I have always viewed my own actions as not only perilous to myself but a source of indignation, even disgust, for others. Probably I find it more difficult to live with myself than others do. If I don't make love one day I will go looking for a woman the next; this is usually the case, for the women who know me have no patience for what I require of them.
I reached for Ruby when I woke and she brushed my hand away and rolled over. That was as close as we came to fucking. I am not proud of my intentions. She had had enough of men for a good long while.
She said nothing over breakfast. I talked of Delia. Why follow her now? I asked. We know where she will be.
Ruby said nothing until she’d finished eating. She looked up at me with her dark brown eyes and said, If you want to go back, you are free, I can take it from here.
I said, Why do you want to bother her? She wants to be alone.
So do I, Ruby replied.
When Ruby left the table, leaving me with the check, I ordered rum with extra limes. When the glass was empty save for the limes and a few surviving ice cubes I ordered another, telling the waitress to leave the limes that were in the glass already and don’t bother to add any. I was going to have one more while I decided what to do next.
I left without paying the bill let alone waiting for the second drink. I went to the john and exited the back door. In the sunshine I reveled in the Memphis warmth. But, as I say, I longed to be in Audubon Park. There is only one.
I had a duffel bag in the room, but I left it there.
I didn’t want to see her again right now.
The limes left a taste in my mouth I remembered from Roanoke, where I lived when I came of age. I learned to drink rum there and the limes were, for me, a natural part of the mix. I would ladle the limes out with a spoon–I loved to eat and then have a drink, I was that virginal–and chew them until spitting the rinds out. I may have loved the limes more than the rum, but I knew they only helped me feel the way I did, they couldn’t do the job alone.
I walked in the alley to the bus station. I still had money in my pocket. There was none in the duffel bag, just a change of clothes and a book or two. "Light in August" and "A Curtain of Green," say. I could find a paperback in the bus station if I needed one. But I didn’t bother.
(23 October 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander