You Go Down Smooth

Elenor twirled in the moonlight that spilled onto the hardwood floor. Upstairs in a house in Maine owned by Leroy, an older gentleman, we met at a rest stop off Highway 95 near Portland. I remember a single mattress lay barren in the middle of the room. Elenor and I were tucked away in the corner of an unfinished attic. Her bare feet played diligently with the noises sung from the cracks in the wood panes. Elenor’s navy blue cutoffs hung on her hips, and the moisture from June made her white t-shirt stick to her skin. All merely four years ago, when she looked at me with the bottle of whiskey pinned to her lips and swore she’d never leave me.

That was three states and various mindsets north of where I am now. I perch my elbows on top of the reminisce of liquor and crumbs of peanuts. Two in the afternoon on a Wednesday and I order a round of whiskey for everyone in the bar. All five of us men.

Jim Bean rips the taste buds off my tongue and seeps into my lifeless bones. I place the glass back on the bar, smooth brown liquid casting the bottom. Locking eyes with the bartender, he nods in my direction. I twirl the angel’s share around in my glass, a mesmerizing movement.

I drink beer on football Sunday’s and don’t think of her sitting next to me cheering for the opposing team. I drink red wine at dinner and her voice doesn’t whisper into my memory. But whiskey pulls the plug and I melt into a pool of nostalgia. 

The moisture settles in after dusk mid-April marking two years since Elenor left. Since she took the only set of keys we had to the 1989 Buick. An old piece of shit I found prowling Craigslist. The driver-side door handle barely lodged open, and most times I had to crawl through the passenger side. That following Friday I stood, keys in hand, in the lawn of her parents house in Vermont. I was two hours late for the reception after her dad’s funeral. Her blue eyes mimicked somber grey rain clouds when she walked out the front door. She shared glances between the sorry car parked on the street, and myself—put together in my father’s old suit, as fragments put together from broken glass.

Walking home from the bar, the rain is more calming than an annoyance. I recall Elenor was always quiet when it rained. She’d perch her bare feet on the dash of the Buick and hum along to the static on the radio.

I pull a flask from my back pocket. Smooth poison laps through my teeth and tongue riding the sense of amnesia I’ve created. I wonder if she moved back in with her parents, went to Las Vegas to drive through the strip at dawn like she always dreamed, or stayed in Pennsylvania creating a new life for herself.

A picture of her still sits in the back pocket of my bluejeans. I am able to smell the overgrown grass lining the gravel from a backroad in Connecticut. It was humid and the air was stale. We were stopped on the side of the road, forgetting to fill the gas tank. Elenor sat shotgun, right arm hung out the window trying to escape the heat. Her cheeks were rosy from too much sun and eyes crinkled from laughing. Elenor was remarkable with making terrible moments full of bliss and enchantment.

I reach the peak of my driveway. Passersby on streets are ghosts and I stare at one standing in front of my garage door. She’s wearing a pilled white t-shirt jammed into navy blue cutoffs.

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