Home > Love May Fail(6)

Love May Fail(6)
Matthew Quick

Alfonzo doesn’t respond, but the alcohol coursing through my veins keeps me talking.

“College was just one big sorority party for her. She exploded with fun, fun, fun every time a guy hit on her. All while I was forgoing sleep to study and then nervous puking before every midterm and final. Smoking Camels like a fiend. Mainlining coffee. Anxiety like a giant fist shoved down my throat while I bit hard on its elbow to fight the pain. I had no support system. None. And I know you know what I’m talking about. The inequity. I see it in your eyes, Alfonzo. You and me are cut from the same cloth.”

Alfonzo and I lock gazes in the rearview mirror for a second.

I can’t tell if he’s wearing too much aftershave or if I’m sweating alcohol.

“So I left before they could kick me out. Because fuck them, right? Just walked off campus with my suitcase and took a bus home. Didn’t even tell them I was leaving. I don’t know, maybe I had a breakdown. Maybe I’m having a breakdown now too. But it was a mistake. I see that now. I needed college, whereas Casey Raymond was going to be okay no matter what she did or didn’t do, because her daddy was her Ken Humes. She was a born passenger. Or ‘a client,’ as you like to say into your little phone. The client is aboard.”

“I don’t think I should be hearing all this, Ms. Kane,” Alfonzo says. “I’m just your driver.”

I backhand the air between us. “Everyone knows that Ken has a sex addiction problem. He’d screw the hole out of a doughnut. He just can’t help himself. And I was such a good little pretender. For an entire decade. I just wanted a nice life for myself. I wanted nice things. Who doesn’t want nice things? And nice things made life okay for a time. Especially after years of waitressing long shifts at the Olive Garden until my spinal cord and all the bones in my feet exploded. Endless salad bowls. Oh, endless salad bowls! If I ever see another garlic breadstick, I’ll stab myself in the heart with a screwdriver.”

“Ms. Kane, are you okay?”

We’re passing a line of palm trees now, and their symmetry is frightening, juxtaposed to my mental state. Finally I say, “You can wash away a lot of life’s pain with money. You can hide from the past with money too. You can quit the Olive Garden. And it cures backaches. You should see the Jacuzzi in our en-suite. It makes your voice echo when it’s empty. That tub alone was worth it at first.”

“Maybe I should turn the car around and take you home.”

“Even our marriage counselor liked Ken better than me. She always took Ken’s side. Even about the possibility of an open marriage. AN OPEN FUCKING MARRIAGE! Do you know why?”

“Ms. Kane, you’re yelling, and—”

“HE PAID FOR THE THERAPY! Everyone likes the man who’s paying. That’s just the way it goes.”

“Ms. Kane, this isn’t—”

“Ms. Kane. That’s right. I didn’t take Ken’s last name. Because I’m the sexist pornographer’s feminist wife! Isn’t that just hilarious?” I laugh until I begin coughing. “I mean, there is porn made for women and sometimes by women—feminist porn where we aren’t objectified and are actually in control—but my husband doesn’t make that kind because he believes there’s no money in it, or at least not enough. Don’t you think I tried to get him to make feminist pornography? I even talked to his actresses once, telling them they should unionize maybe, which pissed Ken off mightily and accomplished absolutely nothing. They laughed at me. It’s like some women actually want to be oppressed, right?” I’m starting to sense that Alfonzo is uncomfortable. He’s rolling the back of his head against the headrest, so I say, “All right. The speech and the pity party are over. I’ll just shut up back here.”

Alfonzo doesn’t say anything else.

Here’s the truth, dear reader: it wasn’t really Ken’s affair with his latest teenage lover that destroyed me, but a simple offhand comment he made a little more than a year ago.

I don’t remember why I started, but I’d been writing some fiction again, like I used to in high school. At first it was just a hobby. Something to pass the time while Ken was off doing whatever. But then I started to really feel something. I produced a few raw personal pieces about my mother that seemed to have promise. So I began wondering if I might have a shot at publishing someday. Of course, I didn’t share any of this with Ken at first, but over dinner one night at our favorite restaurant, while I was feeling champagne hopeful, I casually mentioned that I had been writing and that maybe publishing a novel was a life goal of mine—something I had secretly wanted since I was in my favorite high school English teacher’s class. As I spoke, I could hear the excitement reverberating in my words and I felt myself becoming vulnerable—as if I was letting Ken see the real naked me for the first time.

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