When one has neither employment nor ambition, days run like molasses. Thursday was market by further preparation. Baxter called yet another Restaurant, plotted a course through Audubon Park and arranged for a selection of post-dinner entertainment. A symphony, perhaps, or a performing theatre piece. Finally all was set, at seven Baxter left a message on Jamie’s machine telling her of his plans and to call him if anything got in the way. She didn’t call back that night, eventually Baxter settled into uneasy sleep by the phone.
The thin strip of pavement (composed of assorted pebbles, sand and tar), which had marked the majority of Baxter’s way now ended abruptly. Replacing it was a dirty type of sand, stretched in an attempt to cover the bare and ever-moist ground underneath. Layered on top of the sand were sun-baked magnolia leaves, interwoven with pine straw, creating a carpet-like ground of unusually low resistance. To the inebriated Baxter this proved a great hindrance, as his sandals slid over and under the foliage, unearthing the ground and digging into the sand just to find a foothold. Frustrated, he kicked them off and placed his numb, soft feet onto the hot pine straw.
Finishing off the last of his ballast, the empty bottle of Skyy slid out of his limp fingers and rolled out of his path, onto the grass, into the bushes. Ironically enough, it was his father’s money that had bought the alcohol, the land and even the pills in his pocket. ‘Lazy money,’ they called it (behind his back of course,) both before and after the high-profile graduation dinners and parties. Baxter was scheduled to graduate from Ole Miss’ College of Business this semester and take over his father’s enterprise. So it was planned. Yet it had happened that Baxter’s father decided not to be incredibly honest on his tax forms, resulting in swift proceedings that practically disowned him through his father’s debts. It took a while for this fact to settle into Baxter’s mind and fully develop, but when it did the realization was devastating. Not only would he have to work for a living and carry new responsibilities, his 2.0 GPA guaranteed that Baxter would never again experience the lifestyle he had grown to accept as standard. In order to support his ever-growing cocaine habit and alcoholism, Baxter sold his guitar (as new,) laptop (slightly used) and finally his stereo. As word of his father’s bankruptcy spread through society, those who Baxter once considered his friends abandoned him. He could no longer afford to go out with them, stopped getting the invitations and finally they avoided his phone calls. Abandoned, he bought a bottle of sleeping pills.
Through the thorny bushes he could see the pair of railroad tracks, his tracks. Behind them was a small clearing, reminding him of a similar plane. In the center of it stood a boy of four, holding his father’s hand. “One time this land will be yours. The trees, the field, the railroad…” …the railroad. At least he wouldn’t wake as a cripple, which had always been his worst nightmare.
The chirping had decreased in volume and the birds in platitude as Baxter neared the train tracks. His stumpy feet pushed his torso into a somewhat stationary position and he checked his watch. Unable to read the numbers anymore, he figured now was as good a time as any. Coarsely, he thrust his soft hand into his pocket and retrieved a dozen or so white pills. Unable to cup his hand and lead it to his lips, they met somewhere in the middle, his numb tongue lapping up the bitter white pills, dropping half of them. It did not take long for the pills to develop their tiring effect, for Baxter to line his spine up with the rail, or for the train to scare away the latent birds at 5:32 that afternoon.
The dream resonated in Baxter’s memory all Friday. In traumatizing detail he saw the tracks, the bushes, knew them
. The day was spent in a trance, Baxter must have taken three showers before he realized his consciousness. He was ready for his date at four PM, having shaved and deodorized everything in sight. While the visions haunted him, Baxter averted his jitters
by focusing on the task at hand. He would get her this time, he told himself, while picking out underwear that matched the rest of his outfit. So much of his reading had focused on this, since he met Jamie he had read mainly books on manners, attempting to catch up with what his heritage had denied him.
Baxter was created out of nothing, built by self-aquired knowledge and the drive for something better. Baxter, it seemed, could accomplish any and everything. Seducing one woman should be no problem, after all he was the American Dream
This time, Baxter was dressed more to the occasion. Instead of the Juvenile Jacket and matching slacks, Baxter wore a pinstripe suit, the first he ever bought. It had cost him well over two-thousand dollars but it was the only thing that made him look the way he felt inside.
Again, they met at the Café du Monde, only that this time Jamie was even more surprised at Baxter’s appearance. Jamie was dressed in a short but gorgeous skirt that revealed the initial part of her shapely lower thigh. The top part played it off as a casual-business type of outfit. The cab took them across town to the old Opera house, where La belle Hélène was being performed. Baxter retrieved the tickets from the left breast of his jacket and placed one in Jamie’s hand, brushing her palm in the process. She smiled.
As the curtains parted, Jamie reached for Baxter’s hand. Since Baxter was familiar with the piece, he was able and glad to explain some of the disregarded elements of the production as well as the prolific style of Offenbach, the writer. Jamie enjoyed this immensely, and paid more attention to Baxter than the stage. The production was mediocre, but Baxter delighted in telling Jamie the intricate story and Jamie relished hearing it from him, so it was all for the better.
During dinner it became obvious that Jamie had taken some Greek mythology classes, allowing her to impress Baxter by pointing out the origins of the piece. Baxter knew little about the subject matter, as he only read the cliff's notes the night before, falling asleep before the criticisms. Jamie got a kick out of this, and before the bill was paid, Baxter had learned more about the maritime myths than he ever wished.
The moon was slightly receding, but still gave off enough light to warrant the walk through Audubon park. While it was not the safest place to be, Baxter felt comfortable enough to go. He was rather tall by nature and knew how to defend himself. That, and if Jamie felt threatened, he sincerely felt that he would be there to protect her.
The night was silent, save for a few passing cars and the whispering leaves. The archaic trees curved through the air, by the walkway, behind the shadows. Without words they strolled through it, her slender arm hooked onto his elbow. Occasionally their glance broke from each other to take in the moon and treetops above. “Your eyes are deep,” uttered Baxter. Jamie smiled. Baxter felt it, the effervescent drone of a woman wanting. Responding, he grabbed the back of her head and kissed her, wrapping the other around her lower back. Hers clawed into his shoulders, demanding. Everything disappeared; there were only Baxter and Jamie, united in the longing kiss. Baxter opened his eyes the same time as she did, pulling away not to distance, but to make room for more. Their eyes now shared a glimmer, the spark had carried from their hearts to the outside. In bliss, they strolled until they found a cab which would take them to Baxter's apartment. There was no pretensial coffee this time. Hand in hand, they stormed through the hallway and dining room, onto the bed in barely enough time to take their jackets and shoes off.
Hands explored skin long wanted, reaching and caressing. Her scent seemed to overpower all things present, animal instincts ruled Baxter. He rubbed up against her, driving her further and further into the pillows. She loved it, he could feel it deep within– therefore he was again surprised at her apparent self-denial. What had started as a moaning of his name was now an almost commanding “Baxter!” She pulled away. “Baxter, don’t get me wrong. I want you in all ways possible, it is just that I want our relationship to be different.” Baxter was silent. “Most guys… most guys just ditch me after one night, never seeing the person within me. At some point you will understand, but for now you just have to trust me.” Finally, Baxter’s brain regained control over his body. Instinctively, he focused on her eyes and grasped her hand: “Jamie – what I have felt for you I have felt for no one else. Give me a chance, I will prove myself different.” Jamie smiled: “I’m glad you understand.” Slowly she rolled over to Baxter and made herself comfortable at his side.
“Is it alright if I sleep here tonight?” She asked timidly – “I already hired an overnight babysitter.”
Baxter gently kissed her on the forehead in response.
Jamie rose with the sun and Baxter rose with Jamie. Sleepily, Baxter took out the Peanut butter and prepared some egg-os and coffee. “You are so cute,” Jamie commented. “You have like five different types of Jelly, Peanut butter and some stuff I have never seen before – what do you call it again?” – “Nutella,” Baxter responded, “it’s good, have some.” Jamie continued: “anyway, you have all this stuff and only egg-os to put it on.” “But I like egg-os,” replied Baxter. “Obviously, that’s why I said you are so cute.” Jamie giggled.
He didn’t know what to think of that, honestly, the most pungent thing on his mind was the meeting with his father later on that night. Jamie finished her breakfast and it was decided that she would call him again the following Tuesday. Licking the last of peanut butter from the corners of her mouth, she finished her coffee and got up. Baxter took her by the hand and led her to the door; she walked in such an angelic manner. Longingly they kissed goodbye, which is one of those things that are generally undervalued. The kiss, at that moment, may not mean so much because there are other things on ones mind, plus the person is there right then, so often it is forgotten soon. The true art of the Kiss Goodbye belongs to whoever can truly treasure it, make it a token held dear until the next encounter. Baxter did not know this and returned to bed. Was he not manly enough? Why was it he who she had to hold as a “special” someone, when he put so much effort into getting with her? And who were those other guys she mentioned?
At the core he was satisfied, tranquilized with what had happened the night before. But something in him was still asking questions. Things are going well, the voice said. She trusts you, at this rate your initial wishes will more than come true. Time to get ready to meet your father.
It was noon, nine hours from the encounter. Baxter knew where the club was, he had never been there – but they were all the same. The high-profile strip club was as high class as strip-clubs can esteem to get - an odd location considering his father, who was the definition of a working man, out of a job. Probably. But, maybe not, he had moved qite a distance, maybe started a new life. He couldn’t have possibly become a worse person. Baxter decided that at first he would listen to what his father had to say – if he had indeed changed, it would become evident and a meaningful meeting could take place.
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