have a drink."
"Sure that's a good idea? You're all upset." She gave me an evil look. "Fine, go, but be careful." Who was I to tell her different?
Least she didn't say nothing about her daddy.