Pimp My Lent/Day 2
from Andrea Lepcio…
He was down to his last dime. Him of the too-big to fail. He remembered all the things a dime could buy when he was a boy. A phone call, a Snickers bar, ten tries at gumball. He couldn’t think of a thing a dime could buy now, and let it fall to the sidewalk.
His knees seemed to give way then, creaking in protest as he sunk to the hard ground. It stunned him, this sudden movement after what had to an hour of standing in one place in the cold night air. The mercury vapor light lit the frost on the dead lawn, making it glisten. Couldn’t call it pretty; nothing about this hard ground place had ever been pretty.
The girl with her skirt in her hands. Laughing. People all around the dance hall, moving and talking, and there she was, her shoulders leaned forward, her chin up, her brown curls bouncing as she laughed without reserve, without care. She was tipsy, they all were, but it sure was a moment. It was a moment. The girl clutched her white cotton skirt in her hands, fingers curled around the material, whatever it was called he never knew. The vision, a perfect moment in his life. Her hands clutched the skirt that was not lace, but lacy, white cotton with tiny round holes like lace, and showing just enough skin underneath that you didn’t really see anything but could tell she wasn’t wearing a slip.
Where is that girl’s slip? He could hear his mother’s voice. Forty years ago if it was a day, and still he could hear his mother’s And I mean! And then his sister’s voice chiming in, If anybody here could use a girdle, it’s her. The two had been seated behind him, across the small table, close enough that their low, dull voices buzzed his ear.
Who does she think she is? His sister hissed.
His mother said Who is she? Who brought her? She poked his arm, and still he did not turn around, did not stop watching the girl in the white dress who was everywhere on the dance floor. The sweetest agony flooding him, making him aware of his beating heart. He watched as she danced every single dance, with every single man – young and old – in the VFW hall. All except him.
Except now, right now, here she was, standing in front of him.
Well? The girl said, smiling. She held out her arm. The tight sleeve of her white top cut into her flesh. She was spilling out of the dress, over the neckline, the sleeves, everywhere, the fullness of her, the wonderful, round fullness of her. Come on up here, she said. Her southern accent held soft delight in every syllable. She laughed and he laughed too. She wiggled her fingers at him, saying, I am just dying to dance.
So was he. Dying, for lack of dancing. He’d never before in his life ever wanted to dance. Never given it a second thought, it never held any appeal for him, ever, and yet he would give his life now. He would give his life.
The girl said Well, come on, then. He saw the light freckles sprinkled across the back of the hand he longed to touch, hold, kiss.
I can’t. He told her.
And why not? The girl said, leaning forward, leaning towards him. Don’t you try to tell me you’ve got two left feet, because clearly, you have no left foot at all.
He sat back. He heard his mother’s sharp intake of breath, his sister’s outraged Well!
The girl in the white dress grinned. And he laughed. He laughed, and laughed, and laugh. He laughed a year’s worth stored up, which was a surprise to himself and his mother and sister, and everyone in town who’d remarked over and over how he’d barely spoken since he’d been shipped home from the hospital in Germany.
The girl thrust both hands towards him and he rose and took her in his arms, and by god, with three feet and two crutches between them all told, they danced.
“What in the world are you doing ?” His wife’s voice broke the silence of the cold night, and his precious reverie faded. He hadn’t heard the front door open. She flipped on the porch light and saw him kneeling on the sidewalk. “Well, my god, did you fall?”
“No.” he said, “I’m just tired.”
“So you came out and sat on the cold ground?” She came down the porch steps. She crossed her arms over her full bosom. “You do know that we have places inside the house to sit?” She peered down into his face. “…How drunk are you?”
He knew that she knew he wasn’t drunk. He took a deep breath, and said the words he’d been dreading, for so many months now. “I’m broke.” He told her. “We’re broke. There’s nothing left. No savings, no nothing, not one damn dime.”
She didn’t speak for a long moment, and his heart and stomach sunk. He deserved the cold ground. He deserved worse. He’d promised her a life of comfort, promised he’d take care of her and she’d want for nothing, and they’d had nothing but work, hard work, both of them, their whole lives. And now –
“You look here.” She said, bending forward. Her knees creaked worse than his. They hadn’t been dancing in years. She reached past him, and picked up the dime he’d dropped. “Here’s one.”
The soft southern tones, the notes of delight. He wanted to say how do I deserve you but he knew she’d only say of course he didn’t, and wasn’t that the truth? Hadn’t it always been the truth?
“I will do anything but eat cat food or move in with your sister.” She told him, “Otherwise, we’re good. Now, come on – ” She said, holding out both hands. “Come here to me.”