By Rodger Jacobs
“You know that I have to write about this,” Trace called out to Lisa from the bathroom. He finished brushing his teeth and, glancing to the mirror as he replaced the toothbrush, he saw a face he couldn’t recognize. It was his own face but a much younger version, which made him think about the possible healing power of falling in love.
When Trace returned to the bedroom, Lisa was half-asleep. Her long, slender legs were entwined in the soft brown bed sheets like orphaned tree limbs littering the desert floor.
“You know I have to write about this,” he repeated. “I always wanted to write about someone having an affair but, having never experienced one until now, I never trusted myself to be honest with those kinds of emotions on paper.”
She opened her eyes and smiled at him. “Is that what this is? We’re having an affair?”
Trace hiked his shoulders and squinted at the wallpaper as if he thought he might find an answer in the wavy, cream-colored horizontal lines.
“I don’t know what ‘this’ is. It’s something, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is. What are you going to write then? About us. About ‘this’?”
“Maybe just a short story,” he said, lighting a cigarette and admiring her legs.
Trace took a hard pull on the cigarette and exhaled a plume of smoke that descended upon Lisa like a thick, white cloud. Trace apologized profusely and moved to the balcony door, sliding it open to allow a stiff breeze to enter the hotel room that had been his home for the last two years. It had been raining for five punishing days. Los Angeles had never seen such a steady deluge, or so the TV weathermen kept saying.
Trace stood on the balcony in his white cotton bathrobe and watched as another storm system moved in from the west, engulfing the glass and steel high rises of the L.A. skyline, causing them to vanish from the horizon right before his eyes.
“The skyline just disappeared,” he said, poking his head back into the room through the opening in the balcony door. “More heavy rain headed this way.”
Lisa didn’t reply. She was either sleeping, Trace thought, or trying to process this strange and exhilarating thing that had happened to them over the last five days. He wondered how his wife was going to take the news he had to deliver and how he was going to deliver the grim information.
“I don’t think she can possibly be surprised,” Trace told Lisa earlier in the day as they lay entangled in each others bodies. “The marriage has been dead for the last two years and she knows it as well as I do.”
“When we met,” Lisa sighed sweetly, “you gave me no indication of your availability. I mean, I knew you were married but you seemed so genuinely interested in getting to know me so I didn’t know whether we were just going to have a few fun days in bed or something more serious. You hinted at something more serious on Friday night.”
The rain had only just begun that Friday evening when Lisa arrived at Trace’s hotel room. Now, five days later, the drumming rain had caused sodden hillsides to give way, carrying a swimming pool in Bel-Air into a ravine. Floodwaters from the Santa Clara River had carved away 150 feet of pavement and runway at Santa Paula Airport. There had been water spouts over the Santa Monica Bay and the National Weather Service had posted tornado warnings for the entire Los Angeles basin for two days.
Trace tossed the spent cigarette into a rain puddle on the balcony and returned to the room. Lisa stirred beneath the sheets. He was glad she was not asleep.
“Does the magazine you work for want you to write about Hunter Thompson?” she asked.
“Everyone and their mother is writing about his death already,” Trace said. “I don’t know what I have to contribute. I can say that a great deal of what I know about writing I learned from reading Thompson but everyone else is saying the same thing. This is as big as Fitzgerald’s passing.”
He poured a shot glass to the rim with Potter’s Vodka from a $3.99 pint bottle he picked up at the corner liquor store. The bar at the Residence Inn didn’t open until six in the evening and there was no store of any kind on the hotel premises. He ruined his least favorite pair of shoes going out in the torrential downpour to pick up cigarettes and the vodka but he didn’t care. He had Lisa in his bed and with her presence came a restoration of who he was and where he was going in life.
“Poor sonofabitch,” he exhaled as he slid between the sheets and wrapped himself up in Lisa.
“Why do you say that?”
“It was what Dorothy Parker said when she went to the mortuary in Culver City to view Fitzgerald’s body. ‘Poor sonofabitch.’ That’s all I can say about Hunter Thompson.”
He rolled over on his side and she studied his face in the half-glow of the soft candle light that filled the room.
“Poor sonofabitch,” she repeated.
(c) 2005, Rodger Jacobs
All Rights Reserved