Abandoned: a short story We stopped and looked at the stars. It was so clear for a Summer's night. I had a hodge podge of thoughts. The reason I didn't make love with you immediately on this vacation, this trip? We're friends. To me, making love is sometimes a logical and natural extension of friendship. Situations govern, needs guide, caring decides. But in your mind, as I know you, friends and lovers are two different things. As we know, lovers can break away - friends not very often. If I had made love to you right away, I was afraid that I would somehow lose your friendship, that it would be replaced by the title of lover as a result of a single, natural, physical act. I guarded against that and I refused. I did not want to risk our friendship or now away for the first time. I had a soda and then back for tea and kissing. He wants to make love. I said no. He asks why I am afraid? I said because making love means a lot (or very little). He said he wouldn't hurt me. I said physically, mentally or emotionally? All, I said, if you don't know me how can you know what hurts me? We were late getting away as always. We drank a couple of beers in the pouring rain at the beginning of this vacation. Luckily he'd set up his tent and then we went swimming in the Carribean Sea. It was so warm, we must have swam for ½ hour, listening to a concert over the water. Then to another festival and air show. By the end of the weekend we were ready to move on out into the ‘Mexican mystery.' It rained again just after we left. Timing or what. Vodka and orange juice in the rental car listening to New Age. Then into the tent to only sleep. He gave me a lovely sensuous, innocent full body massage. I fell asleep the whole while. The next folk festival was all day, warm, swimming. Wanted to go to a night concert. He said no. I called you back and you said yes. Got a little drunk. I got turned on. Well not quite but my interest was raised. I guess it was sparked by the last time we played together. Now he, my boyfriend has just left me. Not in the usual way: the fight, the slammed door, the angry stamp down the stairs. No . . . Oh we had a fight alright. But it was in the center of town, in a strange town, half-way around the world from home, late on a dark summer evening. He just walked away. Abandoned me. He said he had started to become interested in me. It wasn't as fantastic as he had imagined, but there was joy in the fantasy come alive. I have a tremendous capacity for love, for giving, and I was going to give it to him. Like a fool, like a lost child I waited there, leaning against the windowsill of a shop that had closed hours earlier in this small, early to bed, foreign town. "Everything depends upon a red wheelbarrow . . ." I waited at least ten minutes, trusting that he would return for me, and I, not believing that he would not come back, that he would be capable of not turning around and coming back. I waited under the newly closed shop windows on the strange street. I was pissed off because he was making me wait. I expressed my faith in him by waiting, waiting too long. Pissed off at myself for waiting too long, I was worried about him, about us. I called it choosing to wait. Indulged my fantasies, hoped he'd actually find me. Come here. I called you. I'm pissed off at you because you weren't here. Pissed off at myself for waiting. Acceptance? Food. We had been going for something to eat. I walked on in the direction we had been going, looking back at the same time and in a crab-like fashion came upon a pub. ‘Sorry, we're not serving food any more. A hamburger place just around the corner', ‘ok, thanks.' Hamburgers, a huge sign that it must be the place. It looked like there was another place open, further up the street. Lights, bigger. Maybe more people. I wanted there to be more people. A woman was coming towards me on the sidewalk, perhaps coming from this bigger, better, brighter, more people place. I asked her where was the best place to get something to eat. Without hesitation, she pointed into the little hamburger place and I followed her finger right into it. Impressed by her commitment, I followed the resolute mandibular digit. The menu over the counter was unsurprising. I asked the fellow behind the bar, what he recommended. He quickly answered that the hamburgers were pretty good. Decisive lot, the people in this strange town. The hamburger it was to be then. The young slim, red haired fellow on my left spoke to me. Very friendly. I went to sit down and wait for my burger. He was sitting at one of those video game tables. It was a karate game. You were a white guy, the opponent wore red and there were two joy sticks. One moved up and down (the left one), the right one did kicks and punches. If you put both levers up at the same time he did a back flip. The red haired boy invited me to play. I was player number two. He played a lot he said. It took a while to get good at it, he said. The winner of the red or white men jumped up and down and clapped gleefully. Not very sporting I said. The red haired boy did well. Second highest score. Only because he was sharing stuff he said. I finished my hamburger. It was good with mustard on it. He wanted me to play again. I said no thanks. I was meeting someone. I went back to the first bar. The woman there, the bartender had seemed nice. I ordered a beer. ‘What kind?' ‘You choose,' I said. ‘Tooley's beer'. A fellow at the bar offered me a ‘fag.' I said ‘no,' then said ‘okay.' He handed me his cigarette to light it with. It tasted good. I drew deep. A wave of, rush of, dizzy nicotine goodness. We talked a bit. They were on their way back to Tijuana that night. A long drive. Yeah. He was one with the sun. He was born beautifully, a muscled arm, the tattoo was high up, near his shoulder, not on the triceps as is usual. He came back and got some food, looked like little pizza's to take with him. I guess if you know them you can get something to eat late. Did I want another beer? ‘Yes thanks.' I don't remember saying it, or why, but I must have volunteered to her, a new stranger/half-friend, to share the reason I was there in my abandoned state. ‘Down to the end of the bar and we'll have a beer,' she said. I wasn't going to stay all night and hung back. Again she beckoned, and I picked up my drink and went down to the end of the bar. ‘Where was I from?' ‘Canada' I said. More chatting, she went back and forth as she got drinks. A group of women, four or five, were nearby. One of them with "Kathy" on her shirt, a team uniform of some kind. All of them were wearing one. ‘Donna', ‘Di.' Kathy was a wide faced girl, sandy haired curls, a quick laugh, loved happy conversationalist of the ‘pub' sort. One blond haired girl was gorgeous in face. I thought she had the looks of a model. The bartender urged me to sit with them when they asked me too. She was working she said. I told them why I was there too. They shook their heads. ‘No, that was a rotten thing for him to have done.' ‘Especially at night. Especially in a foreign country'. You never know who might be there. Shake of the heads again. A good thing I met up with them. They were a Cricket team. Thursday was their night and after the game, the bar. They all worked at the PayLess - a grocery store. I had a lot of fun with these girls. One minute they were sitting, the next up and talking. I got up too. They were going to play cards. ‘Do I play cards.' ‘Yes.' ‘Euchre?' ‘Yes'. We sat down, Di and I picked up the cards to shuffle, two more joined us. Di was off and again I was left with two men. I got up. The bartender later asked if I was hustling? I misunderstood then he explained it was the cards. ‘Oh, no.' I said. Kathy wanted to buy me a drink. Announced loudly, ‘I'm going to buy this lady a drink'" Bendersberg Rum? I tasted it and liked it. ‘We'll put that in it. Bendersberg Rum'. The bartender made a concoction. We all tasted it. ‘No it was too sweet for me.' said Di. I drank it. I tried to give the bartender $20 to buy drinks for ‘my new friends.' He wouldn't take it, they said. He gave me $10 change some time later. I'd bought drinks for a couple of the girls I guess. Then they had to leave. The bartender asked the woman, said she'd make sure I got home, then said to go with the girls, they'll make sure I got home. They were driving. Sensibly I declined. ‘I'll walk'. A couple on the sidewalk said, echoing, ‘ She'll walk.' ‘Do you know where the Central Hotel is?' We walked a bit and I said ‘where is it?' There was a discussion between them. They didn't know and I panicked. My Mother's words echoed to me, "Don't trust anyone." I was in a strange lot at night, flanked by two strangers who had said they knew where my hotel was and then suddenly did not. I smelled a setup. Imagination conjured up visions of me laying bobbed and beaten in an alley or maybe in some strange town, small town, late at night with a sexual assault in a basement apartment somewhere. I reversed direction. ‘Thanks, I'll find my self.' Self. Don't run. Move quickly. Don't take your eyes off of them. Hide, out of site. Run! ‘Hey Cathy!' There they were, the Cricket team in a small car, filling up a small car, ‘want a ride?' A drunken driver, they were a saviour. I got in. It was a short ride. I wanted a cigarette. ‘You'll meet us for coffee tomorrow? At about 10 we change shifts then.' ‘Sure.' ‘Can I have a cigarette?' ‘Sure.' We got to my hotel. The key was in my pocket. I had taken it and asked for it when we had set out for something to eat. You remember the errant boyfriend? The one who abandoned me. Thank God the key was in my pocket. If it hadn't been what would I have done? Did I want to walk away? I threw the just lit cigarette down on the meta landingl. The green painted metal landing and put it out with my foot. I kicked it off to the cement below. I got out my hotel key and walked in. Nobody was there. I went down the metal stairs and found the stamped out cigarette and matches. I remembered I'd taken some from the last hotel, the Senora Caves Hotel. I found instead, the wooden matches from the Japanese restaurant A rush of being single, not so good as the other but reminiscent of it. Relax. Panic. He left me! Walked through all of the rooms, trailing the cigarette smoke. How could he have left me? I paced some more. I'll go to bed. Something is in my eye. Pow! My contact popped out. Down on my knees in the big bedroom. Brushing the carpet with my fingers. Do I have any spares? I went to the small bathroom to check. Yes. Okay I'll put on my glasses and look again. They're safe in their case again, my contacts are there. What is going to happen with me? I get into the little bed but I do not sleep. I jump up, does the door lock? Yes! I push in the button and am relieved to go back to the little bed. Safe from him? Did it hook? I jump back up and turn the handle. "Click," as it unlocks. I push it in again, turn, click as it unlocks, again push, turn, click. Then a final push. Wait!. Listening for what? For it to spontaneously pop out. Back to bed again. OCD? Beer and excitement? But the lock may self-test? He's in the bathroom? The shower. Washing or did I leave the shower on for a long time? Is he dead? Unconscious? Am I alone? I listen longer. Finally it stops. It has taken more shower to clean his feelings that to have cleaned his body, I think. Then the shower again? Maybe he is still not clean? Maybe it's the bedding. On and on the water runs. Is he really dead this time? I look at my watch. 3:37am. If this shower runs for five minutes longer I will go and check. If it stops I am relieved. I think it's because I don't have to go and check, not because he is not deceased. Sleep. The lock on my door is not tested, or is it. The next morning the door to the outside is wide open! There's the wind. He is asleep on the bed, stripped of its sheets which are hanging in the bathroom, dripping on his travel bag. I drink tea on the metal landing. I think of "A Streetcar Named Desire" because it looks like a fire escape set for a play. I sit there, weary as a woman or the red haired boy who was ready to go to game, calls ‘is anyone there?' when I go in for the second time to go to the bathroom to pee. He tries to converse with me for a bit. I return and read the local paper. Politely, but I read my paper. ‘I don't want your company.' Politely, I simply answer cryptically, not tersely. He goes ‘to get my stuff together.' He said last night he was lucky and just got off on a bend. He fit in on the green metal stairs. The day before, there arrives food borne by the hotelier, and an older woman, his wife. Both are very nice. I am embarrassed. I greet them cheerfully and thank them as they put the trays on the table, inside. ‘Our breakfast is here,' I said sober. ‘How do you feel,' I say. ‘I'm sorry,' he says. ‘It's not okay,' I say. ‘It's just not.' ‘Do you want some orange juice,' I say? ‘I am making myself sick.' ‘No, I can't talk to you.' He emerges anyway. His friend, the bridegroom comes over, breakfast comes to our room so we three could share. We eat in silence. That's why we are in this tourist town, secondary so I had forgotten. ‘Do you want some tea?' ‘Yes thanks.' ‘You called me dangerous? The man who has the guts to commit to me is in the safest haven.' I am tricking myself. Why am I being so nice? Were the girls and the bar real? The friend leaves. ‘I'm sorry' he says. ‘Being thrown up on I can handle,' I say. ‘What I can't handle is that you left me in a strange town, in the night, with strangers. I have trouble reconciling that with the belief that you care about me, if there's anything you should apologize for, it is that." ‘I'm sorry.' ‘I don't think that it can ever be forgiven.' ‘Maybe with time?' He said. It's hard to start a book that you can't rip the pages out of without it showing, a glaring - ‘I goofed' or ‘I shouldn't have written that, what if somebody sees it?' ‘Well you can't rip the pages out of life. Maybe you're not worth it.' ‘You called me selfish.' Perhaps I am in some ways. But what I give is what I gave. I may do things that people would never think of doing. But when I do, it touches a part of them. The child that would have done that is suddenly free. You haven't given that any thought, you haven't given anything. ‘A great man is one who doesn't lose his heart. I thought I was your heart.' ‘You lost both of our hearts.' ‘I have to go meet some new friends for breakfast.' (How do I explain my needs to you. They are so few and so simple. Do you have any idea how I used to laugh when you talked?) ‘You just have to go,' I said, not looking up.