What day was it when they put up the swing rope? It was a Thursday. No reason to remember that, it didn’t mean anything, but David remembered. Elani was excited. She was always excited when she was at the creek. It was, maybe, the only place where she could be herself. She was the speaking water, full of splashes and exclamations. It could be exhausting, being with her, but David was always smiling, or outright laughing. Even Efrim laughed, and he didn’t do that often. She brightened everything. And it had nothing to do with silliness. She was all splash and chatter, with hardly any silence between them.
And when she was still, the world became still, and those moments left echoes.
“Like a fridge over troubled daughter,” she sang.
“It’s a song I heard,” she said. “Honestly, David, don’t you listen to any good music?”
“I don’t think those are the words,” he said.
“I know that. But don’t you think mine are more interesting? I mean, what does that even mean? What’s troubled water? And why a bridge?”
There are crows in the back field, behind Jimmy’s Grill. Jimmy has no imagination beyond perfecting his Manhattan. Thursday night, all-you-can-eat wings night, and the place is grim and gray. The neon does it no favors. Twelve-month Christmas lights droop from the ceiling, and the jukebox cooks in the corner, steaming 50’s rock and roll.
“Gin?” the bartender asks her, as if it’s a real question.
Elani nods, and she can still hear the crows over “Kansas City”.
The outside sounds are soothing. She can hear her real nature in their dimness. The fog of old music in the background, the craunch of gravel as another truck pulls in. A song, a shot, or many, and the flatness of background conversation that has nothing to do with her. She, always laughing or cringing, the polar parts of her. She has to be strong, crush the anxious, bury the worthless. Music, a drink, and left alone. These are the things she cares about.
The door swings open, and in walks another cowboy, complete with hat and rogue mustache. He’s gray at the temples, wearing the requisite ninety-dollar Calvins, the L.L Bean shirt fresh out of the wrapper. Oh, and the imitation snake skin boots. Of course. More East Coast than Eastwood. A whiskey-drinking son-of-a-gun ready to stir the ladies.
He ambles towards her when he sees her looking, a big grin on his face, and she says: “No thanks. I’d really love to break your heart, but no.”
Why did they always think they knew what she wanted?