Mostly rambles, few brambles
Our Dinner Guests Will Never Again Suggest ‘The Newlywed Game’
Q: How would you and your partner characterize your sex life: in the fast lane, the slow lane, or broken down by the side of the road?
A: “The fast lane. Definitely. Even when everything else is falling apart, one look can send us tearing into each other.”
A: “We like the scenic route. Slow lane all the way. Methodical, you know. We’re content on arriving whenever it all should—err—happen. Sorry, everyone, that might have been a little much!”
A: “I’d say we’re broken down by the side of the road. Hood open. Flames materialize and mature. Dancing higher and higher, the car’s soon engulfed. The bodies of the two state senators in the backseat burn beyond recognition. We look on from the shadows of a nearby mesa. Only uncertainty and the desolate Nevada night lie in front of us. We picnic in silence.
“Procedures have been carefully calculated and followed. Still, we can’t help but hurry through our sandwiches, monitoring the waning blaze, knowing the authorities can’t be far behind. East-southeast is determined and we trudge into the wasteland beneath the obsidian sky, too focused to be excited. Handgun legislation never saw us coming.
“Daybreak yields a small hamlet. Two diners, a bar, a bus stop, and a gas station attached to a grocery store. We assume the names Clancy and Abigail Robertson and split up for the day. The manager at the Early Bird hires Abigail as waitress. I take a commuter bus eleven miles to a superstore. I pay for a water purifier, a hatchet, and small tent in cash. This must suffice until autumn.
“My days are spent foraging, through nature and through dumpsters. During the first two weeks we move camp every night. We’re both on edge, but I’ve become insistent for details on every customer, every interaction, she has. I’m always convinced we’ve been compromised.
“I don’t know how. I know she’s terrified too, but she manages to keep me grounded. Without her my days are torturous. Every thought is soaked in fear. VIN numbers, errant trash, alibis—every detail from the final week of our old lives is combed over, examined and reexamined. Nothing can ever be completely confirmed.
“Every evening she tells me it’s going to be okay. It helps, even though I know she can’t be sure either. We snuggle into our tent and whisper details to each other, constructing our narrative piece-by-piece. We’re Clancy and Abigail Robertson. We both grew up around Indianapolis and met when we were both living in the city after high school. I never saw the ocean until I was twenty, and even then I thought it was overrated. She was an only child, but I have a half-brother fifteen years older who lives outside Cincinnati.
“Gradually, we start to relax. I take a job as a bar back and we’re able to afford an apartment. The job is exhausting and everything in the one-bedroom unit smells like water damage. Still, we’re thrilled.
“We start having money for groceries. We buy a bicycle, too. Our apartment remains furnished with sofa cushions we’ve acquired from garage sales. We play checkers every night while we fill in more of our back-story. After each other, the two things we love the most in the world are Bruce Springsteen and the Indiana Pacers, though we sometimes disagree on their order. My first kiss was in third-grade with a girl, Penny Radcliff, at Youth Group. Clancy was my grandfather’s name. Abigail spent three weeks in the hospital right when she was six with a congenital bone disease. Neither of us enjoy children and we’ve never thought of adopting. Our new signatures become fluid.
“I never once win at checkers. I love how excited she still gets over beating me.
“We follow the investigations in the news, the senators’ and our own missing persons report. Both fizzle over different timelines. The names Clancy and Abigail become naturalized; memories don’t feel as fabricated.
“One night, as we cuddle together on our collage of cushions sprawled on our living room floor, I dream as Clancy. His life seems so perfect.
“I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re into some pretty weird things in the bedroom.”
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