What can YOU say in six sentences?
She wouldn’t have guessed in a million years what I was going through, and before I convinced myself of her wayward affections, I had planned to tell her, but now I would just feel cheesy expressing what I had intended. On several counts she strikes me as self-involved and extremely naïve, though I would not boost myself out of that consideration by any means, but what she seemed to have had in mind, I mean before her brother’s death and all, would never have worked. I merely thought these things before while playing at finding out, but I know now for certain. She hasn’t a clue as to what goes on in other people’s lives when they are not in her presence, nor does she appear to believe what goes on affects her, and who can say how she might have reacted? I know it has me in a tizzy, questioning my own beliefs. Not even during my brief time with Tom Lawrence was I put into such a quandary, but, then, because our time together was cut short by his death, I will never know if such a thing might have happened.
The Thursday after I had returned to Mexico, having been snubbed and ignored by all and sundry, except for students, I finished work, and not looking forward to sitting solitarily in my big old empty space, I headed off to the cantina. I met a few acquaintances in transit, but nobody who wanted to hang out and talk. After a few beers, and growing just a bit maudlin, I was on the verge of taking flight and returning to my big old empty space on Staten Island, but consideration of commitments I had made had me thinking I would attempt to finish the semester before throwing in the towel. Even then something indefinable gnawing at me told me things would never work out for Sam and me, and I guessed they were the same reasons that had divided my relationship with Diana, though at that time they had remained so nebulous their possibility never crossed my mind. Indecision and stifled persuasion were probably the bases of how I was so easily taken in by those guys in Tapachula, followed up with a rash decision, and eventually wound up in this town. Most likely they were also what stalled any conclusive advances in my attempts at establishing a relationship with Samantha, and behind my bringing my now prodigal ex-brother-in-law south to stay with me.
I was getting bleary-eyed, and I knew it was unethical for a high school teacher to be sitting wasted in a cantina, but it was a free night in that I had no papers to mark, my syllabus was already planned out for a couple of weeks, and I did not expect to run into any of my students. Nor did I think any of the teachers would drop in by that point in the evening, so I was surprised to be sullenly greeted by Antonio wearing a loud yellow muscle shirt with the words I AM SYNESTHETIC printed in different colored letters emblazoned across his chest. He’s a little guy in stature, though well-built due to working out, and his almond shaped eyes gave him a look of sadness even if he were to smile, which in that moment he did not. “Where’s your lady love?” I asked, remembering his turning down an invitation to join me here a few weeks earlier on her account. “It’s over,” he said, sitting in the chair opposite me, and signaling for the mesero, who glanced at his watch, to bring another glass. Although I was sloshed, I felt while he was describing his break-up his salty voice was telling me more than his words contained, and I smelt something in the air not native to the place.
When I awoke wearing only my skivvies early the next morning on my living room floor and found Antonio in a fetal position similarly attired, a flood of peculiar images from the night before rushed through my brain, and though I found them difficult to absorb, and accept as the truth, I did not find them entirely unpleasant. The thing that troubled me a bit was wondering how he would react on waking, and though I sat staring at his sleeping form for approximately twenty anxious minutes in my one easy chair, and smoked the last two uncustomary cigarettes I found on the little table beside it, I soon discovered when he stirred that he did not consider it a topic of conversation. He dressed, turned down an invitation to get some breakfast, saying he had to go home and take care of some things before going to work, but he would meet me for lunch, and if I wanted to go off campus, he would drive to Sanborns. As I showered and got ready after his departure, I realized what a cool character he was. “You knew this would happen,” I said aloud, but couldn’t tell if I was addressing myself or the mental image I retained of the guy sleeping on my floor.
Friday brought on the weekend, and there were no discussions, no recriminations, no conditions set. Antonio and I had lunch together, discussing teaching resources, whether or not either of us would be attending the play I Eat Numbers the student repertory group was performing in the civic center, and figuring out vacation plans, and in that last item lay the hint of something changed. Four nights later, we got bombed and once again spent the night together followed by a Tuesday of non-discussion about what was occurring between us, but on Friday, both of us sober as judges, though non-judgmental, stayed at his place. I should not declare I was entirely non-judgmental because I found no trace of his former fiancée in his house, no pictures, no lingerie, nothing in the bathroom, and was aware that I had been expecting to find something to corroborate her mere existence. This was the damnedest thing that ever occurred in my life, this entering into a situation, a relationship, that had never been agreed to, nevertheless going forward, and I knew there were loose ends that had to be prudently taken care of and that I had to speak with Samantha as soon as possible.
As I waited outside Sam’s place, thinking of what to say to her, how to let her know I would be moving on even if I were not physically going anywhere, I took my cue from Antonio’s condition wherein letters and numbers have colors and heat, and twisted things around in my head reasoning that I was where I now was because she had persisted in avoiding me. Upon seeing her expression as she approached her building and found me waiting for her, I knew my plan was not so outlandish as it had at first seemed. I realized there was no need for me to feel guilty about attempting to break things off between us as they already appeared to be broken. She looked like a lovesick puppy, and it was clearly apparent that it was not for lack of being with me. We exchanged words, with me playing the part of the betrayed partner, but walking away from her, I felt a wave of relief wash over me as if everything had been resolved without anyone truly being hurt, and now, in any case, she has more to be concerned with than fretting over some wastrel who decided to switch teams. Heading back to my own place, for a night alone, the first few raindrops that wet my shirt seemed more metaphorical to me than the thought going through my head that if Cal decided to return any time soon to pike off me, he would probably choose this night to be waiting outside my door, or more likely have found a way to get inside, and how was I going to explain Antonio to him?