Most of the Time
“And the tea, as always, was marvelous!” What? What had Marjorie just said to me? Her statement was a complete non-sequitur, for I had been daydreaming about rum and Cokes and it was microwave pizza I had tasted as I bit into dainty canapés selected from a tray at the ladies luncheon in support of something-or-other.
Although I hadn’t been back to see Ninny Ricketts in the month since I’d first visited, she was often in my thoughts, as was her “zero” quote. “If you look at zero you see nothing; but look through it and you will see the world. ”I hadn’t been able to resist asking Peter what he thought it meant, but he had just stared at me in that puzzled and somewhat irritated manner that signaled this was not a topic worthy of his consideration, then went back to the fascinations of the Dow Jones Average or stock issues or whatever it is they display on the Money Channel’s report of the roulette wheel-like game they call the Stock Market.
How anyone could find the making and losing of money to be their primary hobby was as much a mystery to me as my humming was to Peter. How in the world had we wound up together? Marjorie was now going on about something else. I caught every tenth word or so, but luckily there was an entire table full of women hanging on her every word, so I was absolved of the obligation of following her drift. “Paisley . . . carpet nap . . . ceiling coves . . . The words faded away.
My hidden adventures had started the third year of my marriage. It was my friend Sharon who had suggested “slumming it” by going to one of the pool parlor bars frequented by both blue-collared locals and college kids from the nearby University. We were barely beyond college age ourselves, both disenchanted with our “picture perfect” marriages, though we had not yet admitted it to ourselves, let alone to each other.
We’d know each other since we had scabs on our knees and chigger bites on our skinny shins from rolling in the grass clippings left in the wake of my dad’s hand-push lawnmower. She’d always been the adventurous one, pulling me along in her wake. She had helped me pad my first training bra and crammed my first tampon into me, stubbornly insistent in spite of my protestations that it would never fit. She had procured for us our first fake i.d.’s and explained the logistics of diaphragms and KY Jelly long before we needed either. With three older brothers, she knew the ways men thought and wasn’t afraid of them—a feat I never have become versed in, despite years of her tutoring.
She knew how to get along with men and was one of those women who, by merely sitting down in a booth in a bar, somehow attracted invitations to play pool or to dance or play darts from whatever close fraternity of men that was pursuing that pastime. She was the one men sent drinks over to, the one who was responsible for us sailing into packed clubs while others stood in line to do so. She was my tutor of sin and even though I wasn’t a very good student, somehow some of what she taught me has stuck to me to be resurrected when I needed it most—when I was sinking in, mired by the awful normalcy of life in the affluent suburbs.
That was when we began our twice-yearly other life—the shopping trips to Ross Dress for Less to buy slutty tops, cheap skirts and strappy shoes—the nighttime trips to workers’ bars and gay bars and V.F.W.’s. The object was never to find a new man or even to find a man for a one-night-stand. As a matter of fact, after twenty-two years of such sojourns—first with Sharon and then on my own—I was still a virgin slut. The thrill was in becoming who I might have become if I hadn’t married Peter, just for a night or an afternoon. To try to fit in with people who may not have had much else but who still possessed the ability to have fun. To let go. To be what I wanted to be without worrying about what other people would say or think or do.
It is inevitable that we got into some trouble—the one night flirtation that turned out to be the new dentist who had come so highly recommended. “Don’t I know you?” he had asked, as I prepared to open wide for my first appointment. He had looked at me quizzically three or four more times during the appointment, and just as I was leaving, he had said, “Aren’t you . . . ?” But I had left quickly and never gone back.
“Why don’t you want to go back to him?” Peter had queried, but I hadn’t answered. Finally, the fifth time he quizzed me, “Bad breath” I had said. He was surprised. No one else had had that problem with him, he said, and insisted that he wanted to make an appointment with him himself to check him out. “He hums under his breath all the time,” I said. “And whistles.” Peter put down the phone. Neither of us ever saw the quizzical dentist again.
I squeaked by that time. Peter faded away into the man cave that would one day house my guns as I settled back into my Hercule Poirot mystery. So many years ago, I was living a vicarious life and therefore had more of an appetite for the literature of adventure. It would have been reassuring to me then to know that one day, I would be less dependent on mystery authors for my thrills and would be ready to write about my own adventures.
The book I have written and the book you are now reading is a saga of stubborn adherence to a belief that adventure is something that can be dammed up but never completely squelched; that revenge need not be executed by violence; and that by looking through the zero, one can sometimes actually see the world that society seems to be trying so hard to keep obscured.
But way back then, over twenty years ago, I was dependent on Agatha Christie to impart fairness to my world. I am both your narrator and that long-ago self as she settles back further on the cushions of the sofa and raises the book closer to her eyes. There is murder in this book, the second most famous in England, but what I intend here is more than a saga of violence.
Thanks to Joni Koehler for today’s prompt, which was a doozie. It was from Erik Larsen’s “Thunderstruck.” First sentence: “There is murder in this book, the second most famous in England, but what I intend here is more than a saga of violence.” Last sentence: “And the tea, as always, was marvelous.” Thanks for furnishing a real challenge this time, Joni. You devil!
If you go backwards for the past three days in my blog, you will find Chapters 1-3 of this tale.
Who will give me the next prompt? Nope, still not doing the WP Daily Prompt.