Across a wood-grain bar in southern Minnesota on the way to Buddy Holly roller coaster in slower Iowa, I lay a few dollars on the bar for the sixpack of Blatz (cheapest they got and straight from Milwaukee authenticity) the bartender slides my way. Driving all afternoon on potholed state highways from Minneapolis, the beer’ll back the salami sandwiches from the general store down the street from that motel where I stayed last time and hope they have a vacancy.
This is probably what divorce would feel like if I’d ever been married. Though the approach of Arnolds Park might feel like a pile of useless rusty machinery among the Okoboji waterways, instead of a flittery childish memory.
But avoiding marriage hasn’t made me immune to strife—got in the car today, reason being was while deadlines were pressing I just didn’t feel like being captive audience to the two male voices across the street giving equal time in random rotation to money, housework, a healthy diet, what a raised eyebrow means, who was the first to show interest at the party four years ago, escalating in volume, and when the slap comes it’s too harsh a reminder. So here I am.
Couple at a nearby table: the tall man stands, strides wide to the men’s room, and the woman maybe forty with chocolate brown hair dipping down and in like in the 1950s, watching him, as soon as the door closes behind him she turns at me with no qualms about staring—here we go again, that couple pressure cooker where you need out but have no clear idea of the way, you open your valve a crack and let yourself hiss.
What does a raised eyebrow mean? She must know because as soon as I give it she gives it back, a cocked head she does the same, a smile. Stops there.
Rock Hudson’s back, her hands on his broad shoulders and she gives him a sweet deep kiss, so much sweeter and deeper for this microadventure that lets her know she could have the whole thing if she needed it and can bear this, then, for as long as it lasts and the kids are still in the house.
A reminder I’m by myself, and why, because I can’t stand those moments of just having to bolt, too high a price for that bumpy communion of flesh I can’t believe I spend so much time doing without, which with rare exceptions you can’t get in isolation from the rest, not the real juicy kind anyway.
Maybe in the amusement park, at closing time a friendly concession vendor, maybe divorced, more worried than she needs to be about looking older, won’t find a man in his late thirties alone on the Ferris wheel too boring or weird for company—oh just listen to me, I’ve never been any good at the quick hookup, frankly I never wanted to be.
In about twenty-five minutes the Blatz’ll start its job as my evening’s campaign manager.