Wish You’d Come Sweepin’ In
The humidity, how had I forgotten? It’s like moving through thick liquid air. When I was a kid, I heard that DC was built on a swamp. Later I discovered it wasn’t true, but with this sticky humidity and massing of mosquitoes, it would be easy to believe.
Brittany who has returned to her given name of Sarah texted me earlier suggesting we go out. Megan who has somehow forgotten that she tried to come between me and Steve has invited herself along and I acquiesced. It’s beginning already. I am reverting back to type. Callie the follower. Callie the uptight. Callie the wearer of dresses for cocktails.
I wear the same turquoise sheath I wore weeks ago. I stare at my tanned self in the mirror in the same dress that Steve, chastely, removed from my body. Just thinking about that stirs my libido.
Megan meets me at the metro, which we take to Arlington where Brittany…argh, Sarah waits for us. She raises an eyebrow at Megan, but remains civil.
“I changed my mind,” Sarah says.
“Let’s go to Old Town.”
Old Town Alexandria refers to the historic part of Alexandria where you can find homes built in the 1700s and a few cobblestone streets. It’s nestled against the Potomac and sometimes inundated by the Potomac during floods. I always wanted to live there, wake in the morning and run along the river. Now I dream of somewhere else.
Sarah drags us to an Irish Pub. She grins at me, her blue eyes shining and her eyebrows waggling. “Relax. There’s live music and food and drink. What’s not to love?”
Well, for starters, three women looking pretty and alone are the targets for Marines from Quantico, which I would have thought was too far to drive after drinking and Army guys from Fort Belvoir. Drinks are bought for us. Lots of drinks, which I palm off on Megan. Megan loves the attention and clicks with an Army Sergeant named DeLayne. Sarah flirts with a clean-cut Marine whose southern accent reminds me of Steve, who feels so very, very far away.
I order a shot, Sex on the Beach, okay, it’s the only beach one I could think of. I throw it back. Yuck. Seriously, yuck. Pineapple and cranberry. Mistake! All that I can think is that I miss him. I miss the slowness of Sandbridge. I miss the friendliness.
I am so lost in my thoughts that the voice doesn’t immediately register. I look up at a tanned face, bright blue eyes and curly blonde hair. He reminds me of Mark, the construction supervisor, who I first had a crush on at the beach.
“What are you doing here? Drinking shots?”
Brad, my ex-husband. He’s good looking. There’s no two ways about it. His teeth glow vibrantly white against his tan. He’s wearing a teal polo, khaki shorts, and deck shoes. He is everything I always thought I wanted. Except he’s septic. Even his frown, his narrowed eyes evaluating me–all poisonous.
“You don’t do shots,” he says.
“Maybe I do now.”
“Where have you been?”
“In love?” Why did I think that much less say that?
“What? Are you drunk?”
He shakes his head as if erasing the previous words.
“You look good,” he says. “I’ve missed you.”
The singer launches into an Irish drinking song that involves claps. It all feels surreal. I feel misplaced. Yet, I have been here and places like here before and always felt fine, like I fit in. Brad touches my bicep, his index finger rubs over it.
“You’ve been working out,” he says.
I pull away. Savagely I say: “You don’t get to do this.”
“I miss you.”
I glare at him, hoping that he can see I’ve changed. I am not the same girl. In my fictional world, Steve would walk in right now and sweep me up and away. In reality, I close my eyes, the clapping resounds, and when I open them, Brad is still there, pretending he cares about me.
I look around for Megan and Sarah but see neither of them. Claustrophobia rises in me. All that I can think is that I’ve got to get out of here.
“Nice seeing you, Brad,” I say, lying.
“Calista, baby, you’re everything to me. I’m sorry I was so late in figuring it out. I’m sorry that I did things with Noelle.”
I throw some bills onto the table, more than enough for my share. I shake my head at Brad. “I don’t care. We were done long before Noelle.”
“Uh, yes. I knew it. You knew it.”
He reaches for me, but I swat his hand. “Don’t, Brad. Don’t make this worse than it is.”
I thread around drunken people swaying to the music and then stand outside where the heat and humidity consume me. I hug my arms around myself and wish they were Steve’s arms. It was just a couple of days ago that he held me while I slept, his scent, lime and bergamot filling my senses. His lips full and sweet on mine, his tongue tangling with mine.
On the street, surrounded by people, I have never felt so isolated and alone. All that I can think is: Steve.
I swallow hard. I think of calling Grams. I think of crying. Instead, I glance at my watch, note it’s after midnight and metro has stopped running and I hail a cab for home, my one-bedroom apartment that’s nowhere near the river, nowhere near a park, but thick in people, homeless and wealthy. I have a pint of Ben and Jerry’s for company when I really want a guy with tattoos and a beard I initially rejected because I was snooty and disdainful.
Why didn’t I pay attention? Why wasn’t I grateful? Why can’t I turn back time?
I wish I could hear the ocean and Steve’s steady breathing, feel his strong body against mine. I rest my cheek against the cab window while the city, alive, grim, and real, reveals before me.