Sounds carry across the arroyo. Lonely coyotes looking for love, the neighbor kid’s Amy Winehouse, the government’s phantom helicopters like malignant dragonflies of course. Sometimes it’s like being on acid, something Gabilan knew a lot about. It gets into your head.
The fact of clean-and-sober living is, you always and forever want to get loaded. What starts out as a far-out way to listen to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Bob Dylan at his surrealistic best becomes, as they say in the trade, a life unmanageable.
Gabilan got sober the way anybody does: one day at a time. But there are habits a man cannot break in a million years; habits he will not even try to break, because of the way they make him feel. Because of the way they define him as a man.
Her music drifted past the olive trees they’d planted together, as if it were carried on the wings of night birds whose only purpose in the world was to torment him: that single ghostly steel-string guitar chord…the new Eagles album. Like a flashback to being on your own for the very first time, when everything’s gone wrong at once:
No more walks in the wood
This is the aftermath
Of afternoons in the clover fields
Where we once made love
Then wandered home together
Where the trees arched above
Where we made our own weather
When branches were the sky
Now they are gone for good
And you, for ill, and I
Am only a passer-by….
--Jesus, cabrito, that is some depressing shit, no? Gabilan said to Oso, whose eyes shone in the darkness like diamonds. The dog whined softly.
--Si tuviera un arma que era bastante grande, soplaría mis cerebros de mierda hacia fuera.
Laughing to himself at a joke bigger than any joke in the world, a one-liner that only he knew the punchline to, Gabilan crossed to the cabinet in his den where he kept his guns. The mere act of moving in that direction, through the darkened house with her music drifting sensuous ‘cross the night, excited him. He was a powerful man, in extraordinary shape from an active life lived outdoors.
Some switch in Gabilan’s mind had been thrown. He was preternaturally aware of his muscles and joints working together to propel him through the dark.
Unlocking the cabinet, opening the door, smelling the Hoppe’s No. 9, seeing the way the moonlight hit the barrels, the scopes, the slings, standing so neat, like soldiers at attention…Gabilan found himself aroused.
He took his time, standing there with the cabinet open. The Eagles started another sad song. It was typical, this woman who did everything Just So. All the slow sad songs were strung out, one after the other like pearls on a string of regret. Sad. Romantic. Take your pick. All depends on where your head’s at. Gabilan was a thoughtful man too, and it was always best not to hurry. With horses, with women, with yourself, maybe, most of all.
His eyes fell at last to the Swarovski binoculars.
--Because you are an observant man, she said, the morning she gave them to him.
Like everything about her, the glasses were the best. Two thousand dollars, if you could find a pair. They balanced perfectly in your hands. You could look through them all day and into the night without tiring.
Bethany knew Gabilan loved fine machines, but if women were machines, if they were—say--cars, Bethany Byrne was a sixteen cylinder aluminum-carbon fiber-bodied Bugatti Veyron Pur Sang. French. “Pure Blood.” A thoroughbred. Unimaginably exciting.
With his heart beating hard in his ears, Gabilan trained the binoculars on Bethany’s living room. The field was filled with the familiar view of Bethany perfectly framed at her small writing desk, legs crossed, candlelight caressing her thoughtful face. He could see both dogs were asleep at her feet. She typed in deep concentration at her computer, a little black Mac laptop. Incredibly, such was the resolving power of the Swarovskis, Gabilan could see that there were two windows open on her screen, Word and Mail, and the Mail window was active.
From time to time Bethany sipped at a nearly empty glass of red wine. After a while, Gabilan willed her to stand, and as if on cue, she closed the computer with finality and did.
She wore city work clothes—yes, that’s right, it was Wednesday, her longest day—a tweedy skirt that was beautifully cut. Bethany was that most marvelous of modern women: most comfortable and natural in jeans and boots—chaps even!—but then she cleaned up like a million dollars and change.
Her hair was still up, and her ivory-colored silk blouse was perfectly tailored. She was wearing the gold amethystine pendant that nestled so beautifully between her breasts. Her legs were bare and she was barefoot. With the glass in her hand she passed out of the frame and into the kitchen, which was dark.
Gabilan panned back to the candles and the desk. Even by candlelight he could make out the embroidered pattern of the tablecloth and the photograph of Beth and Judith, laughing, with Saa, in a frame.
After a while Bethany returned, her glass filled two fingers from the top. She crossed to her stereo. Well, Ben’s stereo, an incredibly elaborate setup, acoustically perfect of course.
She turned the volume up and the music got louder a couple seconds later, out of sync with her fingers the way, from centerfield, you SEE a baseball hit the bat before you HEAR the sound of a homerun.
Bethany swayed a bit to the music there in the center of the room, hips swinging gently side to side, eyes closed, head thrown back, wine glass suspended in her graceful hand as if in a gimbal on a ship at sea. She was a wonderful dancer, a wonderful partner, a wonderful lover. They used to go to the Buckboard Saturday nights when the place was full of cowboys and wannabes, bikers and tourists, artists who felt the occasional need to take the pulse of the people. They’d drink beer all night and close-dance after last call cause the owner loved her, just like everybody else in the neighborhood.
Gabilan’s senses were filled with the memory: the very heavy scent of her perfume, traces of which remained on his best white shirt, to this day unwashed; the way her breasts and her pelvis fit against him perfectly, like the last two pieces of a cosmic jigsaw puzzle.
She would tease him, even after they had been making love for months, first barely brushing against him, letting her scent and the softness of her hands, her palms, her cheek, pull him closer, like gravity in space, far away from earth, that gets stronger the closer you get to home until at last it is irresistible. And then you burn, Gabilan, you burn like a magnificent starship with a fatal design flaw.
Bethany chugged her wine. It always delighted Gabilan when the pure Celtic gene revealed itself in this woman, who on the surface was so refined and in control. She set the wine glass down on the desk and took up the two candles, a little unsteady on her feet now.
The candlelight licked the edges of the dark as she found her way to her bedroom. Gabilan knew that room like his own. She set the candles down on her nightstand, then lit from them a few more votives, and the scented candles she loved. The room blazed with light within the crystal confines of Gabilan’s binoculars. The music was still at full volume in the living room, still the Eagles, still terribly very much about the two of them and what was lost:
It's coming on the end of August.
Another summer's promise almost gone.
And though I heard some wise man say
that every dog will have his day,
He never mentioned that
these dog days get so long.
Gabilan willed them together again, if only for this moment.
His once-upon-a-time true love slid slowly down her expensive city skirt, and then, after it, the white half-slip that lay beneath. She stepped free of them both, legs marvelous and supple, knelt to pick them up, and left the frame, into her closet.
Bethany turned the closet light on. Gabilan could see her shadow play against the wall above her bed as she hung the slip and the skirt. Her shadow turned full-profile to Gabilan, and as Bethany unbuttoned her blouse, and the strong closet light turned the silken fabric translucent on the wall, and the full swell of her breasts was revealed, Gabilan undid his belt, unbuttoned his pants, and slid them to the floor.
He fumbled stupidly for a second, then quickly pulled off one boot, then the other, and then his pants as Bethany turned back to hang up her blouse.
I've been stumbling though some dark places,
And I'm following the cloud.
I know I've fallen out of your good graces
It's all right now.
And then Bethany removed her bra, arching the shadow of her back, elbows akimbo, magnificent female gesture for the ages. She bent over to put it in her laundry hamper and the shadow of her breasts hung free.
So often, those breasts — thought Gabilan — Those breasts in my face. How you love it when I hold them, when I squeeze them. I kiss your nipples, Anita.
And Bethany stepped out of her panties and the light switched off and the shadow disappeared. There was a beat, as if the world had stopped turning for a moment, and Gabilan held his breath.
Bethany stepped from the closet into the sea of candlelight. Gabilan could see the swell of her naked hips, the heaviness of her breasts, the dark silver-dollar aureoles, the tawny pussy hair, the swell of her thigh where it curved into and away from her mons. She crossed downstage towards him, cupping gently her left breast, then turned left into her bathroom, where once again she switched on the light.
Bethany let down her hair in the mirror. Miles of tangled auburn tresses fell upon her shoulders and her breasts. Gabilan took himself in his hand and slowly began to stroke. The light now was so bright. He could see a bruise on the inside of her right thigh, probably from her saddle.
Bethany leaned on the sink, examining her face with the utmost interest as Gabilan’s hand moved faster. He was focused on the curve of her ass, the way she stood, one leg cocked, one calf taut, the other relaxed.
--Oh mama, mamacita.
She brushed her teeth, her left bicep and forearm taut and efficient. Splashing water on her face, blotting it quickly dry, she moved to the commode. She squatted, breasts hanging wondrous and heavy again, and peed. For a very long time Gabilan strained to hear the sound, but the music, alas, was too loud to give him that.
And I've been waiting in the weeds,
Waiting for the summer rain to fall.
Upon the wild birds, scattering the seeds,
Answering the calling of the
Tide's eternal tune, the phases of the moon…
And then she was finished, and she wiped and flushed and stood and crossed to the light and switched it off and stepped once again into the candlelit bedroom, and Gabilan was beating his cock— her cock—furiously as she turned away from him, started to cross over to the bed, and then stopped to pet Rags goodnight. Both dogs were happily lying at the foot of her bed, drenched in the scent of her no doubt, content as only well-loved creatures can be.
Bethany stood again, the full wonder of her magnificent ass filling the binoculars that once upon a time had signified love and trust.
She bent to blow her candles out, and moonlight flooded the room like a light cue from a stage manager in the sky. And as Bethany Byrne threw back the bedspread that probably still carried Gabilan’s scent, as she climbed into a bed that once was theirs, she looked straight out of her window and across the arroyo into Gabilan’s eyes, and he came and came and came as the Eagles sang to the both of them:
And I've been waiting in the weeds,
Waiting for my time to come around again.
And hope is floating on the breeze,
Carrying my soul high up above the ground.
And I've been keeping to myself,
Knowing that the seasons are slowly changing.
Even though you're with somebody else,
He'll never love you like I do.
Next: Dope and Flax Seed
Intruso, a cinematically postmodern love story
- Her voice was shiny
- Timed Writing
- On Location
- In the Beginning was Rock n Roll
- Cell Phone Interruptus
- The Hooch
- Blackbirds at One O'Clock
- Probiotics and the Muse
- Email by Rodney Strong
- Dope and Flax Seed
- Free to a God Home
- Lemonade and Consequences
No More Walks in the Wood, Don Henley, Steuart Smith, John Hollander; Eagles, Long Road Out of Eden, Eagles Recording Company, 2007
Waiting in the Weeds, Don Henley, Steuart Smith; Eagles, Long Road Out of Eden, Eagles Recording Company, 2007.