Friday, August 5, 2016

Miami Stories Vol. 4

It was Friday, I haven't spoke to Tony or Taylor since the incident after The Fontainebleau. I'm not sure if anybody involved really knew what happened that night, everyone was drunk and I was definitely not careful. Taylor never answered my call the next day about brunch. I don’t know if she was embarrassed or angry, but she still wasn’t speaking to me. Every morning I wake up in anguish, knowing what I had caused. I would look out over Miami and only see the fresh misfortunes I created. But today, I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. 

I packed my quilted leather Chanel duffle bag and left the condo. I rode the elevator downstairs to the parking garage, and walked around the corner to my parking spaces. I walked past the Porsche, the Mercedes, and the little Estoril Blue 228i to my staid 1995 Volvo 850 Wagon. It was black with steel wheels with boring grey hubcaps, I threw my bag in the hatch and hopped in.

I headed out of town north on I-95, I set the cruise control to 80 miles an hour and turned the stereo up. The miles disappeared quickly as I drove up the eastern portion of Florida. All I could do is reflect on what I had done. All the justifications I made for my actions while I committed them slowly died as I bounded down the road. As I passed Daytona and looked over at the massive speedway from the freeway, I knew I had destroyed the mindset of two women I really tried to help. I feared Taylor would never trust a man for the rest of her life because of me. On top of everything else Dani was probably living in fear of what would happen to her the moment Tony found out about everything.

As I continued my northward bound away from the mess I created in Miami, I ran into the wall of afternoon traffic just south of Jacksonville. As I inched forward in traffic the Volvo began to stutter. As I kept creeping through traffic the temperature gauge began to spike. After a few more minutes in traffic I was on the side of the road calling AAA. After 45 minutes of waiting in the heat, the tow truck finally arrived. He checked to see if my North Carolina license plate was valid and pulled the black brick up onto the truck.

I had the tow truck driver drop me and the car at O’Steen Volvo, and he left with a wave and a honk of the horn. It was 6:45 and the service department was already closed for the evening. I walked inside the showroom and stopped in front of the white XC90 T8 Inscription parked directly in the middle. A salesman walked up to me and inquired:

“Ready to take it home?”

“Only if you have it in black.”

“I’m sure we have some really nice XC90’s in black.”

“No, I mean another T8 Inscription.”

“I think we just got one in earlier this week.”

“Well let’s go ahead and get paperwork going. I’ll give you my information for the OFAC.”

“Sir?”

“Hold on, let me go get my bag out the car.”

I ran outside to the 850 and grabbed my duffle out of the hatch, and quickly ran back inside. I pulled 10 stacks of banded 100 dollar bills out of my bag and looked at the salesman:

“I should get change back from 100 grand right?”

The salesman stared at me then immediately went and grabbed his manager. His manager sat me down in an office and asked if I was trying to hem them up. I assured him I wasn’t a criminal but a man who needed to buy a car to continue his aimless trip. The manager obliged and went to get my paperwork. Shortly after 8:00 I hopped in my freshly detailed XC90 and continued my journey north on I-95 into Savannah. 

By 10:00 I had pulled up in front of The Brice, a simple 2 story Kimpton hotel dripping in style. I grabbed the first room that was available, went upstairs and dropped my bag inside the door. I immediately went back downstairs and took a walk around the block. I took in the old southern charm as I walked along the riverfront. I stepped through the small door that led into River Street Liquor and grabbed a pint of Tanqueray No. TEN, dropped 40 dollars at the register and went straight back to my hotel room. 

I walked across my suite to my bed and called the concierge to send me a bucket of ice. I grabbed my iPhone from my pocket and looked up the number of an old friend. The screen lit up and dialed up Erin, an old flame from many many years ago. She picked up the phone quietly and greeted me in her loose New Jersey accent:

“Hello?”

“Hey, kangaroo.”

“Oh my god, Paul! How are you?”

“I’ve been better, hun.”

“What’s going on in Miami? Do I have to kick someone’s ass?”

“No, Erin. I just needed to hear your voice.”

“Oh shit. What happened with the girl down there?”

“I messed up. I messed up bad.”

“Oh no.”

“Remember when you called me a couple months ago and Dani was randomly in the background?”

“Paul, you didn’t.”

I choked on my words and tears streamed from my eyes as I retorted: 

“I never meant to hurt anyone.”

“Are you alone?”

“Yes.”

“Where are you?”

At this point I was sobbing uncontrollably on the phone. She continued to ask me where I was, but I couldn’t get out a single word. She continued to inquire:

“Paul, please tell me you are okay. Please. I love you.”

“Erin.”

“Yes, please say something!”

“I love you.”

“I know you do.”

“Are you in Charlotte?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I hung up the phone and took the bottle of Tanqueray and turned it to my face. As midnight approached I was already in a drunken stupor stumbling around my room crying profusely. By 2:00 I was in the bed emitting a long snore that could wake the hardest of sleeper. I woke up the next morning as the sun crept into the room over my eyes. I grabbed my IWC Portuguese off the floor to see 10:07 on the dial. I rolled out of the bed and crawled to the bathroom and threw up the entire contents of my stomach in the toilet. I finally managed to stand up and hopped in the shower. I stared at the white tile wall and began to wonder why I brought Dani to Key West. I knew it as a mistake when it happened and I definitely saw it as one now. 

I continued to let the hot water run over my back as I replayed the deep sadness on Taylor’s face. I was so tired, my mind was destroyed. I made my way out of the shower to look in the mirror, I wanted nothing more than to be dead. I dragged myself out of the bathroom and found my bottle of gin on a nearby table. I discovered my glass from the night before and poured in the remaining liquor into it. I sipped my drink as I walked out to my courtyard balcony in my towel. I took many long sips as I soaked in the early morning warmth. 

An hour later I was on the road, headed back home to Charlotte. I was thinking about Erin, a woman I loved deeply, but left behind when I ran off to Miami. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was leaving so abruptly to start over in Miami. The night I left I reminded her how her spirit filled a hole in my heart, and how I would always love her no matter what. I thought about all our loving moments as I drove through the outskirts of Columbia in tears.

I pulled myself up in the seat as I caught a glimpse of the Charlotte skyline peering back at me down the I-77 corridor. The big Volvo smoothly navigated through the traffic around me as I made my way to the home I left behind when I disappeared to Miami. I felt a large relief come over me as I turned onto Hopedale Avenue to see the large, brick structure I used to call home. The LED lighting lit my driveway into a bright path as I parked the XC90 behind the green Mustang convertible with flat tires in the driveway. As I made my way from the car to the house it was nice to see that landscapers were still doing a great job even in my absence. I opened up the door to a fresh smelling house and my mail stacked neatly, indication that the housekeeper had been in that week. 

I went upstairs to my bedroom and laid across my bed. I grabbed my phone from my pocket and called Erin:

“Hey Kangaroo.”

“Paul! I was worried you weren’t gonna call.”

“You remember how to get to my place?”

“Yes.”

“Come over, I’m home.”

A few minutes later I sent a text message “The front door is open just come upstairs.” I burrowed deeper into my bed and started to doze off. I woke up a few minutes later to Erin snuggled up next to me in the bed. In a groggy state I whispered in her ear:

“Hey roo boo.”

“Hey sleepyhead.”

I reached my arm around her body as she curled up closer. I could feel her waiting for me to talk, but I was enjoying the silence with her more than she could ever understand. Fed up with waiting for me to speak, Erin rolled over and faced me. Her brown eyes focused in on mine, dragging the words from my mouth:

“I fucked up. I fucked up everything. I was happy, then I fucked it up.” 

“What happened?”

“I’ve been fucking Dani for the last 8 months and Taylor caught us.”

“Holy shit, I thought you only did that once!”

Her face said it all. I broke all the basic confines of friendship repeatedly and there was no way I could repair it. Assuredly, she came back:

“You can’t beat yourself up over this.”

“I took that girl’s innocence for no good reason. I removed all the trust she ever felt for anybody because I was being selfish. I did that. What right do I have to fuck up her life like that?”

“Wait how did you and Dani end up cheating with each other anyway? Did you do that?”

“No. It all started because I was trying to be nice after Tony cheated on her and we ended up fucking. I’ve tried to break it off multiple times but she ends up having some level of psychotic breakdown every time. I’m sick.”

“Have you had anything that wasn’t alcohol the past couple of days?”

I rolled over in the bed to avoid the question. I felt her focus still locked in on me. I shifted my body away from hers in the bed. She punched me in the back and said:

“Come on, get up. Let’s see what depressing batchelor food you have in your freezer…”

As I stumbled down the steps behind Erin, I murmured:

“Yeah, I don’t know if the housekeeper left anything in the fridge at all.”

“Dammit. So what should we do now?”

“Let me go back up and grab my wallet, we’re going out.”

“Yeah, but I’m driving.”

“Fine, you still know how to drive stick? Cause the only thing down there with gas is the 944.”

“Wait, why we can’t just take my Jeep?”

“No, I refuse to ride in a doorless vehicle tonight.”

“Whatever. By the way, did you get a new car?”

I yelled back down the stairs from my bedroom:

“Yeah, I bought it on the way here.”

“You know normal people buy souvenirs on trips, not a new car.”

As Erin launched my red 944 Turbo down the street towards uptown, I sat in the passenger seat trying to figure out what drink I was to order at dinner. We pulled up at the valet station of the Hyatt Place hotel and headed to the elevator up to the 21st floor. We walked out into Fahrenheit, Chef Rocco Whalen’s gift to the Charlotte restaurant scene. I tried to break off to the bar before the hostess could greet us, but Erin grabbed my arm and pulled me back over. We decided on patio seating and quickly made our way outside. Before the waitress could ask I requested my drink:

“I’ll have a Tanqueray and pineapple please.”

Erin followed up with:

“Please get him a water too.”

“Make that two Tanqueray and pineapples please.”

I let Erin berate me for a few minutes about my destructive behavior, it didn’t really matter because drunk me was sitting back taking a look at her. The air was crisp and warm, with a light breeze to complement it. I kept studying how she looked over the top of my menu. As soon as I felt myself become distracted, our waitress came back with our drinks. I thanked the waitress and immediately tipped my drink into my mouth. Erin rolled her eyes and asked:

“Why are you doing this?”

“What?”

“Drinking like a fucking lunatic.”

“Because this is the only way I can wake up and live with myself right now.”

“Oh please, stop it. Don’t make yourself a victim here, you continuously put your dick in someone for 8 months that wasn’t your girlfriend. That’s a decision, a choice, a fucking selection-”

“Okay! I get it. Look I am not making myself the victim here. I actually feel bad about the choices I made. Honestly, I fucked myself by trying to appease too many people.”

“Classic you, trying to help everybody but yourself. When are you going to learn, Paul?”

“When I figure out how to not build the happiness of others on my own misfortune.” 

As I finished my statement the waitress came and asked for our orders. I ordered the Wagyu skirt steak, and Erin followed up with the Ahi tuna. The waitress walked away and I sat there staring off at the skyline. I could tell she was staring a hole in my skull, but I couldn’t acknowledge her after making such a statement. Why I made that statement was Erin ended up deciding to date one of my friends as everything in my life imploded two years ago. Even though she could see I was ignoring her, Erin broke the silence:

“I made the decision to date Will while I was in a terrible place. It wasn't to spite or hurt you.”

I turned back towards her and snapped:

“Erin, it's the fact you never told me. If you were just honest this wouldn't have happened this way. I don't have dirt on my hands, you do.”

“You were just so unhappy. I didn't know what to tell you.”

“I WAS UNHAPPY BECAUSE I WAS ALONE! WHEN EVERYTHING WENT WRONG FOR ME YOU DISAPPEARED!”

“I only left you like that because I thought I couldn't make you happy. I thought you forgot what joy was.”

“Fuck that. You left me because you didn't want to help me. Just like everyone else.”

“Paul, I'm sorry. I really am. I never meant to hurt you.”

She started sobbing uncontrollably, and I grabbed my drink and swallowed all of it. I sat back in the chair and relaxed my position. I looked Erin in her eyes and softly said:

“Could you imagine how I felt that night? I stood there and poured my heart out to you, then I realized what happened. When he walked out of your bathroom, I almost fainted. It was the last straw. Why do you think I haven't been back here in so long? I have that to remember as my last moments in this town. But honestly after so much time to reflect on it all, I'm happy for you. Will too. I'm happy for you.”

“I don't care what anybody says, you're a goddamn saint, Paul.”

“Nah, I just love you.”

She started to sob again. As began to reach over to wipe away her tears, she spoke:

“Me and Will aren't together anymore.”

“Oh.”

I don't remember much else from dinner, other than my steak being delicious, and how many more times our waitress brought me a drink. We ate quietly and left with heavy hearts. Erin drove me back home in my 80’s Porsche. After we arrived we stood in the driveway waiting for the other person to speak. Erin started to walk towards her Jeep and I halted her with my words:

“Where do you think you're going?”

“Home... I guess?”

“You think you're gonna leave me here like this? The least you can do is not leave me alone.”

“Okay, I'll spend the night here. You better not do that drunk snoring thing though.”

“I finally went and got my nose fixed.”

We walked back into my dark, lonely Cotswold home. As I stumbled through the doorframe with Erin in tow, I realized how awful everything would look from the outside. I dragged her up the stairs by her hand to my bedroom. She kicked her shoes to the corner of the room as I headed to the bathroom to catch a visual of how intoxicated I was. When I walked back into my bedroom, she had already managed to strip down to her underwear and enter my bed. I stripped myself of any limiting garments and joined her. We laid there face-to-face in the bed, I brought my face to hers, and she leaned her lips into mine. The moment our lips touched, I heard Dani’s voice:

“So you can be with her, but not me?”

Me and Erin point our gaze at the foot of the bed where she stood, visibly disturbed and crying. I replied to her ludicrous question with a question:

“Why the fuck are you here?”

“You didn’t think your girlfriend would tell Tony what happened?”

“Why. The. Fuck. Are. You. Here? It’s a simple question.”

“I knew you would go back home. You’re a coward.”

“No, you psychotic bitch, I came here to get further away from you. Yet again somehow you again manage to make all of your problems my own. Just let me be.”

“You fucked me like-”

“I’ve fucked a lot of people. I don’t know how many times I have had to tell you since you started this whole thing with me, I do not love you. Especially now that you have this notion you can trap me into being with you. You lost Tony and you never had me. You played yourself. Now leave my house.”

“Where am I supposed to go? I can’t go back to Miami, Tony will kill me.”

Erin finally chimed in:

“That’s not his problem. Or mine really, so why don’t you leave?”

“Who asked you, bitch?”

The tension in the room was thick, and I had no way to truly diffuse the situation. So I continued with the truth:

“Dani, you cheated on your boyfriend. I didn’t ask you to do it, you chose to with no promise of being loved. Go home, leave me alone, and think about how you ended up here. Now me and my friend here are going to bed, you can show yourself out.”

To my amazement, teary-eyed Dani backed her way out of the door and down the steps. I heard the front door shut, and finally collapsed back into the bed. I looked over at Erin and explained:

“See? This is the bullshit that happens to me when I try to be kind.” 

“This is exactly why you can’t just randomly have sex with just any girl. She may react rationally, or she’ll act like the dumb bitch that was just standing over us, or somewhere in between. Don’t be stupid.”

“I’m drunk, can we go to sleep and talk about it in the morning?”

Erin climbed out of bed and stood over me, then began to seductively remove her underwear. She finally replied to my question:

“No. We can’t wait until the morning, I wanna talk to you all about it right now.”

“Well come on over and talk to me.”

She straddled me and rocked her hips against my body as she kissed my lips again. I opened my liquor-crossed eyes as she kissed her way down my chest then pulled at the waistband of my underwear with her teeth. I lifted my hips and helped her remove them. She climbed back over me, grabbed my member, and guided it inside. I focused my drunken eyes into hers as she rode me with a deep passion displayed on her face. We romped around the room moving to any suitable surface to make love on. We ended up back on the bed, me on top of her whispering all of the things I missed about her as she yelled whatever words her mind could materialize. I came and immediately laid on the bed with a relieved sigh and drifted off into a deep, alcohol-fueled sleep. 

I woke up the next morning to Erin slumbering in my bed and warm sunlight peeking in the windows. My head was throbbing, and the air in the room was chilly. I reached for my phone on the nightstand to catch the time. It was 11:36 and I hadn’t received a single phone call or text from anyone. It was unusual to wake up this late on a Sunday morning, even after drinking myself into a coma. I knew this was the beginning of something new for me and everyone else involved. 

I rolled out of my bed and tip-toed across the floor to my bathroom. I stood in front of the mirror in the barely lit room and took a look at myself. I didn’t like who I saw in that mirror, but decided that it was too late to change. I started a hot shower to clean the harsh realities off my body. I stood below the shower head as the water ran through my hair all the way to my feet. It felt like a black ooze was coming off my skin and settling into a puddle around my feet. I flinched as I felt Erin’s breasts touch my back and I snapped back into reality. She reached her arms around me and stood on her toes to whisper in my ear:

“I’m ready to stay in love with you for good.”

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