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Austin, TX

It was around 7:00 on Sunday night when I got the text from her. It was cool out. I was standing on 6th Street, along the row of bars, waiting for an AA meeting to start.

In town, if you want to meet, the text read.

I’d been waiting anxiously all week to hear from her, as her plane back to New York City didn’t leave until the next morning. I’d figured she was still around. I just didn’t know where.

Anxiety and regret flooded my body as I thought of her, of us, broken.

Her trip here had initially signified our attempt to salvage the relationship. Instead, it had marked our demise.

I thought back to our argument and petty bickering the week before the trip. I thought about my telling her not to come, that I was done. I thought about my throwing of the pint glass into the courtyard at the restaurant, after our arguing, when she’d first arrived in town.

It all made me sick.

I walked toward the corner of the 6th street and Neuces, holding my phone, past the movie theater, The Alamo Ritz, that used to be a bar, the bar where I’d met my first wife.

I was useless at relationships, I thought as I sat on the ledge of a window in front the Iron Cactus Mexican restaurant.

I looked up at the darkened sky.

I wanted just for once to make it last with someone whom I loved.

Street urchins passed by on the sidewalk selling roses, looking beat and strung out. One of them handed me a rose, smiled and put his hat out.

I thought about her.

She hated flowers.

I put the rose in the cargo pocket of my pants, pulled a dollar out of my wallet and put it in the hat.

I text her back, Yes and no. Terribly conflicted. What do you want? I can’t handle anymore drama. Believe it or not, I’m hurt, sad, fragile. Not sure what I can handle.

I waited in silence, watching the cars pass, and the few people that were out.

Tired and off-key blues drifted out of one of the clubs.

That’s how I felt, I thought – tired and off-key blue.

Not angry anymore, she text back a few minutes later. Having pizza at Home Slice and got a room at the Austin Motel. Leaving early tomorrow.

My car was parked next to the Austin Motel. I took it as a sign.

I’d met a friend, earlier, at the coffee shop across the street from the motel, and we’d come to the meeting together in his truck.

OK, I text. Be there after meeting.

Room 123.

K.

I’d always wanted to stay at the Austin Motel, but never done it.

I was hoping that tonight I would.

It was a standard roadside motel on South Congress, across from the famous Continental Club. Over the years the Austin Motel had become a symbol for Old South Austin Weird. When it had been built it was on the outskirts of town, and had been frequented by traveling country music acts playing the Continental Club and The Broken Spoke further down on South Congress. Now South Congress was hip and trendy and called SOCO. Now the motel was in the epicenter of new growth, a relic amidst the shiny new Austin.

After the meeting I had my friend drop me off, a flood of mixed emotion circulating through me like a storm.

I looked up at the night sky, the stars seeming to keep the blackness from falling.

I knocked on the door of room 123 and looked around.

An old rusted car sat across the way, next to an old gas pump, in a bed of rocks.

Come in, I heard her say.

I tried the knob.

The door was open.

Exhilaration at seeing her rushed through me.

I walked in.

She was standing there in the dim light of a lamp, smiling, looking tired but content, her hair a mess.

The room was simple, like any privately owned roadside motel you might find out in the sticks. It suited her well, as underneath her sometimes sheik and sophisticated New York postures she was simple and unadorned. And I loved her for the way she seamlessly combined the two worlds.

She walked over to the light blue couch and climbed under a heavy blanket.

The TV was on.

Hello, she said cheerily, and any apprehension that I felt melted away.

Where have you been baby? I asked as I walked over to the couch.

I went to Marfa… It was beautiful.

Oh, you little shit, I said as I sat down, moving the edge of the blanket out of the way. I can’t believe you went without me. You know I’ve wanted to go there -

Yeah, well… Oh well…

I tried to grab her feet under the blanket.

She pulled her legs into her chest reflexively, as though scared of me.

I won’t bite… Let me rub your feet booboo, I said, using our term of endearment to one other. I’m not going to hurt you anymore. I promise.

Pffff…. she sighed, then resignedly rested her legs on my lap.

We sat for a moment in comfortable silence and I rubbed her feet and thought of something to say to be able to clear the slate, to make everything OK, to go back to the beginning, when there was nothing but love.

I was at a loss.

Emptiness.

Do you want some tea? she asked.

Yes.

Anything to spend more time with you, I thought.

She smiled at me faintly, seemingly sensing my thought.

I want desert too, she said.

It was just like at home together, when we were at peace with one another, when our needs were simple and easy, when we were simply satisfied with the company of the other, and nothing else mattered.

I didn’t want it to end, and I ached, as I knew it soon would.

Do you want to go out, or order room service? she asked.

Room service… I love room service.

She stood, pulling her feet away, throwing the blanket on the floor, and got up looking for the menu.

I can’t find it anywhere.

I changed the channel then got up to help her.

I walked over to where she was, at the dresser near the door.

Here it is, on the door knob.

You’re silly booboo.

Pffff…. she sighed, at the liberty I was taking with our term of endearment.

It was my way of saying I didn’t want it to be over.

She knew it, and wasn’t playing along.

I picked up the phone and called room service as she watched me wearily.

I ordered tea and desserts then sat back on the couch and searched for her feet under the blanket.

As I rubbed her feet she told me about her road trip to Marfa, Alpine, and Terlingua, the television filling the room with background noise.

She told me about the artist Donald Judd’s Foundation in Marfa, the bookstore in town where she’d bought the French philosopher, Roland Barthe’s Mourning Diary, the Chinati hot springs, Presidio, near the border, and the 290 loop through Big Bend National Park.

I was angry with myself that I hadn’t made the trip with her.

She pulled the blanket back, and her legs away, then got up and dug through her bag, showing me the book, then some stationary from the Thunderbird motel in Marfa that had captured her attention.

A sadness welled up in me.

I loved hearing her talk about things she was interested in.

I didn’t want her to stop.

I didn’t want her to go.

I wanted love to prevail.

I didn’t want her to leave me.

She sat back down on the couch, stopped talking, looked me in the eyes, then said: Can I kiss you.

Of course.

I leaned into her, kissing her gently on the lips.

Sweet deranged, sensuous pleasure.

Her smell.

Her taste.

Her love.

Sublime.

I put my hand to her face and felt a warm tear on her cheek.

I pulled away, looked at her, and stroked the tear away with my thumb.

It’s okay baby.

Don’t do this to another woman, Corey.

I love you.

I know.

I didn’t mean to hurt you.

I know.

I held her face in my hands and kissed her again.

Eternity.

Don’t let it end.

There was a knock on the door.

Room service.

I pulled away from her, stood up and went to the door.

I signed for the food and turned off the lamp on the dresser.

We ate, apple pie and chocolate mousse, watching the show, stealing glimpses of each other.

After we finished the desserts we sat in the quiet, sipping on the tea.

The show continued on in the background.

There was nothing left but her, drifting away.

Can we lay down on the bed, I said.

She looked at me.

OK.

We put the tea down.

She grabbed the blanket and we climbed onto the bed, pulling the blanket over us for warmth.

This reminds me of your apartment, she said, when I first came to visit you.

It’s about the same size, isn’t it?

Yes.

2 years, gone, left with the shattered shards of love, I thought.

Bookends, I said.

What do you mean?

To our relationship, us laying together in Austin. It’s nice I think.

I looked her into her eyes.

Can we have sex?

OK.

I turned off the TV, rolled over and kissed her.

Let’s take our clothes off, she said, and I kissed her again…

Afterward I lay in bed staring up at the ceiling as she dozed off on my arm.

I went back in my mind to all the places in our relationship where I could have done something different – been more understanding, more forgiving, less rash. I hated life for being so unforgiving and cruel.

Life did this to me, I thought.

Made me what I am.

Mutated me beyond love.

Fuck life.

Fuck this.

Fuck love.

If I did this, it is because of what life has done to me.

I rolled over and held her, full of hurt, for hours, until I finally faded off into darkness and sleep.

In the morning I awoke an hour before we were supposed to get up and watched her in the stillness of her sleep and the dawn until she finally stirred.

Faint light fell through the window above the bed.

Do you want coffee? I asked her as she rolled over, looking at me.

Yes please.

I put my clothes on and walked to the coffee shop next door, where I ‘d first worked when I moved to Austin 12 years ago, trying to build a life for myself after years of flailing through the States and Europe, running from myself and my confusion.

It was gray out, gray and threatening like my thoughts.

As I crossed the street I thought back to all those years ago when I’d first arrived in town, how I never would have pictured this, being so close to having a life with someone – a beautiful French girl whom I loved, adored, but was losing because of all that had happened to me, that I have yet to put to rest. A beautiful French girl laying in bed at the Austin Motel, waiting for me to return to say goodbye to her for good because I could not grow up, could not become a man and be the partner that she needed.

If I would have known the hurt that I would feel I would have run, run from it all.

My heart ached, as I couldn’t think of living another twelve years without her.

I got the coffees and croissants and returned, old sadness following me like a shadow, across the street, across my life.

Thank you baby, she said, sitting up as I walked through the door.

Your welcome.

I handed her hers, then sat on the couch, turning on the TV and flipping through the channels, watching her sit in bed, drinking her coffee with the sheet draped over her chest, just like she used to do in our bedroom in Brooklyn.

You should get going baby, I said.

I know.

I wish I could take you to the airport.

Why don’t you just come and say goodbye.

I could… OK.

She put on her clothes and went outside to smoke.

Corey! Come out here, she said a moment later.

I walked out on the small stoop.

Is this a roadrunner?

She pointed to the blue and red metal sculpture on top of the gas pump next to the rusted out car in rock courtyard across the way.

Yes, baby.

I saw these running across the road on my drive. They’re so funny.

I smiled at her, my body aching to hold her.

They are funny, like you.

I sat down next to her, my insides churning, searching for a way, a way to make it all okay.

It was too late.

And I sat, taking her in for the last time, memorizing the curves of her face.

We need to go, I said.

Ohhh…

She put out her cigarette, got up, went in and packed, and we left.

Just follow me, I said as we walked out the door.

We wound our way through the empty streets under the cloudy skies.

At the airport she followed the lane to the rental car return and I pulled around to short-term parking.

I parked and walked up the stairs of the parking garage to the top level where the rental car return was, looking for her.

I didn’t see her anywhere and called her phone.

She didn’t pick up, and I went looking for her.

I saw her standing in line at curbside check-in across the way.

As I approached I saw her look up, smiling slightly.

As I got closer I saw that her face was red, her eyes shiny and wet.

She was crying.

My heart sank.

I felt like I was going to crumble.

I didn’t want her to go.

I didn’t want it to be over.

I wanted her to forgive me for being the flawed, insecure and unsure, unstable and incapable lover that I was. Unable to love her the way that she needed to be loved. I wanted her to forgive me for being a fuck-up and a mess. I wanted her to say that she couldn’t live without and me, and that we’d work it out. But I was too damaged, and too much damage had been done.

Our love was unraveling in front of me. And I was completely helpless, watching someone who I cherished more than anyone in the world get on a plane and disappear.

I wanted things to go back to when I’d first met her, when we were madly in love, and we hadn’t yet hurt each other so much.

I wanted love to heal all wounds, to conquer.

I thought you left without saying goodbye, she said as I approached her.

I hugged her, and held her in my arms, her head against my chest as the others in line looked on under the gray gray sky shrouding us like sadness itself.

I held her and I wouldn’t let her go.

I love you, I said as she wiped her tears away.

I know.

The skycap called out, breaking the trance.

I pulled her bag over to the counter as she reached into her purse.

She stood, looking solemn as the skycap asked her where she was going.

New York City.

I wasn’t sure what to do anymore.

I couldn’t let go.

Maybe I could come to Las Vegas with you, for your job over Christmas and New Years? I asked her.

She looked up at me as she handed the skycap her ticket and ID, and I put her bag on the scale.

Let’s not make any plans.

I looked away, pleading words of sorrow locked in my throat.

OK, I said resolutely, looking away, biting my lower lip, bracing myself for what was to come.

Her bags were checked and she looked at her watch.

I still have a few minutes. I need to smoke.

We sat on bench near the sliding glass doors.

It’s for the best, Corey. This is for the best.

Then it’s over?

Yes.

I looked up at the sky that looked like it was going to rain.

I was numb.

I had no more words.

It was over.

She put out her cigarette, and I walked her through the doors.

You look like a two year old who’s pouting, she said smiling, leaning into me for one last kiss.

I kissed her, then pulled away, still holding her in my arms.

I looked into the deep blue pools of her eyes, feeling like I was going to cry.

I love you, I said.

I love you too Corey… Goodbye.

Goodbye, I said, and turned, before I lost my courage, and walked away into the gray.

Austin, TX

Super happy young Hispanic guy behind the big red counter.

How are you doing? How was Thanksgiving? he asks

Shitty, I think. My ex-girlfriend is somewhere traveling around the state, stalking my thoughts and my dreams at night. I think she might be a witch.

Great, I say.

Oh, that’s great!

Shitty, I think.

Smells like wet towels.

An old man with a cane ambles his way down the stairs to the locker room, moaning with every swing of his left hip.

That will be me one day, I think.

I pass him to show off my all my working parts.

I feel like a panther.

Large, older naked men dot the locker room, rubbing themselves with towels.

A frail old man stares at his balls.

A young naked overweight Hispanic kid weighs himself on the scale, his ass cheeks jiggling.

A naked middle aged queer stares at me like a steak.

I find a place in the corner and lock my bag away, thinking of her. We should be together right now. Instead I’m here. I still love her. I know she still loves me. We are tragically fucked. This sucks.

I walk through a large empty room used for aerobics, surrounded by mirrors.

I flex, looking at my reflection as I pass through room.

Adonis, I think. She’s missing out. Not me. She never works out.

I walk through a spinning room. 30 stationary bikes sit motionless. I walk over and kick one.

You should be riding me around you useless piece of machinery, I think. You couldn’t carry the weight of my thoughts.

I look in the mirror.

I look like a sexual stallion. A vicious love tiger.

Her loss, not mine, I think. And if I ever see her again I’ll pounce her like a wild wildebeest!

I walk into the free weight room.

A large older man with coaches short shorts, an old t-shirt and a weight belt stands, staring proud in the mirror at his puffed up arms and chest and big white legs.

A nerdy looking guy with glasses and spindly arms and legs stands staring endlessly at the impossibility of a bench press bar with 45 pound weights on it.

An old man ambles by, drooling on himself.

I’ll be like him one day, I think.

I walk over and kick a 45 lb. weight laying on the ground.

I walk upstairs to the machine weight room.

An old black man sits at one of the machines staring off into space.

An old lady sits working her legs with the lightest weight possible.

I’ll be like them one day, I think. What’s the fucking point?

I walk over kick one of the machines.

I walk into the room with treadmills, stairclimbers, rowing machines and exercise bikes.

A small Jewish looking older lady with a green t-shirt that dwarfs her tiny frame rides one of the gliding machines like the wicked witch from the east. She looks like she’s trying to dissolve herself into a puddle of sweat.

College football shows from the flatscreens mounted around the room.

A middle aged man wearing headphones and riding a stationary bike with no hands laughs loudly to himself.

An old man ambles by drooling on himself.

I walk over to a rowing machine, sit down, strap my feet in and begin to row. After a minute or two I get bored, get up and kick it, thinking, One day I’m gonna be old and immobile too. What’s the point of anything?

I go back down to the locker room and change into my swimsuit.

I walk past the showers.

A young kid tells his dad that he just farted.

Good, his dad says, unenthusiastically.

Hair dots the floor of the steam room. It’s hard to tell if it’s pubic or leg.

A young gay man with tattoos looks at me like he wants to talk.

I put my head down and think of her wandering around Texas pissed off at me. I still love her. I can’t stop. We don’t get along. We can’t communicate rationally. We hurt each other unnecessarily. Love. I hate Love, I think. But I still love her. What’s the point? She must be a witch.

I get up and go to the whirlpool.

An older German man sits across from a young couple telling him of his profound wealth.

I made 15 million dollars last year, he says. I manage an investment firm. A woman whose husband was a billionaire died. She give me all the money to invest. I made three people millionaires last year. One guy, a homeless guy, I tell him how I can make him rich. He don’t care. Oh well. I take what I want in life. Boats, cars, women…

I look over at the young woman across from me and raise my eyebrows at her. She smiles.

The young man says he manages an investment firm too.

Neither of the men look at me.

They don’t want to make me rich.

I think they’re both full of shit.

I get up and go back down to the locker rooms where I shower, thinking of her. Maybe if I were rich, I would be more confident, and less dependent on a woman’s love for validation. But maybe then I wouldn’t want her, as I could take whatever woman I wanted. An older gay man watches me shower. I don’t care, I think. Look at my ass. What’s the point anyway?

An old man ambles by, drooling on himself.

I think of her wandering around Texas pissed off at me. Jesus, I really Love that cute little French bitch, I think. She must be a witch.

Austin, TX

It was dark out and cool, no clouds in the sky. The near full, blue moon was rising from the horizon.

I drove to the coffee shop thinking of her. The plane that she was supposed to be on would be arriving any minute from New York City.

I’d broken things off with her the week before, not knowing the ticket was non-refundable, non-transferable. She’d said she’d deal, then not to contact her anymore. And I’d figured she wasn’t coming.

I thought of of going to the airport, instead of meeting Jack, sitting above the luggage carousels, and watching for her, by chance she came.

But what’s the point anyway? I thought as I turned off S. Congress toward the coffee shop, It’s wrecked. There’s nothing left to salvage.

I zipped up my jacket against the cool air, sitting outside at the coffee shop, not far from where I’d once lived. A strip club was next door. The strip club had been there long before the coffee shop. It was an area that was once a dead zone where a strip club wouldn’t draw much attention. Now the strip club was surrounded by new Austin growth – trendy condos across the way, a bar and restaurant next door. The coffee shop used to be in the warehouse district downtown, but was forced to move to this far south reach of town as rents had risen. It was replaced by a hipper shinier version of itself.

People smoked and talked on the veranda that looked out over South Austin, sipping on beer and coffee.

I sat there thinking of all the money I’d blown with my friend in the strip club in the past. They knew us so well there that the dj would sometimes call out my friends name (a tattoo artist who’d tattooed some of the girls) when we walked in.

Someone started playing a guitar in the background on the veranda. This place attracted the guitar-playing-hippie-types from the community, not the slick customer that the new Austin was trying to attract. These were the people keeping Austin Weird despite the yuppiefication of the town that was happening all around.

It was a perfect night out.

A perfect night for sitting and thinking, or guitar playing to the stars hanging delicately in the velevty sky.

I thought about New York, the intensity of the streets and the crush of people, Austin feeling small in comparison, an imitation of a life I’d been living not too long ago.

A couple of people started singing along with the guitar, sounding off-key, but alive and happy. And I envied their naivete and stoned sense of ease with themselves.

Waiting for Jack to come, reading Henry Miller’s Tropic of Capricorn – Whoever, through too great love, which is monstrous after all, dies of his misery, is born again to know neither love nor hate, but to enjoy.

I was ready to die of the misery, ready to be born again, to live and enjoy.

Jack is from New York City and reminds me, with every ounce of being, of the city. He was in underground bands in the 90’s, traveled Europe with them. He’d moved in the same social circle as Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, played with them. He looks like a bad seed. He vibes the city.

He walked over from his Music Cares meeting (a local support group for musicians that provides health care, among other things) that was around the corner, wearing his Chinese school uniform jacket and faded black cowboy boots, his salt and pepper hair unruly atop his head. He doesn’t have a car and had taken the bus across town to the meeting, with the hope that I might pick him up afterward.

We hugged, kissing on the cheek (a leftover social habit of his from New York City, that I admire, especially in Texas, for it’s unrepentant affection, and perceived homosexual undertones) then went inside to get coffee.

I’m glad you came to meet me, he said as we walked in. I can’t stand that fucking bus. If I decide to kill myself, I’ll blow myself up on the bus. I hate that thing. The public transportation here is horrible. It makes me suicidal. I’d tell everyone to get off the bus first, then blow myself and it up. My final statement.

I smiled, picturing the scene.

We got our coffees and went back outside.

I told him I was missing New York again. He would understand, I thought.

How did you adjust to the quiet when you moved here, Jack?

It took me a while… Are you still struggling with it?

Yeah, I’m missing the intensity. New York City makes everything seem more important. Makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger, that something is really happening, that your life is really important.

New York is like a great backdrop of a movie that can make bad acting seem good, he said. Austin is like a cheap backdrop in comparison where bad acting stands out. My acting was poor when I first moved here. It’s gotten better. My life is fuller. I’m happier with my life now. I wasn’t happy when I first moved here. You’re acting is simply bad right now. You need to work on that, expand into the space.

I put a leather bracelet on the table between us that I’d gotten earlier at a clothing store along the strip of shops, restaurants and bars along South Congress – now trendily called SOCO. Before I could ask him to help me tie it on he snatched it up believing that I’d bought it for him as a gift of reconciliation for my losing my cool a few weeks earlier and telling him to go and fuck himself, then walking out of the coffee shop where we’d been sitting.

He looked pleased, touched by the gesture, and I let him believe that I’d gotten it for him. It made me feel good, realizing that it’d found it’s purpose.

I’d gone to the store looking to buy something in order to distract myself from the regret, remorse and sadness that was nagging at me at the thought of the plane arriving without her on it, distract myself from the longing for things to be different.

I’d found a necklace, a St. Christopher medallion with a picture of the saint and, protect us, inscribed on the front. An incongruous image, in silver, of a surfer on the back. I liked the juxtaposition.

After leaving High School, becoming a surfer had been my dream, a dream that had gotten crushed against the rocks of reality and the strange twists of loathing, insecurity and suicide that had crept their way into my life, leaving that dream abandoned.

I grabbed the necklace, reaching back to my former self, reminding myself that I could still dream, that I wasn’t done with this life yet. The bracelet I grabbed last second from a small gold bowl on the counter next to the cash register.

Jack tried to tie the bracelet on and smiled.

Whatayou think?

It looks good. It looks masculine.

What are you saying?

I smiled.

Let me tie it.

How are you doing otherwise, he asked, as I tied the bracelet.

I’m feeling good. Now that things are over with her, I feel I can move forward. I feel freed from the indecision that’s been plaguing me.

You look better. You look healthy again. You looked like a mess when you got back from New York. You look clear eyed now. It’s for the best that things are over between the two of you… Let’s take your mind off of it. Let’s go and see a movie, then go to a meeting.

We talked a minute more as Jack smoked his cigarette and I chewed on my Nicorette gum, then we walked to the truck.

Pulling out of the parking lot, Jack asked, Do you want to go to the strip club instead of a movie? I’ve only been once. I’d like to go again. Half-naked girls would take your mind off of her.

Sure.

The idea of half-naked girls seemed vaguely soothing.

I haven’t been in years. I just need to grab some money. There’s a bank nearby. They charge like $6 at the ATM at the strip club. I’ve wasted hundreds of dollars using that fucking ATM.

I need to grab some cigarettes first though. Can you stop somewhere?

I drove to the drive through liquor store across the street from the strip club, on the other side of the busy S. Congress.

He marveled at the ingenuity of drive through liquor and smokes.

Then we drove to the bank.

Just as I pulled up to the ATM outside the bank I got a text from her: I’m here. Do you want to meet?

Jesus, I said. She came. She’s here. She wants to meet.

It’s a sign. It’s not finished. Take me home. Call me if you need to.

Meet at Perlas? the next text said.

It’s where we’d gone last year when I’d brought her home for Thanksgiving to meet the family.

Yes, I text.

I took Jack home, butterflies rising in my stomach, unsure of what to expect, hopeful despite myself.

I sat waiting on the deck of Perlas, the multicolored skyline of Austin rising in the distance. I pulled the collar of my jacket up around my neck for warmth and security, feeling uneasy at the prospect of seeing her face to face. I wasn’t sure what to expect – the gentle caring of her leaning her head into my shoulder, or the stone faced glare of her rejection and hurt.

She arrived looking sullen and possessed by sadness, her eyes grieving, her long brown hair falling loosely around her shoulders

I stood to embrace her, but she backed away, and I knew that I shouldn’t have come.

I knew then that she’d come for blood and nothing more.

I tensed up, pulling a chair out for her, next to me. She declined and sat across the table, then moved to my other side away from the next table in order to smoke.

I can’t believe you’re here. How are you?

She looked at me incredulous, then said, It was ugly what you did to me, what you’ve done to me. Treating me like a yo-yo, telling me you love me, that you want to marry me one day, then breaking up with me by text the next. Going back and forth, over and over again. It’s awful… It’s been an awful week. I haven’t spoken to anyone.

She lit up a hand-rolled cigarette.

I’m sorry. It’s been difficult. I apologize if I hurt you. It wasn’t my intention. I haven’t been myself. Let’s just go to the coast like we’d planned. Forget about it all.

No. I’m not doing that. No one thinks I should get back with you. I don’t think I should. I’m done.

The blond tattooed waitress came, sensing the tension, glancing back and forth at us.

I ordered a dozen oysters and two non-alcoholic beers.

She looked at me as though I’d taken a great liberty that would have passed for kindness before.

It was all wrong, and the waitress left.

You treated me like a piece of meat, she said.

I was trying to protect myself. That’s all. I felt you were dumping your shit on me. I don’t need it. It was all making me crazy. The worry. The thinking of you. The uncertainty. I felt I couldn’t move forward with my life.

You’re sick. That’s all.

I did the best I could. What did you come here for? What do you want from me?

The oysters and the beers came and we started to eat, to distract us from the mounting unease.

We sat in uncomfortable silence a minute.

We poured our beers into the pint glasses, and we each took a sip.

I don’t know why I came, she said, putting her beer down. I had the ticket. It couldn’t be exchanged. It’s Thanksgiving. I couldn’t stay in New York… You let me down when I needed you. It was an awful week. You’re so selfish, self-centered. It’s all about you.

You’re one to talk… And you brought it all on yourself. Your working yourself to insanity. Your drinking. Lashing out at me for not responding to you the way you wanted me too after you called drunkenly rambling, unnecessarily worrying me with your dramatic talk of you needing to tell me something, then hanging up. It was crazy. Then the fighting the next day because I misinterpreted what you were trying to tell me. It’s all miscommunication. That fucking text you sent me saying, whatever, when I asked if you were okay-

That wasn’t directed at you. I meant it about work-

It’s all just bullshit. It’s petty. And I’m not responsible for it all. I don’t need it. I don’t need your bullshit, and the petty squabbling. I don’t fucking need it.

You can’t handle anything. You’re like a child. There’s nothing mature or stable about you.

I felt my anger rise.

I’ve tried to be good to you, I said in disgust. I’m sorry if I let you down. I never wanted this.

YOU left. YOU ran, Corey. YOU are the one who can’t handle things. YOU did this.

I looked at my beer, feeling defeated.

Cars passed idly on South Congress in the background. People at the surrounding tables talked, a few heads turned toward us. We were on the verge of making a scene.

Is this what you came here for? To berate me. I don’t need this shit! I left New York a mess, because YOU couldn’t treat me with decency. I left because I had nowhere else to go, because I was coming undone. I’ll leave now! I did the fucking best that I could! It wasn’t working out. What the fuck do you want from me?

I drank down some of my beer, looking off into space.

I could feel the looks from the other patrons on the deck. We were too raw to be meeting face to face. It was a bad idea. She could have done this via email, over the phone, from New York, from a safe distance, I thought. This was unnecessary. It was getting ugly. I regretted having come. It was a mistake. She was venomous, full of poison.

She wanted to me to feel her pain.

She wanted me to break.

All you could think of was that I’d cheated on you when I was having trouble last week. That’s all you give a shit about. You don’t give a shit about me, what I was going through.

That’s not true. I just don’t need the petty bullshit. You think any of this has been easy on me? And that’s the way the phone call you made sounded. Do you even remember? You were so fucking wasted. Ask any guy what he’d think had happened with what you were saying, I need to tell you something… I need it to be okay… I made a pact with God that if I tell the truth it will be okay… and it sounds like you fucking slept with someone! It’s just fucking bullshit.

You’re so fucking insecure! So insecure. Our entire relationship all you could think of was who I was sleeping with. You’re like a child, fixated. It’s ridiculous.

I’d heard enough. I’d had enough.

I don’t care anymore! We’re done! You can fuck whoever you want to now! You can fuck the entire Jets football team for all I care.

She laughed.

You’re pitiful… A child… All you care about is who I fuck… You’re ridiculous…

I stood up.

The anger rose, boiling over.

I wanted it to end.

I wanted to break the fucking trance of pain, set myself free, finally, from unhealthy grip of the toxic relationship.

I wanted to break it all.

I picked up my pint glass without thinking and hurled it into the nearby courtyard.

It shattered, along with the relationship, breaking us for good.

I couldn’t see or hear anything.

But I could feel the trance break with my action.

And I walked away for good, without looking back, allowing myself to be born again.

Austin, TX

You don’t know what you do to me.

I woke up late. The house was empty and still.

I put the coffee on.

I let the dog out back.

Something missing.

You don’t know what you do to me.

I took coffee and a cigarette outside.

Hawks circled the big blue sky as I sat thinking by the pool. The palm fronds swayed. The wind chimes rang.

Something missing.

You don’t know what you do to me.

The cigarette locked my thoughts in rememberance. I put it out, feeling sad, and sipped on the coffee, my head feeling heavy.

Something missing.

You don’t know what you do to me.

The breeze wandered aimlessly, scattering my thoughts.

New York.

Work.

Love.

You.

You don’t know what you do to me.

Start over.

Move on.

Let it all go.

Something missing.

You don’t know what you do to me.

Winding out of the hills. A snake run over in the road. A tarantula passed slowly. The sun’s rays pierced brilliantly through the gathering clouds. Rain dotted the windshield.

Something missing.

You don’t know what you do to me.

Sitting in the parking lot of the Y checking my text messages.

Nothing.

Gone.

Really gone this time.

This time we broke it for good, you and me.

We weren’t worthy of love, you and me.

I put the phone down, got out and walked through the empty parking lot as the sun started to go down.

Something missing.

You don’t know what you do to me.

My best wasn’t good enough.

My love wasn’t strong enough to hold on.

I wasn’t enough to make you happy, make you okay, make you whole.

Gone.

Missing.

You don’t know what you do to me.

Families gathered on the edge of the softball field across the street. Lights on. Girls playing on the field.

Something missing.

You don’t know what you do to me.

In the steam room until the sweat poured down. The hurt burned away. The steam passed for tears, tears for steam.

Something missing.

At work, watching the people drinking, dancing, laughing with impunity. Oblivious to you and me.

We meant nothing.

They were high and smiling.

We mean nothing.

I wanted their ease of being. I wanted the illusion they offered of being free.

Something missing.

And I want the longing to leave.

You don’t know what you do to me…

Austin, TX

I woke up today feeling free from the twisted chains of relationship and self doubt that I’d been tangled up in for way too long. I felt strangely alive, nervous, revved up, excited and apprehensive all at the same time. I felt like a brand new man. A kid at Christmas.

It seemed like my tides of fortune had changed.

I went into the kitchen for some coffee and checked my horoscope in the back of the paper. It was portentous, and read: Your old self is the fuel you will use to burn your old self to the ground. This bonfire will liberate your new self, which has been trapped in a gnarly snarl deep inside your old self. It’s only at first that you’ll feel freaked out by the flames. Very quickly a sense of relief and release will predominate. Then, as the new you makes its way to freedom, escaping its cramped quarters and flexing its vital force, you will be blessed with a foreshadowing of your future. The intoxication that follows will bring you clarity and peace of mind.

That’s good… That’s fucking great! I thought as sipped my coffee, thinking of the errands that I had to run. All things considered, I thought to myself staring out the window at the bright shiny day – breakup, sadness and the occasional crying – I was pretty OK.

I dressed, looking into the mirror thinking, Jesus you’re a handsome man! And goddamnit people like you! Now go out there show the world who’s the fucking boss!

I hopped into the truck and wound my way out of the hills from my parents, stuck behind a little old woman in a Mercedes Benz who crept along at a snails pace.

Jesus Christ! Are you stupid? You old fucking bat! I’ll run your old ass off the road! I yelled.

I rode her ass hard, then passed her, honking on a blind curve with my finger in the air.

I saw her eyes light up.

I was back!

Jesus, it felt good to be alive again.

The past and the pain were burning in a raging bonfire behind me. I could see them screaming in the rear view mirror, calling out for me.

I flipped them the double bird and went straight to Starbucks to get jacked for the day.

Grande caffeine! I yelled into the speaker at the drive thru. I want to get tweeked! I have errands to fucking run and a goddamned life to rebuild. I need fucking caffeine! Hurry!

I think I scared the poor little pale wormy guy as he didn’t even make me pay.

Jesus it felt good to have my vitality back. I was on the verge of getting a boner! Nothing like drinking coffee, I thought, driving and running errands with a raging boner to let the world know who’s the fucking boss!

Get the fuck outta my way you morons! I yelled as barrelled through traffic. I’m alive again you fucking bastards! And I’m coming for you with a raging hard on!

I stuck my head out the window for greater effect. Fuck you life! I screamed at 70 miles an hour with the wind whipping my face, sipping my grande coffee.

I felt high.

I yelled louder: I can see clearly now, life, you retarded sonofabitch! I can see you clearly licking my balls! IT IS WRITTEN IN THE FUTURE!

And the day parted for me like the red sea, bowing to my new found vitality and joi de vie.

Austin, Tx

It was late.

I drove through the nearly empty streets, thinking of her.

She’d asked me not to contact her anymore.  Please, the text had read, I beg you. It’s torture.

Torture.

My thoughts raced. My head hurt. My stomach ached. There was a foul taste of disgusting remorse in the back my mouth.

I loved her, love her.

How could it come to this?

Torture.

I drove through the streets tortured, wondering how love could turn to begging to freed.

I wound my way out of the west hills toward Zilker Park, the sparkling skyline of Austin in the distance, approaching the neon, string lit restaurants along Barton Springs Rd., picturing her sitting next to me in the truck, trying to explain myself. It was all a mistake, twisted words through text, misinterpretations, misunderstandings – Love twisted beyond recognition. I saw her look of disgust and exhaustion. You’re crazy, she said to me, one minute you want to marry me, the next you don’t want to see me.

She was fed up with me, fed up with the indecision, the mood swings of affection, the shiftless state of my love and my attention.

My thoughts raced, trying to find a solution, a different conclusion.

There was none.

Don’t contact me anymore, she’d text.

Final.

End.

No going back.

The hurt had been inflicted.

The truck glided along the dark streets, downtown, 6th St. and the bars looming.

I felt sick.

I wanted to end it all. End the hurt, the longing, the regret.

I needed something to stop the pain.

Alcohol… Vicodin… Zanex…

Anything…

The truck eased along with my mind fighting the wheel – bar, alcohol, drink… release…

I fought with myself along Barton Springs, searching for safety.

I pulled into the coffee shop, Flipnotics.

Caffeine and nicotine were all that I was left with.

I sat on the white string lit deck ensconced by the green trees smoking and drinking coffee trying in vain to bury the pain, sitting alone in the spot where we’d sat together less than two months before, leaning into one another, smiling, laughing, at simple ease, finding comfort in each others presence – love.

I sat alone thinking, yearning for relief, wishing things were different.

How did love come to this?

I sat alone longing for her company, searching the night time sky for peace, sipping on coffee, smoking a cigarette, locked in the hurt and regret, finding nothing but the empty stillness of the sadness welling up in me, a tidal wave of emotion searching for release.

How does love come to this?

How did love come to this?


Austin, TX

I saw her as she walked past me through the crowd, G, a girl who I’d briefly had a thing with a couple of years ago, before I moved to Brooklyn.

I was working security for a Wolf Parade show at La Zona Rosa, a venue that holds about a 1,000 people. The place was semi-dark and packed. The opening band, Ogre You Asshole, from Japan had just finished. They sounded to me like a 12 year old boy crying to background music – for a fucking hour.

A few of the house lights were up between the sets. People talked casually and drank in groups.

She darted past me. I only saw the side of her face, but I registered who it was immediately. I’d been thinking some about her since I got back, wondering what she was up to.

I chased after her through the crowd, touching her on the arm from behind.

She turned, Oh, I was hoping you didn’t see me, she said.

This is the sentiment I seem to produce with women I’m intimate with after we’ve split up, as I seem to be bad at break-ups. I don’t know how to do them. So I seem to do them cruelly, or harshly. But in my experience, women never seem to want to break-up unless it’s their idea. So they make it difficult. More difficult than necessary. And I find that I have to press the issue roughly. Or I’ll give in and waiver and drag it out longer than I should, then get fed up, get weird, act erratic, then do something hurtful and stupid (like I’d just done with M – I had just sent her a text in Brooklyn not 30 minutes before telling her that I thought it was best that she didn’t come for Thanksgiving as planned, because it had dragged out to long…).  And consequently I leave a bad, slightly crazy taste in women’s mouths, as was happening with M as me and G were standing there – me driving a woman away with anger, confusion and hatred in her eyes.

This is serious, M had text back. If you do this I will be out for good.

I get it, I text back. I can’t do it anymore. I mean that.

Turned out the plane ticket was non-refundable and non-transferable.

I pictured M stomping through her railcar apartment in Brooklyn cursing me under her breath as I talked to G.

Don’t be mad at me, I said to G, as I was thinking about M, furious at me a thousand miles away in the Big City.

I’m not mad anymore, she smirked.

With time it all passes, I thought, except perhaps with my first wife, as she really seemed to hate me and hasn’t tried at all to contact me in 8 years since we divorced, unlike my second wife who called a year later, drunk, crying and apologizing for cheating on me.

G looked good, just as I remembered her, short and curvy, with a button nose and brown shoulder length hair. She had on jeans and boots, a jacket and a scarf. But it was her teeth that had always set me off, something about her slightly crooked teeth, the imperfection of them, and her slightly blemished skin, that endeared her to me – flawed beauty. And as we talked I remembered why I’d fallen for her. She was smart, sassy and irreverent – an unbeatable combination in a woman. Plus she was a poet. She was an indomitable little force to be reckoned with with her words, and I’d felt their power directed at me. And for a moment I wished I hadn’t of fucked it up with her. Then I thought of M and what I could text her to make it all okay.

Just come baby, was all I could think of.

This place sucks, G said.

You think so too? I thought it was just me, because I’m bitter and I’m working.

No, it sucks. It’s creepy in here.

That’s good to hear, I said. I don’t even know why people go out to shows. You’re just crammed in with a bunch of stinky fucking people standing around for 3 or 4 hours on unforgiving concrete watching something that should have ended after 3 songs.

That’s all I can take of any band anymore after years of working shows – 3 songs. After that it just feels to me like jerking off after you’ve already come.

I just got here. What did I miss, she wanted to know.

Nothing, just a twelve year old boy crying for about an hour, set to music.

She smiled.

We talked for a minute about writing and she recommended a book to me, then, Well, It was sort of good seeing you, she said. I’m going to go now.

She gave me five, then punched my fist.

She’s a tough chick. That’s how I like to say goodbye to girls.

But most chicks just don’t get it.

And why can’t breaking up be that fucking easy?

After 3 songs from Wolf Parade I turned to see G leaving the venue.

She’s a cool chick, I thought.

M,

Something’s nagging at me, following me around like a bad thought that I thought I’d put out of my mind. It eats at me, wears me down. I try to avoid it, but it nags at me to be heard.

It’s about us.

It resurfaced the other night after you went out drinking, then called late at night, incoherent, and had me worried sick. It got worse after I called you the next night trying to find some sort of resolution after our argument on the phone in the morning. It makes me feel unsteady, almost nauseous, this awful feeling weighing me down. I haven’t had it since I left Brooklyn, that all encompassing sense that something’s just wrong, that I have to get out.

This long distance whatever-the-fuck we’re doing just isn’t working out. I feel like I’m getting the shit end of the stick. You seem to be getting what you need – validation. But I feel like I’m getting the frustration, the aggravation, the petty annoyances of a relationship without any of the good stuff, like physical companionship; the comfort of sharing my life with someone at the end of the day; sex; having someone witness my existence.

Instead, I get the fucking headaches without any resolution after I talk to you on the phone.

I guess what it comes down to is I feel like we need to break up for good.

This just isn’t working out. I’ve gone through the past few days feeling on edge, out of step, on the verge of cracking up. I don’t like to feel like this, and it comes from us.

It’s unnecessary.

It’s more difficult than it needs to be.

And I feel like I have to give it up.

I can’t live like this.

All I did the other night was call you to try and give you some acceptance and reassurance about your going out drinking after a year sober. I wanted you to know that I wasn’t giving up on you, because I thought you were worth it. And what I got in return was chastised for not responding appropriately to your drinking and subsequent melt down. You didn’t like the fact that I’d thought you’d slept with someone when you’d called, crying, telling me that you had to tell me something, then said you couldn’t, and hung up. Then you didn’t like how I responded the next day when you told me you were upset about my response.

The fact is, it’s all unnecessary bullshit that I didn’t bring on.

And I don’t need it…

Then you tried to throw AA doctrine at me, telling me that it says in The Big Book that you’re not supposed to get upset with people when they relapse. You’ve pulled this same self centered line of reasoning with me every time you’ve gotten ugly wasted and I didn’t respond how you wanted. But to throw the AA thing at me was a new twist. Problem is, the rules of the game don’t apply to you if you’re sitting on the sidelines, watching. You’re not in AA babe. And you know what they say in AA about people who’ve stopped drinking and aren’t going to AA? They say they’re crazier than someone’s who’s still drinking, as they have NO tools to cope with life, as the ONE thing they had is now gone – alcohol – and they’re generally just aggravation waiting to happen, as they’re most likely living in blame and self pity. Sound familiar? I’m to blame for not responding the way you want me to. I’m not to blame for you going out drinking, because I sent you a text saying fuck it. I’m not to blame. You bring the chaos on yourself…

Get out of the self pity…

I’m not the problem…

I’m not the cause…

And I don’t need this shit…

Problem is you’re scheduled to come into town in a week. I don’t know what to do about this. Can we just be friends and be kind to one another and simply enjoy each others company without unnecessary drama… I doubt it… So what do we do?…

I love you.

I care about you.

I want the best for you.

But I genuinely don’t think I can be with you anymore.

I don’t think you should come.

Corey

Austin, TX

Sitting in the AA meeting in a faux black leather couch in the back of the barren feeling off-white room I heard a short frantic burst of banging coming from the hallway outside. Heads turned. A girl with thick make up, arched, penciled in eyebrows sitting along the wall looked over at me alarmed by the noise.

There was banging again, loud and frantic.

People looked around the room at each other curiously.

The meeting continued on.

One of the regulars to my right named S, with a shaved head and black motorcycle jacket sitting along the always locked sliding glass door that looked out onto the deck stood and went to check on the noise. I followed, not knowing what to expect, expecting anything.

There was loud banging again as we entered the small piss yellow hall / common area where the AA literature and message boards were.

The frantic banging resumed.

It sounded like someone was having a seizure in one of the bathrooms at the other end of the small hallway. We moved quickly to the door, trying to open it, but it was locked. Again the loud and frantic flailing and banging on the other side of the door.

A crowd began to gather behind us.

A girl who said she was a nurse came over and began to call out to whoever was in the bathroom as I yelled out for someone to call 911.

S and I ducked into the kitchenette next to the bathrooms looking for something to jimmy the door.

I found a knife but it was no use. S, tried a coat hanger. Nothing.

Frantic awful, banging and thrashing with dull thuds continued from inside the bathroom. The nurse called out, Hang in there… It’s okay… Hold on… We’ve got help coming.

Twenty or so people stood around helpless as the guy who’d been chairing the meeting yelled onto his phone, Someone’s fucking seizuring in the goddamn bathroom of my club… SEND someone… I don’t know what’s going on… Fucking send someone! And I thought of kicking the door handle off until S appeared with a screwdriver and began to unscrew the handle as the person continued to bang and thrash around in the bathroom.

The screws came undone as people stood around waiting. Finally the door popped open. A guy in his mid-twenties lay sprawled out under the sink, his head resting against the toilet seat. His eyes were wide like saucers.

The nurse yelled to the guy on the phone, It’s cocaine!

A syringe lay on the floor.

The guy in the bathroom lay still and prone and began yelling incoherently, then as the nurse girl tried to calm him down he began to yell, Suck my cock you ho! pulling out his junk from the side of his shorts, mashing on his flaccid cock into his leg with his hand.

I went and sat on chair in the meeting room near the door. He wasn’t seizuring anymore. He was just high and fucked up.

It’s cocaine, the guy with the slicked back hair on the phone barked to 911, then, Everyone get the fuck out, go on! Get out! Give him some fucking room!

It seemed like crystal-methamphetamine to me.

The guy on the floor began yelling, I have diseases! Gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes! as he grabbed wantonly at himself.

Everyone began to back out onto the deck outside as the nurse girl continued to talk soothingly to the guy as S stood above her watching, waiting.

Suck my goddamned cock you ho! he screamed out.

Calm down. It’s OK, she insisted.

Suck my cock! he yelled over and over again to anyone listening.

I caught his eyes, wild and wide, and recognized the desperate searching for anything to fill the void, erase the pain, numb the living into oblivion…

Suck my cock he yelled over and over again…

Austin, TX.

“Let’s do something fun today,” my mom says as I walk into the kitchen for some coffee. My mom and dad are retired. They have plenty of free time.

She’s just heard me fighting on the phone with my ex-girlfriend / girlfriend / friend / possible hostage for marriage / whatever the fuck she is, and I think she wants to try and cheer me up.

‘She’s a good mom,’ I think to myself, as I pour some coffee next to the window framing the bright sunny day outside.

“‘What do you have in mind mom?” I say.

“Let’s go somewhere we’ve never been before, out of of town. Let’s take a drive and get some lunch.”

It sounds fine to me. I want to get out of the house, distract myself from the thoughts of the girl. I don’t have any work today.

“Sure. Let’s take a drive.” I say.

“Honey,” my mom yells out to my dad who’s on his computer in his office / den near the front door of the one story ranch style house, “We’re going to take a drive today!”

“Great…” he says, unenthusiastically.

“Go and get ready then,” my mom says.

From there it begins…

“Hurry up honey!” my mom yells to my dad who’s in the bathroom getting ready.

“We’re waiting.”

“Well excuse me!” He yells.

“I didn’t even know we were going anywhere today!” he barks a second later as he comes out of the their bedroom and across the living room.

“Geez, you don’t have to yell,” my mom says.

“I’m sorry honey. How would you like me to respond?”

“I don’t know. Like a normal person who’s not so loud and annoyed.”

“Okay, dear. I’ll do that just for you.”

“God, I tellya… You are a pill…”

“Fine. Yes I am. Let’s get going.”

“Yeah, let’s go,” I say.

“Are we going to take the dog.”

“I don’t know dear. She’s not my dog.”

“What do you mean, she’s not your dog?”

I think about the fight that I had with my girl on the phone, sigh and try to tune the two of them out, wondering how people make it through life…

“Can we get going,” I say.

“She’s not my dog,” my dad responds. “I didn’t want a dog. So it’s up to you what you want to do with her.”

“Oh God, you’re no help at all.”

“I think she’ll be fine until we get home mom,” I say. “I left her for ten hours one day when y’all were out of town.”

“Oh, you can’t leave her for that long.”

“I did though, and she was fine.”

“Ohhh…” my mom sighs.

“I’d prefer to sell the dog, if it were up to me what to do,” my dad says. “Put an ad on Craigslist.”

“What do you mean, sell the dog?” my mom wants to know.

And I think I’d rather live with that crazy French girl again and fight with her than have to here another one of my parent’s petty arguments. ‘I’ve got to get out of the house,’ I think. ‘Jesus… How did this happen?’

“Can we just go now?” I want to know.

We leave the dog and pile into the SUV.

Just outside of Austin on the way to a town called Round Top to find a restaurant that my dad saw written up in Texas Monthly:

The oaks, mesquite and pine trees spread out in all directions over the dry brown grass as cattle graze idly off in the distance. The sun shines bright overhead as the SUV hums along.

“Did you know that this is the new way to hold the steering wheel?” my dad wants to know. I look over. He’s got his hands on the bottom of the steering wheel. He looks uncomfortable. “You used to be taught to hold your hands at 10 and 2. Now it’s 4 and 8. They say it gives you more control.”

“Hmm,” I say and nod.

He holds the position for a minute more looking uncomfortable, then changes his hands back to 10 and 2.

I look out the window.

Gas stations. Fast food restaurants.

Small town passes by in a blur.

“Do you know what they say to do when you get pulled over by the cops?”

“Hm?… What?” I say.

“They say to put your hands on the steering wheel and answer all the questions calmly and don’t talk back.”

“Hmm…” I nod and look at him.

“Like you ever do that,” my mom says to him from the back. “You spend too much time on the computer. You’re in there all day long, then you come off that thing with all these little tidbits about how to live your life. But we’re not even living since we retired. It’s all television and the computer.”

“You do the same thing.”

“Well I want to do something different. Sell the house and travel.”

“Ok! Let’s do it!” my dad says testily. “Let’s buy a condo and travel. Screw the grand kids. Screw the kids.”

“What’s on TV tonight?” I ask…

“I know you’re struggling with what to do with your life right now, with with direction to take,” my mom says to me leaning her head forward from the backseat. “And I’ve been thinking… you know, you should really try and get on that show, Who Wants To Be A Millionare.”

“Really mom? Is that all you’ve got for me?”

The road bends and the thin white clouds find their way in the blue curve of the sky.

“Well, I’m just sayin’. You don’t have a lot going on right now. Why not win a million dollars?”

“She’s got a point,” my dad chimes in.

“Jesus Christ all mighty…” I look out the window at a passing shack out in the middle of nowhere, wishing that I lived there.

“Well, you’ve got a place to stay until you figure it out. And you might as well apply to get on that show,” my mom says.

“This is true,” my dad says.

‘It’s true,’ I think. ‘It could be worse. I’ve been worse off. I’ll get on that show and win a million dollars and everything will be fine…’

I look out the window at a small cluster of oil rigs pumping away, searching, as the sun spreads out over the dry landscape.

Round Top is a quaint little town full of vintage antique stores and historic old German houses surrounded by stone walls. We find the brightly painted, tiny blue and red restaurant in the town square across the street from the courthouse. The menu is hand written in colorful chalk outside the door. Bottle caps decorate the exterior. An old fashioned fridge on the front porch says, Beers and Sodas on the honor system – Pay inside.

The red sign on the door reads, Closed.

“Sonnofabitch,” my dad says.

“Oh honey, didn’t you think to check, I mean call or something, before we drove all the way out here?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Oh, that’s so typically you.”

“It’s always all my fault… I’m gonna sell that damn dog…”

At least I’ve gotta place to live.

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