What I was going to remind you of someday

by T. L. Sherwood

Remember how the dust clustered around Arlington's newest movie theater and rose up to stream through the spotlights for the Grand Opening? It wasn't that far to walk, but you drove us there. The contractor gave me two tickets. You were my plus one; the contractor's wife was his.

The lobby was a glut of theater franchise executives. There was even a special appearance by a key grip or a stunt man from “The Three Amigos.” That was the feature showing in the multiplex that night. It was huge excitement for me, a waitress from a pizza shop down the street. The contractor and I had flirted our way into an unseemly relationship that spring. I started it. I was working for tips.

How old were we then? Still seventeen? I'd just moved across the country because I thought I was in love with your brother and I constantly fought with my mother. I'd promised myself it would all work out beneath Texas stars.

I wasn't going to follow in my mother's footprints; I was going to go to school, then marry. Any waitressing in my future was going to be while I paid for grad school. Yet I didn't attend DeVry, which was part of the plan and the only reason my mother allowed me to leave New York. I ended up sharing an apartment with your brother. Those walls drained my soul and saddened me each time I looked at the concrete. Drugs. Drink. They became a given to stop tears from falling.

I was searching for ways out. A decent looking contractor who tipped me well? Well, yeah. I thought it could happen—maybe—in a different life. One where I wasn't taken to jewelry shops to have my neck luxuriated in tricolor gold so he could see how necklaces hung. One where married men actually left their wives…

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You were the first thing I woke up to in Texas. I was sleeping on your parent's couch. I experienced heart palpitations; anxiety coursed through my whole being, all the way to my pinky toes. I was only two time zones out of place but woke up lagging a memory of where I was or how I'd arrived. Your upside down face confronted me with a beaming smile.

“Good morning, sunshine.

I don't think my heart stopped, but it gave up racing. You introduced yourself. You offered me juice.

Your brother came home and whisked me away for my first round of miniature golf followed by an introduction to the noxious heat of jalapenos on nachos. He laughed as I teared in pain from the heat. He apologized for the trick. I thought that made him sensitive and we could make it. My mother hadn't apologized when she was wrong.

During that long first weekend trip, I met your parents, your other brother, his wife and kids. I felt accepted and encouraged to move down there. 

I did and you swiftly became the most fun I ever had. Stoned or sober, it didn't matter. You could make a day raging with tornadoes seem like an inconvenient cloud had passed over my perfect sun filled day. I didn't recognize that as a warning.

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Where was your brother the night of the Grand Opening? Maybe he and I were in the middle of a torment; perhaps he was working second shift. I asked you to accompany me.

The contractor introduced me to men in suits who kept insisting on refilling my wine glass. To this day, I don't know if I was drunk or one of them slipped something in my drink. You kept your distance after the contractor brushed you away. You swirled around the edges of the crowd where those suited strangers engulfed me until it was time for the movie to begin.  

You commandeered me to a seat and insisted I put something in my stomach. The M&Ms were complimentary. Watching Steve Martin singing in a sombrero, well, that did not end well. I became the first person to lose my candy in that theater. You gathered me up and took me home.

I was obnoxious as you helped me up the stairs. You got me to the mattress that was all the bed your brother and I could afford. I remembered that I forgot my purse at the premiere. I was going to walk back to the theater to get it. You told me to stay; I wouldn't.

“If you get up, I'll kiss you.”

I tried.

We kissed.

You left.

In the morning, you were curled up on the couch using my purse as a pillow. I didn't know what to say. That kiss was as flimsy as a ghost. I wondered if I made it up. It strained our rapport.

Your brother and I broke dishes and made up so often with you coming in after to make it right. After one exchange where my favorite ceramic mouse flew into the kitchen cabinet, he stormed off. It was moments before you arrived. The three of us were all supposed to go see a play.

You and I engaged in our regular bullshit and banter. I offered you a drink. You put on a Sparks album and told me a joke.

As I laughed, I finally saw what could be, and it was…rather pretty. So easily, you could have had me then.

“Remember that kiss?” I ventured.

The happiness in your soul vanished. “No.”

“Yeah, after the movie—”

“We never kissed.”

I could see it was a lie, but there was your fidelity to your brother, or maybe it was just to brotherhood itself, but it was something I could never compete with, some devotion I could never win.

“Oh,” I said, dusting the ceramic debris off the wine glass. I opened the bottle of red with a grand flourish. “Oh,” I said again.