Melynda was a redneck with a mullet. I met her at a church outing when I was 16, and she was 20. She grew up with chickens and goats in the house and a schizophrenic father. She was the only child to graduate from high school let alone go to college. They lived in a double-wide off a dirt road and had government cheese in their fridge.
That’s when we spoke in tongues and raised our hands and knocked on strange doors in Cabrini Green and inner city Detroit, because we believed in Jesus and hell and the Republican party. It’s true. I voted for Bob Dole. That’s when I wore Addicted to Jesus t-shirts and didn’t swear for 4 years. And when I hid my Bible from my parents because they didn’t approve. Only they approved even less when they suspected something else.
It started with phone sex only we would never have called it that. We were only privately masturbating simultaneously over the phone. But otherwise we did very Christian sort of things like watch 8 hours of Anne of Green Gables and then have sleep overs in a twin bed. I kissed her first and couldn’t stop. Melynda told me that she wasn’t in love with me anymore over a Slim Jim at Russ’. She had met someone on the internet–someone older and more exotic. Melynda is still alive and well somewhere in Nebraska.
I met Emery through yahoo personals when they were free. We lasted 2 years and 26 days. Or maybe I should say that she lasted. The doctors told her she was young. Wrap it. It’s just a pulled muscle. Two weeks later, Rhiannon and I stood next to the stretcher that held her lifeless body. She had an endotracheal tube shoved down her throat and a useless IV in her hand. Her gray hoodie and green corduroys were filleted open. A neighbor had found Emery, barely breathing on the apartment steps. That’s where the large clot had dislodged from her calf and entered into her lungs.
Sylvia worked at the group home with Emery. Eight months after Emery died, Sylvia and I started dating. She would leave poetic and sometimes ridiculous messages on the answering machine. “Why are frozen pizzas kept in the freezer section?” She made house calls when I was sick, forcing me to drink cinnamon tea. Soon we were going out a couple times a week to Jupiter Moon, the twenty-four hour coffee shop to play Scrabble and watch the privileged kids act pretentiously sophisticated. I won’t lie. We argued a lot and broke up several times.
We had been separated for about a year. She was headed eastbound on I-96 when she lost control of her vehicle. I imagine a vivid sequence of events. And I see her in her purple Jeep Cherokee, driving too fast down the freeway, skipping to the next track of her Bob Marley CD. Her long dreads decorated with beaded poetry and twisted wire, clinking together as she leaned forward, partially obstructing her view of the road. With a sudden swerve and screeching tires, her short, heavy, body smashed through the glass landing with a dead thud on the pavement.
And then there’s Jacks, my current partner and personal chef. We didn’t want to meet. Manuel set us up at his Halloween Party. I was a bitch and she was nothing special. Until we sat down in the wet grass and talked while everyone else was smashing the adult piñata. Jacks and I were delighted when we discovered that this is the longest relationship either one of us has ever had. I worry a lot that she’ll die. I know it’s inevitable. We all die. I just don’t want it to be too soon.