Exiled From Main Street
A short story.
The back seat of a Honda Accord is not the most comfortable place to nap; nonetheless, it’s the only place to do so during an eight-hour scrimmage-fest on a dismal March day at Monocacy Middle School. The mid-seat hump pushes my hips up, sending the blood in a dizzying southward rush to my head.
Today is March 14th, Pi Day. Get it? March 14th, aka 3-14. Across the county yesterday, schools held pie-eating, pie-throwing, pie-baking and pi memorization contests. Some 12-year-old from Burning Lake Elementary won with a high of 196 digits, his surprisingly forlorn face gracing this morning’s Metro section.
The rain has not started yet, but it will, the sun helpless to break through the weighty cloud cover. The air smells like boys’ sweat.
I am not a tall woman, but my legs are long enough that I have to scrunch my knees to my chest to fit across the seat. No, I am not tall, but like his father, my son, Evan, is lofty and lean, his fists hammering at the back window now. Through his Dee Dee Ramone mop, Evan peeks down the street to make sure none of his teammates has caught his mother passed out in her car like a hobo. Even if it is a 2004 Honda Accord with no dents and only three surface scratches over the left rear tire. As usual, Evan has asked me to park away from the main lot. Given the chance, he carpools with his teammates in their BMWs and Toyota minivans, flush with drop-down movie screens, voice-recognition satellite navigation systems and sliding glass moonroofs.
I sit up, and, through the window, Evan recoils in disgust. I had Evan when I was 36. I was young and I was beautiful. Now I’m 49 and I’m neither. My eyeliner must be off balance, the lipstick lost at the crooked corners of my mouth. I am not alone in this effort to camouflage what I can no longer stand to expose, simply one in an army of women enslaved to the valiant effort to accent the eyes, the one remaining unsplintered frontal trait.
From behind, the situation is not quite so dire. Tucked into the right pair of jeans I still fetch attention. I know this because men follow me down the street with their eyes and tongues. Sometimes they cluck. Until I turn around. Quickly then, their eyes go down, away, anywhere but to mine, the embarrassment too hard to hold.
A man once told me I looked like Ann Coulter. We were at the O’Hare Hilton lounge, surrounded by souped-up businessmen spinning their rings. A few showed brief signs of hesitation—first-timers—but others moved through the crowd with expertise, their accountability surrendered to the autonomy of the hotel room. When I expressed the depths of my dislike for Ann Coulter, the man laughed and asked my name.
Wouldn’t this be a lot simpler, I replied, if you just gave me 150 bucks for a quickie in the parking lot?
I said this to get rid of him.
It didn’t work.
He laughed again and ordered me a martini.
I slide into the front seat to clean myself off. There are no open bathrooms anywhere; why would Monocacy Middle School bother to unlock their doors on the weekend to provide water or the decency of a flush toilet when the organizers have ordered six Porta-Potties for the hundreds of us camped here for eight hours? With a tissue, I attempt to wipe off the eyeliner, but this only makes the raccoon eyes worse. I roll down the window and motion Evan to hand me his water bottle.
Just now in the car, I dreamed Evan was kissing a girl. She was sad, with thick eyebrows and plump pimples from her chin to her cheekbones. He didn’t even know her name, just walked over and started kissing her. I hit him on the head with the cardboard tube from a paper towel roll. “Courtship,” I said in my dream. “Do it right. Don’t grow up to be an asshole.”
Last week I found a wet spot on his bottom sheet. It was almost a perfect circle, except for the edges, where it bled into an oval. When the action becomes voluntary I hope he will learn to use a dirty sock or tissue so no one else will be left to clean up.
No one else? What do I mean by that? Me. Who else would there be?
Evan stands waiting while I scrape my skin clean, readying myself to face the other families raw. The fields are packed with an arsenal of teams from across Maryland: Antietam Red, Bethesda Lions, Freestate Fighters, Mean Green Mutiny. The fathers cluster at the sideline, coaching loudly to their sons, arms folded across their chests, each left hand flashing a gold or silver band signifying possession.
But possession of what? These couples deceive themselves, all of them. Not just those at the O’Hare Hilton, but every airport hotel lounge filled with men who look and stand as these fathers do. These couples remind me of children who believe everything will last forever. Their grandparents’ condo in Miami. Their parents’ marriage. Their youth. Their own lives. They have no idea.
Ranier Armstrong waves me over to a group of mothers huddled at the center line. Janet Cordell is complaining loudly about her Audi mechanic. Once or twice a year she drops off extra cleats for Evan, claiming that Ricky outgrew them before he ever used them, despite the mud caked under the eyelets. She nods briefly to me and I return the gesture, but my eyes are on the grass, brown from the winter burn. They all feel sorry for me, I know, and why shouldn’t they?
Evan’s father, Rick, is 15 years older than me and never had any intention of marrying me. Not even when I told him I was carrying his child. We were well on the way to being done and Evan’s impending arrival simply cemented the split. I did not realize that what Rick loved was not just my youth but my seeming unavailability. Rick eventually paid, but the man who insisted he could not be tied down roped himself to another woman a year later, and is now bound by twin girls. Rick is a sportswriter and will write all day about his love for his eldest son, turning his words into butterfly wings to quiver the hearts of others. But he only sees Evan once a year. Do his readers know that?
The O’Hare Hilton makes a good martini. It’s smooth and light and goes down with ease, although mine did not seem to empty at the rate I thought I was drinking it. At the other end of the bar, a tall German woman with very deep cleavage and fat hair waved a book of drink recipes through the air.
“Can someone please, please, tell me how you make a Screaming Orgasm?”
“It depends on who’s doing the screaming,” I said quietly.
“Well, then,” said my alcohol benefactor, now making no attempt to cover his tracks as he slid another refill in front of me. “What room are you in, Suzanne?”