"Roller Coaster"~ (chapter eleven)


“Albuquerque… 38 miles”
He didn’t know if it was the bright green of the sign against the subtle shades of the countryside or the sound of tires on roadside gravel that brought him to his senses, but desert driving while daydream drifting, he realized, could be hazardous to one’s health. Half-awake at the wheel, the summer sun’s relentless drumming was rapidly filling his eyes with the need to sleep.
“Roadside Rest… 2 miles”
As he pulled off the interstate and eased his ‘61 Dodge Lancer under the limited shade of a scrubby oak in the nether reaches off the rest area, sleep was the only thing on his mind… well, sleep and Dolores.
The apprehensions and anxieties he had wrestled with all the way to Arizona all but dissolved the moment he saw her… suffused in fluorescent light, standing under the blue light special beacon at the jewelry counter of the Scottsdale K-Mart where she worked and where they had agreed to meet. Her hair was different, longer than she used to wear it, and pulled back from her face it made her look older than her twenty years. Her eyes were touched by sorrow lines at the corners and there was a certain grimness present in her visage that he knew with certainty had not been there when last he saw her just those few years ago. Then she saw him… and smiled… and the sorrow left her now flashing eyes, her grim face softened into that wondrous smile that always quickened his heart and suddenly those years melted away. Unable to complete her sale, her matronly blue-haired customer shaking her head in disbelief as she walked away after the fourth question answered without a logical response, she hurried into his opened arms with a hug that took his breath away. Five minutes later they left for her apartment to begin her vacation and the possible renewal of their interrupted journey together. He was smiling as sleep overtook the memories…
He awakened the next evening around five thirty, brushing the last sleepy cobwebs and the small scorpion that had roused him as it scampered across his face. It took almost an hour to flush it from its newfound hideaway under the car seat, the monstrous, two inch long beastie cowering inside the seat mounting brackets from the searingly intense light of his double ‘D’ cell alkaline energized emergency flashlight as he tried to herd it from under the seat and out the opened door with a stick of strawberry incense. It was the last time he slept with the car doors open in the desert. After checking his pants for cleanliness and taking a much needed comfort break he was finally under way by seven. Funny… he wouldn’t have thought those translucent terrors very plentiful in these parts. Sometime later he discovered that most varieties are really not lethally venomous. At the time, though, the experience had left him more than slightly disconcerted. It wasn’t until he was well into Texas that he first felt a need for coffee. Twenty-seven hours and a few more coffee stops later he pulled into a tree sheltered parking space behind a friend’s house in Columbus and slept again.
For days after his return he wrestled again with his doubts about the resumption of his relationship with Dee. The distance and passing time between them somehow both increased his confusion and yet cleared his reasoning… how strange. He was definitely happy that they had spent the time together, in many ways it was as if they had never parted, and yet there were differences that kept creeping into his thoughts and evaluations. Differences that he had overlooked during their recent days and nights together now refused to remain unnoticed and unaddressed, leaving him with more questions than answers, intruding upon his memories and infesting his dreams with nagging uncertainties. Although in all honesty she had seemingly changed little, the changes were too apparent and too important to ignore. In the beginning just having each other was enough. Now, he realized, that alone might not suffice. Now she wanted things. Her dreams and expectations were now larger and the longer he contemplated these new subtleties in her disposition the more certain he knew that he could no longer be her happiness. How could he provide the ski boat for summer fun, trips to the mountains for winter diversion and all the other things she coveted to fill the years of doing without while growing up in a less than nurturing family dominated by her father’s overwhelmingly oppressive melancholy? After all, he still had nearly two years left in his alternate service obligation before the Selective Service System would permit him to resume his life… two years at a salary of sixteen and one half cents per hour (plus room and board)… two years of watching her grow restless with more waiting and denial of her dreams and desires before he could even resume school and become a social worker to help keep kids from becoming like the neglected castoffs he was caring for at the children’s home… two years and then at least four more before he would be in a position to provide the things she seemed to crave after a life of sacrificing her desires in return for her ungrateful family’s survival. If they were to pursue their plans to try to live together, and maybe to marry, he was certain that eventually she would regret giving up the certain choices she had in Arizona. There were others that desired her, others who had called during their recent time together, and one in particular that fancied himself the answer to her prayers and she thought may have been the very one who trashed the car and lifted the stereo during their last night together in a moment of uncontrolled jealousy. The longer he weighed the options the more convinced he became that their memories were best left as memories, their dreams as wishful fancies unrealized. He loved her too much to be the cause of her growing disappointment and the disillusionment that he was certain would poison the love they treasured and he knew that because he could not satisfy her material desires and heightened expectations she would most surely, if however slowly, grow to despise him for her lost chances… other choices unmade. He knew he couldn’t live with that result. It may have been an act of cowardice, not altruism, but as this realization became manifest it also became irrefutable. If he loved her, and without a doubt he did, he knew that he had to free her from their recently considered plans. It was the most difficult thing he had ever done. It was the hardest letter he had ever written and he was certain that he had handled it badly, but he could never give her the things she so strongly desired and he reluctantly excused himself from her life and wished her every happiness with her new friends… and goals… and dreams.
Some years later he heard that she had married a man of means and was living in Texas. As the years passed he thought of her, from time to time, and wished her well. Above all else he wished her happiness and tried to avoid playing games of ‘What If…’

"Roller Coaster"~ (chapter eleven)


Mansfield, United States

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