Since I posted the ending of Tenement that I discarded, here’s the one I finally wound up with if anyone wants to read it. It’s a lot happier, but only semi-happy; none of my characters gets off lightly.
We park by the on-ramp to the bridge. By agreement she will make the crossing first. When I look up at the checkpoints I see guard dogs. And military sentries with automatic weapons slung over their shoulders.
I say, I don’t much like what they’ve done with this place.
Her wraparound sunglasses make her face look vague. The spiteful wind whips her hair across her face and she pushes it aside with annoyance.
Good God, Dana says. When did this happen? What are they looking for?
This doesn’t affect us, I say.
No but damn, Erik. She squeezes my hand and says, This is the bridge to Canada, not East Berlin. WTF kind of country is this?
Same kind as always. A bully that relies on intimidation. Achtung, baby.
I look at the sentries and the dogs and shake my head. Above them the support towers of the bridge are lost in fog.
Give me…an hour? Dana says. When I call you, go across. And don’t worry. Don’t be afraid.
I put my arms around her waist and lock my fingers and do not let go.
What’s wrong, honey? She says, looking worried.
I kiss her on the neck and face. She kisses me back and says, Plenty of time for that later. IG2G.
I don’t ever want to let you go, I say.
G2G, she says urgently. In three hours traffic will be impossible. Let me go.
I do not let her go.
You’re being a big baby cause you’re scared, she says, nuzzling me. Don’t worry, Loveling. Two hours and we’ll both be across. I need to go or we’ll be stuck in traffic for hours.
She gently removes my hands, smiles, walks to her car, blows me a kiss, and drives onto the ramp and up to the bridge. Sleet begins to pelt me and I retreat deep into the pea coat I borrowed from her. Sleet turns to snow and is pulled up into vortices by gusts of icy winds that rattle the metal interstate signs
This gale will shriek out of the rust belt and into the northeast tomorrow, leaving snow and record cold behind. The wind batters me but the pea coat is warm and her smell is all over it. I see her get off the ramp and into one of the crossing lanes. And I ache for her the way I always do when I am afraid and she is not here. Finally the wind and the cold drive me into my car and I start it and turn the heater up.
Presently she calls. By agreement we are brief.
I’m here, she says.
Received and understood, I say and break the connection. I get out of the car and toss the phone into a trash can.
There’s no real trouble when I go across. It’s just creepy and a pain in the ass. I watch the dogs and machine guns with a kind of detachment. I show them my papers and the sentry is about to let me through when a superior officer stops him and tells the sentry to inspect my car.
The sentry rolls his eyes and says, Sir, would you open the hood and trunk of your car, please?
The sentry’s superior brings a dog to sniff at the car and at me as I open the hood. I have a very bad moment when I remember the police dog that mistakenly chewed off a little girl’s leg during the Dillsburg Fried Chicken Riot.
They ask me about something under the hood. When I put it in I made sure it looked “automotive.” Covered in grease and road filth and integrated into the guts of the car. They cant understand what its function is.
When they ask me about it I shrug and say, Must be ‘mission control or sumpin.
Finally they let me thru. Haha.
Dana is waiting at a mall parking lot inside her car. I tell her to lock her keys in the car and leave it.
I open the hood of my car and remove the box that the guards were so interested in and open it and take out the baggie of Xanax that I can never be without. I pocket the baggie and throw the box in the trash and lock the keys in my car. We walk thru the mall and out the other side to the Camaro parked there, barely visible in the grayness.
I drive off with her and we stop and get two pizzas, then go to the safe house. I have not seen this place before. It used to be a duplex with an oil heater that has been replaced with a heat pump. Both units of the duplex are empty. Dana holds the pizzas while I I hold her purse and try to unlock the front door with cold-numbed fingers.
Not bad, Erik, she says. This’d be great for college kids.
Yes, I say, too tired to want to talk.
Neither of us feels like celebrating but that changes when we start eating. Someone left a cold case of beer and as our blood sugar rises and alcohol flows we feel better. The network news is on TV and the bobbleheads talking about the serious matters seem so absurd we start making rude noises and laughing like we are stoned.
By the time graygreen twilight falls we are giggling and dancing drunkenly across the little apartment until we fall together on the twin bed. More laughter as my hand finds one of her nipples.
She says, I make you happy, don’t I, Daddy?
Always, I say.
Because i’m a slave to love. Always.