You wanna do something fun? Back in the day that would have worked. We were those kinds of people then. I could have said, “Velma, wanna do something fun?” and she’d have said, “Sure, how ‘bout cutting a rug tonight, Daddy-O?” Ten years ago, it would have worked. Everything worked for Velma and me back then, but not now.
After a lot of talking to myself – what Velma, called airing up the tires so I could get on with it - I park the Caddy on the street and head up the sidewalk to maybe patch things up, if not, pick up my stuff, records, magazines, tools, things like that. We usually patch things up quick. When we bust-up, we get back together. Unless she’s on a bender. I hope there’s beer in the fridge, that she ain’t on a bender. That she ain’t drank it all. It is, after all, my beer. I paid for it, brought it to the house. My hands had placed it in the fridge. My hands wanted to take one out. A beer was what I needed before I square things with Velma.
When I get to the top of the steps the front door’s open and the screen door’s shut, but it ain’t latched. I hear the music before I see them. Dancing, her and some shoeless guy. I recognize the record they’re spinning around, an old jazz tune. One of my LP’s.
Velma’s barefoot and her stockings have runners that snake from her toes to her thighs, erotic like, if you find those kinds of things erotic. I do, and Shoeless Guy does too by the way he’s holding Velma.
He’s got a beer in one hand and his other hands got a grip around Velma’s waist. Her arms are looped over his shoulders. Her nose is nestled in his neck and they’re barely shuffling their feet side to side, although the beat is a lively one.
“Don’t mind me,” I say, entering the room. The screen door snaps shut but no one seems to notice, not Velma, her eyes are closed, or the shoeless guy with his hand tucked in Velma’s waist. He’s wearing a shirt with bright blue flowers. Hawaiian print I think they call them. His is untucked. I notice it’s silk as I brush by him on the way to the kitchen, – that it was untucked, I saw from the porch.
I go to the kitchen and grab the last beer out of the fridge. The countertop by the sink’s covered with empty bottles. There’s a pot of pasta in the sink - angel-hair that had not been strained. The sauce on the stove’s burnt, and I don’t have to see the cheese to know it’s bad. My nose tells me this, the smell.
I crack the beer, flop on the couch, and watch them dance.
“Don’t mind me,” I say to Shoeless Guy, “Dance Away.”
I have to give it to Shoeless Guy, he can dance. He spins Velma around and dips her, one arm around her waist, one hand holding hers, puts her down low so the tips of her hair touch the carpet. He keeps her there for a couple of beats, then pulls her into a close embrace.
They kiss and I finish off my beer, leave the empty on the table and go upstairs to retrieve my belongings.
Under the bed, next to a pile of dirty clothes, my socks, my underwear, things like that, and one of Velma’s bras, is a pair of shiny new loafers with leather soles that aren’t scuffed.
Only one reason I know of a man’s shoes being under a woman’s bed.
Back in the day, we craved sex like candy. Velma and me, but she craved something else too. Velma had a sweet tooth for dysfunction. Not just her, I had one too, back in those days. Velma, and me, anything to set us off. The simplest things. We were never in step. A trip to the mall and I’d make a wrong turn. Turned left, when I should have turned right. I heard about it. Loudly, I heard. Parked too close, or too far away from the entrance. The wrong entrance. Always. Even when dancing we couldn’t stay in step.
Velma didn’t drink when I met her, but I did. I taught her how. What a good partner to take up my hobby.
Years we lived that way. I remember some of them. Others I do not, then I went on the wagon.
The fact I was on the wagon and she wasn’t, didn’t help. I’d come home from work, shower and shave, make a sandwich for myself, one for Velma too and head to a meeting in the basement of the Baptist Church. Seven nights a week I did this. This was my routine. Ninety meetings in ninety days my sponsor said.
It didn’t stick. About a month in I screwed it up. Came home and there was Velma dolled up and drunk. Smiling at me. She missed the action, she said. I did too. I missed the action with Velma. She handed me a beer. It was good that night, the action with Velma.
A week later we were at each other’s throats. The smallest things set us off. The fireworks. The wrong kind of action. That’s when I slugged her. We were dancing and I said, “Velma, change the record. Put on something slow.” I pushed her towards the phonograph and the record skipped. I threw the LP across the room. It hit a wall. We had too. She scratched my face and I slugged her. Many things were broken that night.
I kick off my sandals and put on a pair of dirty socks, then I slide my feet into the shoes. I wondered where they were when I came inside and saw Velma and Shoeless Guy barefoot. Now I know. Under the bed next to my dirty socks, and Velma’s bra. The shoes fit, so I walk around the room and pick up the rest of my dirty clothes. I pack up shirts and slacks from the closet. A pack of smokes and a Zippo lighter in the drawer of the nightstand on what had been my side of the bed. The cigarettes weren’t mine, but the lighter was - With love, Velma inscribed on the back.
I pull a cigarette from the pack and light it, stuff the lighter in my pocket along with a couple of nickels and my lucky penny in the bowl by the alarm clock.
Cigarette break over, I start working again. Rummaging, reminiscing, emptying drawers into garbage bags. I smoke three cigarettes packing up the past. The music shifts as I stub the third one out. The Jazz is over for Velma and Shoeless Guy.
No never mind to me. I like the Beach music they’re playing better.
I light another cigarette and the soles of the loafer’s glide over the carpet. The rhythm’s more upbeat. I close my eyes and start triple-stepping. With Shoeless Guy's shoes on my feet and my lucky penny in my pocket, I’ll be shagging by midnight.