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More Than Air
In the dream, Edward is tied down to a bed as a red-haired ogre slaps his face, pokes at his limbs, pulls his hair. But the pain seems a little too real. He wakes in time to grab Zelda’s hands. She raises a leg and kicks him, dangerously close to the family jewels.
“Three years, asshole! Three fucking years. Do you know how much I cried for you? What kind of person just… disappears like that?”
Zelda’s tone is climbing and climbing, approaching soprano. Edward lets go and rolls toward the window, hoping to keep the bed between himself and his attacker. She bends over, crying into her hands, but this just seems to restore her strength. She hops across the bed on her knees, but Edward slides to his left and dashes to the bathroom, closing the door just as Zelda reaches it. She spends the next two minutes smacking it with the palm of her hand, then slides to the floor, breathing raggedly. She speaks in a rocky tone.
“I am going to work. Just get the fuck out of my apartment, and don’t ever come back. Motherfucker.”
He hears the jangle of keys, the slam of a door. A minute later, he slides into the room and goes about collecting his clothes. When he gets to his suit jacket, he finds that it’s been torn into two discrete pieces.
Edward walks across the street, bleary-eyed, in shock. He leans against his rental car and calls Jackson.
“Are you in the Bahamas yet?”
“Yes. Your maid of honor just hurled me out of her apartment.”
The line fills with Jackson’s husky laughter. “Can’t say as I blame her. Hey, where are you right now?”
“Across the street. Just outside the Pruneyard.”
“Why don’t you meet me at the coffeehouse in half an hour?”
“Um… Did I mention that Zelda wants to kill me?”
“It’s okay. She doesn’t work there anymore.”
Edward’s in the old spot, feeling like he never left. The taste of a Sinatra Sumatra is a balm to his soul. The counter is manned by a pair of bubbly blondes who cannot be far removed from high school. He has long suspected the owner of conducting his hirings in the manner of a beauty pageant, but of course in this he is complicit, having spent so many mornings mooning over Zelda. Fortunately, it’s not long till Jackson arrives, resplendent in a yellow button-down, looking like not much has happened in his life. Edward stands to greet him with a hug. Jackson holds on a little longer than usual.
“Husband of Zarita. How long before you leave?”
“Late tonight. Zelda is very graciously filling in for me at work.”
Jackson grins. “I’ll be right back.”
He trots to the counter, where one of the bubbly blondes greets him like an old friend. “So? How was it?”
He pats her cheek. “More perfect than anything you could imagine.”
The blonde holds both hands to her heart and releases a two-note sigh. “Oh! I’m gonna cry.” She smiles and recovers. “Sinatra?”
“Be right up.”
He pays her, adds a two-dollar tip and returns to Edward.
“You’re drinking Sinatras?”
Jackson pulls up a chair. “It started as a tribute to a missing friend. Then I got hooked.”
Edward laughs. “I tell people they’re just like Frank: smooth and rich, but with a certain edge.” He takes a sip. “So. Zelda? Filling in?”
“Yes. Well. Young Zelda spent the winter dehydrating herself over her vanished Edward…”
“But eventually the sun came out, baseball returned, and I couldn’t do the job by myself. And so, in the tradition of giving the job of Assistant Gigante to downtrodden individuals, I signed her up.”
“How is she?”
“Fantastic! She’s not as good as you at the gags – nobody is – but she certainly keeps up the dance part. The only drawback is, it’s hard to conceal the fact that there are two Gigantes.”
“Yep. Junk in the trunk. And since I don’t have the time to be subtle… I am so happy that you made it to the wedding, pal, but I’m still a little pissed at you. That girl really loved you. Loves you.”
Edward folds his hands behind his head. Jackson hasn’t seen him make this kind of relaxed gesture since their five-year high school reunion.
“The girl who loves me tried to beat the shit out of me. Little mark above my eye? Scratch on the neck? And, she ripped my jacket into two pieces.”
Jackson loses himself in a fit of laughter, then excuses himself to fetch his coffee from the counter.
“Thanks, Danielle. I’m sorry, Edward, but you deserved every bit of it. There is this point where love mixes with anger and turns into passion. The same passion that drove you into the swimming pool. And don’t think the entire wedding did not see that.”
Edward raises his cup. “Anything I can do to make your special day more memorable.”
“That you did. But also, thanks for saving my Dad. It was nice to have an audible toast at my wedding. Bean Hollow. God! I hadn’t thought about that for years.”
They take a moment to indulge in their coffees and gaze into the courtyard. The morning overcast has returned to the ocean and left a gorgeous spring day. A bearded hipster sits on the patio, teaching himself to play the ukulele.
“Do you want her?”
Edward taps a finger on the table. “More than… air.”
“Poetry! Okay. Go to the game. She can’t very well kick you in the nuts while she’s in costume.”
Edward smiles. “Perhaps I will purchase an athletic protector.”
Photo by MJV