Ila, the faithful
Ila and I found ourselves making out in the rain. We’d finished off our third bottle of MD 20/20 in the school playground not too far from the old Victorian house we shared with three friends, some chickens and a goat.
It was the end of September in Anacortes and had been drizzling for days. That morning I had been preparing to leave for Northern Colorado. A few hours of backgammon and idle banter with a sober, middle-aged capitalist the week before had landed me a gig helping him with a geological survey out in the Mountain West.
My contract was to last only through December. Still, I was having second thoughts, mostly because of Ila. I had recently decided that I was in love with her. This occurred after hearing the songs she sang softly to herself late at night through an open vent in my bedroom. Those songs reminded me of my mother and for many nights I spent hours with my head to the floor.
“Ila, kiss me!” I heard myself blurting suddenly, while she was taking an unassuming pull from the bottom of the bottle. She began to laugh and choked a little, spitting Mad Dog all over my lap.
“Sorry, boss. ”
“Don’t want to or can’t?”
“I’m serious as cancer.”
“What? Why not? Come on. Be a sport.”
“Knox, you prick, I have a boyfriend.”
“And what does he have to do with me?” I rejoined, spreading my arms wide. I leaned back and howled at the clouds above us. Rainwater bounced off my teeth and tongue.
I turned around to walk away from Ila, drunk and acting underage. A couple of steps later I felt her grab me by my sweatshirt and throw me down onto the ground. She dropped to her knees and straddled me, taking clumps of mud and smearing them all over my face. Before I knew it we were rolling around the playground and kissing savagely. I was delighted. We must have bucked around for a good half hour before the bell rang and all the kids started funneling out of their classrooms. We stumbled home, covered in mud, holding hands.
Because one bad idea often leads to a dozen others I didn’t make it back to Anacortes for nearly five years. I looked Ila up in the phone book and called her from a pay phone near the ferry terminal. After the third try I reached her.
We met at the library. I suggested that we hit a bar for a couple of Maker’s Marks. Ila proposed a cup of coffee instead, which we ended up doing.
It was wonderful to see her, but I’ve never been too keen on catching up with folks. While she told me about her house, her music, and her job teaching 3rd grade, I stayed quiet, reluctant to tell her about my shortcomings, breakups and failures over the last five years. I looked closely at her eyes and had remembered them a different color. Strange. When I told her how I used to listen to her sing late at night she told me that she knew and that she often sang for me. Saying this made her laugh out of embarrassment and made my heart skip a beat.
By the time we stepped out of the café, it was raining and I was overcome with the desire to kiss Ila.
“Ila, may I kiss you?” I asked in earnest.
“No, Knox. I’m sorry you can’t.”
“Because, Knox, I have a husband.”
“And what does he have to do with me?” I smiled coyly.
Only Ila didn’t smile back. And in fact she looked sadly disappointed as she took a deep breath and shook her head slowly.
“He has nothing to do with you. And that’s the point.”
There wasn’t anything that I could say. The moment still hangs for me in silence. Off in the distance I could hear a ship leaving for Friday Harbor.
“He’s the love of my life, Knox. You haven’t changed.” Then Ila walked away.
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