Bad Love

Bad Love

Back in ‘95, when I was seventeen, I dated Rhonda Ball for two quarters and a fornicative halftime before shanking an easy overtime kick, ruining the Barley Harvest Homecoming, and igniting a Thanksgiving-themed riot. I was the stuff of fuckup legend. Coach R.T. said, “Wilkins, you got a palindrome life, son,” meanin’ my days would forever be the same forwards and back. I pretended to ponder, before sack-racking Coach (who was also the Law, and my foster father). Our days changed a bit afterwards. Coach lost one nut. Things got hot around town. Rhonda dumped me.

Before Rhonda gave me dirty, funky love I had a cult of chia pets, I baked peanut brittle, and I sang in the falsetto register. But Rhonda took me below the stands and tweaked my nipples, poured Old Crow in my mouth, and dry-humped me senseless, while the marching band farted “Purple Rain.” I was close to climax when I looked up and saw R.T. in the stands. He dropped a corn dog that hit me in the eye. I came in my trousers. Lovesick, I ran on the field and kicked so god-awful I nailed the drumline. I should’ve been kicking my glory to All-State, but that night I shattered my Division-I hopes and a Yamaha bass drum.


The next day I woke up in a kudzu patch hurtin’ all over, tasting Rhonda, breathing her name when she’d already forgotten mine.

“Rhonda, Rhonda, Rhonda,” I croaked. Hoping she’d come back.

She never did.


Forty-five years old, I still live in Ezekiel, Mississippi. I sublet a ghoulish bamboo efficiency behind my Grans’ McMansion and sleep on a waterbed where something has died. I regularly practice my kicks out in the driveway. I can still wallop the ball, but often as not I sink it in the marsh next door. I rewatch All the Right Moves until I dream about a Titanic-sized life that looks nothing like mine. I wake up in the dark alone.


Sometimes I get stuck behind Rhonda at the 10-or-Less inside Save A Lot.

She always stacks her cart to overflowing.

She never remembers my name.


About the Author

Mike Itaya lives in southern Alabama, where he works in a library. His work appears in New Orleans Review, The Offing, and BULL. He holds an MFA in Fiction from Pacific University.


Photo by Carissa Rogers on Unsplash