Dolores moved out the morning after Steve broke her nose. She waited until he had gone, then called Pat Maguire and asked if she could stay with her for a couple of days.
"Sure, Dolores. Trouble with Steve? Never mind," Pat added.
Dolores packed quickly. Sometimes Steve came home at lunch; she didn't want to see him.
He called that night, about half an hour after her shift ended. Pat Maguire's was the logical place to look for her.
"I want a divorce," she said when she heard his voice.
"Dolly," he said. He knew her brother called her that. He didn't know she hated it. She cut him off.
"You're crazy," she said dispassionately. The sound of her altered voice infuriated her. She sounded like a comedian pretending he had a cold. "You're crazy jealous and possessive. You broke my nose. I don't know what's the matter with you, but I'm done with it."
"Honey, it was an accident."
"I don't care! Don't you understand? I don't care if it was an accident! It was an accident that you broke the TV, too, right? And it was an accident when you knocked me around because you thought I was doing it for money. That's too many accidents. You're accident prone. Except I end up in the hospital, not you." Her nose was packed with cotton; it was covered with a Lone Ranger mask of supportive bandages. She hated the sound of her voice. She hated the mirror.
"We ought to talk. We got a good thing"
"What good thing? You're just worried who's gonna pay your tuition. What good thing?"
"Look, you don't have to talk like that! I said I was sorry."
"Sorry don't make it stop hurting, Steve. Every time I look in the mirror I'm going to think of you. I've got two black eyes. How's that for immortality?" She was crying now, and whispering fiercely into the phone. When the conversation began, Pat had gotten up and headed for the kitchen, leaving Dolores alone.
"What can I do?" he said then. She did not reply. "Dolores," he said again, his voice gentle and seductive, hateful. She was crying hard now, angry with herself. He said her name again. She went home.
ms., Diseases of the Heart
Ravel Burke at Denver Quarterly called me for lunch. We got together at a great hole-in-the-wall Mexican place, the kind of joint where they put two salsas on the table and you're on your own to figure out which is dangerous. The waitress is a black-haired Chicana in her forties, named Linda, and you made big points by pronouncing it right. If somebody asked for a crab enchilada in the Guadalupe, the politest thing they'd do is to throw him out.
Over lunch, I told Ray about my Nevada adventure. When I was done, he looked at me blankly for a moment. As we sat facing each other, I began to realize how much of men's talk about whorehouses and prostitution was just that; talk. Ray, I thought, has never been in a whorehouse. What's more, he's never thought of going in one, not seriously. Like Shiera, he was struggling with his ethical relativismhis brain unable to object, his emotional gut looking for grounds for complaint. I resolved that I wouldn't discuss it with anyone else. Our food arrived, breaking the spell of awkward silence. We each sampled from our plates, then we got down to business. He asked me to read something Peter Lindheim had submitted, a paper on Swift and Pale Fire. I was half way through my chicken enchiladas; since he was buying, I had figured he was going to hit me up for something.
"I can't, Ray. I'm really too busy, and I haven't read Pale Fire or Tale of a Tub in years."
He didn't seem awfully disappointed. We discussed the story of mine that he was publishing in the Spring issue; he promised me galleys before the beginning of the semester.
"I'm chairing Peter's committee, and Bob and Willis both have had him in class, so I have to find an outsider to read the paper. It's pretty good, I think."
I suggested a couple of people at the University of Colorado and Colorado College. Ray ladled more of the hotter salsa on his burrito.
"This stuff will kill me some day. You ever eaten in El Paso?"
"Yeah. That's what I do, too, now. But I did a couple times, at RMMLA. On the American side of the border, they put jars of jalapenos on the table. Like pickles! Even in the UTEP cafeteria!"
"Last time I ordered a beef enchilada was in Juarez. That same year. The waitress had pretty limited English; I was with Rudy Sanchez in this little side street dive. I ordered beef enchiladas. I didn't know the Spanish for beef, and Rudy was having too much fun to help. She finally got it and said, 'Ahh! Enchiladas Americanas! No habla!'"
We finished the meal with coffee. Ray brought Peter back into the conversation. "He's a bright kid. A really interesting perspective on Nabokov." Ray Burke taught comparative lit; but Spanish and Portuguese were his specialties. He'd written his dissertation on a handful of epic poems, the least obscure of which was the Lusiad. I said nothing.
"It's too bad about him smashing his thumb."
"He broke his thumb?" I said.
"Doesn't his wife work at Red Rocks?"
"Yeah. But I don't socialize with them. I haven't seen Peter in a couple of months."
"He had a climbing accident. Jammed it on a rock and split an old fracture. Anyway, he's not going to have a dissertation done in June, looks like. It's too bad. He might as well skip MLA, since he'll still be ABD this fall."
"I don't think they're hurting for money; he can use the extra year to get his dissertation solid. The market for ABD's is pretty dry; but Claudine's situation at Red Rocks is fine."
"How's she doing?"
"A little unfocused. She's got too many interests: Melville, Southern fiction, comp. She's giving a paper on McCullers at MLA you should look at."
"Have her submit it."
|Chapter Four continues...|