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   by Kelly Jaquiss

I'm not crazy. I know how that sounds—defensive, as if I am in denial—but it's true. I'm like everyone else: insecure, down at times, but most of all just getting by day to day with mediocrity. Tony disagrees. He considers me a typical over-reactive, self-centered female, a bitch. See, a couple of months ago when I was feeling insecure with Tony, I got pregnant by a guy named Louie, who is a stoner, with sun bleached hair and dreads. I tell my sister about it, who tells my mother, but I don't tell Tony at first. You know how it is. A mistake like that is better off kept to yourself to feel guilty over. Everyone including Tony finds out because my mother has a breakdown and kicks me out of the house.
     The thing is, things with Tony were starting to look good until I found out I was pregnant. I was feeling okay for the first time in my life. My head was feeling stable, if you know what I mean. I was able to enjoy the day and actually breathe. My life was on an upswing. Tony was calling me and asking me to go places instead of just getting drunk on the weekends, coming over at two in the morning expecting sex.
     We went through this phase where we'd go to the beach in the afternoons and then eat mac & cheese at Lola's for dinner. Tony and I are obsessed with the mac and cheese at Lola's. It's as if we can taste it from any distance. The top has a thin layer of bronzed crust. When you take a bite, it evaporates slowly in your mouth. You can feel the smooth and warm cheese-drenched macaroni texture linger in your taste buds. We took turns paying for dinner, but Tony promised that soon he'd be able to take me somewhere nice.
     He even started to pick chick-flicks at the video store. We watched all these "happily ever after" Meg Ryan movies like When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. We even watched When a Man Loves a Woman with Meg and Andy Garcia. I have a mega-crush on Andy Garcia after watching that movie. I want him. Meg is so crude and mean and Andy is there for her. He doesn't go out with the guys and bitch about her or screw around with some skanky stripper. What does he do? He takes her to an exotic island to adjust her attitude. And there is this insane sexy make-out scene in a private pool. I kept thinking that Tony was comparing Meg and Andy to me and him. No matter how nasty she gets in the movie he is always there to love and support her.
     I thought Tony and I were in love. We'd sit naked on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night when my mom was out of town and smoke pot. Just me and him. I was sure we had a future forming.
    "You're so fucking hot," he says to me stoned out of his head.
    "Shut up," I respond. "Tell me that when you're not high."
    "Dude, I'm not," he says. "Come here." I rub up against him and we start making out. I squeeze his fingers tight but my hand goes right through. I am extremely high.
     I have to tell you more about Tony. He is like a sex god covered in tattoos. He's his own walking text. He's got an eagle and snake on his right bicep, a big cross wrapped with vines laid out on his back, and the Chinese symbol for long life on the outside of his right calf. He is annoyingly proud of his tattoos and constantly shows them off. "My tattoos are part of my spirituality," he tells people when they ask about his tattoos. "Through submitting to the pain, I have created a beautiful piece of art." I've heard this rehearsed mini-speech a million times. I think he really thought it out. "When I die, I'm going to donate my tattoos to a museum," he says.
     His bushy eyebrows are so sexy. And he's got this thick dark hair that gets curly on the ends when he lets it grow. I can run my fingers through Tony's hair for hours. He loves it. "Rub my head," he asks in a childish voice when we watch T.V. or lie in bed after sex. I can't resist resting my head on his smooth broad chest rubbing my fingers in circles in the hair above his ears. I stare at him in a trance as he closes his eyes in ecstasy.
     I have a thing for Tony's hands. He plays guitar, so his long fingers are rough and calloused. I am drawn to the way he moves his fingers: the quick way he dials a phone, snapping the last number with confidence and precision, and the way he extends his finger to push an elevator button. I have images of Tony waving at me through his windshield. He holds his palms out flat, stares at me and then snaps his hand together twice.
     Tony wants to be a rock star, not because he wants to be famous, but because he wants to communicate to people through his music. "Music should be its own language," he always says in a serious tone. He used to drag me into his garage every Friday night for band practice. When the other guys didn't show up, Tony still put in a full night of rehearsal, writing lyrics and experimenting with different chords on his guitar.
    "What do you think of my new song?" he'd ask me after every rehearsal.
     I'd usually come up with some vague answer like "It's cool" or "It so sad, I want to cry."
     I'm scared to tell Tony how I really feel. My emotions are so intense that I can actually feel my bones vibrate when Tony plays his music. I can feel the vibrations from his vocal chords in my head and in my heart. He is the mirror of his own emotions and I am his reflection. His music can be on a rampage and then grow quiet and I am right there with him. He sends my blood pressure soaring.
     Tony says that when he plays guitar that he becomes the music. His guitar teacher gave him a poem by T.S. Eliot called "Dry Salvages" and he has it thumb tacked on his bedroom wall:

Music heard so deeply
that it is not heard at all,
but you are the music
while the music lasts.
     But then the pregnancy turns my life into overkill. Everything spins out of control. When I find out, I end up telling my sister Vanessa. We drive to school in the morning and I pull into the back parking lot where all the stoners hang out. I move into a parking space between two other cars and we are facing Our Lady Queen of Angels, the Catholic elementary school we went to across the street. I'm staring at all the kids in their plaid uniforms marching up the steps into school and I start crying, resting my head on the steering wheel.
     "What's wrong?" says Vanessa. We usually don't get along, but I know when I need her she will listen and give me support.
    "You cannot tell Mom!" I make her swear.
    "I swear," she says.
    "I'm pregnant," I say through my tears. I can feel my forehead scrunch up and my bottom lip curl. I want her to cry with me, to hug me. I want her on my side.
     Vanessa stares at me in shock. Her face is pale and her mascara is smeared from the night before. No tears. No compassion. Only a dead silence.
     She finally takes a deep breath and says, "You have to tell Mom."
    "No!" I yell at her. "I'll kill you if you tell her. I swear Vanessa you better not tell her." She was quiet again.
    "Have you told Tony?" she asks. At this point I shouldn't have trusted her, but I ended up telling her all about Louie and made her promise not to tell anyone. I felt uneasy about the whole thing. I knew I couldn't trust Vanessa.
    "I have to go," she says as she swings her legs out of the car, flips the seat forward and grabs her straw Mexican purse out of the back seat. "Are you coming?" she says as if she is annoyed, like I am always getting myself into trouble.
    "No, I'm going back home," I told her. I drove off to the beach and walked along the tide barefoot from pier to pier. I thought about what I should do and I didn't see that there were a lot of options. I knew my mom would freak if she found out. So, I decided not to tell her. Vanessa swore she wouldn't tell.
     Eventually my mom finds out, of course, because my sister can't keep a secret. My mother blames her for a stain on the couch and then Vanessa spills it all: the pregnancy, Louie, Tony, everything. I think she was just waiting for the right time, I'm sure she planned to tell all along.
     For three days, I stayed at a grungy motel off Highway 1. It's the regular motel Tony and I used to go to when we wanted to be alone and have sex. It's cheap, but disgusting. The lights are dim. The walls are water stained and you can smell traces of bad cologne from the men who rent the rooms by the hour. I can never get a good night's sleep there because the sheets are so thin and itchy. I swear they don't clean them either. The first thing I do when I get there is pull back the sheets to look for stray hairs and sex stains. I put a clean t-shirt on the pillow so I can bask in my own scent when I sleep.
     I can't get over the fact that my mother freaked out so badly. She is standing in the doorway as I am lying on my bed. Her dark hair is pinned up and strands of hair fall on her face, wet with tears. Her mascara runs and makes big black water-colored circles around her swollen eyes. Her arms are folded and she runs her hands up and down her arms as she paces near my bed. After her initial reaction of crying and pacing, she becomes hysterical and decides to kick me out.
    "Come on." Abruptly she drags me out of my bed by my arm and I fall on the floor.
    "What are you doing?" I ask. I think she is going to hit me or something. "Mom. Stop. There is nothing I can do."
    "How can you do this to me?" she yells. "Get out of here. I can't even look at you. Get out."
    "How can I do this to you?" I scream. "How can you think I did this to you?"
     She lets me grab my keys and walk toward the door. Suddenly, my mother wants to disown me and kick me out of the house. It doesn't matter that I was a virgin until I was fifteen and never missed a family event. My mother who used to tell me I was her best friend basically thinks I'm a whore now.
    "You are a disgrace to our family, Angie" she cries as I am walking out the door.
     I cried so hard in the hotel that when I woke up my pillow was soaked. I was emotionally drained and felt so alone in the world. My heart physically hurt. I just wanted the pain to stop.
     It went down even worse with Tony. On the third night, I left the motel and went to his house. It was late, so I went through the side gate. I have been sneaking in Antonio's room since junior high school so I know the routine. I climbed up on the gate and flicked up the metal latch. When I pushed the gate open, I had to pull up on it from the bottom or it would have made a scuffing sound in the gravel. I closed the gate quietly and after scooting around the plastic trash cans on the side, I had to duck down in case his mother could see me through the kitchen window. I was on my hands and knees, crawling next to the stucco wall and I could hear the crickets rubbing their wings together. This time sneaking to see Tony was not exciting. I felt like a psycho or a stalker. I knocked on Tony's window and I couldn't see inside. The blinds were closed. I had an emotional outburst under the stars and the moon and I decided I didn't even care if anyone could hear me.
    "Tony, you know what? You are never there when I need you," I blurt through his window. "I'm always there for you, and the one time I need you..." I know I will cause a reaction and I hope that Tony hears me before his mother does.
     I am ready to attack him. I convince myself that everything is his fault. It's his fault that I slept with Louie. It's his fault I got pregnant. It's his fault I am acting like a lunatic in the middle of the night. I'm thinking, if he'd just treated me right, none of this would have happened. Tony hears me and lets me in the window.
     I am sitting in a chair. My eyes fixate on a photograph of a surfer riding the perfect wave. Tony has had this picture on his wall for as long as I can remember. He looks so good. He's wearing faded boxers and white V-neck T-shirt. You know, simple. He looks as though he just woke up. His hair is all messed up and his cheeks are red. There are dark circles under his eyes and he needs a shave.
    "Your mom told me everything that happened," Tony says coldly.
     I continue to act interested in the picture on the wall. "This is your fault." My arms are flailing. When I'm upset my arms are untamable. "I don't even know why I'm here. I should just leave." I turn around and head out the window. I know he will follow.
    "Why would you do this?" he says with tears in his eyes as he pulls me away from the window. I am not getting the reaction I want. I expected him to be angry. I start feeling sad but I don't let on. His water bed sits against the wall under the ugly bedspread that his mom made, with brown, orange and rose swirly designs . At the edge of the bed, he puts a thin pillow on his lap.
    "Just let me go," I cry. I really don't want to leave. I start crying, like a child. Tony starts to put his arm around me and I get angry. "Stop it," I say.
    "You want to know why I did this?" I shout. "You want to know?" I pause. Silence... "You had no time for me, remember?" I yell. "So I met a guy who paid attention to me one night and I slept with him. O.K.?-BIG DEAL!" Another pause, then I totally go ballistic. "Don't even just sit there and act all innocent—ASSHOLE. It's not like you are Mr. Faithful all the time. You've screwed up so many times and I took you back each and every time. So don't even start with me."
     This is when he gets up and walks to the other side of the room. On the bedside table is a pad of paper with scribbled lyrics in blue ink, an old Rolling Stone and small lamp. His back is to me and his weight is shifted to one side as he is looking up at the ceiling. This is where he grabs the table and throws it at me. "AHHHHHHHH!" he releases all of his emotion. The table misses me, but I think my pulse has stopped out of shock. He is sitting on the bed breathing. Just silent and breathing.
    "Who was it? I want to know who it was."
    "It doesn't matter," I cry. "It's my fault, Tony. I'm sorry, I was stupid. I wish I could take it all back." I just keep crying.
    "I don't know how I feel about all of this," he says. "I'm so angry right now, you are making me crazy." His eyes are so red, he is experiencing so much pain.
     I wanted to disappear. We stared at each other in silence for long moments. We'd look away and then stare again. I climbed back out the way I came in. My stomach felt hollow. I hunched over, grasped my abdomen and vomited while looking down at the sidewalk.
     After a lot of calling, begging, letter writing and manipulating we did get back together. That didn't mean I would watch him practice band again or that we would spend adventurous romantic nights together. But, I had the past on my side. We had been together since junior high school. Don't think it was easy getting back with him because it wasn't. Tony can be a real jerk sometimes. He says he won't stop seeing other girls because he wants to see what else is "out there." No matter how hard I try to get him to commit, he won't.
     He can be incredibly insecure too. So many times he'd ask, "Why would you want to fuck someone else?" This and "What does he have that I don't have?" I hear on a daily basis. I usually respond with a cut down to myself like "I don't know, I'm just stupid" or "I was just a loser back then, I didn't think."
     We even talk about my abortion—usually late at night when I am falling asleep. He asks me if I would keep a baby if it was his kid and I tell him, "Of course."
    "Was cheating on me worth all this?"
     "Would you do it again?"
     "Biggest mistake of my life baby." I thought things were starting to go back to normal, for awhile.
     I am surprised that things between us are getting worse. Tony is turning into another person. He doesn't want to hang out as much. Doesn't want to go out to eat or even come over late at night. He spends more and more time with his band and gets high on a daily basis. I am no longer of much importance and no longer have control of him. Of course I blame everything on the drugs and his stupid band friends, who are trying hard to break us up.
     And my friends are like, "Screw him, he's so not worth it." Every time I start to agree with them, I can't do it. I can't leave. I decided years ago: I want to spend forever with Tony. I made a promise to myself that no matter what happens, I will never leave him. Nevertheless, he is growing farther away from me, becoming more and more independent. When I try to talk to him about trying to leave me he tells me I am crazy.
     A couple weeks after we got back together, he started making changes to himself that scared me. He bought a new car, a big black truck, to take on tour with the band. He grew out his hair long and started to wear a lot of black. When I ask him to spend the night he says, "I don't think so." When I accuse him of not loving me anymore and of going off with some other girl he says, "I have a lot of mixed feelings for you right now." What is that supposed to mean? I know what he's doing. He's playing games with me. He is trying to make me miserable for the past. He is trying to tell me that I am worthless to him. It's not going to work.
     He asks me, "Why can't you get over me?" And then tells me that he thinks we need a BREAK from each other.
     I say "A BREAK—WE DON'T NEED A BREAK. I love you, baby, more than anyone else will ever love you in your whole life." It's true. Tony is my soul mate. I can't leave him alone. I'm not about to be without him just because I screwed up once.

Copyright©2003 Kelly Jaquiss

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