Things I wish I had told you… November, 1964

It had already turned cold before the bar emptied out and over the next hour the temperature dropped like a stone. I was wearing a light denim jacket over my stage outfit and the cold dug into me remorselessly, but I forced the sensation down, concentrating on listening and watching. Cigarette stubs littered the ground about my feet as I methodically chain-smoked through a pack, staring at the door, willing it to open and planning what I would do if it did not. I decided I would wait until I finished my last cigarette, then I was going in to get her and to Hell with the consequences.

The last cigarette was in my hand, the crumpled pack falling to the ground when the door finally cracked open and Dalene slipped out, closing it behind her. She stood in the doorway, a pale apparition in the starlit darkness. Coming from the warmth and light of the club she did not see me as she started across the parking lot towards the hotel, wrapping her arms about herself- a gold lamee mini dress and matching boots were no match for a November night in Detroit. Her eyes were fixed on the ground in front of her and her face had all the life of a block of stone.

I slipped the cigarette between my lips and as she came close I struck my last match. The flare of light startled her and she stopped in her tracks as I dragged the flame into the tobacco, then tossed the match to the ground. Our gaze met and her lips parted, the tension easing from her brow for a moment as tears threatened, making her eyes glisten. The ache of worry that had filled me the past hour suddenly welled up in my throat and broke from my lips in a single, gasping cry.

“Why?”

“Why? Because I hate it when you… when you let them touch you. I hate waiting for you to come back. I hate the way you smell! I hate the way you pretend it’s nothing, like we shouldn’t care or even notice what you’re doing.”

I stared at her, feeling the force of her words striking me as she stepped close and gripped my arms, drawing me to her. The look in her eyes was almost frightening, enough to make me brace my hands against her chest, but then she leaned down and kissed me… and I could taste him in her mouth. There were wet streaks in her hair and stains on her dress- I could smell him all over her. She broke the kiss, let go of my arms, then plucked the cigarette from my fingers and took a long drag.

“Disgusting, isn’t it? I want to gag just thinking about it… and we left this behind, remember? You, and me, the four of us; except now it’s Aiko, Neff and me, and you’re just outside it all. It’s the three of us, and you. And I hate that most of all.” She took another drag, then dropped the cigarette and crushed it under the toe of her boot. “And now maybe you know how it feels to be me.”

I stared at her, unsure what to say. I had hurt her, hurt all of them, and I had done it without thinking; so focused on buffering them against the world that I had pulled away from them. Away from her. Her eyes were hard, but she was holding back tears, her arms wrapped tightly about herself as she shivered from the cold.

“I don’t…” I started, but then took a deep breath and tried again. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I just feel… I dragged you all out here…” Words failed me then, and all I could think to do was lean into her and hold on. Dalene slowly unfolded her arms and took me in, her chin resting atop my head while I tried to force something, anything out past my lips. Nothing would come because the only words I wanted to speak were the truth. I wanted to tell her everything, tell her why I let this wall grow between us, tell her that loving her was beautiful and terrifying…

“I’m sorry,” was all I managed to squeak out, “Cher, I never meant to let this happen.” Then my throat was too full of pain and I couldn’t stop crying, the realization that all my lies were the real wall between us and that I could not set them aside finding the only release I could allow.

“Angie,” she whispered, “I know, baby. I know.” I could feel her shaking, knowing it was more than just the cold as I felt her tears falling on me. “We just have to be strong together, that’s all.”

We clung to each other whispering tenderness, reassurances and promises but I could not stop weeping. The weight of my deception, the aching need to tell her the truth and the fear that made that impossible warred within me until I was too wrung out to cry anymore, leaving me empty and exhausted. All I had left was her warmth and the soothing balm of her words, words I did not deserve to hear.

3 Responses to “Things I wish I had told you… November, 1964”

  1. You should have told me. I’d have thought you were crazy but it wouldn’t have mattered.

  2. Nothing was simple back then, remember? What if I had told you that night, or the next? All of you were still balanced on the knife’s edge, and you were right- I was standing outside looking in. I did not want to be there, circumstances simply force my hand as they so often do.

    Had I told you, and had you believed me, how long would it have been before the lies I told spawned anger in you? How long before you began to wonder just what I was looking for? And had you decided I was either lying to you or was deluded, how long before you would fear you could no longer trust me?

    Either way, the truth would have broken the spell of unity that surrounded us. That night, when you took my place and forced me to stand in yours, you drew me back inside. You reminded me why I was there, why I cared so much and you showed me why I was so wrong to do what I did.

  3. But it didn’t stick, did it? What happened? That’s all I want to know. What made you throw us all away?

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