No Sleep Tonight

Sometimes there are songs you just can’t get out of your head. Beau’s story started with a country song, and that has been a pattern for him. Take the time to listen to this, before or after you read.
Headlights at night-790596
         I don’t know why I went there that night. I should have known what I would find. I did know. There’s no other excuse for driving by her house when everyone else in Hayden—except the drunks and the hookers—was asleep. I’m not the kind that likes pain, hell, I’ve had enough of that to last until they bury me. More than enough. And I definitely never though I’d be the one to say it, but there was just something about that girl. I could say that she reminded me of Mama, that she needed someone to protect her—something Mama never had. I could say it was all about her long legs and her body and the way her lips felt on mine. But, honest to God, I don’t know. Maybe it was a cocktail of both. I knew the first time I kissed her she was bad for me, knew it like I knew Mama was gone and never coming back. Knowing something’s the truth never stopped me from acting stupid before, and it sure as hell didn’t that night.
         Whatever the damned reason, there I was, driving too fast down her street where all the little houses were dark. They weren’t nice like the big, new houses closer to town that all looked exactly the same except for the color of the cars in the perfect driveways. But to me, they looked like castles. They had real walls and some even had front porches—the kind not covered in old AstroTurf or roofed with corrugated aluminum. The moms and dads and their two and a half kids were all asleep inside. No one was drunk or yelling, none of the neighbors were lighting anything on fire because they were too high to make hot dogs. They made the trailer look even more like the piece of shit it was.
         Her house was on the left and I recognized Judd’s truck in the front. It was impossible to miss, it took up the whole damn driveway. I didn’t care who I woke up at this point, I gunned the old Chevy over the curb. The tires slipped a little as they bit into the grass. I was breathing hard when I threw it in park and my heart was hammering like it was fit to burst, but no lights came on and there wasn’t a sound besides the old engine ticking. Even the dogs here didn’t bark at night.My fingers slipped on the steering wheel, leaving the shine of sweat behind them. My headlights still blazed through the windows and I saw that the curtains were pulled tightly shut, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t see everything.
         I could see their shadows through the curtains as they moved around in the house. I could even see the outline of the bottle Judd kept bringing to his lips. I saw him finally put it down when she wrapped her arms around him and gave him something else to occupy his hands. I turned away; my hands were shaking as I reached for the gearshift, thinking I’d better back up and get the hell out of there. I’ve been pissed off before. I’ve been mad enough to see red, but I never felt anything like this–like I couldn’t breathe, like there wasn’t any air in the truck even though all the windows were rolled down. My throat started to get tight, I felt like I’d gotten stung by a scorpion or something. There was a pounding in my ears and behind my eyes and I couldn’t even see the gearshift to put the truck in reverse. I opened the door and slid out until my boots hit the grass. I took deep breaths through my nose like you do when you drink too much and think you’re going to be sick. There was a 24 pack in the back of the truck and if I was here, I might as well do things right.
         I wondered if they knew they were putting on a show for anyone who cared to see, like those old clubs where the women used to dance behind screens. I could even hear the sounds of music and laughter when the cicadas paused their singing. I had a pile of empty beer cans next to me and the buzzing in my ears had traveled down to the tips of my toes. I felt hot all over, even though there was a breeze blowing through the trees, making them sway like the two shadows I could see inside. I wondered if they could see the headlights and if they just didn’t care, but I knew they weren’t likely to notice anything going on outside that room. I shook my head as I drained the beer from the can in my hand. I was a sucker for trouble and no mistake, but I was in over my head this time. Just like me, thinking I could set somebody else free. Hell, I couldn’t even get out of this town. I knew what real pain felt like—watching Mama waste away until there was nothing left but beeping machines and bills nobody paid. But this was different, somehow. I didn’t think anyone could hurt me again after losing Mama. Maybe one day I’d learn how often I’m dead wrong. Maybe I was a little crazy–it was 3 am and here I was sitting in the middle of her front lawn while she was in there with him.
         One of the beer cans started sliding down the hood and I grabbed it, steadying myself as it doubled for a minute. I crushed it, feeling the sharp edges pinch against my palm as the last drops of beer dribbled onto the Chevy. I hauled my arm back as far as it would go and threw it. It fell short of the window and I reached for another one.
         There were twenty three more and from the looks of that window, I had all night.

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61 thoughts on “No Sleep Tonight

  1. At the risk of repeating myself, you tell a hell of a tale, darling. Your attention to detail is why I liken you to one of those Dutch master painters like Rembrandt or Vermeer — you don’t miss a thing — from the sheen of sweat left behind on the steering wheel to sharp corners of a crushed beer can. And your characters are like something out of Tennessee Williams or Gus Van Zandt — although I hope someone someday just says to someone who’s not you — “Wow, your writing kind of reminds me of Hannah Sears'”

    • I’m thrilled, as always, that you liked it and that you noticed the little details. Sometimes I wonder if the characters are as real to others as they often are to me. Your words have me blushing again and I can only repeat MYSELF by saying that your opinion means a lot to me since I admire your writing so much!

    • Thank you so much! The beginning of the story is linked at the top of this page. Otherwise, you can find all the pieces about Beau on the Works in Progress page. Thanks for reading, glad you enjoyed it.

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    • Thank you! I’m trying not to write too out of order, but I’m not sure where in the story this part goes quite yet! Hopefully I can organize them in a non-confusing way.

    • I wish the photo was mine! I found it on google—-the link for the original is at the bottom. I’m glad it caught your eye and led you to the story, though!

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  4. Great story! Personal associations had my adrenaline ready. Your prose really absorbs the world. My imagination was engaged by your voice’s emotional style as much as the actual spoken details (the good ol’ southern…?). Looking forward to following.

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