make her go away
make her go away
i don't want the green-tinted memories.
i don't want the ones where we walk in sunshine-coated fields and she tells me terrible things.
i don't want the ones where she tells me in the dark september night that i'll come back.
i don't want the ones where she stands over me while i play at sleep.
i don't want the ones where she sits across from me in her kitchen and stares.
i don't want the ones where we laugh and we cry and we pretend.
i don't want these memories anymore. i don't want them.
please make her go away.
Make It Home
Lisa’s ex-husband was a dick. A bald face lying narcissistic son of a bitch. They met at a high school party where she got wasted and he got lucky. Aware of her drunken state, he cast his signature wink in her direction and hook line and sinker she was snagged. It must have been his caveman grunt awakening the desert patch between her legs, because he said a mere few words to her before she found herself naked underneath 180 pounds of shit. Two minutes later he snatched the cookie. Even he didn’t expect it to be that easy.
“I’m pregnant.” She told him 2 months later one day after school. Lisa waited for him in front of the boys locker room knowing he would be heading in there for football practice. He recognized her from a distance as just another one of the girls he banged at one of Kenny Block’s parties and although she was stunningly beautiful, she wasn’t exactly his type. He liked them little. He’d do a 12 year old if he could get away with it. Immature sixteen year old five footers with big boobs and tiny asses, the tighter the better would be his first choice. Although he didn’t remember her name, he remembered she reminded him of Wonder Woman, perhaps even taller and he wasn’t into women with wide shoulders that could look him in the eye standing up. When he was on top of her that night it didn’t matter. “Stick to the plan,” he thought, “Insert part A into part B, pump, pump, pump and don’t forget to dump the milk shake on the sheets.”
“Congratulations!” He said and kept on walking, confident when he banged her he had stuck to the plan. According to him, the plan was foolproof.
“Who is she kidding?” He thought. “If she’s got a bun inside that kick ass mega body, it ain’t mine.”
She lunged for him, grabbing him by the back of his collar immobilizing him, in the same way the English teacher, Mrs. Fusco, had seized him when she was chaperoning at the junior prom. She caught him red handed pouring whiskey into the punch bowl.
Grateful that none of his teammates were around to witness the smack down, with no alternative he listened to what she had come to say.
“Listen to me. This baby is yours. Well mine, but yours too. I know this because there has been no one else. I am,.....I mean, I was a virgin. Two firsts for me in one night. I’d never been drunk before either. I barely remember going upstairs with you, but I do remember feeling the pain between my legs, both of us getting dressed, and you saying thanks before we left the room. I’m scared and I don’t know how to handle this on my own, so you have to help me. My parent’s are going to kill me when they find out and don’t you dare ask me to have an abortion, cause that scares me even more.”
It was on the tip of his tongue to ask her to have an abortion. It was more than her request to not ask that stopped him from asking. He would have gone so far as to offer her the money. He didnt know where he would get it from, but at first he considered an abortion would be the easiest solution. Instead he swallowed the suggestion along with his pride, sensing a timely opportunity. Besides, if push came to shove, he knew there were too many witnesses, too many classmates that knew Charlie Benjamin screwed Lisa Wonder Woman Jansen at Kenny Block’s. If he had only learnt to keep his mouth shut when it mattered. With nowhere to hide, Charlie Benjamin was fucked. But he also knew how to make lemonade.
No one could have envisioned how it all turned out, least of all eighteen year old Charlie Benjamin and seventeen year old Lisa Jansen. They wound up getting married a month after their premature baby girl was born. They were not pressured by their parents to marry and no one suggested she give the baby up for adoption. The marriage proposal, let alone the idea of a new grandchild came as quite a shock to all four parents, especially Lisa’s. She had been able to hide the pregnancy right up until the end from everyone; teachers, friends, neighbors, even her own parents, mainly because there was plenty of romper room for a five pound baby within the mid section of her six foot stature. Oversized T shirts weren’t exactly fashionable but they were also not uncommon. Lisa wore them well, making sure her parents were not around when she got out of the shower. She was shocked when Charlie asked her to marry him. Marriage was the furthest thing from her mind. She only said yes because as soon as he asked she envisioned a home of their own with a white picket fence where she would be able to give her daughter the opportunity to be raised by both of her biological parents.
“Married! You want to marry her?” Said Charlie Benjamin’s father. “Where will you live? What about college?” How could his father know Charlie Benjamin was about to marry Lisa Jansen as a way out? A Plan B had fallen into his lap. Only he knew he had cheated his way through high school, even on his SATs. Now he surmised he could execute a legitimate excuse to get out of continuing the ruse through college and come out of the whole mess looking like a martyr. Lisa’s family had money. Big money. He knew they would set their daughter and her new husband up with whatever was needed for their grandchild. Suddenly he believed that night at Kenny Block’s party was his kismet golden ticket.
No surprise the marriage was a big mistake. He wound up becoming an alcoholic and cheating on Lisa several times. She really didn’t care, half expected his unsavory behavior, and stayed focused on the needs of her child. Thankfully he was a happy drunk. Lisa constantly made excuses for him to her family so they begrudgingly tolerated him while she pretty much raised their daughter on her own while working full time at the family business. There was no doubt in her mind she was going to divorce Charlie as soon as their daughter was ready to head off to college. The only reason Charlie Benjamin was still in Lisa’s life was because their daughter Laura thought he walked on water. Lisa wouldn’t want it any other way. Even though he’d be sitting in a bar when Laura was on the soccer field, she was undoubtedly Daddy’s little girl and Lisa wasn’t going to take that away from her only child.
Anyway Charlie wasn’t all bad, at least when it came to Laura, otherwise Lisa might have divorced him early on. Every Sunday morning without fail, even in a snowstorm he would take Laura out for a pancake breakfast; just the two of them managing to empty a full decanter of blueberry syrup.The conversation was exceptionally easy between them and they always wound up laughing till their sides ached at one thing or another waiting to see which one of them would spray the color blue out the nostrils first. So there was that. Neither here nor there. Laura didn’t have to know the bars did not open till noon on Sundays.
Charlie had a younger brother, Johnny. As polar opposites, the brothers weren’t close, but they also weren’t enemies. There may have been an ill defined hero worship for his older brother going on combined with his tendency for magnanimity that Charlie tended to exploit. Who can say how relationships are defined when blood is known to be thicker than water. While Lisa was raising Laura, Uncle Johnny was a tremendous support. It was Uncle Johnny’s tool box in the garage. He replaced the ball in the toilet tank. He put the training wheels on and took them off for Laura. He met Lisa on the highway to fix her flat and even cut the grass when one of the neighbors complained it was getting too high.
To Lisa and Laura, figuratively, Johnny was larger than life. Literally, he was perceived as a dwarf. In reality he missed the legal threshold for dwarfism by an inch standing at 4′11″. He meant the world to Lisa and she thought of him as the brother she never had. He thought Lisa was a goddess and he would do anything for her and for his niece Laura, continually picking up all the loose ends and broken promises made by his older brother. He was the one beside Lisa on the soccer field, at the award ceremonies, and the Spring concert. He may have had his own place two blocks over, but his home was with his girls.
Laura never tired of asking, “Where’s Dad?” And Lisa and Johnny never let the cat out of the bag, but children always know the truth. It does not have to be explained or written down to be known. Just ask them. They automatically know the difference between blue and green. “He had to work late again, but he really wanted to be here.” Or, “His car broke down.” So many excuses. As she got older, Laura totally had things figured out, but she loved her Dad in spite of his disease and continued to play the dysfunctional family question and answer game with her mother and Uncle until it became their own family tradition.
It was on their way back from dropping Laura off at college, that Lisa made a proposal to Johnny. “What’s next?” Was constantly on her mind now that the divorce was finalized. Charlie was surprised when he was served with the papers. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t told him it was coming. But Charlie lived his life one beer at a time and pissed out all his problems. Lisa had always been right there to wipe up the floor. What was he going to do without her enabling him? She knew he was in denial, and she also knew they lived in a community property state. He came out of the divorce quite comfortably financially. They both knew it was what he had been waiting for all the way back to when they said “I do.”
“Johnny, I need to talk to you about something,” she said, after a long period of silence interspersed with sniffling on the drive back to LA. She was happy about the divorce but had intense mixed emotions about Laura leaving home. The empty nest was not something she was looking forward to although she was so proud of her daughter’s accomplishments and her choice in a course of studies. Laura was planning on going into medicine.
“Dr. Laura Jansen has a nice ring to it.” Lisa said to her daughter when they were saying their final good-bye in the dorm room.
“Don’t jump the gun Mom. I’ve got a long way to go before you can call me Dr.Laura.”
They hugged, they cried. The three musketeers, Lisa, Johnny and Laura were about to become two.
One of the new roommates asked Laura if Uncle Johnny was her little brother. He wasn’t surprised or insulted. They had all heard that question before with new acquaintances. He was used to it. He always jumped in and answered that question for her to save her from the awkwardness.
“No. I am not her little brother, but I am her little Uncle.” Johnny was capable of owning the room by laughing at himself first.
“What do you need to talk to me about Lisa?” Johnny asked while sitting erect in the passenger seat. He had driven Lisa’s Ford Expedition numerous times, but she knew it was a chore for him to drive such a big SUV. He owned a MINI Cooper and really didn’t care if people thought it was a perfect car for a dwarf. Regardless, around Lisa, he always felt tall.
“I have this crazy idea.” She said, and then started sniffling again and he handed her yet another tissue. She had almost used up the whole box.
“Now that Laura is out of the house and Charlie has signed the papers, what would you think about going on an adventure with me?”
“Yes. You heard me. An adventure. You know how I have always dreamt about being a contestant on Survivor?”
“Yeah. Don’t tell me. Did you apply to the network knowing Laura was going off to college and get accepted?”
“No. No. No. I missed the deadline on that, but I can only assume since I was on their website, the algorithms picked up on my history and consequently I was directed to another website that led me to apply for this new reality show called Make It Home. The deal is you get blindfolded and dropped off at an unknown destination with limited supplies and no cash and you have to figure out how to get back home on your own in five days. Each contestant gets a pair of sunglasses that have a micro camera in them recording the entire ordeal. So guess what? I applied. And they accepted me! And I really want to do it! I can’t go it alone. All the contestants are teams of two. And of course I can’t think of anyone I’d rather go on this adventure with but you.”
“Are you out of your mind? Are you having a midlife crisis?”
“Call it whatever you want. If you ask me to define my inclination towards this endeavor, call it my divorce coming out party. The risk involved just appeals to me. It feels like I’ve been holding my breath, like my life has been stuck on pause since the day I met your brother, and I want to snap back out into the real world by hitting a reset button with my own version of shock therapy. But please don’t think I regret anything about my past. Had he and I not met up at that party, I wouldn’t have Laura and I wouldn’t have you in my life. You are my best friend. Look. I’m definitely accepting the offer. If you don’t want to be my partner, I can ask Andrea. You know she is always up for a challenge. You in? Or out? I have to let them know by tomorrow. And we’ll both have to have physical examinations and pass a preliminary interview before they accept us. I’m just in this head space that is requiring a challenge. I hope you understand. We’ve already gone skydiving and scuba diving together, right? Let’s throw caution to the wind and put everything on the line. It will make us feel more alive! Like kids again. And Oh. There is a prize. Maybe that will make you see things my way. 100K each. You in?”
Johnny was about to say yes, as he always did when it came to Lisa but he doubted she would realize his acceptance was not in the same vein. It wasn’t about the challenge or about the 100K prize. It was about being there for her in a way his brother never could be. Johnny Benjamin loved Lisa Jansen. He loved everything about her down to the way she chewed gum. Having never had a serious relationship, he didn’t quite know how to define his love for her, how to put a label on it, or place it in a category, but he knew he loved her enough to put his life on the line for her. She would not go off on the adventure without him.
“Call me crazy too. He said. I’m in.”
Still blindfolded, they didn’t know where they were when they were dropped off in Ciudad Hidalgo by their escorts Bonnie and Brad. They were told to count to sixty before removing their blindfolds.
“Fifty Nine...Sixty.” Johnny did the counting for them.
As soon as they were unmasked they found themselves upon a flat mountain ledge at dusk.
“Son of a gun! Are they magicians, too? Where the hell did Bonnie and Brad go? I was really curious to see what they looked like.”
Lisa checked her watch realizing they might not be in the same time zone as they were when they left LA. They knew little about how they arrived. They knew they had gotten on a plane. After the plane landed they traveled in some type of jeep traversing a bumpy terrain. Bonnie and Brad, said little to them other than to reiterate what was discussed during their final interview. Although there was risk involved, there would be emergency medical care and a safety officer following them close by. Lisa and Johnny were given panic buttons that were to be used only if their lives were legitimately threatened. Lisa showed no concern, neither did Johnny, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t. They both had to sign a disclaimer, and as the fingers on his right hand moved with the pen, he moved the fingers on his left hand into the symbolic gesture of the cross whispering, “In the name of the father, the son and the holy ghost,” Ironically unaware about the role the catholic church would play in their safe return.
On first assessment they had no complaints about the weather. It was about 75 degrees, low humidity and cloudy as the sun set. The backpacks they were left with sat on the ground about 10 feet away. Lisa tried to lift hers first and it felt like it weighed 100 pounds. Maybe she was just exhausted. She knew Johnny was in good shape, but she also knew he only weighed about 110 pounds, so basically he would be carrying his body weight on his back? What was she thinking? Well Andrea was her second choice and she wasn’t much bigger than him, so she decided adding guilt into this challenge was not going to help. If Johnny’s stature was a problem, she considered he would have been eliminated as a contestant.
The first thing she said when they started walking was, “You okay?” She watched as he struggled to adjust the straps and lift the boulder holder onto his back.
“Who me? I’m fine. Just peachy. But can I ask you a question? Where the hell are we and where the hell are we going? Listen to me. Just stop.” Said Johnny. “I know time is of the essence, but it is almost dark and we are not going to start hiking in a mountainous area in the dark. I say we stay here for the night and start out fresh at daybreak.”
“But….,” Lisa paused. “You are right. I agree.” Even though the trip was all Lisa’s idea, she always appreciated the way Johnny would take charge.
“Are you hungry?”
“Are you kidding me? Starving. Let’s see what goodies they packed for us.”
Inside their backpacks were jerky meats, assorted dried fruit, granola, water bottles, whiskey and instant coffee.
Neither one of them drank whiskey or coffee.
“Well, think of it this way. We just reduced the weight of this monster sack.” They pulled out the whiskey and coffee planning to leave the beverages behind as a pleasant surprise for the next hiker.
There was a bed of moss on a ledge right in front of them, so they sat upon it and ate a small amount of chicken jerky wondering if they would be able to sleep.
“We will sleep in shifts. You first my dear. Really. You first. I suddenly have a burst of energy.” Johnny lied. He was dog tired but there was no way he could sleep. No one, no one thing was going to penetrate their bubble, not on his watch.
He would not tell her upon waking about the roar he heard or imagined or the slithering he saw or imagined convinced the ground was teeming with rattlesnakes. He had collected a pile of decent size rocks and each time he heard something even if it was only an innocuous breeze, he threw a rock towards the disturbance.
She stirred a couple of hours before sunrise and he believed or imagined that there was a god looking over them in the vastness, assuring him that they were not alone, that come hell or high water they would not only survive, they would walk away no less than with satisfaction knowing that they met the challenge. She spoke out unintelligibly through a dream and when he was sure she was awake she said to him, “Sleep! You must sleep! If only for an hour before we start walking,” and he did; a dreamless delirious sleep of just an hour or two that revived him enough to know he would be able to protect her for another day.
Looking out from the ridge they could see way off in the distance what looked like the outline of a small valley town portraying a spattering of adobe structures. They opened up their rations and ate some granola and dried fruit, drank a small amount of water, repacked and then hoisted on their backpacks heading towards the town. The path was narrow and steep at several points as they traveled slowly down the ledge on foreign soil wondering if there would be anyone that spoke English when they arrived. Lisa spoke some Spanish, Johnny not a word other than hola and gracias. Hopefully they were in an English or a Spanish speaking country or, “Then what?” Said Johnny when they discussed their intercommunication predicament.
“Relax. This is going to be fun. Don’t worry. Just let me deal with the communications. It’s what I do best.” Lisa did all the public speaking for their family corporation.
It took them the better part of the morning and well into the afternoon to close in on the town. They were drenched in sweat mainly from the weight they carried on their backs.
Lisa said, “I could really go for a back and foot massage.”
“Ha!” Said Johnny. His throat was so dry he left off, “Fat chance!”
When they finally got close enough to do a reconnoiter, the town looked a little bit like a ghost town. Lisa thought she saw someone enter what she believed was a church on the corner. The gold tone crucifix at the peak of the building glinted, attracting the late afternoon sun.
“Wait for me here.”
Johnny’s eyes grew wide.
“Don’t worry. It’s a church.”
When she came back out she said, “BINGO!”
“What’s the deal?”
“Okay. We are in Hildago, Mexico. Perhaps I’ll be going straight to hell because forgive me but I lied to the priest. I told him that we are travelers from California, so there’s some truth, and then I told him that we were abducted by banditos, that they stole our vehicle and our money, and we have no way to get back home.”
“Are you kidding me? You lied to a priest.”
“Why do you think I made you stay outside? I knew you would object. I crossed my fingers on both hands. Does that help to absolve me? And oh. You are my son. Sorry. When there are kids involved people tend to step up their giving game. You are 16, by the way.”
Lisa continued, “So, he said we are welcome to spend the night in the sanctuary and get this. There is a missionary traveling north early tomorrow morning that will take us with them all the way up near Durango, about 400 or 500 miles north! Score!”
“I guess if I am complicit in your ruse, I’m also going straight to hell. What will Laura think of us if this shit show airs on TV?”
“We’ll worry about that later. Laura would want us safe. We are now safe for another day.”
The missionary, it turned out, was an androgynous looking woman, short, but taller than Johnny, middle aged and stout. She wore what looked like a nun’s uniform and spoke broken English. She smelt like fish and had caked dirt under her fingernails. There would be no initial judgement.
The vehicle was small, a make Lisa and Johnny were not familiar with. As long as it transported them, it was perfect. Johnny took the backseat first to get some much needed sleep. Between the backpacks and the narrow width of the seat, even a little Johnny had trouble getting comfortable but almost immediately he passed out and was snoring so loud, Lisa had trouble comprehending what their English as a second language driver, Maya, was saying.
“You teenage boy, he snore lot, lot. He sick?”
“No. He’s not sick. Definitely nothing contagious but he does have swollen adenoids, just allergy related, common in boys going through puberty.”
“I no know what you mean. I think I put radio on instead of talk. Okey?”
“Oh yes, of course. Please. Thank you so much for accommodating us. I will make sure to make a donation to the church when I get back to the U.S. If you don’t mind I’ll close my eyes a little bit too.”
Lisa closed her eyes only half mast continually aware of her environment for their protection while Johnny slept. There was little traffic on the road and she observed acres of farmland as she partially gazed through the window. Maya put on a radio station that played intermittently riddled with static, but she seemed content and kept driving probably under the speed limit for at least five or six hours without stopping.
She pulled over at a gas station and as soon as she stopped, Johnny popped his head up in the back seat.
“Bano?” Maya said to them.
“Oh yes.” Lisa said, almost as an afterthought. Since they had been drinking little water, bladder urgency had not been an issue.
Maya laughed. “You see bush? You go behind.” Lisa got out of the car first and when she was out of sight, Maya turned around quickly to Johnny before he got out of the car and said,
“You be good boy and show me you p p?”
“What?” Johnny was hoping he had heard her wrong.
“No? Most boys I meet you age show me when I ask. Think funny. Like haha. No?”
“No. Not haha. I’ll pretend you didn’t ask and I wont tell Lisa, I mean my mother.” Johnny got out of the car heading for a bush.
When they were all finished relieving themselves, back beside the car Lisa said, “Your turn to sit in the front.” Johnny wanted to say something about what Maya had said to him but decided against it, assuming Lisa would probably want to drop the free ride share. Lisa slept fitfully in the backseat while Johnny caught Maya glancing down at his crotch several times. Each time he caught her she smiled and he saw or imagined her teeth as dracula fangs ready to take a bite. Thankfully for the rest of the ride between the sideways glances she spoke only to the radio in Spanish never taking her dirty fingers off the wheel. When they got out of the car and said thank you Johnny’s first impulse was to take a shower. Knowing there was no water available he twitched all over as if he was infested with lice.
“What’s the matter?” Asked Lisa.
“Nothing.” Said johnny. He wondered if Bonnie and Brad had heard what Maya said and if so were they laughing or concerned?
“Lets go.” The details would be shared but not until after they made it home.
Maya had dropped them off on the side of the road. She was planning to go visit with relatives and told them she believed there was another church nearby that may help them. She wasn’t sure of the exact location and told them to ask for directions at the bodega down the road.
The old man working at the bodega looked to be 110 years old, perhaps ripened by the Mexican sun. It was noticeably hotter in Durango than it was in Hildalgo. At least the backpack was now more manageable with what they had left behind and eaten. The old man didn’t speak a lick of English, but Lisa was confident he understood what she was asking. He pointed in a northeasterly direction. On foot they passed by several shacks, a cow farm, and then fields of endless farmland. After a few miles, the landscape was looking increasingly rural and they could not imagine they would find the so-called church before dark. The sun was about to set so they looked around for somewhere to spend the night. They decided they would be safe inside a field of corn for cover. They pulled down several dry barren stalks, each making themselves adequate ground cover. Feeling incubated within the womb of the mighty cornfield, they slept better than they had since they arrived.
When they headed out the next morning they were sure the old man had either not understood them, or, they wondered, had he purposefully sent them in the wrong direction intentionally because they were gringos?
They would never know.
They had lost all sense of direction inside the cornfield and had only the sun as their guide. They knew Tijuana was north westerly, so they did the best they could to travel in that direction through the farmland and endless dry dusted trails. After about five hours of walking, they had not seen a soul besides some groundhogs and rabbits. Neither one of them knew how close they came, several times, to stepping on a coral snake.
It was then that they heard the sound of a motor bike in the distance.
They took cover behind a nearby tree.
There were two of them. It looked like a man and a woman pulling up right next to the tree as if they knew Lisa and Johnny were hiding there, because they did.
As soon as they stopped the drivers pulled off their helmets.
“You can come out now,” said the woman.
Lisa and Johnny recognized the voice.
“Bonnie?” They said in tandem.
“In the flesh.”
“Sorry but we’ve got to send you back to LA. Unfortunately, I’m also sorry to inform you, one of the other couples in the contest was murdered last night by drug smugglers. The U.S. embassy is shutting us down and has instructed us to immediately pull back all the other contestants. Good thing we found you. The tower signal out here was so weak we lost you for a while. Hop on the back. You guys are going home. We’re taking you to the embassy first. They want to make sure we have retrieved all the bodies, dead or alive.”
Lisa and Johnny gave each other a look of relief and defeat and did what they were told to do.
After being checked in and out of the embassy, they headed towards the front of the building where they were told a white van with an official U.S. seal would be parked in front of the building at the curb to take them to the airport.
The final door out of the embassy was revolving and for a moment they were separated by a thick pane of glass.
As soon as they hit the fresh air, they reached out for one another and joined hands knowing if given the opportunity they would make the journey together all over again.
After a few steps Lisa said. “Stop.”
She pulled him in close and bent down, for the first time kissing him long and hard directly on the mouth.
At the same moment an embassy employee heading for the revolving door noticed them kissing and thought to herself without ever having seen them before,
“That was an oddly intimate kiss between a mother and her son.”