prompt: write a memory that takes place on a sea, bus, train or airplane

It wasn’t the way the bus stopped so suddenly that reminded me of you and your driving. It was the way the bus driver grunted when I said “thank you”. He was a middle-aged man, he had a belly, his hair was a grey matted thing on his head and he had a ruddy face. Pink, flushed from years of drink. I never knew what they meant by ruddy when they used that descriptor in books but I understood it when I looked at him.

Of course, I wasn’t comparing you to him, you were younger, you were fit, and you had a clear complexion only made worse when you went out on a night of binge drinking. That’s when I would describe you as “ruddy-faced”. It was only the way he grunted, I remember you would do that, especially when you were watching NBA or NFL or MLB. When you were watching anything really, on ESPN. That was in between the  times when you would dare to lift your gaze, to take me in, even just a little.

I liked to imagine what you saw when your clouded, bloodshot eyes looked at me. I wasn’t bad looking, I knew that much from all the comments boys used to give me, or the messages I would get on my dating apps, or the guys who would buy me drinks at the bar. But then again, it wasn’t much to be ‘not bad looking’, it was better to be drop-dead-gorgeous. I think on those scales that high school boys use, I would rank a solid 7. Maybe 7.5.

That’s what you said to me once anyways. Like it was a compliment. What did you see when you looked at me? Sometimes you’d tell me I was beautiful, sometimes you would not see me at all. It was only when you were angry that you’d really look at me, take me all in, your eyes traveling across my brow, down my nose, to my mouth, to the lips you would kiss. Would you think of the best place to hit me? Or was it only when you realized I couldn’t hide it on my face that you would go to grabbing my wrist with your fingerprints indented into mine?

The bus lurched again, and I remembered that time we drove to Tobermory and you had such intense road rage that you nearly rear ended a guy. I just sat there, offering to drive but I think that made you angrier. You loved to be in the driver’s seat, you said it reminded you of high school, being the cool kid, the first guy with his license. Then, there was that time you bragged to me about how you took so many girl’s virginity in the backseat, maybe two or four of them? You couldn’t “keep count”.

I should have known then, when you said that, to avoid you. I should have known you were a no-good-rotten-jerk-with-anger-issues. But you were so bad, and I wanted so badly to fix you, or to feel like you wanted me. How did you make me feel so special and beautiful in one moment, then like nothing, like rotting compost in the next? I guess that’s what they mean when they say “daddy issues”. I always told myself I wouldn’t succumb to that excuse, that I would be the strong independent woman my mom was, supporting myself, not falling into whatever cycle of abuse she had escaped.

And yet, here I am, on the Greyhound to New York City for an audition for a production of my dreams, something I have worked my whole life to get to, and here I am, thinking of you. Thinking of your eyes and the way they could be so tender and full of sadness and in a flash, the anger would threaten to rise. I am thinking of the way I fell in love with you, the way you would sing to me, and only me, in our little apartment. The way you would lift me up in your arms and tell me I was the only girl in the world for you, and how these moments, these were the “real” ones. Then, there were the times we would get high together and stumble home at 6AM, our noses runny, our bodies numb, and we’d fumble with each other’s clothes and mistake whatever we did for lovemaking, for really truly feeling. It comes back to me in flashes, the time you baked me that Betty Crocker chocolate cake from the box and put pink numbered candles in it, 25, even though I was turning 26, we laughed for ages, me hiding my hurt, until I remembered that you had pushed me to the bed the night before.

We are on the freeway, passing McDonald’s and Targets, and all these grey, big buildings that I don’t care about. I can’t wait until I see the New York City skyline, I can’t wait to get onto that stage and say my monologue. I picked a really good one, I know I will kill it. It’s from this play about a wife and her neglectful husband, I know I can hit all the notes because it’s like I am acting and pretending but really I am thinking of you, the whole way through.