There’s no obvious point where the Great Plains end and the High Plains begin; you just look round and suddenly notice things have changed. It’s like being in a small vessel in a sheltered harbor. You get used to the choppy little waves and suddenly you’re aware that the small waves have given way to deep ocean swells and that you’re out of sight of land.
The land has gone from flat to hills and the deep green of the Great Plains is gone, replaced by a patchwork of short, poor green shoots punctuated by rags of sand. There is more oil drilling equipment and the soil has gone poor enough that it’s used for grazing more than anything else. Raw umber hills in the distance stand in the deep folds of their own shadow. Farming this land is only for the dedicated and the mad, because it’s not worth much. A world as wild and empty as the Great Plains but lacking charm because it’s so scruffy and scraggly. Tonya is utterly spellbound by the sights, which is good. She’s sweet but she talks too much and asks too many uncomfortable questions.
When we cross the line into Colorado she says, Weed is legal in this state. Can we stop and get some?
The closest pot shop is in Denver and we’re hours away.
How do you know?
Googled it. There are maps that show where you can buy weed.
Is Denver the only place?
It’s the nearest to us. There are some in Boulder and Greeley where the universities are but they’re a long way from Denver.
Wanting to get her away from the subject of weed i say, See the horizon in front of us? That little bank of clouds? It’s not clouds.
Not clouds? What else could it be?
Mount Evans. The snow on the peak hasnt melted yet. That’s what you see. Looks like clouds.
But it’s summer.
Early summer. I think it’s about 15,000 feet up and it’s still cold up there.
But how can you see it from this far away when you cant see the mountain underneath it?
I dunno, i say irritably. Dry air. The albedo maybe.
No science lecture today? She says.
No. Last night you got the last one for about a year.
You think i’m stupid, dont you?
No. And i’d never want to punish you for being curious about things like that. But if you think you’re stupid i could get a t-shirt that says ‘I’m with stupid.’ Tell the world.
You’re such a dick sometimes, she says.
Well, dont! She snaps at me.
When you get past Denver, which is mainly flat, on I-70 you suddenly start climbing at a 45 degree angle, maybe steeper. IDK why i mention that now…oh, yeah. The way my first wife reacted to it was so funny. I’ll tell you about that later. If i tell you now i’ll start laughing so hard i might wreck the car.
Why tell me about it?
Why? Because you wanted to hear all about the bitch yesterday. You got me talking so dont expect me to just shut up about her.
Fair enough then, she says. Tell me about your sex life. With her.
You want me to tell you the details of my sex life with a woman i havent seen for thirty years who probably ate herself to death long ago?
No. Just about after she got so big and fat. How did you two do it? Looks like it’d be difficult. Or impossible.
Piss off, Tonya!
I guess that means you two didnt do anything for years and years…how long were you two together?
Ten and a half years.
Then nothing for the last five? Or seven?
Nothing for the last…fifteen months. It was impossible.
See, i had this job that i wanted to stay at but she left and demanded that i come with her. But i couldnt just leave.
Back to Atlanta. Where momma was.
I agree but what was i gonna do? I wrapped things up where i was and went back but i had to give notice and do some other things so i wound up staying for a while. The day before she left to go back i stayed home and fucked her all day. She left the next morning. About a month later i took a week off work and went to Atlanta to look for a job. During that time i tried to fuck her and i couldnt. You see…well, she had gained enough weight while she was gone that i couldnt get inside her. There was just too much fat and as you know i am not big enough to push myself past that big a mass of flesh.
She was too fat to fuck?
What happened was that without me around she could sit in front of the TV and binge eat non-stop. She wouldnt do that if i was around. At least she had enough pride to care whether i saw her doing that. But she ate so much and got so fat that i just couldnt…i stop and shake my head and wonder if i feel more hurt or angry.
Did you go out on her?
NO! WTF do you think i am?
IDK. What WTFRU?
I ought to throw you out of the car, i say.
If you didnt go out on her then what did you do?
I improvised, i say.
A year and a half sounds like a lot of improvisation.
RU happy now that you have humiliated me?
Why did she want to go back to mama so bad? Was it…
Hannah had a long history of this same behavior. It went back years before she met me. There was some guy she liked she met in school that she was going to Jacksonville to live with. She went. I dont think it lasted a month. She just kept trying to run that same game with me years later.
Did she try to leave you?
She started going that way but i refused to let her.
What do you mean you refused to let her?
She was a quitter, i say. The first time things got a little rough she would quit. I’m not like that. I just refused to let her do that to me.
You must have really impressed her, Tonya says. Hannah’s mother, i mean.
Her mother said right before i left Hannah for good that no matter what happened she would always love me just like she loved her own sons. I never pretended to be a saint but i guess i looked like one in contrast to Hannah.
How was that?
Hannah was two-faced, i say bitterly. She would go over to see her mother and stepfather and talk about me behind my back.
Bad things. And i never, ever said one bad thing about Hannah to her mother or to anyone else. I’d like to think i have more class than that.
How do you know Hannah was bad-mouthing you to her mother?
Well, Hannah told me her mother defended me. Mom told her that she was being too hard on me and she ought to worry more about being a better wife and she didnt want to hear anything else about me when i wasnt there. I guess Mom just got tired of hearing it. It was the contrast of a gossiping back-stabber with a husband that wouldnt do the same.
Personal silence and rhythmic mechanical noise. I want to cry and i dearly wish i had never hooked up with this nosy little bitch. Mount Evans looks closer but if i didnt know better i’d swear it was just a bank of clouds in the hard, bright sky.
Tonya sighs heavily. Then she says, How did you…how did you ever hook up with this…with someone like that? Where did you meet her…
That’s enough, i say sharply. Enough. After i’ve recovered from this…this telling of the past i’ll say more about it if you want. Not now.
Tell me how you met her?
Tell me what your sex life with her was like before she got so big?
Yes, if you will STFU right now, i promise. I dont want to hear your voice for a while. I mean it. And i’m pulling over right now and you are going to drive the rest of the way to Denver.