Friday, May 18, 2007

Previous Chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7


I retrieved my car from the parking garage and filled it with stuff. The rented trailer was big enough to handle all the boxes of my crap. I reached home late that night after a nerve-racking drive.

My mother pretended to be happy to see me. She helped me unload the trailer in the morning and drove with me down to the U-Haul center.

I mentioned in casual conversation that I was going to be leaving on a trip in a few weeks. She seemed nonplused. It was obvious to me that her reaction had been precisely calibrated to make me think that her feelings were hurt when in fact she didn’t care. She didn’t care and she didn’t want me to know that but she was out of luck as far as that was concerned.

After college the old hometown is invariably gray and pallid. I’m not going to say I was in love with college one way or another, but it does enable you to get your head out of the dirt. I am grateful to the university for giving me four years away from my life to prepare for my journeys and labors.

And I had a nice piece of paper on my wall certifying that I was an expert in the field of history, with a minor in mathematics. It was an odd mixture but it worked. I was already fielding offers from graduate programs across the country, but I sincerely doubted graduate school was in my future. I think I would like to be a teacher, if I live that long.

The worst part about being home is having to put up with my mom’s “boyfriend.” She says they met at the supermarket but I’m pretty sure that he’s her handler. Have I mentioned that while I was gone they took the opportunity to wire every length of the house? I’m certain that nothing I say or do in my mother’s house goes unnoticed by the men who killed my father. Ironically, given the fact that I’m under constant surveillance I think I’m fairly secure here. If they wanted me dead they could have killed me the moment I set foot inside my mother’s door, but as it is they want to watch me. They’re probably unsure how much I know and I’m damn well not going to tip them off.

The first day I was back we had a big dinner, with my mother’s boyfriend and Connie. He was pretending to be amicable for the sake of the ruse, which I at least appreciated in Connie’s presence.

He says he went to Stanford and I don’t have any reason to disbelieve him. He’s probably been instructed to tell me as much truth as he can get away with, so as to allay my fears. He tries to build some conversation from the fact that Stanford and my school are perennial rivals. I gave him a tepid response and he smirked. I told him I’d never attended the “Big Game” and he was vaguely disappointed.

Constance was overjoyed to see me. She had returned from her school a few weeks before me and had been very impatient for my return. She was as beautiful as ever. My mother was very eager to press the subject of our impending nuptials. As we ate I watched her hands, watched her engagement ring bouncing gaily in the bright light of the dining room chandelier. My mother had given me the money to buy it and I had bought a very nice ring. I just didn’t feel it.

But it was on her finger nevertheless. We had postponed the wedding long enough, my mother insisted, and now it was time for us to get down to the nitty-gritty in terms of planning. When were we planning on getting married? Where were we planning on living? Connie could conceivably get a job anywhere but my decision was the vital one, because I had yet to decide whether or not I wanted to attend graduate school.

Or at least this is what my mother thought. My goal was to string her along as long as I could without actually upsetting her plans, under the notion that this would be the best way to ensure my plans went unmolested.

So I let slip in the most casual way that I was planning on taking a trip at the end of the month. Constance was disappointed that I hadn’t thought to ask her along but she assented readily enough when I told her this would be the last delay before our wedding. It was time to relent. I said we would spend the next few weeks before my trip planning the wedding and then while I was gone Connie and our parents could focus on the planning.

I suspect that women are generally disappointed when men fail to share their interest and enthusiasm in wedding planning. At the least, I will say that if I had been planning on actually marrying Connie we would have eloped, far from the prying eyes and ears of my mother and her “boyfriend.” If I was actually her husband I would have to spend the rest of my life keeping Connie safe and secure from the forces that wish to harm me. In the long run, it’s better she have as little to do with me as possible.

It was in my interests to keep my itinerary as vague as possible. I mentioned possibly visiting my grandparents in the southwest. Most importantly I gave them to infer that this was merely the last fling of my boyhood, one last great adventure before being shackled to the "ol’ ball and chain". These were phrases which I think appealed to them on this issue, gave them reassurance that everything was above-boards.

These are the reassurances I had to proffer in order to buy my freedom. I dislike lying but what is left of my life but subterfuge?

So I spend the next few weeks in a fugue. Before I know it I’m looking at invitations and banquet halls and registering at department stores. Strangely, I think Connie herself is only halfway concerned with the wedding preparations. Perhaps she is merely going through the motions, trying to convince herself that this is what normal people, people with real parents and affectionate fianc├ęs, actually do. Again, I am stung by the reminder that she is very fragile. Undoubtedly in the end I will have hurt her, but it's best this way.

We make love and it is unsatisfying. She caresses and protects me but she is not stupid, she knows there is a reserve which hides those things that I do not share with her. I imagine she considers it her fault, and so sex becomes wilder and more primal, more desperate and pleading on her part. She believes that orgasm can bridge the gap.

There’s nothing I can do but wait these last days out. The summer is coming meekly across the mountains and I grow weary of pretense. Every night I check my notebooks where I have hidden them, in order to ensure it has not been stolen. It is safely hidden away where no one can find it.

At night I watch the blinking lights in the sky as the jets mark their passage through the night. I’m sitting in the backyard at our picnic table and drinking a beer. It’s very quiet and the night is just barely chilly.

I think I’m ready to leave.

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