OK, let’s face facts. I never came to grips about Mary. She was everything I imagined I wanted in a girl. I had three years of college under my belt and she had over a year of bedroom experience under her garter. I was the college boy playing to her surfer girl. I was shy and she was bold. It was a terminal case of opposites attract.
That was Mary.
The hippies were newly invented, and every day was dubbed one of the “Strange Days” of Jim Morrison, during the ‘Season of the Witch’ predicted by Donovan. I sometimes wonder why the relationships lasted as long as it did. Neither of us was mature enough to be loyal. When caught, the scene was played out with all the necessary drama. Break ups were staged often and conveniently, moderately seasoned with dramatics.
We always had our ‘reasons’. “Reasons” are what you label your infidelities. And if we could be true to each other, it was in spirit only. When she needed distance, she’d pick a fight purposely, knowing I’d blow my top and give her a reason to escape. In running head games, both of us thought we were masters.
It had been an off and on relationship from the start. Both of us wanted what the other one possessed. She was as daring and spontaneous as I was conservative and studied. We had a sterling connection that couldn’t be denied, but it was tarnished by immature indiscretions. You can understand why a partner commits an indiscretion; after all, you’re in the same boat. But you can never forget. I’d say I understood and I did. But I could never really forgive. I remember how she cried on the beach near Venus Point in Tahiti the night before we left, predicting what would happen when we returned, the same dead routine of parties, complete with plots and subplots disguised as romance. I was under the impression I loved her, even though I had a back-up in the wings. I was as twisted as Rotelli, an expounder of pretzel logic.
When you start fooling yourself, it’s the worst kind of deceit. Drugs had definitely addled my brain. I was attempting a repair in our relationship, but had a back-up just in case it didn’t work.
The night Mary died she’d made a bath and caught herself on fire while I was out with the ‘other woman’. I’d bought her this nightgown from Penny’s that morning. It was polyester and cotton, gold and brown stripes. She’d been taking candle-light baths since we’d been back and putting fragrant herbs like lavender in the water. I took off earlier that evening on some ridiculous pretext for a midnight rendezvous. After it was consummated I went home. When I opened the door the first thing I noticed was an acrid smell. There were a few matches and a match box scattered on the floor in the dining room. To my right, my old bed room, and a dark shape lying on the floor.
It was Mary lying on her back. Not a move. Not a sound, only the smell of death camp hovering in the air, the smell of a fire that may smolder, but never goes out.
Half of her long blond hair was short, singed, black as coal. The face I’d seen carved by Beauty was distorted. I knelt down and put my head on her chest to check for her heartbeat. Cold, hard, like granite. She wasn’t breathing right. I wasn’t thinking right. Things didn’t make sense. Small pink bubbles gushed from her lips. She couldn’t breathe!
I took a great breath and pressed my lips to hers. It was like trying to blow up a rock. Something was wrong. I needed help. I needed time. I sprung up and ran to the kitchen and called 911.
The Firemen and medical techs knew at once she was dead and had been for hours. The police showed up and talked to me for a while. We found the candles and the matches and saw she’d tried to wrap herself up in the red paisley Indian tablecloth we got from Cost Less Imports. We’d used it to cover the couch to hide imperfections and add color. When it didn’t work to stifle the flames, she ran to the bathroom to get under the shower, but collapsed in the doorway.
After some time of nosing around, one of the detectives put a card in my hand and told me to call if I needed anything. He told me to expect a call from homicide, because that’s how they did things, but they didn’t see any need for it now. I remember holding the card and watching them pull away. The sun was coming up in the east over North Park, just a few blocks away, and gave the chrome on their squad cars a golden luster. It was cold that January and had been raining on and off, but now it was crystal clear. The house never felt so empty.
https://youtu.be/hA0UlbCqHck Wind Cries Mary Jack Broadbent