“Coming down for the movie this week, Mr. Nichol. It’s Vanilla Sky.”
“Vanilla Sky. Something about the future. It's a bit weird, Nancy said.”
“No, not today thanks, Shirley. Hard to follow what with my lousy hearing and all. But maybe you could take Charlie? He's been sitting on his bed over there and mumbling since breakfast."
* * *
Vanilla sky! What the hell kind of a name is that. Vanilla thigh that I’d go see. Now where did that come from? Oh, yeah, that really tall gal..way back when I was still working rigs out West...near Red Deer...
Nan! That was her name...Nan. Six foot barefoot. Made the best damn vanilla-frosted buns I ever ate! But her freckles, that's what I really remember. Always did find freckles sexy. Counting...Sunday mornings...coming down. Funny the little things that stick with you.
Yeah, we were damn good together. And chili...did like her chili. Though maybe not quite up to the Tex-Mex kind. Where or when was that? Had to be down south. Now I recall...it was my first bridge job on a road to some mine south of Tucson. God, it was hot...
What the heck was her name...something like rain. Lorraine, that's it. Lorraine. Different name for a Mexican broad but remember her saying her Dad had come over from England after the war. But nothing English about little Lorrie. Hotter than her special brand of chili and that’s saying something. Got under my skin more ways than one, she did.
Fierce like crazy if crossed but so bloody sweet all that time I was laid up. Said she loved me. Me, half-assed iron worker. Wanted to leave with me. Yeah, quitting little Lorrie bothered me some...took off quick one night she was at work. To another bridge job, that time out of the country.
But never did fancy chasing after bar girls in town. Learned that from the old man 'cause that's what sure hurt Maw bad. No, once I landed to a new job site was always on the lookout for someone I could get to go home to at night. Someone sweet like Maw was before Pop met hard times and the bottle.
Must of worked on damn near twenty bridges over the years. Yeah, had some good times with gals along the way...hope it was for them too. But isn't there some saying about burning your bridges? Anyhow, all water under the bridge now...
* * *
Sweet. I'm thinking sweet. No, curry ain't sweet...but it sure is one sweet memory.
Sweet Emily, lifetime special. Spoiled me for anyone who come after. English again–what's with me and English broads? But born in India, said her mother was a Parsi, whatever that is. Met her one night at a bazaar in a little town up there in Haryana near Delhi. Always remember the name 'cause it sounded to me like Hairy Anna...
Me almost forty and Emily little more than a girl. Yet old in ways I’d never known, eyes full of time. Must have been at least four months that we stole around until her father caught her sneaking in one morning. Off to the doctor soon after. More surprises then, to me too.
God, I was like crazy and ready to take ‘em all on. But sweet Emily, she knew better. It was on account of her dad, the white sahib in town and what he might do. Owned the local sweat shop and me just another roustabout...a few rupees and then a quick knife in the night...that shut me up.
Emily stuck to her story that it was a boy from the university. Wouldn’t name him. But she promised in a note we could get together again come next year after the baby. Gave me her aunt’s address in England where she'd be at.
That damn train station still sits there back of my head. It and the dust. Chokes me still. Bloody fool. And now a bloody old fool. Emily sitting still and white through the train window and her father on the platform, and me way back out of sight. She waved just once and he must have thought it was to him.
Maybe it was. Spent my poke getting to England the year after...all for a bloody dockside slum address down near that river in London. And with no money there was no way to track her down, not that I suppose it would have got me anywhere anyhow. I guess sweet Em knew all about burning bridges too.
Too many years and too many bridges to count have done worn me down...but for sure it's not all sour with the flavors. And that last sweet one lingering. That one, it's still with me.
Some got less.
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