The Colonel Pulls Out His Portable Valentine Typewriter and Writes Furiously
by Hugh Dufour, 3.49am May 10th 2022
I’m sitting in the car beside him and he’s staring at me.
“I can’t do it,” I say.
His face crumples up in that expression of frozen terror that kind of looks like he’s having an orgasm.
“It’s your DNA,” I say. “Doesn’t it mean anything?”
He still says nothing, playing with the blinker even though the car’s not moving and we’re parked.
“Please, don’t force me.” I say, pulling at my dress. “I can’t go in there.”
He grabs my hand. It’s all sweaty and wet and moist and disgusting, but I don’t want to let go. Men hope that their arms and legs and hands and smiles will be strong enough to hold you forever, but it’s all a mechanical game, just so they can explode inside you.
“Let’s drive away,” I say. “Maybe another day. Maybe later.”
And he moves closer even though there’s a stick shift between us, and he smiles at nothing, and his cheeks are glowing, and he puts his arm around my shoulders and he says, I love you Carol. Do it for us.
I swallow. It’s hot, and so I open the window even though the air-conditioner is blasting. There’s a crowd outside. They have banners and sad faces, and they’re chanting something.
Men whisper sweet nothings aimed at our vulgar, pathetic hearts.
Men drape you in their indifferent caresses and you yammer and whine away.
Men tell you you’re blazing and keen, but you’re nothing but trash ripped out from the world’s guts.
“Please tell me it’s okay,” I say. “That we can go to your place and pretend we can go on.”
And he leans against me, and his emerald blue eyes have that yearning look, and he calls me baby, and he’s stroking my arm and moistening his lips, and he says, it’s only an intervention.
And it happened in this very car. I lied to him. I told him it was okay, and that I was having my period. And he stopped the car, and we did it in a corn field. It was a hot, humid July afternoon. His belly was drenched in sweat, and he came as if he was in pain like usual, and it was beautiful, yes, it was beautiful.
So, now he’s stroking my hair. He leans in even closer, and I can smell his cologne, a mix of eucalyptus and jasmine. And his eyes narrow and his bushy eyebrows pull down in concentration.
“Please tell me we can go home,” I say.
Outside the car, I can see the parking attendant waiting for us to give him the key. The windows are starting to be all fogged up, but the attendant doesn’t seem impatient. He’s probably seen this a few times. Our little drama is nothing but entertainment.
And the attendant walks towards the car. He’s wearing an olive gabardine that reminds me of Dad while he was still alive.
“We’re already late,” I say.
And Harold turns around, and he sees the parking attendant knocking on the window. Me, I’m already out of the car.
I skip the white lines to mark the spaces. The pavement is burning, and a car with its blinker on almost drives over me. I rush through the crowd of people chanting and holding their signs and their crosses. I hear music from outdoor speakers, and there’s more shouting as I squeeze through two nuns, their faces grimacing from ecstatic rage, and I rush by the vendor offering fresh lettuce, and I throw myself into the clinic lobby.
I don’t stop at the elevator or the stairs.
I keep going until I reach the other side, and I push the emergency door open, and I emerge into an alleyway.
Right across, there’s a homeless shelter. I rush in. There are people talking. There’s a laugh track for the TV. There are arguments.
It smells of soup, pasta, and sour body odor.
I find the back door.
I keep going until I’m sure I’ve lost him.
I feel like a swim. And for something else.
The beach isn’t full, because it’s Monday, but it’s still okay.
The Colonel is sitting on his favorite lounge chair and he’s writing furiously on his Valentine typewriter.
I tell him about my new conviction. About babies. About my refusal.
I walk towards the beach, and I don’t take off my shoes, and I’m wearing a Gingham dress, and then there’s an explosion of pain in my skull, the world is twisting. And my startled lungs are full of water.
Choking, coughing, I fight back to get on my feet, the water up to my neck. My skull rings with the echo of seagulls. A wave hits me, and I’m knocked out again. And then nothing. And then my body shakes as the Colonel pulls me out, drags me, spitting, vomiting.
The sand is cold and damp as I feel his fingers grab the seaweed out of my mouth, and his hard lips press over mine and I choke.
“The future is a cliff so staggering,” the Colonel says once I’m sitting on his towel, wrapped in his wool coat, and the sun is beating down on me. “You wish even the idea of it would disappear.”
“And what does this have to do with the story of having a baby?” I’m dizzy. I still have the taste of salt stuck down my throat.
“Because it’s the Future,” the Colonel says, “and not our slipping into its abyss that is the cause of a catatonic state and stops you from enjoying the present moment.”
“Oh, let me slip into it, please. It’s the present I can’t stand. I don’t want a man! But I want the Child!”
“What we need to be happy is time without a tomorrow, a beheaded time!”
“A beheaded time!” I say. “Yes! Give me that!”
“All that matters is a moment where the desire to be alone with yourself is so strong,” the Colonel says, “you’d rather blow your brains out instead of talking and communicating with another human being.”
The Colonel pulls out his portable Valentine typewriter and writes furiously.
“But what does this have to do with the story?” I say. “We’re talking about pregnant women. About unborn babies.”
“Nothing! Absolutely nothing,” says the Colonel. “Why does the conclusion of a story have to do anything with its main theme? Be real. Go on a tangent. Be non sequitur for Christ’s sake!”
And so, I collect a handful of pebbles and throw them onto the surface of the briny water.
They fly like the Past, Present, and Future of Opium dreamers dragged into the inferno of war.