Open 2021 Open Stories - D.R. Garrett

 

Wild Horses
By D.R. Garrett

 

Dean was twenty-five when I met him. I picked him up in the middle of a smoked filled street on a beautiful summer day. There were firecrackers and beer cans cracking open everywhere, but it wasn’t the fourth of July. It was Chunk 666’s annual Chunkathalon.


Every punk rock Peter Pan and Wendy were there drunk on Pabst Blue Ribbon, wobbling on broken down Frankenstein bikes under a rare sun-drenched Portland sky. It was like a Halloween parade of tall bikes, clowns, ripped jean jackets, and stupid stunts. He looked out of place standing alone, gripping tightly to his skateboard, his naturally fringed auburn hair blowing in the wind.


In general, I was a very depressed person. I found it hard to be alone with myself.Some people took pills for depression. My drug of choice was romance. It made me feel good, like shooting pharmaceutical dope without the chance of an overdose, at least not a physical one. Truly though I never thought to myself, Dean is my drug standing there on the street all six foot two of him.But that’s what I did, use him as a drug.


In turn he did the same. I was out to exploit him just as much as he was out to exploit me.Only difference was he wanted to use my body and I was looking for something much higher than that. This impossible thing I wanted from him I could not express with words. So, even if he could give it to me, I never knew how to ask for it.

 

****
I started hanging out at The Vern not long after I met Dean.The place was a mess of decaying colors, broken people, and scattered happenings. It was like any dive bar in America with the same stained carpeting and cracking laminate oak countertop from when it first opened in the 1960s. But it had lost its charm years ago, much like the few toothless dinosaurs who sat together at the bar eternally sipping from tall boys, mumbling nonsense at the bartender such as, “The worlds really gone to shit”, and “Why don’t any women come in here anymore?”


We liked it though, me and my friends. We found the water damaged ceiling, the old jukebox, and the bearded bar back who would yell at exactly 1:45 each night, “Shriners drink up,” to be enduring. When I found myself out of love with Dean’s child inside of me, the place took on a new meaning. It became a much-needed distraction from the unbearable emptiness that felt like an ice storm inside of my soul.

 

****
“I’m sorry.” Dean said as he looked off into nothing. We were standing in a gray sterile looking city park. It was a frigid spring morning and the sight of the dried up three tier fountain with no water coming out of it was pissing me off.


“No,you’re not.” I was sick and tired of being nice. I felt about as bitter as the Vicodin the nurse had given me at the abortion clinic, that was dissolving down the back of my throat.


“It’s not yours.” I lied.


“What is wrong with you?” But still, he didn't’t give a damn.


Why won’t you love me? Nothing I seemed to do would make him care for me like he did those first few months we were together. When I told him, I was pregnant he just looked like he had an itch he needed to scratch. Didn't even blink an eye when I said I didn't want to keep it.


Looking across the street at the tower of steel and glass that housed my fate, I thought about the baby. Did it have a face? Squeezing my eyes shut I imagined some tiny tad pole looking thing curled up in the center of my womb, covered in blood and veins. God, please make it not be human.


“I don’t want to go back there.”


“What? You mean your changing your mind?”


Ignoring him, I walked across the street toward a line of sunken faced picketers standing in front of the heavy glass doors of the abortion clinic. They were holding oversized signs with the same half dead fetus on them, the words STILL ALIVE written in big sloppy letters over the poor creature’s umbilical cord.


“Get out of my way,” Dean hissed as he pulled me past a pamphlet wielding Christian lady.


“Jesus loves you.You are a child of god and so is your baby,” the lady pleaded with me forcing a pamphlet into the palm of my hand as the receptionist buzzed us in.

 

****
“You sure you want to do this?” The nurse said looking down at the unsigned waiver that lay on the ground next to my feet. I couldn’t respond. I was too busy looking at a glossy picture of a white robed Jesus floating in the sky with a blond, blue eyed baby in his arms.


“Miss?”


Setting the pro-life pamphlet down on the chair next to me, I looked up at the nurse. She looked tired, like she hated her job. Yes, I want this. If the only thing good that comes out of it is to never see Dean again,then yes, I would kill the only thing left living inside of me. The truth was selfish and cold and uncaring. The truth was that I couldn’t continue to spend the prime years of my life writing self-deprecating poetry while milking box wine at a dive bar obsessing over a man who never loved me. The truth was I hated Dean, but I didn't ’know how to say it.


My rage was not yet my own. It wouldn’t come till nearly a decade later, after I had found out he had gotten married and had a little girl of his own. It would take that long for the venom inside of me to burst like a puss filled cyst oozing out everywhere. Back then I just wanted the truth to be wiped clean. That truth being that I would stay with him no matter what he did to me. As long as he wasn’t cheating on me or beating on me it must not be so bad. Yet somehow rape never crossed my mind, as if I had been programmed to believe that because he held the title boyfriend, he had agency over my body.


****
There I lay on a cold metal table in the birthing position. Dean holding my hand tightly, perhaps he did care about me, even a little. The feeling of the tube deep inside of me sucking away bits and pieces of the tiny gooey thing that could never be my child, was muted by the wrinkled hand caressing my naked thigh.


“It’s okay sweetheart. Almost there. You’re doing a great job,” the doctor said, his face hidden in-between my legs, his hand still on my thigh. Good. I was doing good. He said those words like he was talking to a little kid who was learning to tie their shoes.


“Tell him to get his hand off my leg,” I looked up at Dean as the numbing euphoria of the Vicodin dissolved into the cramping pain of being scraped from the inside out.


“What was that dear?” The doctor couldn’t hear me through the awful buzzing sound of the abortion machine.


“She said get your fucking hand off of her,” Dean snapped back at the old pervert.



****
After it was over broken images of the night it happened cracked through every dark corner of my mind. My body half naked, splayed across the bed like a dead fish. The twinkle of the Christmas lights hanging from my bedroom ceiling. My brain paralyzed in a state of intoxication beyond my control. Unable to tell him to stop. How easy it was to forget the night that led to the conception of a life that could never be. The wine and cheap whiskey made it easy.


“You can’t hold your liquor,” Dean would say, “You shouldn’t be drinking.”


A year later I left him. But it took me quite a while to wash him away for good. He would call me.


Desperate and small he would tell me, “The doctors say I won’t live past twenty-seven. I’m shitting blood Delilah. They say it’s my intestines.”


He knew I would fall for it. I’d feel sorry for him. He would even play along for a little while. We would go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Being the silly kids we were, knowing nothing about the extent of our brokenness, we would continue to believe it was just the booze that made us run from ourselves. But the truth is you can’t run away from your shadow. Just like Dean couldn’t drink away all the hatred he had for his mother or rape it out of me.

****
When the procedure was over, I lay on a rubber hospital bed. Another girl lay across from me crying. Rolling over so I didn’t have to look at her, I looked out at the city ten stories below me. The Willamette River lay there dirty and wet, breaking up the east and west.


Dotting the edge of the river was a neat row of pretty pink cherry blossom trees puffy and virginal standing out against the sad gray people who walked along the promenade with their heads down. The branches of the tree bowed gently in the wind against the cold concrete surrounding them as if to remind me that life would continue to thrive if I would just let it.


Must have been something wrong with me because I couldn’t cry. No, it wasn’t till I was in my late thirties, long after Dean had been rubbed out of the many rooms and corridors of my heart,that a tear broke forth for the life I had ended.

 

****
I wanted to see a Pogues cover band the night of the abortion.Dean convinced me not to go.


“Please stay with me.” I said asking him for reverence. But he was too unholy to harbor such feelings for me. Instead, he had plans involving a woman named Nicole and a bottle of Old Crow. Fuck him, I’ll waste away on my own. There was no better place in the world to do that then The Vern.


Alone at the Vern I sat but I couldn’t write. My ovaries felt like stones and my stomach was still cramping even though it had been hours since the procedure had been performed.Wild Horses echoed through the dusty speakers of the ancient juke box. Closing my eyes, I became aware of an ache deep inside of my heart for a place that could never be.


When I opened them an old hippie couple was dancing. They were the kind of people who wore the memories of their youth in the form of tie-dyed scarves, Tibetan prayer beads, and faded blue jeans. I couldn’t help but to feel a chill run down my spine as I watched them look into each other’s eyes as Mick Jagger’s wailing voice broke into every dank corner of the room.


No matter how I tried I couldn’t remember a time when Dean and I had looked at each other like that. We were too afraid of what we might see. As if our eyes were windows into a haunted house of our deepest fears, and if we shared those fears it would ignite a bomb triggered by our own vulnerability. For us being vulnerable was a fate worse than death. This is because it was never safe for us to be exposed. It had never been okay for us to be honest with anyone not even ourselves.

 

****
Years later I told my husband what Dean did. He promised me in a drunken stupor he would get hold of some Gypsy Jokers he grew up with and get them to drive down to Arcadia and beat the shit out of Dean,as if that would somehow take back the dignity,he had stolen from me. The truth was what Dean did to me was just a reenactment of an earlier rape, an earlier decimation of all that would someday comprise of my shattered and contorted womanhood.


Dean’s actions were just a symptom of a greater problem. What happened was more than just right and wrong, more than what should be deemed legal and illegal. It started when we were too little to know any better. It began when we were told what a little girl was and what a little boy ought to be. In the end I did cry.

 

I cried hot sticky tears for a world where men feel they have to exert their power over women and women feel obligated to give away that power.

 

 

D.R. from US is a poet, filmmaker, and writer who has been putting pen to page for over two decades. Her award winning films have screened all over the world and her writing has appeared in Modus Operandi and DMZ. For her writing is a means of transcendence. Her work centers around themes of spirituality, trauma, and addiction. When she is not writing you can find her working on film and television sets its a production designer in Austin, Texas.


 

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