Fiction

Where the Gutter Flowers Wilt, pt.2 by Kyle Summerall

I ask him what he likes to do. He tells me that he likes to kayak with his dad. He tells me he lives with his parents. He says he puts a good portion of his cheque every week towards his student loans and that they will be paid off soon. I tell him that I just never bothered paying anything back and he gives me that, but it will ruin your credit look.  He’s probably never been in a touchy situation in his life. He says something about how I should move to Mobile, where he lives. He hates the casino skyline in Biloxi. It’s always raining in Mobile, I tell him. Seven times out of ten, if I go over there, traffic is backed up at the tunnel for no good reason and the beaches suck more than the ribbons of sand bars and green water we have here.

The waitress is bringing his steak back and stops to ask if mine is okay. I hadn’t touched it beyond cutting into it. The bottom of the plate is full of grease and blood, but the potato is an empty shell. I smile and tell her that everything is fine. Terry and I both gawk at her. I stop though, and start staring at him, waiting to get what I want. I do. He turns and sees me, saying something about a tattoo on her arm. 

I’m losing interest. I’m feeling the need to check my phone. Maybe my mom has called. She usually does, asking if I’ve gotten settled into my new place. I lie and tell her yes. She asks for pictures and I tell her I’ll send them. I look through Google images at houses and décor but never find anything convincing in those few minutes of trying and just play dumb the next time we talk. I wouldn’t mind having that conversation again, telling Terry I needed to step outside, and then debating if the effort of staring at my mostly empty closet for an hour and the make up was worth all this. He’s almost done eating but for every bite, he tells two stories. I’ll probably never see Terry again.

He asks me if I have any tattoos and I tell him no. I tell him that I have issues with permeance. He’s too busy trying to roll up his wet sleeve to take the hint. I also have an irrational fear of needles and distain for discomfort. I tell him that my mother says that I won’t be able to make it through menopause, let alone childbirth, and that I should just go ahead and prepare to get the hysterectomy done. I tell him that I’m considering it. He’s got the sleeve rolled up enough for me to see some Celtic symbol on his arm. I ignore it.

I have the alcoholic gene; and I still like to smoke sometimes, I continue. A doctor wouldn’t bat an eye, considering my age. He’d have me in the operating room next day. I bring up my ex-boyfriend and how he has lots of tattoos. How he has my name on his chest and how he has the U.S Marines symbol inked on his shoulder. He got it when he was twenty-one so he could try and get free stuff. I laugh at that, but Terry doesn’t. He’s looking at me as if I’d just shown him pictures of an abortion or the scars on my thigh from where a police dog bit me. The disgust is written on his face, he thinks it’s trashy. He probably thinks the same about me now too. 

I tell him how my ex has a pet racoon that unties your shoelaces when you aren’t looking and how he had the racoon trained to shake hands. I’m lying at this point but this is as much fun as I’m going to have. I demonstrate how I’d put my finger out and how the racoon would grab it with both its leathery little human hands and look at you no different than a dog would. 

The thin waitress comes with the cheque. I didn’t even see Terry slip out his wallet but he’s waiting for her when she arrives. He slips his card into the slit without even looking at the total and hands it right back to her. He asks if I’ll be okay driving home. I had three beers. I’ll probably have three more when I get back to the ex’s house. 

I don’t think Terry has to wonder why I’m single now. My ex told me once that I wasn’t meant to take root and sometimes, I feel that way too. He said that we were both just gutter flowers waiting on a big gust of wind. 

Terry walks me out and we stand under the awning. It’s still pouring. He asks me if I’d like for him to walk me to my car under the umbrella but I don’t. I’m close enough to him that I give him a hug, breathing in his wasted cologne.

I yelp like a kid when I step out into the rain and hurry to the car. I turn the heat on to dry off some while I check my phone. I have a few new messages. None from the site where I met Terry though. 

The rain doesn’t let up. I sit in the driveway at the house for a while, waiting for a break. I’m going to slip off my shoes and make a run for it eventually. Even if I didn’t get too wet, the rain was sliding off the roof in buckets. It was just going to be one of those kind of nights.

I brace myself and sling open the door, thinking about how good a hot shower will feel when I get inside, right before hitting the wall of water that makes my dress cling to my skin and my hair stick to my face, suborn as spiderwebs. I step inside and the ex-boyfriend is sitting on the couch in the glow of the television. 

“You’re wet,” he says. 

I wish he wasn’t here. Of all nights, I wish that he wasn’t here.

“Where you been?” He asks. 

“Been playing in the rain,” I say. “Where is Christy?”

He’s lost interest and goes back to watching his show. “Fuck if I know.”

I drop my keys on the table next to an open bottle of cheap bourbon. My wet foot gets tangled up in his jumpsuit that he’s left in the floor so I kick it under the table. I’m not surprised when I open the fridge to find nothing but Styrofoam left over containers and an old carton of cranberry juice from a not so recent bladder infection. I grab it and a glass, topping it with whatever he’s got open on the table. I stand behind the counter of open cereal boxes and dirty dishes that won’t fit in the full sink and watch some of what he’s watching. 

“Why don’t you come sit down? I can feel you back there.”

“I’m going to just go back. I’ll see you tomorrow.” 

I don’t want to go sit down. My hair is wet, thick as rope, hanging on my shoulders and I’m miserable.

“Bullshit. Now come sit down. Clint Eastwoods ‘bout to find out they killed Morgan Freeman.” 

I go over to the couch and he puts his arm over the back of it. I sit in the middle spot but slide into him, back into my spot, where I fit. He smells as hot as he feels, and he’s tense. He doesn’t give me anything though. I snuggle closer.

“Did you even bother taking a shower when you got home?”

He side eyes me. “I ain’t taking no sass from someone with sad hooker eyes.”

I sit up and tell him to shut the hell up before drinking from my glass. I wipe under my eyes, my thumbs coming back black. He looks at me and I see the interpretation of what I want him to see reflected back. I think about getting up, but what for? I’m tired of drawing the same things over and over and he looks tired too.

He reaches over and puts his big hand on my shoulder, making me feel tiny. I lean forward and his hand follows, pulling me back in as I wonder if I get to go back to our old bed or if he’d be taking me to the water bed.


Follow Kyle on Twitter: @Alpha_Lupus

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