detoured track of a steady course
I’m in love with a woman that hates the word love and says there’s no such thing as a promise.
I first saw Marilyn on the Wildwood boardwalk. A cool night after a hot summer day. The scent of salt water and dry seaweed mixed with funnel cake and french fries. If you don’t know Jersey, I guess that sounds gross. When you grow up on the shore like I did, it’s intoxicating.
It was pre-season, some of the game stands and t-shirt joints weren’t even open yet. So instead of neon glowing outlets inviting you in to eat greasy food or buy something with a decal ironed across it, there are metal hinged doors pulled down and locked up. Some have tags spray painted on them, others display red and white signs reading ‘See you at the end of June.’
I’m not here to buy anything. I came for the rides. I’m obsessed with rollercoasters. I’m the dude that will wait fifteen minutes longer than I have to just to sit in the front car. And I never hold on.
I was standing in line when I first saw her. She was wearing a black tube dress and carrying a pair of red stilettos. The dress gave away that she’s a local straight away, the dress and the hair. She had chestnut curls half down her back wild from beach air. I didn’t get the shoes.
Since we were both single riders, we got paired up together. Without saying, ‘Excuse me,’ she brushed passed me so close that her tits rubbed against my back. I recognized her perfume, Calvin Klein Summer. I live with my best friend and his girlfriend who reads all those fashion magazines. She’s always tearing out ads for different scents and rubbing them on her wrists.
When we slid in to sit next to each other, she was ambivalent to our thighs being squished together. I wasn’t expecting an orgasm or anything, a smile to acknowledge my existence might’ve been nice.
The ride took off and started creeping up the wooden track to drop into the descent that would send us whipping up, down, and around sharp corners. Old wooden coasters are way sweeter than the new ones. Something about them seems much more uncertain.
Flying down the first dip I’m howling with the rest of the riders, the rest of them except for her I mean. She didn’t make a sound the entire time. When the ride ended and I was waiting for the black padded lap bar to pop up, I glanced over to notice shreds of foamy crescent moons from where she dug her fingernails in.
Before I can blink she’s up and walking away, carrying the shoes. I decide to follow from a distance. She walks up to a food stand and buys a candy apple. I figure she must be waiting for someone when she sits on one of the green benches that’s facing the water. That’s when she glanced over her shoulder and looked right at me. I thought I was seeing things when she raised her hand and gestured for me to come over.
‘Do you always follow women up and down the boardwalk at night?’ she asked and the smile behind her eyes softened the Italian attitude.
‘Only the ones wearing heels.’
‘I’m not wearing them, I’m carrying them.’
‘My name’s David.’
For the next four Friday nights I met Marilyn at the bench. Every time she wore the black dress and carried the red shoes. She told me about how she plays the piano and that, ‘I’m not gonna wait tables forever. Fuck I’m not even gonna stay in Jersey much longer. I’m thinking of going out west, LA. Work in the movies or something, y’know?’
We never spoke about anything that happened more than three days prior. When I asked for her phone number she asked, ‘Why?’
People who say love at first sight doesn’t exist are just bitter that they haven’t experienced it. I wanted to protect this woman. I wanted to take her out someplace to wear those shoes. I even told her that one night.
‘Why are you always carrying those?’ I asked. ‘Your hands must get tired from holding them, why don’t I bring you out someplace where you can get some use of them?’
‘Oh, these?’ she asked like she wasn’t even aware of the leather pumps now resting in her cross-legged lap. ‘These aren’t mine.’
She said that talking about it any further broke the three day rule. So she never told me. She never told me that the shoes were the only thing her mother forgot to pack when she left in the middle the night five years ago without saying goodbye.
And I never saw her again after that night.
These days when I ride the wooden coaster, I look at the jagged rips in the lap bar and wonder if she knows what she taught me. How I learned that loving someone is simple, it doesn’t involve pledges and jewelry. I learned when to grip something like releasing it will kill you. And that sometimes, you just have to let go.