It’s Friday and I can hear the revelry from the honkytonk shutting down for the night and I wait for the call. It’s not every Friday night that it comes, but more often than not it is.
It’ll be something like, Lacey, I’m sorry to call, but Joe’s here . . .
It doesn’t matter that Joe and me haven’t been together for five years or that he’s with the bottle blonde who refuses to be awakened after midnight. I’ll go and pick him up, his breath reeking of Jim Beam, and I’ll almost drag him to my guest room where he’ll sleep it off until midday when I’ll hear something that sounds a lot like crying, but can’t be, because men in his family just don’t do that.
Or there’ll be those other times, when I’m leaving the guest room, but he’ll grab my wrist and beg me to lie with him for just a little while and he’ll hold me close and his bearded face will rest against my cheek and I will think that this is enough, so much enough, for now.
It’s 2:15 am when the call comes.
“Okay, I’ll be right there.”
“Lacey, Joe’s passed.”
I almost ask what he’s passed when the meaning’s absorbed. I whisper something into the phone, I don’t know or remember what. I sit back on the bed and look at the clock because we were in it together.
I don’t know what to do with my hands or my thoughts. I fold my arms across my chest and then look imploringly to the ceiling.
Joe’s gone. The words don’t fall gently from my lips. Joe’s gone. No matter how many times I try them on, they feel alienated from me.
Tears start then and my lips repeat the same words over and over again.
That’s when I realize that the worst times I had with him were still better than the best times with anyone else.