I don't think I'm arrogant, or cold. I just didn't think much of it. So she broke down. So what? So if I stalled on the Chesapeake Bridge and my car was splattered into a thousand pieces--with car parts raining down upon the bay, and what not--I wouldn't think anything of it. As long as I was okay, fuck it. You laugh that shit off, and talk to your insurance agent. Get a new car. Get it over with. Make due.
Heidi scratched lines down her face, called Ed Luftgen saying "Well, maybe we could sue the state for not requiring...What? For not requiring what? You're my lawyer damnit. I don't know, a more rigorous safety test?" She kept me up all night. "I've never been so scared in my life, Kev--I mean, what if somebody hit me on the shoulder? Oh, God! What if somebody raped me? Do you think some duck hunters could have pulled over and raped me in their pickup truck with their NRA stickers and their gun rack and dead ducks with their bills and heads half blown off? I mean, Jesus, Kev..."
I said: "You were on the beltway, Heidi."
And forget about you-know-what. It was weeks.
"Well, you're okay now, right?"
"No, no," she said. "That's what I'm telling you. I'm not okay at all. I'm just a little bit disturbed by this event."
"Your car will be fixed by Thursday," I said.
"That's--Jesus, Kevin. You don't know what to say to me. You--I had a trauma. And you're--"
"What trauma? You have a cell phone. So your car broke down. You had a cell phone. You never left the car."
"But I could have. Can't you relate to what I'm saying? Jesus Christ, Kevin. Are you that thick-skinned?"
"Physically you're fine. Correct?"
"It was a feeling," she said. "Don't you get it?"
And at that she stamped downstairs into the basement, and barricaded herself in the guest room for two days, talking to her friends on the phone, and watching game shows. Wonderful.
I was and still am mayor of Ungurth, Delaware. Population: two hundred and thirteen. They call me the surfing mayor, so that's the image I tried to live up to through all this horse-shit. I took my board and tried to become one with the sea. But in Delaware the waves always dilute the oneness. At the time I was bringing in the bread by way of my Internet Mac consultant gig, which is as close to getting paid for doing nothing at all as I could find. Which left more time for surfing, and tending to my constituents. My constituents are just those duck-hunting-NRA-sticker-toting folk that my wife detests. In fact, she detests my entire mayoral term. They wave to her and bring her peach cobbler and a dozen crabs when they're in season, and she pinches her smiles and swallows her distaste. For me though, my wife's discomfort is the greatest incentive to run for another term. She's my inspiration in a kind of reverse-negative kind of way.
When Heidi left her fortress, she wouldn't speak to me. I felt bad she was taking it so hard, so I asked her what she wanted me to do to make up for my Godforsaken callous manliness.
"You get yourself stranded like I was," she said.
"And how do you propose that I go about--"
"What you do is you drive until you run out of gas. Then you figure it out like I did. Then we'll see if you can make me feel better."
So I took the day off. I filled up my car with gas and I drove to Philly and back, then up and down the coast. Finally I ran out of gas down by the state park, and I trudged a mile and a half to a gas station, purchased a gallon of gas and trudged back. Then I drove home. She was still gone so I made some Spanish rice and beans, which Heidi loves. Just as I was grating the Monterey Jack over the whole concoction, she walked in. She collapsed at the dining room table, with exhaustive melodrama and asked me if I could get her a beer. I did.
"So what's wrong now?" I asked her.
"I miss you," she said. "You know, being close to you."
I turned off the burner, and I took her hand and lead her down the hallway into the bathroom. I emptied a scoop of bubbles into the basin, and turned on the water, and I lifted her blouse. Made her all skin and water. I didn't tell her anything about my day at all.
About the author:
Nathan Leslie lives in Columbia, Maryland and teaches writing at Towson University and UMBC. His fiction and poetry has been published in over forty print and on-line literary magazines, including The Crab Creek Review, The Amherst Review, Facets, Wascana Review, and Fodderwing. Nathan finished his MFA at the University of Maryland, where he won the 2000 Katherine Anne Porter Prize for fiction. He has written two short story collections and is working on his fourth novel. This just in: one of Nathan's poems has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.