Flesh and Bone: Chapter 3
As he approached his townhouse, his next-door neighbor, Pilar, waved to him from her own sun deck.
“You catch us any breakfast?” she hollered out across the sands, her voice mixing with the winds, the sounds of the surf and the seagull songs.
Zoe glanced up and then saw Pilar and barked in greeting.
Pilar bent down slightly, clapped her hands together and then tapped them on her thighs and said, “Well come on girl. I’m coming down, but c’mon up.”
With that, Zoe tore off, leaving Roger behind with the ice chest, the chair, the fishing pole and the Samoan war club.
“Nice,” Roger laughed.
Pilar, who was dressed in cut-off blue jean shorts and a black bikini top, shielded her eyes with her hand as Roger walked up to her.
“So, how did it go with the lawyers and mortgage people?” she asked.
“”Not good,” he said. “In fact, I’m selling it.”
“Oh no,” she said.
Her smile faded.
“It’s either that or they end up foreclosing,” he said. “I’ve sunk enough into this money pit already. If I sell I’ll at least maybe break even. If you were smart, you’d sell yours too.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Pilar said. “I’m still getting settled in.”
“All the more reason to go,” he said. “Don’t throw away your hard-earned cash on this dump.”
“It’s hardly a dump,” she said,
“Cheap construction,” he said. “a developer’s wet dream. One direct hit from a Cat 2 storm or higher and this whole complex will be a pancake. The developers, the contractors and builders, they’re the only ones who ever see a return on this sort of investment. I made the bulk of my money this way for damn near twenty years. They cash out, it’s the landlords and the owners are the ones get caught footing the bill for everything, and that just jacks up insurance premiums and the whole cycle just perpetuates itself. It’s a vicious cycle.”
“Where are you going to go?” she asked.
“Home,” Roger said.
“Home? Home is here isn’t it?” she asked.
“No,” he said. “Louisiana.”
“That makes me sad,” she said.
“Don’t let it,” he said.
“How can I do that? I’ll miss you. I’ll miss us.”
Just then she glanced down and suddenly shrieked and pointed and shouted, “Oh my God what happened to you? You’re bleeding like a stuck pig.”
Roger looked down and sure enough, his blood was beginning to pool and coagulate in a crimson pool in the sand under his feet. Sand flies were already hovering over it, thirsty.
“Something jigged me in the surf,” Roger said. “Probably a sting ray.”
“Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” Pilar muttered, crossing herself, out of habit. “Come on and follow me up. I’ll take a look at it.”
“I’m fine,” he said.
“Don’t be difficult,” she said. “Besides, I just dripped a fresh pot of coffee. And I was serious about fish for breakfast. I’m starving.”
Roger sat in a wicker chair in Pilar’s kitchen. His leg was stretched out in front of him, propped up on the lid of his ice chest.
“Turn you leg some,” she said as she slipped her jean shorts off, to reveal her bikini bottoms. “Your leg, not your head you dirty old man.”
“I am turning it,” he said. “Can you see anything?”
“No, that’s why I said to turn your leg.”
She placed her hand on his ankle and turned his foot inward. She furrowed her brow slightly and dabbed a wash cloth over his calf, mostly at this point, just to wash off the excess blood.
“Is there anything in it?” he asked.
“No, just a hole about the size of a dime, maybe a little smaller. Whatever it is, it certainly did a number on you. After I get it cleaned up, I’ll run you over to the Redy-Med and get you a shot. You don’t want to run the risk of infection setting in.”
“I have penicillin in my beach house,” he said.
“Do I even want to know?” she asked.
“Probably not,” he said, chuckling a little under his breath.
“You can’t mess around with sting rays. That’s what took out Steve Irwin, you know the Crocodile Hunter.”
“I know,” he said. “I still find the irony, well ironic…All those years he spent hovering over the mouths of those vicious ass saltwater crocs and what takes him out? A sting ray barb through the heart. You’ve got to respect nature, all the time, or it’ll turn around and chomp your leg off.”
“Or jab you through your calf. Did it occur to you to stop at any time after you felt it stab you?”
“What and lose the fish, no fucking way,” he said. “Besides I’m up to date on all my shots, even tetanus after I stepped on that roofing nail last summer after hurricane cleanup.”
Pilar opened a bottle or rubbing alcohol and unwound a large wad of toilet paper from a large roll she had sitting on her table, next to the first aid kit. She completely soaked the wad of toilet paper until it was saturated, and dripping wet.
“Let me guess,” he said, before Pilar could say another word. “You’re not about to kiss me are you. I know, it’s going to hurt you more than it’s going to hurt me. Just, get it over with.”
Roger dug his fingers deep into the arm rests of the wicker chair and clenched his teeth. Pilar pressed the wad of toilet paper firmly against the hole in Roger’s calf. His entire body tensed. The burning, stinging pain was exquisite and shocking, but pure. Through his pain, he glanced down and saw blood soaking through the alcohol-soaked toilet paper.
“Ouch, son of a bitch,” he screamed. “Damn, I knew it was going to be bad, but not this bad.”
“Be still, I’ve got to try to wrap it,” she said.
Pilar placed a clean, thick piece of gauze directly over the wound held it in place with one hand and handed Roger the first aide tape with her free hand and said, “Here, I need you to tear me off a piece. Not much, only about three inches.”
Roger tore of the piece of tape and handed to her and she taped the gauze to his leg. She tore another strip off herself and taped the other corner of the gauze down and then inspected her handiwork, as she rose to her feet.
She grabbed a bottle of Patron from the top of her counter, removed the cap and took a swig and then handed it to Roger. “Here, it’ll help take the edge off. Tequila’s kind of like duct tape, it fixes everything.”
Roger took a huge swallow, put the lid back on and then placed the bottle back on the counter. He rose slowly and a little unsteadily to his feet, as Pilar opened the ice chest and said, “Now let’s see what you’ve got. My God, it’s huge. What is it?”
“Amberjack,” Roger said.
“Is it good?”
“Yes,” he said.
“It is good for fish tacos because that’s what I want to eat,” she said.
“Yes, it’s good for fish tacos.”
She closed the ice chest, turned to face Roger.
“I’m glad,” she said, smiling. “But, I’m also sad.”
He reached out and touched her face gently with his palm. He gently wiped away a smidge of sweat from under her eye. Or was it a tear, he wondered.
“I don’t want to make you said.”
“What do you want?” she asked him.
“Yes,” she said, her lower lip quivering just slightly.
“Right now I want to make you come,” he said.
He pulled her face to his and kissed her as he slipped his gingers of his other hand inside the elastic waist band of her bikini bottom. She kissed him back fiercely, bit his ear lightly and whispered into his ear, “Rip them off. Rip them off now.”
————– ————– —————————
Roger dug his hands into the flesh of Pilar’s hips and she straddled him forcing him deeper into her. He bucked beneath her to meet her thrusts and she screamed louder. She leaned down to kis him and to pull herself closer to him.
They both accidentally tipped over sideways. Somehow, Roger manager to stay inside her and he entwined both of his legs around hers and used it as a fulcrum to thrust into her.
“Oh fuck yeah,” she screamed. “Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Oh yes baby right there. Please don’t stop. I’m gonna come.”
Their lovemaking typically had a liquid and languid feel to it, but this morning, it was frantic, clinging and frenzied. He continued to slam into her as she screamed. Her whole body, like a single muscle, constricted around his body until it convulsed and shuddered and then began trembling.
He moved slightly and she held him in place, “Stop, shit, I’m still coming, be still.”
He did and she finally crumpled into him. They stayed that way, panting and motionless, their bodies twisted and entwined like a primitive root system. They didn’t speak for a very long time until Pilar finally said, almost in a whisper, “I’m going to miss this.”
“Sure,” Roger said with a grin. “Just use me for sex.”
“Besides that and changing light bulbs what good are men anyway,” she teased, even though her heart really wasn’t into it. Roger read her expression, which wasn’t hard to due. The sadness in her eyes was evident.
“Hey,” he said. “What do you want with an old guy like me anyway? You’re young. You have your whole life ahead of you. Besides, I’m practically old enough to be your father.”
“My father is only forty-one,” she said.
“Christ, I’m older than your dad? That’s all the more reason for you to leave me alone. You could have any man. Yiou certainly don’t need a scoundrel like me in your life.”
Just then, Pilar’s bedroom door swung silently and slowly open, followed by a low and pitiful whimper. Zoe sat in the doorway with her hear cocked to one side, staring at them both.
“Oh my, would you look at that,” Pilar said. “Have you ever seen anything so pitiful?”
“Hey, consider yourself lucky,” Roger said. “At least she had the decency to wait until after we were finished having sex.”
“Do I even want to know?” Pilar asked.
“No,” Ryan said.
Pilar sat up, looked at Zoe and then patted the bed between her and Roger’s feet. Zoe didn’t need a second invitation. She pounced up onto the bed and stood there for a second. Pilar leaned forward and scratched under Zoe’s chin and under her chest.
“Come on girl, lay down,” Roger said and Zoe made a semi-circle and then collapsed onto the bed.
“I’m not the only one who sees something in you,” Pilar said. “Zoe does too.”
“Only because I feed her,” Roger said.
“Shame on you,” Pilar said. “That’s not true. This dog would probably die for you. She’d probably even kill for you too if it ever came down to it. I can see it in her eyes. Besides, Roger,” she said, changing the subject. “I may be young but I’m not like some of the stupid girls around here.”
Roger knew this was true. He didn’t know Pilar’s entire life story. Nor had he ever wanted to because that would mean getting too close, a risk he didn’t want to take. Not at this juncture in his life, anyway.
All Roger knew was that Pilar was born in Bogotá and moved to the United States with her parents when she was ten. From the sounds of it, and she never really did go into any great detail, her parents had a pretty rough go of it, but were able to get out of Bogotá and settle in Florida into a life that provided her family with enough money to keep a roof over their heads and to eventually send Pilar to college for nursing at Florida State.
“I know that Pilar,” Roger said. “Seriously though, I’d hate for you to get tied down to me and all my bullshit. I’d feel like I was holding you down, forcing you to miss opportunities.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Pilar said. “You know what I think?”
“I think you’re scared,” she said.
“Now that’s ridiculous,” he said.
“Yes, really,” he said. “That’s crazy.”
“Now you’re calling me crazy? Didn’t anyone ever tell you it wasn’t wise to call a Columbian woman crazy?”
“That’s not what I meant,” he said.
“You should see yourself,” she said. “You’re like a flustered little school boy half the time, trying to shuffle out of here.”
“That’s absurd,” he said.
“Is it? Okay, then if you aren’t scared then prove it.”
“Sure,” he said. “How?”
“Well start by relaxing,” she said. “Then stay with me today and tonight. We’ll clean fish, drink tequila and then eat and watch the Saints game tonight.”
“What do you know about the Saints?” he asked, surprised.
“I know Jimmy Graham is the man,” she said.
“Well that sounds easy enough,” he said. “And then what?”
“That’s easy,” Pilar replied. “Marry me.”
“Come again?” he said.
“You’re a strange and wonderful man Roger Tate, and I’m pretty sure that I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“You’re proposing to me?” he said, flabbergasted.
She nodded and he eyed her cautiously and then finally broke into a smile.
“I don’t believe I’m saying this but sure. I’d love nothing more than for you to be my wife.”
“Really?” she asked. It was her turn to be surprised.
“Really,” he said and then leaned over and kissed her. “You might have to clear it rhrough the proper channels though,” Roger added, nodding at Zoe, who glanced up at them with sleepy, but alter eyes.
“We both have your number Roger Tate,” Pilar said. “So does this mean you’ll take me back to Louisiana with you?”
“Eventually,” he said. “The place I have there needs a lot of work. There’s also some business there I still have to clear up,” he sighed.
“You mean your soldier friend Cliff?” she asked. “We’ve been through this before. I thought you were going to let that go.”
“But I can’t,” Roger said.
“But you did what you could,” she said. “You reached out to him.”
“What, a friend request on Facebook? I hardly call that reaching out,” Roger said. “I feel like I need to try to do more, at least make an effort. If I see him face to face and he tells me to fuck off then that’s fine. I’ll at least know then that I really tried. I just don’t like it. He just looks so haunted.”
“Sometimes war changes people, and not for the better,” she said.
“What do you know about war?” he asked her.
“I know enough. My father’s brother, my uncle, was in the military in Columbia, for years fighting against the Medellin cartel.”
“Yeah, well they finally took Escobar out,” Roger said.
“That’s not the point,” said Pilar. “After it was over, I don’t know. Uncle Jorge wasn’t the same any more.”
“How? Was he wounded? Tortured?”
“No, not that I know of at least,” she said. “at least not physically. But he was hurt in his mind, and in his heart and worst of all his spirit. His spirit was hurt. He was cold after that, and distant. I don’t want that to happen to you.”
“It’s not something you can catch,” Roger said. “You can’t catch post-traumatic stress disorder
“That isn’t what this was. Are you forgetting that I’m a nurse? I know what PSTD is Roger. In this, you are wrong,” she said. “This sickness of the soul like he had was contagious. You could catch it from being around him. I know, I had it for a time. I never want anything to do with for the rest of my days.”
“But I have to try,” Roger said.
“I’m not forbidding you, but I am warning you to be careful. Keep a close watch over your soul if you have to deal with him, that’s all I’m asking.”
“I will,” Roger said. “I promise.”
“Now hold me.”
He did. They fell asleep within ten minutes.
Later that evening he sat on Pilar’s deck cradling her laptop and a whiskey drink. He and Pilar had cleaned the amberjack and eaten it. Fish tacos. They drank tequila and she passed out before the Saints even finished the third quarter.
Now he was relaxing on her deck listening to the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach.
Roger was scrolling through his Facebook news feed when he suddenly saw that another of his buddies from high school, Guy Broussard, had landed on Facebook. He quickly shout out a friend request, not really expecting a reply. Hell, he sent the friend request out to Cliff over six months ago and never got a response.
But sure as shit, the cursor lit up and there was a notification that Guy had accepted his friend request.
Half buzzed, Roger brough the instant message box up onto the screen and typed, “WHASSUP MAN????