Sex With an Alligatorhttps://i0.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/mane31.jpg?fit=1089%2C1600&ssl=110891600Jillian LuftJillian Lufthttps://i0.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/JillianLuft.jpg?fit=96%2C96&ssl=1
Meet me after, you’d pleaded before leaving the office. And now I’m sliding on the stool next to you, dissolving like the flakes of ice in your second whiskey, maybe third. It’s so easy to love you, to give into the late afternoon lull and forget. You rub my thigh, tell me you’re glad I came. You knew I would, I say, carving another line near my pulse.
We down shots. Honeyed relief sliding down our throats. Sex With an Alligator, the bartender winks. Coconut Rum. Melon liquer. Jaegermeister. Layers of oblivion light up like a neon swamp. My skin stops itching, starts singing softly as the lights dim and tiny fires flicker across the sticky wood. I try to steady myself on the bar, elbow gumming into the counter, propping up my chin, preparing to dive into the now. To get straight enough to look upon you and say what I mean. And there you are in seductive shadow, candlelight revealing what I can’t resist. How your face holds my secrets and shows them to me, knowing and game. Your dark wildness cannot be tamed in button-downs or belts. I know what lies underneath and I grab hold of it. Ready to revive all our yesterdays. Ready to strangle tomorrow.
We don’t hear the band set up but when they cover Louis Armstrong, you yank me to my feet and we dance in front of muted baseball games, a leering man in cargo shorts. Our eyes flooding with lust, pooling with regret. An older couple looks on, tells us we make a wonderful pair, hopes we’ll be married someday. They don’t know that one of us already is. They don’t know that there’s a wonderful pair of diapered children that you rarely mention, waiting in a house you’ve haven’t slept in since the start of summer. They don’t know about the wife who learned about me on your lunch break last week because you couldn’t lie anymore. They don’t know about your head between my legs on top of your desk under a bright moon shining through vertical blinds. They don’t know that we’re no longer together. Not really. That I’ve decided to quit working for you. That you’ve decided to return to your family. That I’ve decided to move back to Sarasota and keep my distance because whatever this is feels dangerously inevitable and you can only figure this out if I’m gone, really gone. And they don’t know how you begged me to break my lease and move into that still unfurnished apartment downtown and then flew us out to meet your mother in New Hampshire and then drove us back down the endless stretch of coastline in two days because you were too afraid to fly and, this time, the oxys weren’t enough to get you through. Too much time to think on the road, to stop and step outside and call. Pale, clammy skin. Wary, shifting eyes. Fights at gas stations. Fucks in motel rooms. And they don’t know that by the time we drop our bags in our bare-walled apartment that you’re still clutching the rental car keys and then riding over to the place you were missing. The diapered children, the wife. I watched Seinfeld on mute, bawling and waiting until you made up your mind again and came home. And when you did, how I still wept and clung to your indifferent body as you slept. And how in the morning, this morning, you’d looked at me like furniture and asked that I move out. They don’t know that months ago I graduated and had other plans. Lots of other plans. Serious, important, respectable plans. Plans of any kind.
The lights come up and I resurface while you close out the tab.
We stumble out to your truck and when we back out of the strip mall parking lot, it hits us like it always does. The romance of it all. The radio plays the perfect song and you crank it up, roll the windows down. Streetlights swimming by like electric fish. You once told me that everyone in your hometown called Journey’s lead singer, “the voice of God.” And I cannot disagree. His lungs burst with a celestial force that knocks us between our sternums, brings us to our knees. Sappy lyrics root themselves in our throats, and we let them halt our breath and move our mouths. Shameless faith in the sentimental. We belt out the second verse, the chorus and then the outro as it peaks in feverish devotion. The dramatic crescendo.
You’re no longer looking at the road. Instead, you focus on the whole of me splayed across the recliner seat, your eyes earnest and pleading with I’m still yours and forevers and then that title word that stings so sweetly. I leap toward your free hand and press it to my cheek while the guitars wail in supplication and God’s voice climbs higher than your Ram 1500 engine speeding down empty highways, higher than the open air shouting into my tangled hair. You steer us forward, past dinky tourist traps and tiki-themed dives. I convince myself this is all we need: the magnetic draw, a decent buzz and a love song. But I know where this leads. Where we end up after the sun rises and the high is a headache and God stops singing.
Jillian Luft is a Florida native currently residing in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Sweet Tree Review, Pithead Chapel, X-R-A-Y and Hobart. You can find her lurking on Twitter @JillianLuft.