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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ain’t No Donkey

Category: Life Winners, Issue 7

Bill, my beloved, deceased ex-, is here again when I get home from work.  He has one of those smiley, dolphin faces – the corners of his mouth are always turned up a bit, and you have to look at his eyes to gauge his mood.  Today, his eyes are dancing. 

“There’s a donkey in your back yard,” Bill says. 

“Right,” I say.  “I wanted a small white dog that didn’t shed.”

  “Admittedly,” I add, “I wanted a donkey too, but I know I’m not getting one.”  I shoulder past him through the front door of the townhouse.  Beer bottles everywhere.  A bunch of Tony’s fucking relatives.  It’s noisy. 

On the coffee table are more tins and bottles.  Ashtrays.  Nobody notices me at first, as I hang a left into the kitchenette.  The place is a disaster.  Someone has been melting cheese.  Say no more. Cans and bottles. The house is trashed.

I’m so outraged that I can’t decipher whether I’m just hurt or really suicidal.  I’m probably over-reacting, but I can’t tell.  I can’t see Tony anywhere.  Everyone is yelling and laughing and bellowing, and the stereo is on, full blast.  “Julie!” someone yells.  Somebody is holding Bill’s, my, guitar, and banging away at it.  I’m supposed to go over there and play. 

I just got in the door.  “I just got in the door,” I yell.  “I’ll be right back.”

Upstairs I go, pissed off.  The bedroom had better be free.  Three people who appear to be asleep are waiting to get into the bathroom up here.  I need to use it too, so I go past them and turn the knob.  There’s no one in there.

“There’s no one in here,” I say, bitchily, nudging the first candidate, who’s sitting, lined up with the others against the wall, with my toe.  It’s only six-thirty.  I stomp off towards the bedroom to wait my turn.  Some drunk gets up.

There’s no one in the bedroom, although someone’s socks are on the bed.  They’re red and blue; not Tony’s or mine.  No big deal.  My two cats are here, reclining; they look up at me, relieved, wide-eyed.  Someone has had mercy.  Maybe Tony told everyone not to come in here.  I grab the socks, open the door a crack, and fling them through, into the hall.  I see that the last person in line for the bathroom is standing up, weaving a little from side to side.  I quickly slam the door shut, and sink down on the edge of the bed. 

Rob, the cat, gets up and comes over and complains (or something). “Meow.” 

“Right,” I say.  “Screw this.”

I’m so mad and intimidated by all these people in my house, and the inevitable prospect of seeming to be, and indeed, being, a bitch, that I can’t see straight.  I just got home from work.

Rob rubs against me and I roughly push him to one side.  Blinky, the other cat, has gotten up and wants out.  I have to open the bedroom door.  I do so, slamming it after him, not looking out.  A few seconds later, there he is:  scritch scritch scritch.  He can open the door himself, it doesn’t shut properly after all the slamming. 

The bellowing and yelling and laughing and the heavy metal music from downstairs is making me so angry that I’m starting to cry.  My heart is pounding.  Where’s my beer?  There are a couple of warm ones in my underwear-drawer, and I grab one.  Rob-my-kitty, looking inanely happy that I finally seem a bit mollified, rubs his head against my elbow as I sit back down.  I have to pee.

I can hear everyone’s voices.  They get clearer and clearer until I can hear every “She’s a fucking bitch” and “He’s a fucking asshole” that comes out of everyone’s mouth, down there.  It’s hot up here in the bedroom and I have to pee.  I peer out the door again and there’s no one in the hallway between me and the bathroom door. 

When I get in there, there’s no one throwing up, or dead in the bathtub.  It’s not so bad in here, either.  It’s just the downstairs that’s bad.  As I sit on the toilet, I hear the sounds of arrival taking place through the window.  Clinking and bellowing and laughing.  Tony is home.  At least he’s real. 

I’m on my second underwear-drawer beer by this time and I’m still too pissed off to go downstairs.  I just got home from work, for godsakes.  They’re still hollering down there.  Tony has seen the van parked outside, so he knows I’m home.  I can hear him stumping up the stairs, the way he does.  My heart warms at the sound, and then turns cold at what he’s having in, allowing to happen to, our house.  To everything.  Again.  The door to the bedroom blows open. 

He doesn’t drink anymore, but he’s still caught up in the Wave.  He’s probably been smoking a lot of dope.  “Julie!” He says.  “Come down here and see something!  Frank wants you to play guitar with him!”

“Just bring me a beer,” I say.  “I can’t believe you’ve done this to me,” I say.  “All these low-lifes, and I just got home from work.”  I glare.  The cats scuttle out, and then, because of the noise, scuttle back in.  I slam the door behind them. 

“What’s wrong with you?” Tony says.  He’s come in and has turned the TV on, loud, and now he’s sitting down beside me, at the end of the bed.  Blinky and Rob rush over to him and try to get some affection.  Tony gives it to them, rubbing their heads and thumping their back ends, as I taught him to do.  Tony is in such a good mood that… yes… as predicted – I’m a bitch. 

“I thought,” I said.  I thought we were going out for dinner.  I thought we could do something together.  I thought we could have a peaceful evening at home.  I thought I saw my dead ex-, Bill, when I got home here today. 

“I thought I saw Bill just now,” I say. 

“Oh, fuck!” Tony says.  He gets up.  He’s mad, but I am too.  I can’t hear exactly what we’re yelling, I’m so upset and angry about the party downstairs and the noise of the TV, now,  that I can’t hear;  I know I won’t remember any of this.  Tony slams out the bedroom door and I can hear more voices, remonstrating.  The voices carry out into the back yard, which is just below the bedroom window.  The TV is still on, and I hate it, but I can’t get up to turn it down.  I get up and turn it down.

I’m crying again, still, of course.  No one is bringing me another beer from downstairs, and it’s a hot day, and Bill has been dead for almost two years now, and I still talk about him a lot.  It’s starting to get on Tony’s nerves, after two years. 

We were really close, though, Bill and I, and I miss him, and that’s all there is to it.  Sometimes, like today when I was coming in the door, I have little conversations with him even though I know they’re not real.  It wasn’t real, about there being a donkey in the back yard, for example.  I just simply had a dream about a donkey a few months ago, and it stayed with me.  It was a very kindly donkey, with patient brown eyes, and it had something to do with Bill.  In the dream, I ended up leaving it in my van for a minute so I could be on time for some classes or something; and something hit the van, and when I got back, the van and the donkey were squished.  There was donkey hair and donkey blood on the steering wheel, and it was awful.  I don’t know why there was a donkey in the first place, but the donkey was no more.

No big deal.  I’m used to having bad dreams somehow involving Bill, and Tony is used to hearing about them.  I told him about this particular dream only because I couldn’t stop crying and because it was so weird about the donkey.  Tony did his usual big, kind, comforting thing, and then went off to have fun.  Now here he is, having fun again, and I’m stuck thinking about Bill and the donkey.  Screw this.

“You should look out the window,” Bill says.  He’s still smiling away, but his eyes look more intense than before, crinkled up at the corners. 

Yeah, yeah.  “I need another beer,” I say, helplessly.  “I want a white dog that doesn’t shed.  One of those expensive ones that don’t shed.”  I know he’s on about the donkey again, and I wish there would be one outside if I looked out the window.  But I know that it’ll just be a bunch of Tony’s fucking family and friends, falling into the bushes.  The odds of there really being a donkey out there are astronomically close to nil. 

I can hear them all hooting down there, and then Tony’s characteristic thump, halfway up the stairs.  “Julie!” he’s yelling.  “Look out the window!”

The cats have trotted over there and they’re looking out, ears pricked.  Both of them, Blinky and Rob, look offended, which could be intriguing, if I didn’t know better.  I know there isn’t a donkey in my back yard. 

But I get back up off the edge of my bed, and look down there, anyway. 

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