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Now, he recognizes clues. “I was in a Dutch series, opposite a Dutch hottie. She was married, with kids, and right off the bat we had a conversation about transference. How we’re not going to fall in love, how we’re going to be careful with each other. I didn’t want to be responsible for wrecking her marriage.”

(Sam and Emily’s names have been changed.)


It’s just three ladies and I in the sprawling, wooden confines of Fannie’s in Spring Valley, and one of those ladies, Jillybean, is the bartender. The other two, Heather and Tanya, drift from the end of the bar to the pool table and back again, taking sips of beer between shots. Kings of Leon blare from the jukebox, filling the emptiness: “You know that I could use somebody…”

“I’ve been coming here for seven years,” says Heather, who is wearing a deep-V-necked T-shirt and a shortish denim skirt. “It started because it was around the corner from my house.” Now, she’s best friends with one of the bartenders. “We hang out all the time. This place used to be busy. It was crowded all the time with military; I have no idea why. But it was a bunch of young military dudes, a smorgasbord of deliciousness. Now they’re all gone — the biggest thing was the war.”

Tanya takes a photo down from the bulletin board next to the pool table. “Hey, you want to look at a nasty skank?” she calls out.

“I’m right here,” retorts Heather. “Jesus Christ, is it necessary to talk about me that way?”

Tanya laughs and looks at the photo. “Look at her before I put 500 holes in her face.”

The game ends and the trio settles in at the edge of the bar, customers on one side, bartender on the other. “Breaking Benjamin” follows “30 Seconds to Mars” on the jukebox; everyone voices their approval.

“My first love was actually my first husband,” begins Jillybean, “but he was such an alcoholic that it made me hate him. Now he’s come full circle — he’s paying $4000 so I can keep my house. But I really love Jerry now, so…” So nothing’s going to get rekindled. “But my first love is my first husband.”

Heather hunches over her Newcastle and knits her brow. “I’m trying to remember who the first person I ever said ‘I love you’ to was. I’m seriously having a hard time. Sad. I’m just not a lovey-dovey kind of gal.”

“Maybe your first heartbreak would be easier to remember?” I suggest.

“You know what’s really sad?” she says. “It wasn’t my marriage.”

Tanya’s first love was a girl. “I was 16 and spent ten years with her. After 30, I began to like men. I have a man. I have a really tall, six-foot-four man.”

Heather finishes her remembering. “Honestly?” she begins. “The one, true, honest-to-God complete and utter love of my life I met right here. I was sitting there” — midway along the bar — “at the time, talking to some people. He walks in the door — and again, this is me, just saying what I think — and I’m, like, ‘I am going to fuck him tonight.’ Seriously, that was my first reaction to seeing him. And that is the only time ever in my existence in coming into this bar — and Lord knows, I come here a lot — that I have ever looked at a guy that walked in the door and thought that.”

“Heather!” exclaims Tanya, as if shocked by the manifest falsehood of the claim.

Heather holds her ground. “No, I’ve never thought that before.”

“What about Brian?”

“Brian who?”

“Brian!”

“Sunday Brian!” adds Jillybean.

“Oh, that Brian,” nods Heather. “You’ve got to remember, I’ve known a couple of different Brians. You want to see ‘Brian’ in my phonebook? I’ve got, like, five. No, not the first time I ever met Sunday Brian. And that motherfucker doesn’t come in here anymore. He still lives with his ex-wife — it’s a very strange relationship. He stopped coming in once before for, like, three or four months, when he quit drinking for a while.”

But getting back to One True Love. “So he goes and plays this stupid golf game that we used to have in the back of the bar, [plays] for hours and hours.” While he was playing, Heather shifted away from her group, closer to the end of the bar. “I wasn’t talking to anybody anymore, but he thought I was with the guy I had been talking to. He was thinking of leaving. He was standing there” — against the wall at the end of the bar — “and I kept looking at him. He was really shy. He’d look at me, look away, look at me, look away. Finally, I stared at him, and probably one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen in my life: he stood there and started checking over his shoulders. He was standing against the wall — who the hell did he think was behind him? It was the longest one-night stand of my life — we lived together for three years.” It’s a great finishing line, and she delivers it like a pro.

And? “And then he went back to his wife. She was moving away, to Wyoming, and she was taking the kids. And he was too much of a pussy to fight to keep her here. So that’s where they are now. He and I still talk regularly. He’s miserable. And it’s probably only a matter of time before he shows up on my doorstep.”

“He’s waiting until his kids are old enough,” suggests Jillybean. “And then he’ll start enjoying his life.”

“His youngest is ten,” agrees Heather. “And I would take him back in a heartbeat. He understood me. We had so much in common. Everything clicked; from the very first moment, everything was right there.”

Tanya is unmoved. “You would take him back in a heartbeat? I’m sorry, but I don’t get that.” (When she heard that One True Love went back to his wife, she crowed, “You can only run forward, baby. You can’t run backwards. Sorry, it never fucking works.”)

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Comments

nan shartel March 24, 2010 @ 4:07 p.m.

pass me a Margarita

i really fell in love when i was 60 with a knobby kneed Irishman who was all brass and laughter living in the land of eternal winter with only the Red Cardinals perched on his snow cover windowsill to keep his spirits up

we wrote poetry and laughed together...spun dream scenarios of warm log cabins and bare bear rugs to wrap ourselves in as we discovered our bodies still worked the magic long thought only a memory

his hair was long and tied back with a leather cord which i replaced with a scarlet ribbon...never a hippie...a Viet Nam vet while i was marching against the war...i learned a lot about those 19 year olds who went ...became addicted to hemp and heroin to return unappreciated and shadowy figures much maligned by the public at large during that time

he wandered the country for 2 years with PTSD and a heroin addiction ...and like a good Marine pulled himself up by his bootstraps to join the vast parade of ordinary people living their ordinary lives unaffected by the horror of AGENT ORANGE and war

he had been a vegetable gardener before he went to war..but upon returning and getting a more sober life together he began to grow flowers only

he'd decided he only wanted beauty around him and it would take a life of babying bulbs and rooted flowers to find that again

he died last year

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Altius March 30, 2010 @ 5:02 p.m.

Wow, Nan. What a great story. Condolences.

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SDaniels March 30, 2010 @ 6:26 p.m.

Ditto, nan. As usual, you cause the breath--and time--to catch. xoxoxo

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