8 of Spades: Ante Up

I wondered about the stain overhead. I knew the story of it—window-tossed soda spraying back inside. But maybe it was the result of evaporation. Molly had enough old cans in here, half with syrup still inside. Perhaps that had evaporated and, instead of forming clouds above the cup holders and raining down cola, it just stained the ceiling. Maybe. In the winter, it caused frost on the inside of the windshield.

 

“You said you were constitutionally against tattoos!” Molly shouted, straddling me as my shirt was unbuttoned and flung toward the seat buckle. She was close enough to kiss me; she yelled anyway. “You said they were stupid and meaningless and instead of expressing self, they just showed fashion sense.”

 

While Maria had thought I suffered internal bleeding from my tumble, Molly thought I was well enough to sit on. I didn’t complain though because pleasure outweighs pain, always. And there wasn’t much pain to begin with. Except, she squashed me a bit. In college, her medication had a side effects like anxiety, loss of sleep, loss of appetite, gaining weight, losing weight, etc, etc. Molly had gained weight, blamed the medication (though I suspect much of it was her sedentary life), and never lost the weight again. Every time she found a new medication that didn’t work, she put on more weight. Maybe it would’ve worked if it had a different side effect. My zipper pressed into my manhood.

 

“Back in college, maybe I said that.” I stretched my arms to each side and grabbed the seatbelts. The metal seared me and I dropped them. The plastic was warm and I thought it might melt, but no, it was firm. “You’ve got selective memory. You only remember what you want, and that’s apparently only what’ll get me in trouble.”

 

“You yelled at me for a week about it!”

 

“You got the Japanese characters for ‘donkey’ on your hip!” I ripped open her fly, exposing the tattoo. It looked like a cargo box then a pair of legs, which I suppose is a donkey. ロバ

 

She rolled off me and sat on my students’ stories. They crinkled under her wide butt. “It says ‘Courage.’”

 

“You don’t know. You don’t speak Japanese. You hardly speak English some days.”

 

Molly’s plump rump indented the seat and a green skittle rolled to her thigh. She had her wild years during college, a normal time to have them. She slept with guys after texting them for a week and meeting once. She got a piercing on her eyebrow and wanted sternum and hip piercings. She dyed her hair purple then threatened to slit her throat if I didn’t drive two hours from my college to hers to deliver brunette dye—she wouldn’t go in public with an atrocious hair color. She moved across country to work at Disney for college credit and because it was a great stepping stone to getting any job. Then she quit school, quit Disney, and lived there for a month before coming home, defeated. She also got a tattoo in Florida by a Cuban refugee; she (supposedly) looked up the Japanese symbol in a book and gave it to the ‘artist.’ He copied it onto her skin. Whether the book was wrong, the pony-tailed artist messed up, or whatever, it came out looking like the symbol for ‘donkey.’ I don’t know why she wanted Japanese characters on her hip; it was fashionable. That year, she was diagnosed with dysthymic disorder and locked herself in her apartment for three months, claiming she had mono. I brought her groceries and vanilla milkshakes weekly. I’m not sure she saw another person during those days. She didn’t even have cable. What’d she do? Probably slept.

 

“I can too speak English,” she mumbled. She stared out the window. “You’re always mean to me. Why you gotta be mean?”

 

“I’m not,” I said. I was meaner to my students and they liked me, or they dropped the class.

 

The window was coated with dog snot. Now dried, a film obscured the dazzling sunlight. Cast on the leather was a shadow of Pickles’s nose. Molly had taken my car one winter morning as hers was low on gas and it had frozen to slush in her tank. As a sweet surprise, I’d gone to Huck’s to fill it. The snow had been too deep to walk Pickles in, so I brought her with me to get her out of the house. Her black little nose was wet with happiness and she pressed it to the glass trying to sniff her usual hot spots as we whizzed by the fire hydrant, speed limit post, and Mrs. Rosenblatt’s Russian sage (which smelled like sausage to her). When Molly got home and saw her car, she complained of snot marks, then handed me my keys. Now summer, the window still wasn’t clean.

 

“Why’dja get one? You could’ve told me.”

 

The hot air got into my eyes and they watered. I rubbed them and it smeared tears to the corner. I looked like I was crying. It was the heat. I wiped sweat from my sternum then buttoned up my shirt. We weren’t getting naked; why should I look at my belly anymore? It was too fat. Too many Thanksgivings at KFC. “Get what?”

 

Molly stopped me after one button. Maybe there was hope for naked activities. “I like tattoos.” She interlocked our fingers, but two of mine were between her middle and ring fingers. It was uncomfortable and I pulled away.

 

“I don’t.” I pressed the switch to roll down the window, but the battery was off. I grabbed the white-hot handle to crack the door, let a breeze in, but Molly’s car was old and broken and it wouldn’t open. Maybe the child-lock was on. I hated sitting in back and being clothed.

 

“Gosh! You’re so fickle. Just get that laser removal stuff.”

 

“Why? For what?”

 

She tossed open my shirt again, forgetting it was buttoned at the bottom. That button ripped off and pinged against the window, then hit me in the ear. “That! Your tattoo!”

 

“I don’t have a—” I had a tattoo. Starting at my hip, a spade, like you’d see on playing cards, crept up till the point was in my hairy arm pit. It was just a black outline, only an inch thick, but it covered a few moles.

 

I ran out of the car, despite any minor injuries from my earlier fall. You’d think I’d have at least a twisted ankle, but if I did, I ran on it, ran right to the bathroom, to the mirror, to the sink and soap. It didn’t come off.

 

I had a tattoo.

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