beerThree Things

by Charles Rafferty

There are three things she told me never to do. Don’t shorten her name to Jessie. Don’t drink beer on a weeknight (Fridays included). Don’t use vulgar words in bed.

Jessie drove me crazy with her rules. I suppose I can see some kind of reason for the second and third rules, but the first one just seems priggish. The long way of saying it is Jessica, of course. But she said “Jessie” made her think of the outlaw Jesse James or Sandra Bullock’s ex-husband, or the Rick Springfield song.

“But all those Jesses are men,” I’d reason. “No one will think they’re you.”

“Exactly,” she’d say.

This kind of conversation always happened on a Tuesday night. So naturally I’d be poking my head into the refrigerator and looking for a beer. This would set her to tisking. Jessie is no teetotaler, mind you. She’d have a drink just as quick as me, but on a weeknight it would have to be wine. She said it was what refined people did, and that was her goal for us, or maybe just me. Refinement. To make it so she could parade me into her book club and introduce me as her wine-sipping, no-vulgar-words-in-bed boyfriend.

Mostly, I would call her Jessica — which if you ask me always makes me think of Jessica Hahn or Jessica Simpson. Beautiful women, yes. But dumb as shit. I always thought Jessie could do with some outlaw added to her mystique.

Well, it all came to a head one Tuesday night. We’d just opened the second bottle of this Spanish stuff she’d read about in her wine magazine. It was from Seville, which I had pronounced as if it rhymed with “devil.” Sevil.

“Why can’t you pronounce words the right way, Lonnie?” she pleaded.

“I’m just reading what it says right here on the bottle,” I said.

She stared into the air like I had failed yet another incredibly easy test, and began to flip through the pages of an issue of House Beautiful, as if something might be hiding on the other side. She looked so cute with her hair messed up and her the top button of her shirt undone. But I sensed an opportunity slipping away.

“Forget about all that,” I said, and I started kissing around her neck the way she always likes.

“Pour me another glass of wine first,” she said.

I did, and as I handed it to her, I said, “I want to see your pussy, Jessie. I want to fuck it.” It just came out. Too much of that Sevil wine I suppose.

Well, she was up off the couch as if I’d set it on fire. She said that made her feel like a whore when I talked like that. And why can’t I romance her. And couldn’t I at least wait until the lights were out.

“But I like to see your body,” I said. “It’s beautiful. Why shouldn’t I see your body?” In the past, this had always been a good way of getting me to keep the lights on. Women never tire of hearing they have beautiful bodies. And in Jessie’s case it was true. But she wasn’t done with remembering about how I’d just said I wanted to see her pussy, and to fuck it.

“Just get out of the house,” she said.

“Out where?” I asked, kind of laughing, because getting thrown out of my own apartment — or at least an apartment that was just as much mine — sounded crazy. I remembered the last time I’d been thrown out by a girl — all the way back in high school — when my date had slapped me for getting fresh. As I recall, I had let my hand graze the outside of her sweater as we necked on the couch while her father snored upstairs.

“Out. Out anywhere. I don’t care. Why don’t you go drink beers down at Maxine’s with all the low-lives and bums.”

This was actually a good idea. And to tell the truth, this is where I would have gone even without Jessie’s suggesting it.

The next morning, all my stuff was out on the front porch — bags of shirts and underwear, my heavy metal records, a half-finished bottle of the shampoo she made me use when she found me dipping into her Alberto V05. I was pretty hungover. I thought maybe there’d been a fire or a busted pipe, and she’d put my these things outside to keep them safe.

But when I tried to get in, the chain was on the door.

“Jessica!” I yelled through the crack. “Open the door. Why’s all my stuff out here?”

“You’re moving out, Lonnie.” She said this real quiet. I could tell she was standing behind the door, looking at me through the peephole.

Just so you know, I could have kicked that door in. I’m a big man, and it was a shitty door. I probably could have gotten in just by leaning on it. But there are three things a man doesn’t do — and one of them is break down a door at eight in the morning when all his neighbors are drinking their coffee and watching him through their blinds. The second is beg, at least not publicly. And thirdly — which is a pompous way of talking, but Jessica would approve — thirdly is to fight for what you don’t really want. I wanted Tuesday night beer and dirty sex, a girl with a bit of outlaw in her. But that girl wasn’t on the lease agreement. She was across town tending bar at Maxine’s. And I saw her again that night.

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Charles Rafferty has published poems in The New Yorker and The Southern Review, as well as stories in Sonora Review and Cortland Review.  His most recent collection is Appetites (Clemson University Press), and The Unleashable Dog is forthcoming from Steel Toe Books. Currently, he directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College.
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