A Glibertarians Exclusive: Marilee – Part V
Marilee’s hand was soft and warm in Coy’s callused one. They walked down the darkened street of Waverly in silence, enjoying each other’s company. Coy was lost in thought.
What the hell do I do now? Will I stay here with Marilee? Ain’t anything I want more, but is that what she wants?
It occurred to him that finding out she didn’t want him to stay would be considerably worse than not knowing.
But if she did want him to stay…
He suddenly noticed they had stopped walking. They were in front of a small doorway on the side of a building containing a furniture store on the ground floor. “This is my place,” Marilee said. “A little upstairs apartment. Would you… would you like to come in for a while?”
“Sure,” Coy agreed. Marilee let his hand go to dig in her handbag for her keys. Suddenly nervous, Coy wiped his hand on his pant leg. I must look like an asshole, he thought, standing here with my jaw hanging open.
Marilee didn’t seem to think so. After what seemed like a month, she found her keys and unlocked the door. “Come on in,” she said, and led Coy up the stairs.
Marilee pulled a cord, turning on a light above the door. Coy stepped in, had a quick look around. The apartment was small, with a table and two chairs, a small couch, a kitchenette on one side, a door that presumably led to a bathroom on the other. A blank panel on the far wall no doubt let to a pull-down bed; Coy had seen the like before.
His gaze lingered on the folded-up bed for a moment.
“Have a seat,” Marilee said, indicating the small table. “I’ll make us some coffee.” She reached up to a shelf for a box of matches and lit a burner on the gas stove.
Coffee, sure, why not? “Sounds good,” Coy said. He sat down and watched as Marilee measured out water and coffee into an old blue enameled pot.
He realized he had only seen Marilee in the dim light of the night club, and then again under streetlights. Now, in the bright light of the apartment, Coy could see she had aged; she looked thinner, paler, and tired. Still, he thought, she looks damn good to me. And hell, I’m older, too.
Marilee placed the coffee pot on the burner, then sat down across from Coy. She pulled a packet of Lucky Strikes out of her purse, tapped one out and placed in her mouth; she held the pack out to Coy, who took one. “Don’t remember you smoking,” he commented. He pulled his old Zippo out of a pocket, lit her cigarette, then his.
“I didn’t used to. It’s been a while, you know. Working in a place where I work – well, you may as well smoke, the place is full of smoke anyway.”
“You’re quieter than I remember,” Marilee said. “I saw you earlier, I was wondering if you’d come say something.”
“War may have had something to do with that,” Coy agreed. “Spent four years in the Pacific. Marines. Wasn’t anything I want to talk much about. Guess it may have burned some of the talk right outta me.”
“You sure used to talk pretty, especially at night, way back when. I know we weren’t a long time together, but it sure was… I guess an intense time, way I recollect it.”
Coy looked down at the tabletop. “Maybe. Been on my own a long damn time now.”
Marilee looked at Coy keenly for a few moments. “Wait there,” she said.
There was a small bookshelf on the other side of the room that Coy hadn’t noticed, not being much of a reader. Marilee went there, extracted a small volume bound in green leather. There was a ribbon in the book, marking a particular page.
“Here,” Marilee said, handing Coy the book. “Take a look at the page that’s bookmarked.”
Coy looked at the cover. It was a tome of poetry; he noticed the poet’s name, picked out in thin gold on the leather:
“Italian, is he?” Coy asked.
“Yes. Read that poem. Coffee should be about ready.” Marilee turned back to the tiny kitchen. Coy opened the book and read:
In verity I’d sing my lady’s praise,
With rose and lily-flower her face compare:
Like to the morning star her beauty’s rays,
Like to a saint in heaven, ah, wond’rous fair!
Green shades are like her and the breeze as well,
All hues, all blossoms, flushed and pale, beside
Silver and gold and rare stones’ lustrous spell;
Even Love himself in her is glorified.
She goes her way so gentle and so sweet,
Pride falls in whomsoever she doth meet,
Worthless the heart which scorneth such delight!
Ungentle folk may not endure her sight,
And a still greater virtue I aver:
No man thinks ill hath he but looked on her.
Coy closed the book and laid it on the table. “Fella writes pretty.” He was writing about you, from me to you, Coy thought, but said nothing.
Marilee looked mildly disappointed. She evidently had been waiting for some other reply, but Coy had no idea what else to say. He just watched as she poured two cups of coffee, placed one on front of Coy, then sat down with her own.
“So, you say you’re looking for a job here?” she said at last.
Sure as hell, now that I’ve found you again at last. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away. But all Coy managed to say was “Yeah. Grain elevator east of town supposed to be hiring.”
“What have you been doing all this time?”
“Well, that takes some telling,” Coy said. “Was laid up for a while at the end of the war. Then, hell, I’ve been a cook, I’ve been a fisherman, done pretty near everything but teach school. Moved around a lot. Seems like sooner or later I see an old Wanted poster with my name on it, so I move on.” He stopped, a little embarrassed at his unaccustomed loquacity.
“Was it bad?” Marilee asked. “The war, I mean?”
Coy nodded. “Not something I care to talk about much, if you don’t mind.” Coy had found early on that it was frustrating, talking about the war with anyone who hadn’t been through it; there was no common ground.
They sat in silence for a few moments. The clock ticking on the wall caught Coy’s attention; it was almost two in the morning. He suddenly realized how tired he was.
“Coy,” Marilee said suddenly, “I’m not staying here.”
“No. There’s a fella I’ve been seeing. He got him a job as a construction worker – high steel. He went off to New York to work on some building or another. Next week, I’ll go out there to be with him.”
Coy felt as though someone had hit him between the eyes with a hammer. “Oh,” was all he managed.
“I’m sorry, Coy,” Marilee continued. “I had to move on. What we done back then… Well, it was a long time ago now.”
“I reckon it was,” Coy agreed. “Look, Marilee, I don’t take it personal. I never did go back to that café in Fresno looking for you, nor back home. Can’t say as you owe me anything. Not one thing. You deserve to have your life.”
And yet he still felt the strange connection, an entanglement, as though the two of them were bound together somehow, by some kind of invisible scarlet thread. Suppose I always will, he told himself.
“Good,” Marilee said. She took a sip of coffee. “I want us to part on good terms. Besides,” she went on, “I have this funny feeling we’ll see each other again, someday. Somewhere.”
The connection, Coy thought. She feels it too.
“I bet we will. Anyway, it’s late. Suppose I better be going. Good luck, Marilee, with New York, your fella and all.”
Marilee got up and hugged Coy. Then, he walked out into the night, towards the cheap hotel where his earthly goods were parked.
Don’t really feel much like staying here now, he thought as he walked through the darkened streets. Every time I walk past that bar, I’d think of her. Every time I walked past that furniture store, I’d think of her. Don’t know as I can really take that.
May as well move on. She mentioned steel work. There’re big steel mills in Pennsylvania. Fella with a strong back ought to be able to find work there.
The next morning, he tossed the Waterloo Courier ad in the wastebasket, loaded his possessions back in his truck and drove off, east bound, to try his luck someplace else.
She lit a burner on the stove,
And offered me a pipe,
“I thought you’d never say hello” she said,
“You look like the silent type.”
Then she opened up a book of poems,
And handed it to me,
Written by an Italian poet,
From the thirteenth century.
And every one of them words rang true,
And glowed like burning coal,
Pouring off of every page,
Like it was written in my soul,
From me to you,
Tangled up in blue.