“Jim stirred and curled a little tighter. Liz took off her coat and leaned over and covered him with it. …she walked across the dock and up the steep sandy road to go to bed.”
Jimmy moved to Almont, Michigan, in early December. He lived there for nearly two years until he decided he might move somewhere with more escape—he had always said at poker games; the bars; to coworkers, “I ain’t belong here! I ain’t belong here!” He did always think Eliza had a good personality, though.
Eliza had been born in Almont. She was that kid that grew up uninterested with the prospect of life and so left her’s sequestered in the town she was raised. A very plain girl, with plain intentions, and who’d have a plain death someday. Jimmy would too, he’d die simply, but he’d at least think elsewise—Eliza knew she was plain and knew she would die plain.
Jimmy worked a job as a barber. He’d cut womens’ hair, but he didn’t prefer it. He was frightened by the high chance of screwing up, and so he didn’t usually cut womens’ hair.
Eliza went in every first Tuesday of the new month, had Jimmy cut the bottom centimeters off of her blonde curls. “The curls are terrible to work with,” Jimmy had mentioned once. “I don’t think you’re too nice to comment so,” Eliza had responded.
Jimmy didn’t mind her. It was pleasant, actually, whenever she showed. Jimmy had made a mark of it in his mind that every first Tuesday of the new month was when she seemed to show. He always made sure to leave this day open for her.
“Hey Jimmy; just a couple centimeters, you know,” Eliza said, walking very quaintly and quietly into the empty shop.
“Happy Tuesday. Take any chair, I’ll be a second,” Jimmy said, his lunch out on his table in the back; his eyes on the surveillance-feed.
Eliza took a seat in the usual of the two available chairs. She had always wondered why there were two chairs, but she never asked. Maybe she’d ask this time, but it was only a thought.
Jimmy came around from about the wall, his apron on and his shirt tucked in and his blue-jeans rough down to the dark-brown wing-tips. Eliza thought he was a very handsome man; he only got more handsome in his day-wear clothes.
“Hey Jimmy.” “Howdy Eliza.” This was all of their conversation. It didn’t go any further, it didn’t devolve into small-talk. They stayed silent, appreciating the silence. She liked the feeling of her hair pulled and tugged in his callused hands (why were they callused?) and he enjoyed the self-reflecting while his hands auto-piloted. That’s all they each needed.
As soon as Jimmy put his scissors down and the squirt-bottle was rested against the mirror, Eliza stood and walked away, leaving a two-dollar tip on top of whatever it was that she owed Jimmy. Though, before she left: “Eliza. Let’s go out tonight.” Jimmy was stoic; Eliza blushed—she had liked Jimmy since she started going to him for her haircuts.
“I’d love to. What time should I—”
“Let’s go right now. I’m my own boss, why not go now?”
It was mid-day, somewhere around noon or 1:30. It was an odd time to want to do something. But she couldn’t risk this one chance of getting a bit closer to him before the doldrums of the town drove him out like it did all the others. So many good men travel in, and then the quietude ruins their bones; it unravels their freedom. They only took a year or little more to get their mind right and up and leave. Eliza put her mind on this man, and thought that staggering him a bit with her charms, with her mind, or with whatever it is that it takes to keep him there was worth an oddly timed date.
“Sure, why not.”
The sun had been gleaming for some while. He had been inside for so long by then, holding up overnight and watching the game on the small antenna television; sleeping in the barber chair. He didn’t want to go home, it was so empty and cold there; no emotion, no soul. Jimmy had thought about moving since he recognized how lonely life had become, but he forgot about it then, while Eliza grabbed him by the hand, leading him out into the street, responding with “How ‘bout what?” to “How ‘bout it then?”
“Oh, right, Lunch—”
“At your place.”
Eliza stopped, let go of Jimmy’s hand and rested hers akimbo. She was standing lamely and said, “At my place, huh?” It was playful.
“Yes.” This wasn’t playful.
“I move fast.” (she laughed at this).
She didn’t grab his hand again and walked ahead. Jimmy came up next to her and they walked back to her place. There was a great view of the Church from her place; not the whole thing, but the upper part of the spire was within view.
She hadn’t had groceries prepared, and so they could only manage cheese, turkey, mayonnaise, and bread-rind sandwiches. Jimmy ate it with calm, shy-like bites. Eliza ate hers at the rate that Jimmy did. When Jimmy finished the silent meal, Eliza did too.
He had a dumb fixation on his face, watching her with amour; but his face was stoic, and so she grew worried over his expressionlessness. Eliza began to contort her own face in the discomfort of his stare. In what felt like minutes—but was mere seconds—Eliza gave in to his nagging attention; “Why are you staring so intensely?”
“I’m just admiring your face.”
Eliza’s face burned red.
“It’s not much to admire.”
“I think so.”
Jimmy got up from the table and moved to sit beside Eliza, putting his hand against her face and brushing her hair from her eyes.
“Your beautiful.” He spoke with monotone, furthering the depth of his lack of emotional expression.
“Why are you so stiff? So rigid, so unmoved? You haven’t an expression on your face?”
Jimmy felt attacked, but he wasn’t sure what she meant. He thought his face was expressive, he could feel it.
“I don’t mean it to be mean, I’m just saying—”
Jimmy leaned in and kissed her, hand on the neck and everything; holding her ears to brace for the passion. She leaned back in, of course, and the two of them found each other in a different world.
“Oh, my. Jimmy, wait,” she said as Jimmy began to move from her neck and to her breasts. His intentions were becoming very clear. Maybe she didn’t want him that bad. But did she? She did, right? “Do I? I do. But right now?” She couldn’t think (“I move fast” was playing on a broken record).
“I don’t think I want to go much further than that.”
Jimmy kept moving down, his head lost and Eliza beginning to unravel within. She wanted it, but she didn’t. She was nervous, but she did want it, eventually.
“What?” he asked again; softly though.
Eliza sat back as Jimmy found himself without pants and as she had been made bare. All Eliza wanted to look at were Jimmy’s eyes, make some connection, but she couldn’t find them and so happened upon the spire, her moans of sanguine excitement muddled behind her hand as Jimmy knew her.
After he had moved away, resting against the couch in the living room, Eliza pulled her underwear back up and sat against the window. The sun lit up her features once again. She turned, half expecting Jimmy to have passed out. That always happens with men: they pass out after sex. She wasn’t mad at him, couldn’t be. She half loved him she thought.
“You might go blind,” he said, settling down beside her and startling her.
“You startled me. I thought you had gone to sleep.”
“That’d be rude. Besides, it’s mid-day.”
She looked back out. His arms came around her waist—she tensed and then gave in to his frame. The two of them sat there, and then he whispered in her ear, “If I stay for a bit, see where this goes, would you leave with me?”
It was such a sudden question. He was turning out to be as perfect as she expected. It was a shame though, because she couldn’t leave Almont. It was her home. Would be her home. She wanted him to stay. Where would they even move to?
“Where to, even?”
“California. Somewhere cheap, but California.”
She thought she might be sick. She didn’t know how, but she was going to be sick in a way. Jimmy held her again and then whispered, “Don’t worry about it. I imagine you want to stay and hope that I might too? This town ‘s just…depressing.”
“You gotta be raised here to enjoy it, I think,” she said.
Jimmy hugged her one last time and then stood up and made for the door. Before leaving, he waved to her and flashed a meek smile as the door cut their view from each other.
Eliza sat back down in her kitchen chair and looked at her cabinets and then turned to see where he had fucked her. She thought she might hate that spot. She figured she’d rather have someone lamer of mind—Jimmy was too deep for her. Simple town, simple girl. Perhaps she’ll never find someone then, if they all left so quickly. Perhaps Jimmy was the last one. She had her dignity though, and certainly her identity.