The Tragic Romance of Arecelli Vasquez and Maxwell Dinkman
I was almost twenty-one and it was supposed to be my last summer in Davenport when Arecelli Vasquez quietly stepped up out of my past, saying, “Hi Max,” as though we were on talking terms.
I leaped from the seat at the mall kiosk where I was working and dropped my book.
“I didn't mean to scare you,” she laughed placing a hand on my shoulder. “Here, let me get that,” she bent down and I watched as her supple round breasts tried to force their way out of the low cut collar on her white tank top. She handed me the book, reading the title, “Mmm, Magic Kingdom for Sale, Sold , it must be good, you seem interested.”
“Uh, yeah, it's alright,” I replied, dazed. I hadn't seen her in three months and maybe it was just the thin layer of rain water covering her from head to toe, but she had somehow gotten hotter since we last crossed paths. Her hair was longer, still jet black, her eyes were like two dark jewels sparkling on her tanned mocha colored face, and her body was the body I had dreamed about since I hit puberty. Her legs were long, her belly was soft but small, and her skin was always glistening. Her breasts were not large and bouncy like school yard kickballs; they were soft, symmetrical, and just big enough to fit snugly in the palms of my hands. I glanced past the bottom of her shirt to the inviting space above her low cut pants and saw the silver bauble dangling from her belly button just over the top of the crimson panties peeking out above her jeans. If Tex Avery had drawn me at that precise moment I would have been a whistling wolf. But I was trying to forget all that. Too many memories were included at no extra cost with her reappearance in my life.
The first time I saw her was like the magic in a Hollywood romance when the hero meets the woman he will love. She was fifteen and I was sixteen. She came with her mom to rent a movie at the grocery store where I worked, Shop More. I was normally chattering my teeth in the dairy cooler so on an ordinary night I would have missed her. But when she walked in I had finished up early and was helping out behind the counter in the video rental place at the front of the store. When I saw her I thought it was kismet.
She studied the walls of video tapes, oblivious of me. But I committed everything about her to my memory: every piece of her hair, every crease of her clothing, the soft sound of her voice, the barely noticeable Mexican accent, the pink colored finger nails, the long black silken skirt, the sweet, vanilla-mixed-with-strawberry smell she seemed to excrete, even the movie she rented (Adventures in Babysitting). I inhaled her essence and swore that she would one day be my bride. I didn't have a thorough understanding of the concepts of marriage or forever but it didn't matter, the romantic in me knew I wanted to bask in her presence for eternity.
I didn't see her again for almost two years. But when I did, I wasted no time and approached her with vigor. We began dating immediately and it was everything I imagined it would be. She was angrier than I would have liked and sometimes I could not figure her out, but that just added to her radiance. And she wasn't just beautiful; she understood me—it may be cliché but the first time something like that happens to you, it is amazing. When my dog was so sick I thought I was going to have to put her to sleep she stayed with me all night, holding me while I cried. She didn't make fun of my comic book collection, she listened when I told her my dreams or stories I had written, and she loved me as much as I loved her.
Of course I didn't know that our love was not enough to satiate her desires. Rumors ran rampant about her sexual and emotional promiscuity, some were true, some were false—but enough of them were true to warrant a legitimate parting of ways. Some thought she wore a mask they could see through while I could not. I know, based on the many times she appeared to be playing with my emotions, that is how it seemed, but I looked at it differently. I thought that when we were together and happy she was truly herself, a beautiful, loving woman who cared deeply for me. But because of her life and the twisted path her parents led her down, she was unable to cope with the feelings I elicited within her. I frightened her and the way she felt for me frightened her even more. Neither of us were able to overcome that fright. Almost from the beginning of our relationship many of my friends wanted me to break up with her. However, I ignored them all and we were engaged within a year. A few months later she saw two blue lines on a pregnancy test and about five months after that she had a miscarriage.
For a time after we lost the baby Arecelli wanted to annul that particular chunk of her life, including me. She got hooked on hallucinogens and was seduced by the moribund club scene of the Quad Cities. Then she dropped out of college and became a stripper. Every few weeks or months she would waltz back into my life and I would profess my undying love for her all over again. Then she would leave me. A few weeks later, sometimes months, on a rainy day, always on a rainy day, she would ring my doorbell, stepping back into my life, dripping wet, bringing with her feelings I was struggling to destroy.
“Um, what's up?” I brought myself back to the present.
“Nothing,” she answered, batting her eyes. “I heard you were working here and I wanted to stop by and say hi.”
“Hi,” I replied.
“Hi,” she smiled. There was something about the way she smiled and cocked her head to the side that made me forget I was trying to forget her, “I've missed you, Max.”
“Okay,” I forced it out before I could tell her that I missed her too, and then I did.
“Really?” she asked, “Because I heard you were dating Maddie's friend.”
“So you are dating her?”
“Well, yes and no, it isn't really like that—it's complicated, it's not like we're really together-together,” my relationship with Eliza Freeman wasn't complicated, but it was something I had trouble explaining to my ex-fiancé.
Shortly after my grandpa died in January of that year I realized that the only way I was going to escape the mesmerizing clutch of Arecelli Vasquez was if I escaped Davenport , Iowa . I had enrolled at a college near my grandmother's house in Nebraska and was scheduled to leave town the coming August. Having been caught dating a shady Italian crack dealer, Eliza had been enrolled at a military academy in Booneville , Missouri and was scheduled to leave in a matter of days. Our relationship had been going on for a few months and was more like an agreement than an actual boyfriend-girlfriend kind of thing. We had sex—lots of it. When we both had to go our separate ways that is exactly what we agreed to do. All of this I kept to myself, stammering on mindlessly for a few minutes.
As I stammered, not really aware of what I was saying, two miniature versions of me appeared on my shoulders, one was dressed in white, the other in red. White wanted me to tell Arecelli that Eliza was indeed the girl for me, that I had met my match, that heaven could wait, that her and I were perfect together, etc, etc, etc, while Red wanted me to get on my knees and propose to Arecelli all over again. Instead, Red and White compromised and I ended with, “So she isn't really my girlfriend.”
“That's good,” she reached for my drink,” may I?”
“Sure,” I pushed the cup toward her hand and our fingers brushed. When she began to sip at the straw and gaze at me like she was sucking my dick, I couldn't help but think of how ridiculous this was. Red and White began to shake. She was coming on to me the way a sitcom woman comes on to a sitcom man. This woman I had asked to marry me, this woman who carried my baby for five months until it died in her womb, this woman who had been dancing around my mind for the past five years, was reducing our relationship to something you could see on an episode of Friends . And my jeans were tightening around my penis.
She sat down the soda and rummaged through the tee-shirts scattered about my kiosk, “Bowling tee-shirts, huh?”
“Yeah, you know, there's a women bowler's convention in town right now,” I shrugged, “it's a living.”
After a few minutes spent picking up a tee-shirt, unfolding it, studying the image on it, refolding it, and picking up a new one, she stopped and looked at me, “She's your fuck buddy isn't she?”
“What? Who? Huh?”
“Eliza, you guys fuck don't you?”
I coughed and almost spat my pop all over her, “I don't know what you're talking about.”
She lowered her eyes as though she was reading a tee-shirt, “You can tell me Max, you can tell me anything, you know that. I know you better than anyone in this world.” She smiled and leaned over the countertop toward me, “I know what you are doing with her,” she whispered, “I can see it in your eyes.”
“Um-um-um,” I was unable to come up with a coherent thought. As she leaned in to me her hands had somehow found their way onto my thighs and were steadily moving north. Red and White exploded on my shoulders.
“We were together for almost three years, Max, come on.”
“It was actually more like two when you count all the times you left me,” I stuttered.
“I can do it better Max, you know it,” she bit my ear and kissed my neck as my pants grew tighter. Then she backed away.
“Jesus, Arecelli, what are you doing?” I blurted, trying to hide the fact that I liked it.
“I'm just messing with you, Max,” she giggled.
“God, not here, okay?”
“Okay,” she laughed again, “Then where?”
I glared at her.
“It's good to see you again, Maxwell A. Dinkman,” she said and turned. As she walked away she looked over her shoulder and smiled, “I'll be back.”
It made me think of the first Terminator movie when Arnold told that cop he would be back. I could see him walking out of the police station in his black leather and sunglasses and a few seconds later driving a car right through the front doors smashing the cop up against a wall, killing him. There was blood everywhere—or at least there was in my memory. I shivered and tried to get back to my book. An older lady asked me a question about the tee-shirts but I didn't hear her.
About half an hour later Arecelli returned carrying a bag from Frederick 's of Hollywood and another from Musicland. “Here,” she rummaged through the Fredrick's bag, “I got this for you.” My heart went to thumping inside my chest so hard that if I would have taken off my shirt she could have seen its outline on my skin. “Oops, wrong bag,” she tittered and pulled a CD from the Musicland sack. “I know you like these guys.”
“Thanks,” I didn't hesitate to take the Grateful Dead CD from her hand. “But why?” I questioned, reading the song list.
“Oh, a lady has her secrets,” she then opened her purse and pulled out a small piece of notebook paper. “Look Max, call me sometime, okay? You don't have to tell Eliza. You don't have to tell anybody. No strings or anything. I want to spend some time with you, that's all. I just miss you,” she handed me the paper and said goodbye.
I looked down at Aracelli's new phone number and address. She had moved out of her parents' house and was living somewhere on the west side. I thought about crumpling it up and throwing it away. The last thing I needed was to get involved with her again. I remembered the time I found out that after I would leave her house at night she had been talking to some anonymous guy on the phone. I remembered how that led to them having sex. I remembered the time I found out her and her ex-boyfriend had driven to this park on the east side of Bettendorf so they could fuck in private. The only reason I found out about that last incident was because my friend Scott had been in the area and saw her car zoom by. When he followed it he got a first hand view of what she was doing. And I could not forget and had trouble forgiving her behavior the weeks after we lost the baby.
I sighed, folding the paper and tucking it inside my wallet. Red and White popped up again and began debated the higher and lower points of my interaction with Arecelli. As they argued I set up my ‘BACK IN FIFTEEN MINUTES' sign and went to my car to finish the joint I had begun before my shift.
A week passed. I saw Eliza off to her Military School and agreed to stay in touch with her. She called me when she arrived and we had phone sex. I still had Arecelli's number but I told myself I was never going to use it. A few nights later I was listening to my new Grateful Dead CD, trying to lose myself in the music. But my mind always drifted back to the neatly folded piece of notebook paper on my dresser.
“Why did I even keep that?” I thought. Sometimes I thought it was God's cruel joke; I was destined to love a woman who made me miserable. I fought it. I fought it so hard I felt like one of the famous three-hundred. Maybe I felt like them because they lost.
Thoughts began slipping into my head. Red and White came back, only this time they were in agreement. They remembered the meeting at the mall and had instantaneous erections. She was hot in so many ways and the good times were just as good as the bad times were bad. I picked up the phone, turned off the radio and grabbed the number. My stomach began to churn. I dialed, stopped, began again, stopped. I paced about the room, my Doberman pinscher Moses, followed me, nudging her head against my thigh every few minutes as if warning me not to do what she knew I was going to do. I knelt down and hugged her, “Moses, I'm sorry, but I gotta.”
She shook her head as she left my basement room and slowly trotted up the stairs. I followed the sound of her footsteps until I was sure I was totally alone. Red and White urged me on. I dialed the number. It rang once, twice, and on the third ring Arecelli's diabolically sweet voice broke through, “Hello Max, I've got caller ID. I'm glad you called. I didn't think you were going to.”
I didn't know if her tone was devious or genuine, but hearing it again, over the phone, made me momentarily forget that I cared one way or the other. “So, what's up?” I asked.
“Not much,” she paused, “I just bought some curtains and I'm having trouble hanging them.”
“Sounds exiting,” there was a slight quiver in my voice and I could feel my face flush. I wiped my hand over my forehead, brushing back sweaty hair.
“Oh yeah, a blast,” she laughed. “But I told my roommate I would have them done before I went to work tonight.”
“Is she going to be mad if they're not?” I faked my concern. I knew this was a ploy to get me over to her apartment cleverly disguised as small talk and, although I was halfway there the second I decided to keep her phone number, I convinced myself I would not fall for it. She would have to try a little harder.
Then my mom came to the top of the stairs. “Max!” she yelled, “Hey, are you on the phone?”
“Yes!” I answered with my hand over the receiver.
“Who are you talking to?”
“Scott,” I lied, knowing what Mom would say if she found out I was talking with Arecelli.
“Well, hurry up; I need to call your dad.”
“Okay,” I took a deep breath and plunged in, “Arecelli, I need to get off the phone, my mom needs to call my dad at work.”
“Well,” she swallowed then spoke so fast I almost didn't understand her, “do you wanna come over and help me do this?”
“Put up these curtains.”
“I don't know if that would be such a good idea,” I gulped.
“Oh come on, I won't bite,” she chuckled, “unless you want me to.”
I didn't reply. Arecelli's static telephone breathing surrounded me. My mind raced over the possibilities. There were really only two choices, but neither seemed like the right one. If I went over there it would be the beginning of a new, heart wrenching ordeal. If I stayed home, Scott would probably come over, we would get high, and we would fall asleep watching Conan O'Brien. I sighed, “Okay, how do I get there?” Red and White high-fived and disappeared.
Arecelli clapped, “Oh goodie.” She gave me quick directions to her new home and said goodbye.
I bounded up the stairs. “I'm going over to Scott's,” I yelled to Mom as I dashed out the front door.
Arecelli's apartment was easy to find. When I rang the doorbell I peered inside the full length window to the side of the door and I saw her tight body come skipping down the stairs.
“Thanks so much for coming,” she smiled and turned up the steps. “Follow me.”
For perhaps a little bit too long the only parts of my body that followed hers were my eyes. She was wearing a tight, almost translucent night shirt and no braw. I could see no underwear line below the short sweat shorts she had on, and every one of her nails was bright red and would have made elegant accoutrements on my coffin.
“Well come on,” she said when she reached the top of the stairs and noticed I was still at the bottom.
I shook my head, “Oh yeah, sorry.”
When I followed her into apartment six she was already standing behind the kitchen counter, smiling, “I'm sorry about the mess.” Her home was sparsely furnished and no decorations adorned the walls. There were still half-empty cardboard boxes from the move scattered about her new home and garbage bags full of crumpled up newsprint were piling up in her meager dining room. “Want something to drink?” she asked.
“Just some water would be great,” I answered, thinking that I should have smoked some weed before I went through with this visit, at least then I could have explained my raspy voice.
She handed me a glass full of ice water and said, “Sorry it's so cold in here,” she sat down on a puffy white couch in the center of her naked living room, “but you know me. I'm hot blooded.”
I cleared my throat, noticing her nipples trying their hardest to poke holes in her shirt, “So where are these curtains?” I asked, secretly chiding myself for not taking the time to masturbate before I came over.
“They're actually in my bedroom.”
“It figures,” I thought, forcing my body to quit shaking.
“This way,” she stood and beckoned me down the hall. It was long and dark. I felt like a prisoner on death row making his last walk. Only I was a prisoner who had an out. All I had to do was turn around and leave. But I couldn't, my feet were stuck following hers.
When I entered her room she was standing on her bed in front of a large window looking out onto a peaceful street. She was stretching up, trying to reach the latches where the curtain rods were supposed to lock in. I gulped, noticing the new tattoo of a smiling red devil head on the small of her back.
“You see,” she said, straining, “I'm too short, I can't reach these things.”
I laughed looking at her. She turned her head, smiled, and stuck out her tongue. I kicked off my sandals, found the curtain rods, picked them up, and climbed on the bed with her. It took me a manner of minutes to hang the curtains but in that short period of time Arecelli had managed to invade my personal bubble, rub against me, and touch me inappropriately several times, all the while apologizing and insinuating that they were accidents.
“Well, it looks like I'm done,” I said, stepping off the bed and sitting in a large whicker chair opposite it. I thought about what I was doing and wondered why.
Arecelli sat on the edge of her bed, “Thanks for your help.”
“No problem, anytime,” I replied. “But why does your roommate care about curtains in your room?”
She hung her head and grinned sheepishly, “She doesn't, Max.” She looked up, “I just wanted you to come over and it was the only thing I could think of to get you here.”
“Oh,” my voice was somewhere between deadpan and nonchalance.
“I might have thought up something else if you hadn't hung up the phone so quick.”
“Why did you want me here anyway?”
“Max, I miss you,” she stood and walked over to me. “I think about you all the time. I have never stopped thinking about you.”
“Yeah, well,” I looked away and leaned back in the chair.
“I know you do too Max. It's in your eyes when you look at me. We're soulmates, me and you,” she placed her pointer finger on my chest and knelt down between my legs. “You know we are. You know we're meant to be together otherwise you wouldn't have come over tonight.”
“If that was true, why did you leave me after—why did you leave me so many times?” I blurted, surprising both of us.
She placed her hands on my knees and hung her head, “I don't know.”
I went with my anger, something I had seldom done, “And why did you sleep with all those guys?”
“I don't know,” she echoed.
“Even when we were together.”
“I don't know.”
“Yeah, well,” I tried to get up but she wouldn't move. I resigned myself and leaned back, “I can move you if I want to.”
“Don't be like this Max,” she said. “It's going to be different now.”
“Is it?” I snapped, “How? Are you gonna make sure I get a VD this time?”
She slapped me before I finished the sentence. I put a hand up to my stinging cheek, feeling the tears welling in my eyes.
“I can't believe you just said that,” she scowled.
I rubbed my cheek, “I can't believe you just did that.” I stood up, this time she did not resist, “Look, I don't know why I came over here. What did you want me to say?”
“Why are you even here then?”
“Maybe I was testing myself,” I shouted.
“Fuck you, Max,” Arecelli spat. “It was gonna be different this time.”
“How can I believe that?” I waved my arms. “Look at all the other times you've said that and look what happened. For God's sake, Cell, after you had the miscarriage you shut me out of your world for months. We didn't talk about our dead child ever . That hurts so fucking bad every God damned day! I tried to commit suicide and I got the scars to prove that I wasn't faking it.”
“I know,” she began to sniffle.
“And then there were all the times before that happened when you lied and cheated!”
“You broke me, Arecelli,” I said.
“I'm sorry,” she began to cry.
“No, don't you do that. Don't you dare do that,” I shouted, “You can't cry now. This isn't some cheesy fucking movie, that won't work! This is my life!”
“It's my life too!”
“Don't fucking cry!”
“I'm not doing it on purpose! I can't help it,” she sobbed. “I just can't stop thinking about all the bad stuff I've done to you and—I'm so sorry Max, I'm so sorry.”
“Well,” I crossed my arms, regaining my composure, “you're forgiven.”
She sobbed even louder. I thought about movies and television. I couldn't place one instance where I saw a scene like this, but I knew I had. I knew what was going to happen next. I looked at her crumpled on the floor. I closed my eyes and saw her telling me about her abusive father who was a hulk of a man that had sold cocaine in the Quad Cities during the late seventies and early eighties before he left his family for a new one in Texas . I remembered her step-father was a toucher and her mother was a self-diluted idiot still addicted to various legal and illegal intoxicants. Pity for her washed over me like acid rain, pity made all the more powerful since I loved her. The last thing I remembered was going out to eat with her at Dean's. It was this old-fashioned drive-through place. We used to take handfuls of quarters in at four o'clock at least once a week. For every quarter we got fifteen minutes on a black and white coin operated television in our booth. We watched Rugrats; she loved that cartoon. I reached out my hand, “Look, Celli, I'm sorry I made you cry, I really am, but—”
“You called me Celli,” she placed her hand in mine and looked up, smiling though her face was streaked with dark black eyeliner. “I do love you Maxwell and no matter what, I always will.”
She fell into my arms, convulsing and crying some more, repeating, “I'm sorry,” over and over.
We embraced and she began to regain control. I looked at her and couldn't help but move one of my hands to her dark face to wipe the tears. She smiled, I smiled back. Time started acting strange. I gazed into her big brown eyes and felt their pull. She stared back and we stood there, together forever until we kissed. Then we kissed again and again and again, making love before she had to be to work at the strip bar.
A few hours later I arrived home. There was a note taped to my bedroom door telling me that Eliza had called twice. I asked myself what happened to the idea of going our separate ways as I shut the door behind me. Scott and Moses were sleeping on my couch. I woke Scott up and asked him how long he had been there.
“Long enough to know you didn't go over to my house tonight, homes,” he said. “Your mom thinks you were with Arecelli,” he pulled the blanket over his head, “for your sake I hope she's wrong.”
Maxwell Dinkman is a writer from Davenport, IA. His work has been published in With the Three-Legged Cat (1 and 2) and Again! With the Three-Legged Cat. His piece "Serendipity or Something Like It" was published in the April/May 04 issue of Plum Ruby Review. Max is a starving artist so anyone out there who would like to buy a story please send inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.