I hope the length makes up for my absence
Only Leave The Light On
June 29, 2006
Lindsey adjusted her grasp on the neck of her guitar cursing herself for leaving its case at “Sip”. The guitar was neither heavy, nor cumbersome, but it was far easier to focus her attention on her forgetfulness than to confront the reason she had been circling the same three blocks for the past 45 minutes. Instead of allowing her reflection in each passing store window to remind her that she had grown attached to Andy, Lindsey recalled her last encounters with Brandon and the survival tactics she had adopted once she was finally free. The first three months she was on her own, reminded her how much about her there was to hate; how much of her there was to hide.
“Well, look at you pretty little lady,” A man clad in leather boots and a cowboy hat approached Lindsey with a sleazy smile. His eyes communicated in one blink his every desire to take her home with him.
Clenching her eyelids closed, she downed her fourth whiskey shot. She had already fallen into this routine, and while she could have easily blamed alcoholic genes on her father, a more appropriate excuse was her survival. This man would quickly become part of her game, just another means of surviving on the road.
With the comfort of the familiar tingling sensation, the liquor warmed her body and made her numb enough to follow the middle-aged cattle driver from the Texas saloon. Although they exchanged little more than generic pleasantries, she found no inhibition when it came to falling over him in a fervent kiss. With none of the innocence of a typical sixteen year old, she drank from the half empty tequila bottle that had rolled around on the truck’s floorboards, squealing with excitement as they speed down the winding country road.
Stars blurred as they stumbled around a small ranch property, in and out of the barn where the truck was parked. She easily feigned the same desire that was obvious in this man’s touch. She only began to repress her awareness once she saw the slew of toys in the grass near the house. Knowing a presumably pleasant wife and children soundly slept a few dozen yards away emphasized the reasons she found pleasure in this routine.
In the early morning hours that followed the night of meaningless sex, Lindsey woke to find herself in the bed of the pick up truck beside the man she had met at the bar. Only now, he wore nothing apart from the cowboy hat over his face (meant to block out the eerie yellow lights that illuminated the barn at night). Swallowing her self-hatred and disgust, she tiptoed around collecting her articles of clothing from the piles of loose hay.
Dressing where she could not be seen, Lindsey knew to claim her reward, to continue surviving while forcing this man regret ever dishonoring his family, her current actions required perfection. The very reason she tolerated nights as these was quickly approaching its climax.
As the first rays of sunshine broke through the cracks of the barn door, Lindsey worked at the lock driver’s side door until it opened with just a slight moan from the old hinges. Reaching into the crevice between the two seats in the cab, she uncovered her treasure, the man’s wallet.
The leather was smooth and cool on the pads of her finger;, it was a welcomed change from the stinging memory of the man’s body beneath her skin. The driver’s license introduced the Texan as Duke J. Callahan. The crisp bills neatly in the wallets fold told her that he had clearly made a stop at the bank to cash his paycheck before he strutted up to the bar at the saloon.
Tucking the 682 dollars into her bag, Lindsey glided silently across the hay and slipped out of the barn leaving nothing but another piece of her empathy behind. The innocence in her eyes became just a bit darker. She used the sun to sort out her position and headed back in the direction of the saloon on foot. The gray car she had purchased with her “earnings” just before crossing the border from New Mexico was waiting there with her guitar and other trivial belongs. It was time to make it just a bit farther away from her past
Placing on foot in front of the other, letting the brand new Converse soles clop on the sidewalk, Lindsey ventured no farther than a comfortable distance from Andy’s apartment. Despite finding ever reason to continue life as though Andy Hurley never existed, she had little honest desire to return to living truck stop to truck stop alone. She was unwilling to admit that she, Lindsey Hawk, had been tamed. The only real problem was: She needed him as much as she did food, oxygen, and her guitar.
Just a few blocks behind her, amidst his own pointless wandering, Andy carried his running shoes in his left hand. While his workout didn’t last as long as it should have physically, his mind was racing with the kind of speed that required all of his concentration to control. He paused in front of “Sip” to peer in the window. He had hoped to see Lindsey smile at him from the little makeshift stage. It was a gesture that would have explained why she hadn’t returned to the apartment yet.
When the only gesture he received was a wave from Sarah, who stood behind the counter, he forced a smile and continued on his way. With every step, he drew himself farther away from the afternoon’s events. He cursed himself for thinking Lindsey was just like every other girl; that simply because she was hanging around, she was feeling all of the same things he was. It was no secret that he cared for her, but their relationship was unique. The other was there just so the first didn’t have to be alone. While it was sure they needed each other, Andy wanted more than that. He wanted a guarantee she wasn’t going to abandon him. He couldn’t live through that again.
The duffel bag slug across his chest put pressure on his left shoulder, while hanging about his right hip. After sitting immobile on a cramped airplane seat from Los Angeles to Milwaukee, Andy was glad to be moving again. And each airport terminal he past brought him closer to seeing her again.
While he couldn’t ask for a job any better than playing music, touring ten months out of the year put an obvious strain on the person he cared about above all else. His heart broke every time he left her and stayed in broken places on the ground until they could be reunited.
Searching the phonebook on his cell, he settled on the bold letters that read his girlfriend’s name – Mia. He listened to four rings before hearing her voice.
“Hey, it’s Mia, you know what to do,” Her voice was both sweeter and more alluring than he remember. His stomach fluttered as the escalator transported him down to baggage claim. It had been far too long since they had spoken.
He searched the crowd of men with flowers, women with their children, and limo drivers with signs for a sign of her pretty smile. Blocking a necessary path, he stopped and slowed his gaze. Surveying the crowd twice more, the fluttering turned to sharp pangs against he ribs. Mia must have gotten the time mixed up.
He followed his bags around the conveyor belt three times before removing them. Five unanswered phone calls had passed. Defeated, he ducked into a yellow cab.
Surely, Mia was at their apartment, organizing a big dinner, welcome home party, or a night out on the town. It was easy to convince himself she had simply lost track of time, when he could hear loud music playing from the hallway outside their apartment. Fiddling with a ring of keys, all of his excitement and passion built up again. He had in mind night of “reacquaintance” after four months apart.
“Mia,” He cooed, finding both the kitchen and living room empty.
“Mia, baby,” He tried again, “I’m home,”
With a sigh, he crack the bedroom door. The events that unraveled thereafter could only be explained in Mia’s calm demeanor as she gathered the sheets around her naked body and turned to the man she was in bed with and said, “That is my boyfriend, Andy.”
Andy blinked repeatedly with the hope that he would eventually wake up from this horrible dream.
“Andy,” Mia addressed him directly this time, “This is…”
“I don’t need to know who he is,” He spat, turning on his heels and slinging his duffel bag back over his shoulders. He hadn’t seen Mia since then. He hadn’t seen any woman as more then deceitful since then.
The familiar chirps of Patrick experimenting with Garage Band were barely audible over the hum of the television as Andy stood in the hallway outside his apartment. If Lindsey was absent when he entered, he could only blame his own need for companionship. Fiddling with the lock, he closed his eyes tightly when he crossed the threshold.
“There you are!” Her voice seemed more relieved than excited. He scanned the room, noting Patrick as he expected, hid behind his laptop in the corner, and then over the stove, Lindsey stirred the contents of a pan.
Shooing him out of the kitchen, she quickly transferred the stir-fry onto two plates. Rejoining Andy at the table, she presented her offering.
“I didn’t know how else to say ‘I’m Sorry’” She admitted almost silently.
“That’s because you have no reason to be sorry.” He said with a shrug. And just as if no lips had ever met, they returned to their routine, secretly relying on the other to get through another day.