It’s was one of those old houses that had been owned by several people and never quite loved by anyone long enough to make a difference. Someone added a back porch, turned some of it into a tiny bedroom, and then put a closet in so the only way to get to the porch was a very narrow hallway that two people could not navigate at the same time. The porch itself was screened in, but the window part of it was a bit high, and if you sat in a chair on the porch you saw only the top part of people’s heads, and the whole thing was off center of the pool so you wound up watching the side of the shed they had put up a few years back. Everyone thought the porch was a very neat thing until they sat there a while and it began to lose its charm. It was a great place to smoke pot when other people were around, and you didn’t want the whole world to know.
It was 1980 or so, I was living in Wisconsin, and experiencing my first Autumn, ever. In The South, we have two seasons, Christmas and Summer. Here was a September evening that was nice and cool, nearly chilly, but the brave and those with enough antifreeze were swimming. I was drunk enough to swim but too cold. I liked the idea of the climate change, really. I had never lived anywhere else in my life and the leaves and the sky and the people were all different.
“Want to share that?” She asked, and I was already becoming accustomed to the accent here in the northern Midwest. I was also getting accustomed to the effect my accent had on northern women. They loved it. People would buy me drinks just to hear me speak and women swooned when I laid it on thick and heavy, and I did.
“Yea ma’am” I said in my best Deep South accent and she laughed. She was pretty but there was something wrong with the way she smiled. She looked a lot like someone whose shoes were far too small for their feet.
“You do that intentionally” she said taking the proffered joint.
“The southern hick who is just wowed at being in another world” she laughed, “and the people around here are just lapping it up, aren’t they?”
She was a strange partner in smoke. We couldn’t see the people she was describing, but she knew a lot of them, and it only occurred to me much later in life she was inventing the people as she went along. Hear that voice? She was married right out of high school but it turned out the baby wasn’t his and the real father found out about it. And that guy that keeps yelling ‘cannonball!’ he got tossed out of college for showing up to class drunk but his dad kept him in by paying them off, and… I was young and fascinated with her. She told me her name was Susan and I had loved a Susan once, and would again. She was pretty in the sense that she had everything she needed to be thought of as pretty; blonde hair, blue eyes, nice figure and high cheekbones but there was something wrong with Susan.
“Let’s go.” Susan said.
I had never been to Minneapolis before, and had never really driven through that part of the country. I had no idea where Susan was taking me, and I didn’t care. I had pot, she was buying beer, and the world was good. To be twenty in a convertible with a blonde and with pot is something that you dream about in high school because there isn’t anything else to dream about. We put the top up to smoke, took it down to ride, and it was all giggly and funny and it seemed like the day turned into a very cool night and she rented a room in a very tall hotel with a window view very much unlike the one we had left a few hours ago. We turned the lights off and pushed the bed next to the window. The city lay before us like a glittering lava field and for some reason I kept thinking of Hell.
“I’m married.” Susan said. I was more than a little stunned. What do you say to that? Part of me wondered if she was telling me that just to keep me at a distance, but part of me realized this was the first bit of real truth she had spoken.
“I’m sick of being married. I have two kids and I’m sick of them too. I’m tired to death of being who I am. I got good grades in college, got a degree, got married, had kids, and did everything just like everyone wanted me to do since I was a little girl now I’ve got the husband with the great job and I got a nice car and I have two beautiful kids and the house that goes with this but I don’t want it anymore. I want to start over.”
I almost asked “With me?” but couldn’t speak.
“I hate this. I hate you and your long hair and your hick accent, but you’re more alive than I am. My kids need a real mom, not someone my family and his family invented while I was still staring at his paycheck. I have no idea what I’m doing, and I have no idea what I am going to do. I just want out. I want to go places and do thing and never look back at this, but if I do, they’ll call me a monster, and they’ll be right about me this time. “
“Wow” I said because I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“I sleep with strangers because I hope something terrible will happen to me. I think I deserve that, don’t you?”
Susan got up and got dressed and so did I. It was a very long drive back home.