The next week, in the middle of the week, and almost into September, Randall T. asked me if I could call in sick, if I could go with him on a trip out of town, down I-65 to the small towns up and down it, and him seeing some doctors and selling them his pharmaceuticals. So I called in sick and I rode down into the country with Randall T. while he peddled his wares, or his pills, anyway, so we could go on a small-scale grand adventure for a couple of days.
He told me he was tired of me always being in jeans all the time. I’d gone back to wearing them now that I was at his house when we were together, so he bought me this zip-up brown jumpsuit, thin chocolate-brown corduroy, new for our trip. It was soft like velvet. When I told him that, about it feeling soft on me and how I liked that, Randall T. said it was perfect for me then, because I was soft like velvet, too.
He had a CB in his work car, so he could jabber on it and say over when he was done, like the truckers all did. And he had a handle he went by, like a code name to play secret road agent. It wasn’t quite as stupid as Glad-he-ate-her, although it was close.
So I wore my new jumpsuit, there at the end of summer, sitting beside Randall T. in the car while he played with his CB all the way down the highway, him talking to the truckers, and then grinning big. A couple of times when a truck flew on past us, the trucker would get on his con and say something about that little beauty that guy in the Buick had along for the ride, and Randall T.’d look over at me and grin again, and he’d say, Bet you liked hearing that, didn’t ya Renae? And I kind of did like it, but I was too embarrassed to say so.
I sat in the car and waited while Randall T. went in and out of doctor’s offices here and there all the way down to Cave City. Then he turned down a slip road off I-65, and we called it a night at a roadside motel, even though it was only afternoon.
The hotel had a pool. I never got the chance anymore to swim in a pool. I hadn’t been swimming since I’d known Eugene, but I didn’t mention him when I said I wanted to jump in the warm water. When I said that part to Randall T., he told me that he’d take me.
Maybe it was the lateness of the day, and the angle of the sunlight, shining straight across my line of vision, brightening everything in sharp relief along its path, the turquoise of the pool paint, the wide slats on the lounges. Maybe it was the high hum of the air conditioners, lined up in all the windows and running full tilt. I don’t know. Maybe it was those things, or maybe it was just being away. But breathing time was gone. And it had been replaced with a funny feeling, that I wasn’t there, that I was a moment in time, that I had become a part of memory, it’s just that I hadn’t left yet. There are moments, pieces of time that you punch through and you see it and you know this, even if you can’t find the words to say you see it. Like there, sitting at the hotel pool with Randall T. And me wearing a silky cranberry-colored bikini and me just jumping into the water to get wet, because I was hot, and coming up out of the water, feeling around me, hearing it move around my ears, leaning back in and dipping my head backwards into the water to smooth my hair back. And climbing out and walking over to Randall and hearing a boy, a boy in the pool resting his elbows up on the concrete edge, asking Randall if he was my daddy. And Randall saying What like that embarrassed him, and then him saying to the boy No, no, she’s my daughter, kid, and he stood up and walked to me with a towel and leaned over and said in my ear, Did you hear that, Renae, what that kid said? And I said I did and I said I thought it was funny and don’t worry about it, Randy, is what I said.
And then we walked over to a different set of lounges away from that rude boy and we sat down, but Randall sat down right beside me there in the hot sun. He sat there on the same lounge with me, just sat, and we didn’t lie back, and the sun went under a cloud just then, and you know how even on a hot, hot day, if there’s a breeze and the sun goes under a cloud, you can get a shock of cool air hit your skin? I got a shock of cool right then, and I shivered, and Randall put his arm around me, and he put his leg right up against mine, to warm me up, and he rubbed on my other leg with the white hotel towel. The air was quiet all around us and the only sounds seemed far away right then, like the traffic noise out on the highway in front of the hotel. And the air conditioners, running and running.
Randall T. told me stories that night, lying on the bed after we’d made love. How he wanted to move to Colorado and ski and make a mint with a plan he had, how he was gonna do just that, and soon. How he’d lost his one eye when he was young. How he’d tried to keep his head very still while they thought his eye was healing, how the healing didn’t work. How much he loved his little girl, but what he really wanted were some sons.
The next morning, we drove back home, me to Jeff and Tony; Randall T. to his big house and whatever he did with his weekends.
The next week was the week before my birthday, and Randall T. said we’d celebrate together. When I said, What day are we going out, he said, We’ll see, honey.
On the Tuesday night, which was just about my regular night by now, I went out to his house. He’d rolled a big joint for us. We toked away on it for a while, made love on his big brown bear rug. Lying there after, the nestling didn’t feel quite right.
“A funny thing happened last weekend,” Randall T. said. When he went to pick up his little girl for his visitation right, his ex-wife, Veronica, answered her apartment door in her panties, and nothing else. “I guess she thought I’d be turned on. I wasn’t, though.” He looked over at me, looking solemn, looking serious as a heart attack. “I wasn’t.”
I hadn’t known Randall T. all that long, but I already knew a lot about him. He wore leisure suits. His favorite one was a beige polyester number with dark brown stitching. Polyester Western Man was what I figured he was going for. I figured Randall T was a little like me; he had lots of things he could be but since he couldn’t decide which one he was still tinkering. He was a western man, a hunter and a skier; he was a pharmaceutical sales rep, he was an aging hippy pot-smoking fool, he was into sex and bunnies, and he wanted to be rich. He was everything and nothing at the same time, but he was making a lot more money than I was while he was making up his mind, so no one was laughing at him, at least to his face. That’s how it seems to work in life. Even if you’re an idiot, if you have money, people don’t tell you you’re an idiot. They just smile, and hang around for handouts.
So the next week, on my birthday, I drove up to Cincinnati, and got the job at the Playboy Club, on the day I turned twenty-one.
Driving home later on, in the dark, back down to my city, life took on the feeling of cruise control, which is a good and dangerous feeling. Dangerous because the drive itself became a game and seemed more important than anything else that had just happened, with the longhaired gray suited manager man, with the changing into the blue Bunny suit, with the saying I’d start next Monday, when I hadn’t quit my old job yet.
But that didn’t matter there in the dark on the long interstate drive back home. Keeping the same speed, darting in and out of the traffic and taking my chances to keep my speed constant, chances I’d never take when using the pedals to speed up or slow down. The game of it became more important than the point of the journey home. The journey became the point. It took me over. If I could’ve kept driving with no end in sight, well, that would‘ve the best thing. My MG didn’t have cruise control. But that night, it sure felt like it did. And that part was good.