The idea was to get a room at the Days Inn so I get some quiet time to work on my poetry, and then Brenda shows up late in the afternoon so we have some romantic private time away from her parents’ place. Added bonus for me: I don’t have to hear her parents crack jokes about when my poems are getting published or how much money they’ll make like they do every time they see me with my notebook. I tell them my poems are my legacy, but I don’t think that really registers with them.
We told them we were going to Jim and Teresa’s place for a barbecue and we’d be out late, but that’s subterfuge so Brenda’s parents don’t nag us about paying the back rent we owe them instead of getting a hotel room. Jim and Teresa don’t even have barbecues or anything else since their baby came. Same with most of our friends. Which is why we end up at home with Brenda’s parents, or babysitting Brenda’s nieces and nephews.
Baby time is coming for us, though. Brenda keeps saying that her nieces and nephews are enough and that we can wait, but I think we’re ready. A baby will straighten us up and get us focused on life. It’ll be great motivation to finally get married, too, and get out on our own. Plus, if we have a baby, that’d be a great way to get back to hanging out with our friends.
So is tonight the night it could happen? Maybe. The thought crossed my mind when I hatched this plan. Plus, now that Brenda is here we’re sharing a half pint of vodka as we sit on the balcony outside our room. We get a little reckless sometimes when we’ve been drinking. Forgetful about the protection. Or the rhythm. Nothing has happened yet, but you can’t tempt fate forever, right?
I look at Brenda and wonder if she’s thinking any of this. She’s lighting the last cigarette from her pack. I take a few deep breaths and tell her, “I’m breathing in love.” I know it’s corny and it’s not my best stuff, but whatever. My mind is running free since spending the day with my poems, and I’m going to let it. I sip some more vodka and slump in my chair.
Brenda stands up and looks out across the hotel’s back parking lot. Past the dry, cracked asphalt and patches of brown weeds pocked with plastic bags and broken bottles. Neon lights flicker on from the fast-food restaurants and gas stations along the main drag three blocks over. She watches them, but then focuses on a group of teens that cuts through, leaving a trail of vape smoke in their wake.
She turns to me and says, “I’m gonna need more cigarettes. Some more vodka would be good, too, don’t you think?”
Hell yeah, I think! I pull some cash out of my wallet.
She takes it and tucks it into her pocket. “How soon you want me back?”
“How soon do you think?” I almost choke on the words.
She’s so coy sometimes. “Real soon,” I say and flick my eyebrows.
I watch her as she walks to the stairs at the end of the balcony and then across the parking lot toward the neon mosaic. I think about the countless diapers we’ve changed and stories we’ve read. I can see motherhood in Brenda, even if she can’t see it herself.
I wait on the balcony for her to return, sipping the vodka until the sky is a swath of black velvet pocked with little holes where light sparkles through. I see a cloud of smoke across the parking lot at one point, but it’s the teens cutting through again. Mosquitoes are swarming, so I go inside.
I grab my journal and scratch out a poem before Brenda returns:
the special night
we came together.
All was right
as we laid
soft as a feather
That’s not bad for being rushed.
I step outside to get some fresh air and clear my head. I like my word play with “we came together,” but is it too dirty?
A tender tone would be better. “It finally happened”? That’s good. But what about my rhymes?
I can tuck it away for right now. If things happen tonight, I can’t hardly imagine how stunned Brenda will be that I wrote a poem about it beforehand.
I look out through the dim light across the parking lot. The teens have set up a makeshift party and are clustered around a car with its doors hanging open. Their music thumps through the night air. Empty beer cans are scattered on the pavement like dead soldiers. The group shifts with the beat of the music, and that’s when I see Brenda. She’s swigging from a bottle they’re passing around. I think she looks towards me, but I’m not sure. I open my mouth to call her, but the music is probably too loud for her to hear me. I could go get her. But maybe she just needs to get this out of her system.
I go back in the room and lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling. A dull pain creeps like an inchworm into my head. Brenda needs to get back here if this is going to happen. And I mean fast. Like, faster than lightning.