|This Week’s Theme: What is your character's lifelong dream? Why did she not pursue it?|
I've decided to take a character from a Fiction Friday from over six months ago.
The room had the musty smell of old bath towels and once-flooded carpeting, that vaguely sour odor of mildew that even the hardest scrubbing with bleach won't eliminate. I didn't bother looking at the bathroom yet, preferring to sit on the edge of the stiff, double bed and stare at the telephone. The table-tent sign next to it said fifty cents for local calls, a dollar plus long distance charges for toll calls. At least the HBO was free, according to the perky night clerk at the front desk.
It was just before midnight, and part of me wondered why I'd wasted thirty dollars on a motel room. My bus was scheduled for seven a.m., and no way in Hell would I be able to sleep with Dustin's last words still ringing through my thoughts. "Thanks, mom. For everything. Write to me." While Jimmy and the boys watched their football, Dustin saw right through me and knew, in some way, that I'd already left.
He would love California, I tried not to tell myself. He'd thrive on the different foods, the different languages, the different people. He'd find his true self instead of languishing among all these meatheaded, testosterone-soaked men here. But I couldn't support him. And if he came with me, he'd get lost and I'd get lost, and I'd never be able to break away, truly break away.
All these thoughts tumbled around me on the bed, just as they had orbited my head on the six miles from home to the motel, just as they were bound to linger next to me on that long bus ride to Los Angeles.
God, how I needed to call Dustin, to explain it all to him. To tell him I had actually been discovered, once, by someone other than his father. It was the dress rehearsal, the night before we were going to open Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Sitting on the bed now in this motel room, I still remembered the line I was on when that producer from the big stage in Dallas, Frank I think his name was, walked in and started listening. I whispered it in the quiet hum of the electric window heater: "I don't mind making a fool of myself over you."
That next day, I said those very words to Jimmy in his car out by the lake, and five months later I was engaged and already showing and off the stage for good.
"Feel embarrassed? Well, I can't live on this way." That was my next line that night, and I whispered it over and over to myself now as I sat in the room with the stifling, electric-blanket air and the occasional rumble of a truck on the highway.
Closing my eyes, I thought back to last night when channel eighteen aired that old movie. Elizabeth Taylor in the fifties, beautiful and elegant and sexy... all those things I'd known I could be on the stage when I was nineteen. What had happened to me? Where had I gone? Age and loneliness was all I really had now, and an empty sense of regret.
And an entire roomful of terror. I'd left my husband tonight, my boys. Dustin. In my small suitcase next to me on the bed hid a Greyhound ticket to Los Angeles, four outfits, some makeup, two books, and six hundred dollars in cash. Seventy two dollars that ticket cost. So that was the price of resurrecting a dream, reviving a life that had once been worth living.
Lying back on the bedspread, I spoke up at the ceiling. "I'm sorry, Jimmy, but today is the day I stop sharing that cage you call a home." But in my heart I was already composing the first few lines of the postcard I'd write when I got to California: "My darling Dustin..."
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