Mom walks me into the bathroom across the hall from the clinic where she works to warn me about Jay. He’s sitting nonchalant in the lobby with his baseball cap and paralyzed right arm. We’re on our way to Vegas to get married. Misti the crazy Aquarian and Jay the sexy Leo…soul mates, destined to break the law in four different states and make a baby.
“He has not one but two daughters. He’s still married to his first wife. He was brain damaged at birth and again when he was nine in a horrible skiing accident. His parents have disowned him. He’s a liar and a thief,” Mom whispers, fierce.
“No. No. No. Why are you trying to ruin this for me? You’re a monster!”
I am sobbing. All that unrequited love, all those two and three night stands. I finally find a guy who likes me enough to shack up with me and buy me French fries and my mom wants to ruin it for me. She tells me that she’s my mother. She tells me that she loves me. She urges me to get tested for AIDS. The legend of Jay has spread far and wide in Kerrville, Texas, hearts crushed in his terrible wake like so many Sweettarts.
He sees me crying, tries to comfort me, my mom and her friend Sharon tell him to leave. Sharon takes me into an examination room in the clinic. She and my mom work for a perverted orthodontist who likes to tie up his girlfriend and jack off as he looks out the window at her teenage daughters lounging by the pool in their bikinis.
“Misti, this guy is bad news. You’re a beautiful, classy woman. You can do better than this. He’s going to tell you all kinds of lies to keep you. Run don’t walk away from this creep. And get tested for AIDS. You aren’t the first girl he’s done this to,” Sharon says.
I don’t know how much Sharon knows. Does she know about the topless dancing in San Antonio? Jay would hustle pool at the topless bars and tell me which guys to hit up for table dances. I’m wracked with shame and guilt but fear is the overriding emotion. Fear of losing the only boyfriend I’ve ever had. I’m twenty-two years old, an old maid by Texas standards. I’ve given and given unto death and not received. After our first date I read Jay’s tarot cards by candlelight then fucked him to “Nevermind.” When it was over I told him I hoped he would call me and he grabbed my hand and said, “Look. I’m not a fuck. I’ll call you.” I had a crimson candle carved with planetary glyphs and names. Heloise & Abelard. Sid & Nancy. Jim & Pam. Tristan & Isolde. I was starving for erotic love, friendship on fucking fire.
After a week of getting drunk together, shooting pool, eating Mexican food and watching movies like “Purple Rain” we moved into a candy colored rent house together. There were two bedrooms. The only furniture was a recliner in the den and a king size bed in the master bedroom. Jay knew I was a writer so he put a desk and chair in the smaller bedroom for me, told me his father had connections in New York City, could get me an agent. One night I wrote a short story about a purple psychedelic monkey with pinwheel eyes. Jay read it and said, “You’re good. Fuck. We can sell this.”
“Jay wanted me to give this to you. He’s waiting for you out in his car. Don’t go to him, Misti,” Sharon said, handing me a white envelope. I ripped the envelope and pulled out a card that had an embossed schooner on the cover.
“He knows I like old ships,” I said, melting into a lovesick smile. Sharon rolled her eyes.
I walked like a zombie out the door to Jay’s forest green Ford Taurus. He’d bought my engagement ring from a quarter machine at the new Wal-Mart Supercenter. The toy ring had a purple stone. “My birthstone! Amethyst! It’s a sign!” I cried out. We got inside the photo booth and made out for a dollar. Inside Jay’s car I found the womb I’d been dying for…Billy Joel on the stereo, a Subway sandwich, passionate kisses and promises from my beloved pool shark pimp. He didn’t have any kids or an ex-wife! He loved me! He would take care of me, always. I was the woman he’d been waiting for. His green eyes spilled tears. I believed the tears. I believed the liar.
We road tripped to Las Vegas alternating the greatest hits of Billy Joel and Michael Bolton. He bought me a rose at a convenience store. I danced at the Satin Saddle in North Vegas in gold and black striped Wal-Mart panties. I made five bucks. We got married at a drive-up window. That night Jay snored in his bed in our room at the Gold Spike Inn while I carried up luggage and wrapped my arms around myself in the other bed, wearing a white silk gown I’d written a hot check for. I stared at the wall knowing the morning would bring me a bitter breakfast. The eggs would be runny. The toast would be burnt. There would not be enough sugar in the world to sweeten the cheap black coffee. But I would eat and drink and be grateful. Finally, I was not alone.