"You never stay with me, you only want to screw then run off to your crazy chicken fights."
"Baby, quit that. Calm down what's wrong."
"You don't really love me, you never did. Your crazy fucking roosters killing each other, your gambling, your dope- you love all of that more than you love me! You never did."
"Baby, no", he says holding his hands low, just above his waist, palms down trying to calm her. As drunk as JoEllen was right now she was nothing to mess with.
She picked up a steak knife from the counter and tears, first from one eye then a moment later the other, slid gently down her dimpled cheeks. She was wearing one of those T-shirts that people call wife beaters, a sort of tank top style undershirt, it was tight across her ample breasts, and panties that looked like a little girls', pink with some kind of Japanese cartoon image on them and knee high tube socks with stripes at the top like basketball players in the 70's wore. Her hair was in total disarray and her eyes as large as a doe deers' were ringed black with yesterdays mascara, one slightly drooping from the effects of the alcohol. As he eased towards her he could not help but be a little turned on by both her beauty and her danger.
"You bastard I should kill you, you never really loved me."
" Jo, baby- Jo you know I love you, you know I love you more than anything. I will love you forever."
Sobbing now she began to shake, she let the hand with the knife lower just a little and Jason walked on over and took it from her and wrapped his arms around her , and held her.
"Shhhh", he said gently , as if talking to a very small child and pulled back slightly to wipe tears from her face.
"Hush now", he whispered and delicately moved a strand of hair from her eyes.
She leaned forward and he kissed her softly on her forehead, and her neck, and her eyelids, kissing away the pain that lived inside of her always. The pain that told her that nobody loved her, and that everybody she cared about would leave her alone in the end. Just like they always had.
"Come on girl, let me get us a beer", and he walked with her holding her hand into the back room to the tiny little refrigerator that was beside their bed. She laid down and he pulled out two Pabst Blue Ribbons and laid beside her.
" You always..." she started to say something but even the beginning was nearly to quiet to hear,then slowly she turned up the ice cold beer , drinking deeply from it.
"Do you remember when we first met," Jason asked, "Do you remember the night in KOs' house?"
" We smoked crack."
"Yeah, and she was gone, and the house was full of crap because she was remodeling and we laid on a mattress in the front room and made love."
"... And there was plastic covering the windows and the wind kept blowing and making the plastic pop and I was so scared."
And the both of them lay there and drank more beers and remembered that night, after the sex was done and the drugs had run out and it was just the two of them so far away from the crazy lives they lived a few blocks over, so far from the hustlers, and the kooks, and the thieves and the whores and all of the others that made up the circle of their association.And honest with each other for the first time they had talked. She had told him about her father and his friends and her childhood, and her scars. How when she had finally gotten old enough to resist and say no to him, and how she wished her mother had not died, and how when he tired of her saying no again and again her father had poured lighter fluid on her and set her on fire, scarring her legs and most of her right side and all of her heart.
And he told her about his wife and kids and how the marriage had failed and how when he could no longer see his children he had given up on life and sunk slowly into the self imposed darkness that engulfed him now. And the drugs, and the crazy chances that he took to insure that he never went without them.
" I don't want you doing stick ups anymore. You'll go back to prison and I will be alone."
"Well, I don't want you turning tricks anymore..."
" It's the only hustle I have..."
"Well what are we gonna do- get straight jobs?"And they both smiled because he may as well have asked if they were going to sprout wings and fly to the moon. So he continued to steal and she to trick and the rest of the time they drank together and fed other hungers and tried to pretend that they could have normal lives.
They got a place together , small , only two rooms. The front a sort of living room and the back, a bedroom with a fridge and a hotplate, tiny bathroom off to the side. Somehow just having a place besides the seedy motels where they had always stayed gave them both a feeling of semi- stability, something that he had all but forgotten and she had never had. She prostituted herself less and less, only doing so when absolutely necessary and he no longer smoked crack which is not to say that he no longer used drugs and didn't drink now more than ever but that one demon at least was behind him. They had money for cigarettes, and rent, and even a weekly trip to Taco Bell- JoEllen liked that. Jason made friends with the neighbor, Segundo, who worked construction and sent money back to Mexico for his wife and children. Sometimes they would drink Modelo in the afternoons and Segundo would tell stories about his kids. Some nights the three of them would eat dinner together, but never at Taco Bell. Other times Jason and Segundo would go to the cockfights over in the part of town where the Mexicans mostly lived. And JoEllen
only tried to kill Jason when she got really, really drunk. Most days she would drink a half of a gallon of vodka, Ariticrat or Heaven Hill, but on other days she would get into Jason's beer, PBR that he would buy in thirty pack suitcases and on those days she might still get violent. She had been into the beer today.
" I'm not going anywhere baby, I'm gonna stay right here with you."
She finished her beer and threw the empty can across the room and he laughed. She nuzzled closer her head laying on his chest, and he wrapped strong arms around her.
" Do you love me, Jason"
" Of course I do."
" Why do you love me?", she asked,"Tell me why."
" I love you because you are the most beautiful women in the world, and because you are so very sad, I love you because of the smell of your hair and the song of your laughter- I love you because you understand..."
"You understand... me."
" I love you Jason," and she turned looking up into his face and kissed him. And passion rose up in them both and they fanned it's flames, until, exhausted they fell over spent. JoEllen was fast asleep and Jason smoked a Marlboro Red until the filter crushed between his fingers then sitting up reached for his chinos, and felt to make sure his wallet was there. Quietly he dressed and slipped out the front door and went to watch the roosters fight.