A Simple Thing 6/26/10

There wasn’t much to do in the small town of Corvis. It wasn’t really one of those backwoods places, they were only twenty minute’s drive to a bigger place, but it was certainly out of the way and they didn’t get a whole lot of visitors. Perhaps by said bigger place’s standards they were backwards hicks, but everybody who lived in Corvis liked it there. It was peaceful and filled with plants and wildlife. They could see the stars at night. Yes, it was simple, but not pathetically so.

She was cheating on her husband with the boy. He wasn’t a boy in age. He was only two years younger than she was. But he was childlike. He had a positive view of the world. He saw the good in everybody. He was more than a little under educated, and probably couldn’t think his way out of a bag, but he was kind. She still loved her husband, but if she was honest, she loved the boy just a little bit more. He had no money, they didn’t go out to eat, he didn’t buy her fancy things. But he didn’t need to. She knew his love just by the look in his eyes when she showed up. By the way that he held her and kissed her.

He knew they were doing wrong, and he felt badly about it, but not badly enough to confess or stop. They had talked about it. More than once.

They spent entire days together. Entire nights. She was pretty sure her husband knew that there was something amiss, but he never said anything, and he never complained. She was still a dutiful wife. She took care of his house. She held a job at the FoodMart. And perhaps he had his own little side thing going, she didn’t know. It was odd, she knew, that they could still be so honestly happy together when one or both of them had an affair going. But they were. Nothing felt forced between them. Nothing felt faked. For as much time as she spent at the boy’s, she still spent plenty of time at home. No excuses were made when she left, she just said she’d be back later. So maybe that was part of it. She wasn’t actively lying about anything, just omitting details.

A lot of the time they spent together they fucked. Her and Jason. Being with him was like being a teenager again. His mechanic’s body held tight against hers. She didn’t worry about anything with him. He was like a brief sort of freedom.

They did other things, too, of course. But it always came back around to sex. It wasn’t just sex though. If she’d been unable to commit that act, she still would have spent a lot of time with him. Just to hear him say in his simple language that he loved her. Just to catch him checking her out when her back was turned, or the way he smelled her hair when she came out of a shower. He didn’t need big words. He didn’t need a lot of things.

His older brother, Bud, knew about everything. He was an overweight man who ran the liquor store, balding. He lived through the activities of his younger brother, and had found at first that he didn’t want Jason to be tied down to one woman. But that had changed, she supposed, when Jason had gone into detail about the things that they did together. Bud always had a sly twinkle in his eyes when he saw Samantha. A knowing look that only occasionally bothered her. But he was a kind man, and not the type to talk. He’d told them that he didn’t approve very much of their union, due to her marriage, but he knew they were happy, and he hoped they would sort it out soon. He surely expected that they would tell all to Samantha’s husband, and she would end that, or she would end her thing with Jason.

Samantha wasn’t so sure about that.

After all, Corvis was a small place and once things got out, people talked about them for years. How long could she stand to be that woman? It was likely that she would be blamed. Jason was 28 and old enough to make his own decisions, but the town would probably put all the blame on her. Devil woman, seducing young boys. She could just imagine how it would be walking through the grocery store every week. The looks she would get. And what about Jason? Could he live with that sort of attention? She was willing, if he asked her, to go through it all, but deep in the secret place of her heart she hoped that he never did. For her own sake.

Jason’s apartment was small. Simple. He had a very small bachelor’s kitchen, a fairly big bathroom considering the rest of the place, and his living room and bed room were all one place. He had a small military style bed and his sheets were always rumpled. Clean, but rumpled. He had a dresser shoved into the large closet, and a few coats hanging next to it. Most of his clothing was jeans and tee-shirts. He’d never had an occasion to buy a suit or a tuxedo. The nicest things he owned were a pair of black slacks and a few button up shirts. She’d never seen him in any of those, but she liked to imagine what he’d wear them for. He had a very old computer sitting on a low table with a stack of mechanical manuals stacked in towers on the table and floor around it. When it came to fixing things, the boy was a genius. They were the only books he had, though. Worn and greasy as they were, she doubted that he had to look in them very much.

He was busy at that computer when she walked into the apartment. Sitting on a modified office chair that nearly touched the ground along the bottom. Deep in thought, he didn’t even look her way. Samantha wasn’t sure what he did on that computer. She didn’t honestly think there was much he could do, considering it’s age and his relative simplicity. But he was intent on it, a nub of a pencil in his mouth, no shirt, hair in disarray. When he finally looked up, his eyes filled with light and his smile expanded. Samantha thought her heart might explore. Every time he did that, she felt that way. God, that look.

Jason stood and she noted his bare feet. So he hadn’t even been outside working on his truck today. His jeans slipped lower on his torso, and she could just barely see the upper ridge of his backside. There was absolutely no question why every young girl in Corvis had a raging crush for the boy. No questions why he got hit on when he went out with his friends. The strange thing was, he wanted nobody but Samantha. It made her feel like a princess. Such a rugged and handsome young thing with eyes only for her. The best part of it was that she didn’t question why. It wasn’t that she was bad looking. She was quite fit for a lady who worked in a grocery store and didn’t work out except to swim in the lake. She didn’t look her age, certainly. She’d not been a sun worshiper at any point in her life, she didn’t smoke, had never done any drugs, had never been a slut – until now, she supposed. It was pretty slutty cheating on her husband – and she’d never abused her body. But he also didn’t make her feel like she should have to question it.

His arms went around her, his fingers finding the end of her shirt and touching her skin. He kissed her lightly, but passionately.

“I’ve been workin on somethin for ya.” his voice was low.
Confused, she creased her brow. “Oh? Like what?”
“Come outside.” Not even waiting, Jason took her hand and pulled her to the door. When they were on the small porch, and positioned her where he wanted her to be. “Close your eyes, and no peekin.”
Samantha did as told, and tried to figure out what was going on through just listening. But the sounds she heard didn’t trigger any ideas. The scrape of gravel under something heavy. A quick, low volume curse word as he stepped on something with his bare foot that didn’t agree with his flesh.
“Okay, open.” He was grinning at her when her eyes finally readjusted to the sun. Jason was standing in front of a motorcycle. Black. Nothing new. There were a few dents in the side. But the chrome was shined up. “I’ve been fixing it up for you.”
She was honestly astounded. She’d never wanted a motorcycle in her life. She wasn’t even sure she knew how to work one, and she was terrified of riding it. Just looking at it kind of made her sick in her stomach. But that look on his face. That pride. He was giving her something, and he was obviously very happy to be able to do so.
“I got another one. For me. I thought when I get it all fixed up, we could go somewhere on them. Like a trip or something.”
That. That made her smile. It eased her curiosity and her confusion, but not her fears. “Oh, Jason, I…”
“No no no.” Hands up, still smiling. “I’m gonna teach you to ride it. That other bike won’t be done for a good while. We’ll ride this one together. I’ll show you. It’s okay. I wouldn’t put you on no bike like this without making sure you’re comfortable with it.”

He beckoned her closer, straddled the bike himself, patted the seat behind him. Still a little uneasy, Samantha got on. There were no helmets. No safety anything. He wasn’t even going to bother putting on a shirt. He was that confident that he could keep her safe. His surety made her believe, too. She wrapped her arms tightly around him. Which she would have done even if she weren’t terrified. There was a bit of a problem hanging on while he kick started the bike into life. But when he sat, she scooted up and made herself comfortable against his back.

And then they were flying.

At first, she couldn’t even bring herself to open her eyes. Her horror at what she was doing so complete. But after a while, she could feel him laughing. The sound was lost to her ears, the wind blowing by so fast. She didn’t even think he was pretending to adhere to the speed limit. Slowly, Samantha peeked over his shoulder and saw the road whipping by them. Her heart accelerated, but it was no longer fear, it was fascination. The danger of it, the speed of it, suddenly she was in love with it. She knew that Jason was smiling, and now she was smiling too. When he whooped, she followed it with her own. When he realized she was no longer hiding, he sped up. She hadn’t known the thing could possibly go any faster. How did he know that she was going to love this so much? How had he been able to glean that from her? She wasn’t a dare devil in any aspect of her life, she didn’t take risks like this. Yet here she was, adoring everything about the powerful bike. And Jason.

Once again he was sitting at the low table when she walked in. The same way he’d been the last few times. He wouldn’t let her see what he was doing. Made her sit on the other side of the room until he’d completed the current section. He said she’d like it, though, that she’d smile when it was done. And after his assessment of the motorcycle, she trusted his prediction. There was a stack of papers piling up on the other side of his ancient machine. He only wrote on the front side, then placed them face down, so she couldn’t even sneak a look. All she knew for sure was that he wrote sometimes on unlined paper, sometimes on legal sheets, and sometimes on notebook pages that had ragged edges.

She didn’t know where he got the paper. She didn’t know what he could possibly be doing. She didn’t ask more than once in a while. He said that it was taking longer than he thought, but she had to wait anyway.

They spent a lot of time on the bike now. She didn’t think he was even working on the second one anymore. If the way that his stomach quivered or his flesh broke out in goosebumps every time her arms went around him before riding. She thought that he would be just as content as she to take whatever long trips he had in mind with the single motorcycle. They still didn’t wear any safety gear. For now that was okay, they weren’t leaving Corvis. But if they really did want to go somewhere else, they’d have to find helmets, not to mention he would have to put on more clothes than just his jeans.

He stood and nearly jumped on her right away when she walked through the door. Jason seemed somehow happier than usual, flinging her onto the mattress of his small bed. Samantha still sometimes wondered how he did that without banging her head against the metal bar at the top.

“What are you so happy about?” She looked up into his eyes, seeing delight there.
“It’s finished.”
“What is?”
“That thing I been working on for you. It’s done now. But you still can’t see it. Things have gotta be perfect, and it ain’t quite time yet.”
“Then make love to me in the mean time.”
“In the middle of the day? We’ll disturb the neighbors.”
“You never cared before.”
“I don’t care now.”
His kisses were tender. She could feel his excitement through them. He undressed her slowly, spent time on every inch of her flesh with his lips. The neighbors probably weren’t home anyway. Not on a day like this, either at work or out in the sun. It was more a tease, his was the end unit, only the one unit on the left as you approached his door. She wasn’t even positive that she’d ever seen whoever lived there. Her mind cleared of all speculation as he entered her.

The outside world ceased to exist as it always did when they were together in bed. She didn’t hear anything. Didn’t care about anything. Neither did he. They were only for each other, the only two people in the world.

Perhaps they were punished for that. For not caring what they were doing. For being so brazen. For not having an accident on the motorcycle when they were so reckless. For any number of sins they had committed. In the future she would wonder about this a lot and never be able to come up with a clear answer. But for whatever reason, their affair was ended abruptly.

Kids, Bud said when he finally found her sitting in the bathroom – a towel wrapped around her body and her eye makeup run down to her chin. They’d been going around all of Corvis, shooting out windows. Most of the town was out looking for them. He’d been right on his way to warn Jason when it’d happened. Hadn’t gotten there in time. They probably wouldn’t have shot out the windows if Bud had been standing at the door. Probably wouldn’t have put a bullet into Jason’s head if Bud had been a couple minutes earlier.

All Samantha recalled was that one minute they were away in bliss and the next she was covered in warm, sticky blood; brain matter and pieces of Jason’s skull. Screaming, she’d retreated into the bathroom and locked the door, she didn’t know what else to do. When Bud found her, she had no idea how much time had passed, but Jason was still warm, he said. Couldn’t have been too long. So why did it feel like years had passed? Why did it feel like she’d already died?

The kids had gone by in a conversion van, the side door opened to the world. They kicked up dust in the lot in front of Jason’s small apartment complex, done what they called donuts for a while before taking aim with their hunting rifles and firing at all the glass that they could see. Every window in all 6 units was gone. In all the cars that were parked there. Jason’s truck. And a great big gaping hole where part of Jason’s beautiful face used to be. All because they wanted to kick up trouble. They’d see hell for it, everybody knew. Even though they weren’t out to hurt people it was still criminal mischief. Probably some kind of manslaughter, too, but she didn’t know the law too well to know for sure.

All she cared about was the sweet boy that she’d lost.

It didn’t matter anymore that she had to explain to her husband what she’d been doing there. She didn’t even care. Though in memory, she was pretty sure he hadn’t been too surprised. She was candid with everybody. She held nothing back. She didn’t even try to hide her sadness to spare her husband’s feelings.

Samantha threw some of her things into a bag and left. She moved into Jason’s place and spent days in his bed. The sheets were gone now, but the mattress was still stained. She spent hours shoving her face into that stain, the redness. Trying to smell the leftovers of him. Once she’d even put her mouth to it, trying to take some of his life into her. Trying to make herself feel as if she was still connected to him in some way. Surely it would have gotten her a trip to the hospital if anybody had seen her. But there was a thick piece of opaque plastic over the window where glass had been. Nobody could see in, and she couldn’t see out. She wasn’t even very sure of what time of day it was until full dark came or the sun rose enough to hang directly over the building.

She didn’t clean anything. She left every single thing where he’d last touched it. There were a few dishes in the sink that she couldn’t even bear to disturb. The smell got stronger and then faded as the stuck on food molded and then hardened. His laundry was still in a basket in the corner. His boots muddy by the front door. Bud came by at least twice every day and knocked for an hour, trying to get her to open up for him. But she wouldn’t, really, she couldn’t. She couldn’t look at Jason’s brother and risk seeing even a little bit of him there. She couldn’t recall now if Bud and Jason shared the same eyes, but she was sure she would be horrified if she looked up and saw her boy there.

After a week, he started just talking into the door. She could see him in her mind, his lips close to the crack between the door jam. Head hanging low. Wanting more than anything to talk to her because she was the only person other than him that knew just how special Jason was. The only person as connected to his brother as he was. He begged her to open up. Begged her to talk to him. Told her that he needed her just as much as she needed him. Cried sometimes, and she was glad she couldn’t see that. She was sure that she would just fall apart if she had to watch a big man like Bud crying. It almost killed her to just hear it.

It was twenty days before she could get herself up and look around Jason’s apartment. Twenty days she’d eaten nothing but the junk food on his bachelor shelves. Twenty days without a shower, and she couldn’t even smell herself anymore she’d grown so used to it. Her hair was in deep tangles, her skin felt oily and disgusting. Twenty days and she hadn’t even changed clothes. She was sure she’d just have to throw away what she was wearing. The clothes hung off of her anyway, she’d lost too much weight.

Everything she went through she had to take time with. Everything she touched brought her low again, threatened to send her back to that stained mattress and the oblivion that she’d tried to reach there. She cleaned his boots off first, and then replaced them where they’d been by the door. She picked up the wrappers from her food and put them in one of the two remaining garbage bags, almost devolving when she realized Jason would never buy any replacements. Sorted through the mail that had come through the door slot, threw away the junk and tried to figure out what to do with the bills. She didn’t have any authority to pay anything. She didn’t even know how she’d gotten away staying in his apartment so long, she had no real right to be there. But nobody other than Bud had come knocking, and he’d never said that she had to leave. Maybe he’d paid the rent for her. For Jason.

Cleaning up took far more time than it should have for the small space. There wasn’t a whole lot of mess to begin with, either. Jason was a pretty clean guy considering. It just took her a very long time to bring herself to touch any of it. To get rid of his lingering presence. But somebody had to do it, she supposed. Somebody had to clean it. Eventually somebody would have to pack or sell his things. This apartment couldn’t become a shrine to him, no matter how much she might have wanted it to. Bud would stop being able to afford the rent, the electricity would get shut off, the water. The landlord would want to rent to somebody else. Though how anybody could think to live in a place where a boy like Jason had been killed, Samantha didn’t know. It wasn’t like there was anybody in town who would be ignorant to that. In a small place like Corvis, news traveled fast.

She made her way to the low table and the silly office chair. Resisting it. She knew that would be the end of it there. After she cleaned all that up, there wouldn’t really be any reason left for her to stay. The last of Jason lingered in that chair. She thought she could almost feel him as she sat in it. She imagined his arms going around her, his breath on the back of her neck. Samantha closed her eyes to block out everything else, but the feeling didn’t last. The more she tried to hang onto it, the faster it faded.

There was a small stack of repair books in her lap, covered in oily fingerprints, when she noticed the stack of papers. Jason’s words came back to her. Telling her that she would like it. She again wondered what it might be. Some kind of love letter to her? Silly as that was, considering the length of it, she found herself hoping that.

Samantha couldn’t pick it up right away. There was a kind of fright churning in her belly as she looked at the papers. Tears blurred her vision and she had to wipe at her eyes several times before they were under control enough for her to grab out for the pages and lift them into her lap. The back page stuck to the top manual she was holding. She realized that the stack of papers and the manual were nearly the same thickness. Of course, he’d only been using the front of the papers to write on. Slowly, she turned her eyes down to the worlds. All it said across the front page was her name, written in his cramped and messy hand writing. Hope stirred again for a love letter. A manifesto of how he felt for her.

What she found when she flipped that top page over was nothing of the sort. She couldn’t help the initial disappointment. No flowery declarations of emotion. Just a simplified and illustrated explanation of how to take care of the bike he’d built for her. There were cut out pictures of parts of the engine, the wheels, the gas tank, all of it. Pasted onto pages and outlined in layman’s terms. Curious, she flipped through a book in her lap and discovered that it was missing large chunks out of the motorcycle section. She returned to the pages and looked through a few more. She understood what it was, it was very clear.

He’d wanted to teach her how to work on the bike. He’d wanted another way that they could spend time together. It wasn’t anything she would have been interested in on her own, but thinking of learning to care for that thing that he’d so lovingly put together for her made her cry once again. They could have spent hours in the hot sun, repairing whatever had gone bad. His hands over hers, showing her how to use the tools. He would have taught her, and she would have become more independent about the bike. Perhaps less worried about riding it on her own. More things that he’d wanted to share with her. And she would have done it, too. Sitting here now, with this on her legs, she hated him a little bit. She hated him for making her care about stupid things like fixing motorcycles. She hated him for making her enjoy something that had brought her nothing but terror in the start. She hated him for leaving her with a stupid manual to fix a stupid bike. She hated him for leaving.

Bud opened the door as she wept over the hand written guide. He stood in the doorway, blocking the sun like a mountain. He seemed to know what it was that she was looking at without having to ask. Maybe Jason had talked it over with him, or maybe just mentioned it in passing.

“He wanted you to love that bike as much as he loved you. I told him you weren’t the sort of girl to be into fixing things. By the look of you, though, I think you’re gonna be.” She didn’t see any of Jason in Bud as he moved closer. He was his own man. Quieter than his brother had been, more responsible. More closed up. She didn’t mind it when he knelt awkwardly down beside her and put a meaty hand on her shoulder.

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