Margaritas and Scrambled Thoughts
Sitting alone at the bar closest to my house during happy hour on a Friday night should make me cringe. In the past, I would have never been able to pull it off. The term “loser” would have washed over me like a tidal wave but somehow it feels different now. Sure, I am alone, but I was always alone. I just never realized it until a slew of trust shattering events occurred…again…on February 28th, the anti-versary of the first time my husband and I were married in 1987.
Apparently, I didn't learn my lesson the first time. Getting mentally gut-punched for 18 years just wasn't enough. A sucker for punishment, I willingly climbed back into the ring for round two. We remarried after being divorced-but-never-really-separated for nine years. I still saw all the red flags but chose to ignore them because who am I if I am not one-half of a couple, with him by my side? We had been together since we were 23 years old. I never realized how young that was until I had children of my...
Wait, the bartender has asked if I want another house margarita. Frozen without salt. Sure, why not? This is why I chose the bar closest to my house to drink. If I have more than one, I can drive home or even walk on the back roads. They are super curvy and filled with potholes but that makes them less traveled. Less likely to get randomly pulled over by a curious police officer, and if the officer happened to be my neighbor, he would likely just escort me home. This is a benefit of living in suburbia in a middle-class neighborhood. The cops are your neighbors.
The margarita just arrived, and I find myself giving the bartender a thumbs-up for the second time. What the actual fuck? Have I never had a social outing in my life? Well of course I have. I did more than my fair share of mingling when I was a flight attendant for 25 years, until I was injured and took early retirement. I contemplate why it is that I make lame gestures now such as winks and thumbs-ups, reminiscent of a creepy old man.
I am a middle-aged woman. I still look pretty good despite 34 years of gaslighting and narcissistic abuse. I did have that one spell—when my husband had a freak accident on vacation and almost died—where my hair was falling out in clumps with the roots still attached. At first, when I noticed the clumps of hair lying on the floor after a quick blow-dry, I thought they looked like doll hair and my first thought was Ka-burp-ee, the doll Santa brought me when I was in third grade. Her real name, in the Sears and Roebuck Catalog, was Diddee Darling; but once her hair became lumpy and threadbare, she became Ka-burp-ee. If you woke up with Ka-burp-ee in your bed in the morning, you were the big loser for the day.
Since the four of us kids all slept in one tiny bedroom, it was easy to slip her into the oversized crib with my four-year-old sister. It didn't just end there either. My brother and I piled Lincoln Logs and a Slinky and even an Easy Bake Oven on top of Ka-burp-ee, and therefore, my sister by default. We couldn't risk that monster-like-doll-creature getting out and ending up under one of our pillows.
Well, my baby brother couldn't have a pillow. When he was almost two years old, he had some kind of disorder that caused him to projectile vomit any time he ate, which was both scary and disgusting. We (my other brother, sister and I) gave him a wide berth when we passed by his playpen on our way outside to play. He almost died but was admitted to Duke University Hospital where they performed a cutting-edge esophageal stretch procedure. It didn't work and the surgeon gave my mom and dad “the speech,” preparing them for his upcoming death. When they checked him out one more time before sending him home to basically starve to death—since he couldn't keep anything down—lo and behold, the doctors said a miracle had occurred. His esophagus was completely normal. The surgeon couldn’t explain it except to suggest that perhaps someone had been praying. Duh. Everyone was praying.
I thought that was probably a pretty good thing but was too busy feeling nauseous from looking into the backseat of a taxicab parked by the emergency room at the hospital. During my brother’s procedure, a kid told me that someone had gotten shot in the course of a robbery in that cab. Being skeptical, I snuck down while my parents were preoccupied with my baby brother's impending death and had a closer look. The front seat and Plexiglas partition that separated the driver from the paying passenger looked pristine, and I was about to tell that kid that he was a big fat liar until I gazed into the backseat. The vinyl seat cushion had a massive rust-colored stain and there was something that reminded me of my grandmother's chicken and dumplings on the floorboard. A mental image of the flesh-colored gore invades my mind and…
Wait, the bartender just asked if I was finished with my plate, and I said yes. My appetite is sort of ruined thinking about the chicken and dumpling thing. He whisked my half-eaten order of beef fajita nachos away.
Anyway, the margaritas and scrambled thoughts have me kind of reeling, and I think about my childhood—not the funny stuff—and how completely messed up it was to move every year on the whim of a father suffering with undiagnosed schizophrenia, and it somehow puts it all in perspective. Everything I went through in my childhood gave me inner strength and the ability to persevere until our children were old enough to not have to endure a big custody battle. That was what kept me there all those years…the first time. What possessed me to hop back in a second time? Perhaps it was a trauma bond or maybe I am broken. I really can’t explain. I nurse the rest of my margarita. Thinking. Though I feel broken, I am not broken, just a little bent. I know I am better off now…I don't need him. It feels like an uphill battle; but I am finally ready to take back my life. To make my way on my own.
I am at a bar all by myself on a Friday night, but I feel less lonely than I did when I was with my husband.
I catch the bartender's attention; give him a thumbs-up and a wink and say, “Check, please.”
By Lisa H. Owens
Created for a WOW! (Women on Writing) Q-3 2020 Non-fiction Essay Contest Fall 2020
Published in Short Story Town (November 27, 2021)
The Handyman gets up early; the Texas sun just peeking above the horizon. It is going to be another scorcher. Well into the 90’s and possibly hitting 100 or more by mid-afternoon. His “to do" list is long. He has a lot on his plate. Best to get started early. His black truck is not air-conditioned and the last thing he wants is to make his trip to Ace Hardware during peak heat-stroke time; any time the sun is up in August.
He dresses quickly, grabbing shorts and a wrinkled t-shirt from a rumpled pile of clean-ish laundry, before tip-toeing to the bathroom (mindful of his sleeping girlfriend) to splash water on his face and brush his teeth. Single-mindedly on a mission, he shuffles through the house, out the side door, and into the garage. The knob is loose and shifts away from the door as he pulls inward to open. One more thing to add to the list. He reaches into his shorts’ cargo pocket and extracts a crumpled sheet of paper, spins, and heads back inside to the kitchen. He knows there is a pen in here somewhere and begins cracking drawers to peek inside. Silverware...nope. Dish towels and potholders...nope. Mismatched silverware, ladles, spatulas, and a can-opener...nope. Double-A batteries, extra bread twist-ties—his mind briefly wonders about what purpose they could possibly serve—and finally buried beneath a plethora of odds and ends…BINGO!...a Bic ballpoint pen. Extracting it from the drawer, he jots “tighten garage doorknob" at the bottom of the list just under “replace nails around back door frame”. This pen is old. The ink blobs and smears and then quits altogether leaving the last word an inkless etching in the crumpled notebook paper. He tosses it back into the drawer then rethinking, picks it up again, etching an inkless *BUY PENS at the top of his list next to a tiny etched asterisk. First things first.
This handyman thing is new to him and wanting to make an impression on the homeowner, his girlfriend’s brother and family; is his goal. Although they have a little money saved up, the handyman and his girl will crash here until they find an apartment of their own so repairing broken stuff will be his repayment to them for their hospitality.
He has zero experience fixing anything other than his morning slice of toast (oftentimes ending with him standing at the sink—butter knife in hand—scraping away the burnt part) but has a pretty good feeling about it. He has a good head on his shoulders, having recently graduated from college as a mechanical engineer, and is always willing to try new things.
He marches out of the kitchen and through the den with purpose. Carefully opening the loose and jiggling doorknob, he steps down one step into the garage where his faithful black truck is waiting to take him wherever he wants to go. Ace Hardware for tools, Walmart for pens, or even his previous hometown in Massachusetts where cooler air surely awaits him. He rolls all the windows down then thinks for a moment before turning over the key. Scenarios run quickly through his mind, the possibilities endless. The cooler air is tempting and his entire family would joyfully welcome him home with open arms.
Making up his mind, he turns the key and Old Black’s engine roars to life. Backing slowly out of the driveway and into the quiet street, he throws the truck into drive and begins the journey to Walmart and a brand new package of Bic Pens. He will give this handyman thing and the sweltering Texas heat a try. Barring burning the house down, what could possibly go wrong?
By Lisa H. Owens
Inspired by true events.
Entered in a WOW (Women On Writing) Winter Flash Fiction 2020 Fiction Contest.
Copyright © 2023, Lisa H. Owens and Lisahowens.com
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site's author/owner is strictly prohibited.
Website Built by I Am Mad Art and Autumn Year Round.
Proudly powered by Weebly