by Patrick Key
There was a legend around these parts. The waters were wild with frenzy, despair, and lust. I
didn’t like coming down here much. At least not by myself. Such things can’t always be avoided though. Tod died today. Well. He died ten years ago on this day. We’ve spent many days here together. Looking at the frothing waves. Dancing together on the sunbaked beach. Laughing. Just laughing. I didn’t know what to tell his folks when I found out that he didn’t make it home that night. I wished it was something more American like a mass shooting or a heart attack induced by KFC. However, he didn’t make it home because he had the nerve to go to work drunk. He was a forklift driver. OSHA got involved afterwards. I thought the American way did indeed catch up to him. Opioids. Meth. Booze. Nah. Bastard went on a joyride in the warehouse with another guy. He worked at a cannery by the pier. They crashed and fell into the water. The other guy made it home though.
It was late now, and the sun was doing what it was doing after it decided that it was hot enough. I picked up my beach towel and decided to go about my day. Not sure what I was going to do though. Maybe cook or clean or open up Tinder again at four in the morning. It’s funny how much time just seeps back into your life once you’re single. I wanted to sigh as I walked back to my Jeep, but the air wouldn’t escape. The walk was short, and I hopped into my ride and started the engine. Well. It clicked a lot. And some more. And then it clicked a lot more. It decided to start, and I drove home.
It was around 9 PM when I pulled into my driveway. I like my house. It was one of those raised houses that was on a sturdy pair of stilts. My neighbors laughed at us when we had it commissioned. Ain’t no water around here, boy. Do you see a damn river or something? They whooped and hollered and slapped their bellies every day during the construction. Then Harvey hit. Then it just rained too much a few years later. I think half of them died in the flood waters, but Texas isn’t that great at keeping up with numbers it doesn’t like. I climbed up the stairs and went to unlock the door. But the key wasn’t finding any tension when I turned it. I panicked, thinking that one of the ghosts I was mentally mocking had decided to haunt me. But no. It was just Tod’s sister.
“I forgot you were staying over again,” I said.
She got up and shuffled over to me and gave me a long hug. I could smell the wine on her
breath. No judgment. I would stink just the same in around an hour.
“You went back to the beach huh? I never knew why that was y’all’s spot. Neither one of you
liked getting your hair wet.”
“Desi, don’t start creating mess now. You know I’m barely holding up.”
“I know. He was riding another guy though.”
She pulled away and fell onto the couch and started laughing as if she was watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I wanted to keep the rage burning in my stomach a bit longer but instead that breath that wouldn’t come out earlier found itself some friends and they started barreling throughout the room.
We were off-and-on many years out of our life. I don’t think either one of us wanted something too stuffy like wedding bands and marital beds. Those things were for decent ladies that didn’t know any better. Neither one of us was decent nor a lady so we decided to forego such trappings. However, we did have love in our hearts. I went to the kitchen and saw the open bottle of wine that Desi had helped herself to. I was about to get peeved, but then I noticed the bottle of vodka she had brought as well. She was insufferable to deal with when she was sober, but only Satan could fault her drinking etiquette.
I poured myself a neat glass and went over to the couch. I brushed Desi’s leg aside and took a seat. We drank in silence. Desi rolled herself up as best as she could and gave me that look.
“You know. Y’all were twenty something. I’m surprised you haven’t found someone else.”
She downed the rest of her wine and staggered into the kitchen for more. I tossed back what I had and followed her. I patted her on the back. She was having trouble deciding how much wine she wanted. She was drunk enough to do away with appearing to be a simple
lush that could detect the apple notes that the label promised were there.
“I think about that every day. Things change. All these apps. All these people who just want to travel and be dog dads. Hell, nobody’s human anymore.”
“Tod’s a sea spirit and you keep going to visit him.”
“Nothing.” Desi picked up her glass and went back to the couch. The couch gave in with a satisfied squelch. She started sipping at her drink. I knew she was fighting back tears. I got a bigger glass and filled it halfway with vodka and the rest with soda. I made my way back to her.
We drank some more in quiet.
“Maybe we could make each other happy?” Desi said.
“You get like this every year. And don’t you have Stephanie now?”
“Stephanie is boring. She just talks about what salad she ate or how many miles she ran.”
“But at least y’all get together though.”
“I haven’t touched her in over three weeks.”
“Oh. So y’all got it bad too?”
She choked on the sip of wine she had just swallowed. “Hell, I guess.”
I gave her the look. “Nobody told us about how this would all work out if we made it to thirty, did they?”
“Nope. Only thing I remember is a bunch of women on TV hollering about how they were old. What’s wrong with being old? I want to get old.”
We scooched over onto the middle of the couch. Desi and I were besties when we were kids. She introduced me to Tod when we were in high school. Introduced is too polite. She pushed me into his room when he was changing. Fortunately, we were both sixteen, so their parents didn’t call the cops when they found me chatting with him when he was in his briefs.
“You know,” I said more to myself than to her, “Maybe there is something to all of this traveling nonsense. Maybe if you just keep running from life, life will just give up and let you be.”
“That’s the dumbest and saddest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
“True. But hey. I’m just trying to make this make sense.”
“And so has everyone else since the time people learned that they needed to wipe their butts after going.”
She softly giggled and we returned to our cups.
“I miss him though. He was an idiot, but he was my idiot,” I said.
“Yep. Mine too.”
We returned to our cups. I pulled out my phone and started swiping left on everyone. I saw Desi doing the same.
Patrick started writing seriously later in life, thanks to the help of a poetry class during his undergraduate years. His works have appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Ephemeral Elegies, and Better Than Starbucks, among others. He is also the founding editor of Grand Little Things. More can be found at https://patrickkeywriter.com/