Suddenly, the blue flashers were on and the siren was roaring. I think I nearly fainted at that point, or maybe I just pissed myself a little bit. Whichever it was, I do remember seeing visions of being led away in handcuffs, a crowd gathered around to gawk and shiver and gossip. We lived in a small town, after all, and it wouldn’t take long for word to get around. I could picture my face on a poster, tacked to the cork board at the Supervalu. “Wanted: Dead of Alive”, it would say. “Convicted loiterer and crabby bitch, escaped from the county jail”.
Oh, geeze this was bad. I was so busy imagining the ruin of my good name that it took a moment to register the commotion ahead of me. The blue lights had whipped by, along with the cruiser they were attached to, and were rapidly pursuing a small, non-descript pickup truck. The truck stopped, as did the cop car, and I watched with growing relief as the police officer strolled up to the driver’s window. Oh, thank god. It was then that I realized I had to pee. I mean, I had had the slight urge prior to my near-incarceration, but now my eye balls were floating. I glanced back towards the bowling alley in time to see Scott exit through the front door, cell phone stuck to his ear and a goofy look on his face. Well, to be honest I couldn’t really see the look on his face because it was dark and he was wearing a bulky coat that crowded up against his neck. However, it did appear that he was behaving…stealthily. Yes, that was it. He was definitely stealthy as he headed to his truck in the parking lot. Was stealthy a word? I thought I had heard it before, and something suggested it meant sneaky or quietly. Except that I was too far away to tell if he was walking quietly, so instead I settled on shady and left it at that.
He was looking shady, and pressing the cell phone to his ear. He got into the truck and the brake lights lit up. This was it. He was on the phone with Kristen to tell her he was on his way over. She was saying that all she had on was some plastic wrap and gosh was it cold. He had better hurry on over to warm her up, and of course she reminded him not to forget the cannister of whipped cream. Or was it hot fudge?
Doesn’t matter. Anyway, as he backed out of his parking spot and pulled onto the frontage road, I realized that maybe he was going home after all. I didn’t know where Kristin lived, but he was headed in the direction of home. What if he got there and found I was gone? I tried to imagine what I would say I had been doing, driving around at this time of night. “Really, honey. I swear – I was just taking the car for a spin around the neighborhood to make sure the gas tank didn’t freeze up.” Yes, I could say I had forgotten to fill up my tank, and I was so worried about the car that I decided to go right out and fill up my tank. Only, I didn’t have my purse with me so it would be hard to explain how I paid for the gas. And besides, the only gas station in town closed at 8:45 (don’t ask me how they came up with that) so I don’t think he’d have believed the frozen gas tank story.
I decided I had to beat him home. That was the only way to avoid telling him I had been sitting in the parking lot to spy on him at work.
For a second, I couldn’t find my car keys. They were beneath a layer of snotty tissues on the passenger seat. Then, my frozen knuckles didn’t want to work, nor did the ignition turn, but finally I got the car started and threw it into gear. I noticed the cop look at me as I pulled out of the parking lot. He look surprised, like he hadn’t realized there was anyone in the car until then, and he wondered why he hadn’t seen me. Maybe he was starting to doubt that he was a good cop.
Scott had turned left on the frontage road, like he was taking Main Street to the stop light, so I turned right and gunned it as I made my way in the opposite direction. Screw the speed limit, I thought, I know where the only cop in town is right now. I sped home and pulled into the driveway like a bat out of hell. I raced into the house and slammed the door. I was grateful I hadn’t left any lights on in the house that would give me away as I ran past the front windows and into the bedroom. I hit the sheets just as I heard the garage door opening. Holy shit, that was close.
Why had he come home? It was only 1:15. Nevermind we had just had a discussion the night before, in which I asked that he come home straight from work so I wouldn’t worry. I didn’t think he would actually do it. I couldn’t believe I’d wasted 4 hours and 36 minutes sitting in my damn freezing car waiting for him to screw around on me, all the while him planning to come home early. Why did I pick tonight for the stake out? Why not last Monday? It was like he was mocking me – ha, ha Catherine, you’re too stupid to set me up. Hit me with your best shot, baby. I’m too smart for you. Fire away.
Wait a minute, that was a Blondie song wasn’t it?
I quickly tried to relax my breathing – I was panting like crazy, my heart racing. I rolled onto my side away from the bedroom door and waited.
Scott came into the room and sat on the edge of the bed, like he did every night after work. Didn’t he realize I had to WORK in the morning? It was so inconsiderate to wake me up in the middle of the night. Jesus Christ.
I ignored him. If I was really sleeping, he would have had to do more than whisper my name to wake me up. Maybe he was testing me. Maybe one of his work buddies had spotted my Taurus in the parking lot and had said to Scott, “Hey – isn’t that your girlfriend with the big nose?” I had to act natural. My heart was a stampede in my chest, and I was sure that if he couldn’t hear it thumping away, he could definitely see it through my shirt and the sheet because surely the whole bed was shaking.
Hmmm? I rolled over and lolled my head to one side, pretending I had just been aroused from a dream and it was taking a few moments to realize where I was.
Hey, I’m home.
What time is it? I asked, thinking 1:25.
1:25, he said.
How was work?
It sucked, it was busy and I had to stay late to finish cleaning up, he said.
It occurred to me that if I couldn’t catch him cheating tonight, I might as well take a stab at catching him in a lie.
Really? I rubbed my eyes and fake-yawned. Did you drink anything after work? I knew he would say no, because I asked him not to, and then I would have him.
Yeah, I had one beer at the bar with the Ottos’. The Ottos’ owned the bowling alley, and half of the rest of the town. Shit, I didn’t have him after all.
When I finally went to sleep that night, I felt like an idiot. Why the hell had Scott been so GOOD on this night, of all nights. It wasn’t as if I had no reasons to think he was cheating. Just 5 months ago we had gone to something called the Running of the Bullshitters (supposedly Pamplona’s ugly little brother) with Scott’s sister Angie and her boyfriend. This event was basically a drinking festival, in which hundreds of people (all dressed alike in white pants and red shirts, I might add) would meet in one Minneapolis bar for a specified period of time, after which we would be chased by guys wearing bull horns on their head to another bar. It sounded really fun. I, unfortunately, had volunteered to sober cab. BIG mistake. I spent the night shoving drunk slobs off of me, trying not to be trampled by drunk women in platform shoes, and searching for the members of my party who apparently had conspired to wander off without me all night long. I was alone most of the night, sober and definitely not having fun, trying to find everyone else. As the night progressed and respectable young men and women unleashed their inner demons, finding three other white and red clad people became more difficult. I finally found Scott at the last bar, standing below a make-shift stage on which several very drunk women in skirts were dancing. As I shoved my way through the crowd (polite “excuse me’s and pardon me’s” no longer necessary, as no one gave a fuck if I stepped on their toes or if they puked on mine), I realized that the skirt women were going commando. Scott stood at their feet, looking up at what I hope was only their faces. He was trying to get a phone number from one of them, and I don’t think he had specified which one. That was a bad night.
There was the time I had belly-crawled under the truck in the garage in order to eves-drop on Scott and his buddies while they were discussing the finer attributes of some “hot chick in the red skirt from the bar last night”, whom Scott had apparently tried to pick up while I waited at home for him.
It wasn’t just the implied infidelities that were bothering me those days. I was three years younger than Scott, which meant I spent the 3 year span between his 21st birthday and mine playing chauffer to him and his idiot friends. I took them wherever they had to go, at any time of day or night, whether I had been sleeping or not when they called for a pick-up. I could have said no many times, but the alternative in my mind had been to let them drive their own drunk asses home, and surely then their DWIs or mangled bodies would be my fault. So I drove, and they knew I always would.
There were the puke-cleaning incidents, when I scrubbed various colors and textures of vomit from the driveway or the bathroom walls; there were screaming fights about anything from politics to breast implants; and then there was the unequal distribution of labor in our household. I felt unappreciated for all of the laundry, cleaning and cooking I did. Scott had never seen the underside of a toilet rim, unless you counted the times he was sober enough to make it to the bathroom rather than spewing all over the driveway or the floor. I guess I figured if Scott was drunk enough to piss on the carpet in the corner of the bedroom because he thought it was the bathroom down the hall, then it would be feasable to think he could fuck someone else and think it was me.
I didn’t have to wait long for another breech of protocol to nail him with. The following Sunday, he came home at 3:30 smelling like booze, saying “baby, don’t worry, I only had 3 beersss. I’m fine to drive, I ssswear”. I had a screaming fit and told him I was leaving. I huffed around our bedroom, pacing and ranting about how I couldn’t trust him, and didn’t he worry about driving in that condition? Was he screwing Kristin? I wanted to know. He wanted me to explain how that was related to bowling and drinking, and I said he knew exactly how it related. He actually laughed at me a few times, which only served to feed the flame of my disproportionate anger. I packed a suitcase, which I only half-heartedly planned to make use of, and I went back to bed. In spite of my orchestrated rage, I fell asleep quickly. When I awoke to the alarm clock at 5am, Scott had crawled into bed beside me and was fast-passed, as I liked to call it. He hadn’t bothered to take his jeans or belt off. The bedroom smelled like stale alcohol. Oh, for god’s sake I thought.
In the bathroom, I found a note he apparently had stayed up to write after I had gone back to bed with the sound of a slamming door still echoing throughout the house. It read:
I don’t know how else to say it. You are the only hottie in my life, the only one I think about and dream about. All I care about is loving you and taking care of you. I am very sorry I upset you last night. I promise I am a faithful and loving boyfriend. I want to be with you forever. If that means coming home straight after work then that is what I shall have to do. Babe, you are so beautifl un 1 million different ways. God – or whoever - put you on earth to be somebody special and you hav exceeded that. I swear, all I did last night was some dancing that you would approve of. No flirting, no nothing. I am 110% in love with the best woman in the world. Please trust me Catherine, I will trust you the same. We have to put our hearts on the line and trust each other. I never want to hurt you sweetie, ever! You smell so good, sugar. I don’t know what else to say other than I love you so much, baby. I honest to god do not believe it when love as strong as the love I have for you is at stake. Love you forever,
Damn it! How dare he? I wasn’t finished being angry with him yet. What balls he had, saying all these sweet things about me after I screamed and yelled at him. Why did he choose this moment to be charming? And come to think of it, his spelling and grammar were abnormally accurate. Maybe he hadn’t been drunk like I though. I stuck my head back inside the bedroom to double check that I smelled stale air, and I did. He had definitely been drinking hard stuff. Maybe intoxication improved his spelling as much as it impaired his judgement.
I left for work without saying goodbye. He was fast-passed anyway, and didn’t much care if I remained present or not. I also left the note on the bathroom counter where I found it, and tried to make it look like I hadn’t bothered to read it before I left. I didn’t answer the phone when he called me at work several hours later. Let him sweat, I thought. Monday and Tuesday I only spoke to him if he spoke first. I was careful to remain icy and distant. Usually this tactic resulted in his graveling at my feet, but this time he didn’t much seem to care.
I assumed this was because he was screwing Kristin, and he knew he had a back up booty call if I should decide to move out after all. By Wednesday, I had decided I’d had enough. I was going to get over it – move past it – grow up already. But first, I needed something to help me relax. I stopped by the liquor store on my way home and picked up a liter bottle of cheap wine, the kind with the screw top.
As I was pulling onto our culdesac, Scott was pulling out on his way to work. He was wearing his Dominoe’s uniform because he had to deliver pizzas that night. He actually had three jobs at that point in time, but I had no pity because the pay from all three jobs barely matched what I made at my one job. It all evened out, I thought.
I was surprised when he stopped the truck at the end of the street and put it into park. He jumped out of the truck and I rolled down my window. He smiled and I smiled, and in that moment we forgave each other just one more time. He forgave me for being a crazy bitch, and I forgave him for being himself, and we both moved on. Of course, there would be a discussion at some point, but for now we were both on the same page. One of the neighbors pulled in behind me, so I had to move my car. Scott gave me a kiss, got back into his truck, and drove away.