So, anyway. I roll up to the scene. All the lights are out. Electricity. All of it. One dark, ruinous night, silent, all but the sea God howling its horrifying howl.
And the young couple. A Lance Corporal. He was. And the adjunct high school dream girl/drop out. Sweet strawberry blonde in dark washed jeans, appropriately snug. That was her. Danni.
I sat there in the back of the squad car, not so cozy in the hard shell seat, for a few minutes while the Private sorted it all out and got the go ahead to pull me out. Once you’re on the scene, you’re basically a tool in a box.
As the on scene investigation developed, the MPs chattered about it.
She had a nasty habit of sleeping with other boys. He had a habit of getting violently quiet. Neither was conducive to their marriage.
Oh marriage! Antiquated contract. That’s what we ought to say. We’ve gotten to such a point of confidence and respect for one another in this relationship that I feel can only be properly tested by tying it down with a legally binding contract, to complicate and ultimately extinguish any flame of passion we’ve cultured. Aka, let’s get hitched.”
We don’t say that though. We actually sell this shit proposal with alcohol and optimism, Oreo sandwiching it in between dinner and adventure, with our entire egos on the line.
These kids had the right idea. This guy, Philip Briggs, Philly, LCpl if you’re nasty, gave it to her cut and dry. Here’s the facts, Danni. That was her name. This is how I imagine it went.
They dated on and off throughout high school. She had a self confidence deficit due to a shunt of a step dad. He always reminded her of the old drunk cut. So sure of himself, despite nicotine stained teeth and a wire and bone physique. He knew he would be a Marine long before she knew him.
A man with trajectory. A man in motion, with aspirations, inspiring. A devoted man. Skilled, lethal and restrained. She wanted a weapon to adore her.
But she didn’t want Philly. Only a man of that metal.
But he left for boot, and others to college, and others to a barrage of jobs. And others still into the drugs they all knew. And she was alone, telemarketing for Pizza Hut, working graves, on a friend’s cat pissed couch, passed out through afternoons in a marijuanna fugue.
When he called, he knew nothing. She was the strawberry blonde he dreamt of for three months of hell, and first girl he thought of when he discovered how much easier life could be in the Marine Corps for the next four years, if he were just married.
It wouldn’t be permenant. Just a certificate. She could be anyone. She just had to be present.
He made the proposal over the phone. She cried. He flew home two weeks later for recruiting assistance, and flew back in a month, a married man. Boom.
They were together for a year before he blew out his shoulder, and subsequently, his career.
As he waited on light duty for several months, he began to drink. Heavily. No more were there weeks spent in the field in tactical exercise. No more were the nights with her lover, filthy and passionate in her marital bed.
No more thrill, or escape. No more relief of coming home to a beautiful wife he adored. Always home, with tension like static electricity arcing between them as from a Tesla coil.
And the arguments and belittlement. “You’re always here.” “You’re always drinking.” “Then get a job.” “Limp dick.” “Fat bitch”.
Love is an inconvenience, and a burden. I love you, was the one declaration he swore never to tell her. She made him. He promised. It seemed fair. They’d had their time to find love at school, but with each other it was never there.
This was a marriage purely of convenience. They always get complicated.
That night he told her, “it came through. The board approved my discharge.”
“I’m not going back to Fresno, Briggs.”
“We don’t have to for long.”
“You’re still not listening. I don’t want to go back, Briggs.” Danni said, stressing every syllable, punching his name with disdain.
“Why do you call me that?”
“You know what I mean. That’s all…it’s messed up.”
“Why,” she goaded.
“Cause you’re my wife.”
“I’m not ‘YOUR’ anything.” Her stone washed denim hip drove her point with contempt. “Remember? This whole thing, this ‘marriage’? It’s a fucking joke. I’m not leaving, so you wanna leave? Go. Go!”
“They’re kicking me out, Danni! I don’t have a choice. Medical discharge means…”
“Don’t yell at me cause you’re a broke dick. It’s not my fucking fault.” Danni said, almost gently, were it not for pursed lips and snake eyes.
They tread water in an inimitable silence, neither looking directly at the other.
“Anywhere. We can literally go…”
“I don’t fucking want to!”
“We never really even had a chance.”
“I’m seeing someone.”
… Outside their kitchen window, facing their yard sale table and chairs, the sound of a tree limb crushing a car like an oak fist filtered through the boards outside and the dissectable silence.
“I love you,” he said
“No. There is no fucking way you just said that!” Danni was genuinely stirred. “No fucking way.”
“I love you Danielle. I’m not good at it, but everything’s fucked up. But it’s over now and we can go and actually have a shot at this. You know, happiness.” He raced through it all, every being necessary, any one being key to incite her epiphany that she needed him. “I can’t do this without you. You’re all I –“
CRACK! Was the sound she struck when smacked him hard across the square of his cheek.
He was startled but he took it. Even a little relieved, really. She stared at him violently in the eye, reeled back to take more, then paused.
“Do you know why I started fucking David in the first place? Because you can never get it up. I’m naked, spread eagle, and you’re standing there with this little limp Wiener and that sad mangy mutt face with big brown eyes. I don’t even get why you’re still trying. You couldn’t even satisfy me, rock hard. You’re just fuck stupid.”
She was swept. He reached out like a wraith and took a hold of her face.
His hand was an iron mask across her face, his fingertips like talons drove themselves deep into her hair, her flesh, her bone, her brain, her future. He held the face of her, and just squeezed, as if to keep exactly and perfectly still, with a thick desire to crush it. His palm across her mouth, and all of this all of a sudden.
In that flash of a second, he grabbed her, and then she realized it was happening again. She swung aimlessly.
Held her head like a basketball in his fist, and snatched her throat like a monkey bar.
She gave immediately into it, devoting every thing to it. For hours the winds outside were consistent, till suddenly they grew pissed, insistent. The walls shook.
He let his hand loose and lifted it away, and let her see all the pain in his eyes. And just held her throat like an axe. And then let go, stalking her with his eyes like a wounded cat.
She came close to him. Close enough to not touch but feel every pulse of sexual tension.
He pushed his jock into her abdomen, drawing her closer, angrier, faster heartbeat. His cock swelled against her body.
“Oh, Philly. Why won’t you come in me anymore?” She asked, cradling it with her hand.
She unzipped them and slid down and took him in her hands on her knees. And watched him as his cock shrunk to nothing, despite all her efforts.
Nothing was broken by the shivering and howling, tearing apart that house by the hurricane that wailed and raged everywhere outside.
Not until, she on her knees, his sleepy cock in her hands, everything electric suddenly dies, and the lights and distractions vanished. His sleepy cock in her hands. An insulting disappointment.
She stood and left, into the fury, slamming the door shut behind her.
She went next door to the other house in the duplex. A friend. She stayed there for the next several hours as the storm got bad and worse, by candlelight with cheep box wine. She forget about Briggs completely.
For two hours he sat at the dining room table by the boarded up window that shuddered and shivered, pants fully buckled.
“It’s over. That’s everything,” he said to himself.
He imagined himself, on the plane. He sees that he’s alone and his heart begins to amp pace, and then remembers everything that she’s said, and he remembers she intentionally tried to hurt him. He couldn’t live with her and couldn’t live without her.
I went to the wall closet at the opposite end of the room. It was in the small corridor that split to the bedroom on the left side and the bathroom on the right.
He took the khaki belt from his service uniform, ran it over the hanger rod and slipped the other end through the rings.
He made a noose of his belt in the coat closet, I mean to say.
But the coat rod barely stood at five feet.
He took a bitter decimated breath, hatefully looped the belt around his neck and dropped to his knees, but was just short. He hanged to death with his knees two inches from the new carpet.
But before that, the door swung open, right out of Danni’s grasp.
She came back lit, ready to start some shit, looking for her toothbrush and panties and a perfectly good explanation for her actions.
But across the room, just beyond the couch and the lamp and coffee table, Philly dangled by his throat, hanging with a belt around his neck. He was no longer human, but a life, struggling desperately to stay in this world, clawing and swinging, as the belt grew tighter like a choker, until his body tensed to plank, and the chunky snap meant his neck broke.
He fell limp like a garbage sack tied to a branch.
Danni watch the whole thing in the doorway.
She called an hour later and lied, saying she found him dead.
I wasn’t used for a solid hour, until they needed to move him. He was white, skin like toothpaste, no shirt on. His face hung grey.
I shot him in the closet, though they’d already cut him down, but the imagines half for the job, and half for me. This was an original experience. I was child minded.
Then they laid him out on the Walmart rug. Turned his head to me, and opened his eyes.
“We need some shots of his facial features.” They then pried open his dead mouth to reveal his purple swollen tongue.
His clay eyes stared back at me, seeing me through dimensions, knowing me. Threatening my soul.
I woke up late for formation the next day and couldn’t explain away what I’d seen that night.
I still see a man hanging by a belt in my closet. He’s always there. I’ve come to learn how not to see him.
“Gives new meaning to skeletons in your closet, doesn’t it?” Adaline spoke with a wry grin. “What’s the deeper meaning here? Beyond your nerve racking PTSD nightmares.”
“It’s… Well -“
“Tell me you love me.”
“Just tell me. You know you mean it.”
“I do. I love you.”
“But it’s not like that. Or… I don’t want to take anything or -“
“You love me. I love you too. And I agree. It’s not like that. But you know that and I know that and now, because we aren’t idiots, that will never happen to us.” She and I high five, and mean it.
The rest of that night vanishes. Every time I think of it.