“Well, you can’t kill him now,” Danny says, sounding disgusted. “You’ve already told Marjorie. And me. And God knows who else. Did you post it on Facebook, too?”
I think I hear him mumble “dumbass” under his breath, but I’m not sure.
“Marjorie won’t rat me out,” I assure him. God knows I’ve kept enough secrets for her. “And who are you going to tell? Your cell mate?”
He grabs my hand across the concrete table and gives it a quick squeeze. His skin is rough and scratchy, but I’m so damn glad he’s out of solitary, I don’t care if he makes me bleed.
Danny Collins — my ex-cop, ex-embezzler, and ex-husband — has only a few months left on his 6-year sentence. He’s in and out of isolation more often than he should be, but I get it. His voice is soft and his smile is sweet and his eyes are just gooey caramel goodness.
He’s the nicest guy you ever met.
So it’s always such a surprise when he cracks your skull or punctures your lung.
Not my skull or my lung, of course. He loves me.
He’s loved me forever, even before I won his appeal in the fraud case, and got his sentence reduced from 18 years to 6. Even after I divorced him and took the dog.
He does not, however, love my on-again, off-again boyfriend.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” he says finally. “At least, not until I get out.”
Real crime is not like a TV show, he’s fond of saying. People don’t go to jail because the police are so smart. People go to jail because they can’t shut their mouths. They tell somebody what they did. They brag to their friends, or get drunk and babble, or they buy a Ferrari instead of a Toyota.
“What is it with this guy?” he asks me, not for the first time. “From the beginning, I always wondered that. You know?” He rolled his can of Dr. Pepper between his palms. “He’s not a keeper.”
No. He’s a player.
“Worse than a player. He’s a gamer. He doesn’t really connect with anybody. His friends are guys half his age, still chasing tail. He hits on women in the same room with you.” He glances up at me, measuring. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but — ”
I laugh. “Famous last words.”
“But is the sex that good?”
“The sex? Did you really just ask me that?”
“I did ask, yes. Gotta be a reason you can’t just walk away from this clown. So I’m asking … is the Big D? Cuz you know, baby girl, there are alternatives available …”
“You offering yours?
He gives me that luscious, whipped cream smile. “Just say the word.”
Jesus, why can’t I just fall back in love with Danny? He’s handsome and loyal and he’s away a lot. The perfect man.
“I wish it were that simple,” I say. And I do. I wish it was just great sex, because I could get over that.
Oh sure, the not-really-my-boyfriend is built like one of those Greek statues, all sleek marble and mysterious stares.
But he makes love like a Greek statue, too. He lies there and makes me do all the work.
Not that I’d admit that to Danny.
How can I explain it? Okay, listen:
ESPN is marathoning classic games. Game 2 of the 2005 World Series, White Sox vs Houston Astros. I spent half my childhood in Comiskey Park and this is the only Sox championship in my lifetime. Yes, I saw the game in real time, but do you think I EVER miss a replay of this game? Ever?
He cajoles me into bed by promising to leave the TV on so I can hear it. He was on top for once, and starting to get my attention, when Paul Konerko drives a grand slam homerun into the left field seats.
You ever listen to a grand slam without being able to see it? The crack of the bat, the sudden intake of air from the announcers, the synchronized screaming as the fans release their collective breaths?
My boyfriend— just a few moves away from Happy Town — did the most unselfish thing I have ever witnessed.
He immediately threw himself off me so I could roll over and watch the instant replay.
You’ll go your whole life and never meet another man with that kind of character. I mean that was the Nobel Prize of self-control. That shit needs to be commemorated in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Oh sure, I got up on my hands and knees, let him finish while Paulie romped around the bases.
But what a guy! Am I right?
Danny sighs heavily. “I’m starting to think you’ve got absolutely no sense about men.”
You’re just noticing that? I’ve been dating since I was 15. I’m exhausted.
I give Danny a hug and tell him good-bye. “I’m going to a party at your favorite bar tonight,” I say. “Julio’s.”
Danny loves that place because it’s dark and masculine and he doesn’t feel ridiculous ordering a hard lemonade.
I love it because it’s where most of my make-ups and break-ups with the currently off-again boyfriend take place. It’s rich with memories.
Like the time I finally asked him why he kept leaving me and coming back.
Why? Because, he said. I love you, but not all the time. Just sometimes.
And that’s why I have profiles on 14 online dating sites. And why I slept with my brother’s wife last Christmas. And why I’m banging your cousin this weekend. Understand? It’s not personal. You’re the most amazing woman I’ve ever met.
I LOVE YOU.
Danny walks me to the metal doorway and waves to get the guard’s attention. He’s careful not to cross the red line on the floor.
“If it’ll get you to stop asking stupid questions,” he whispers into my hair. “I’ll kill him myself.” His flicks his tongue against my earlobe and takes a soft bite, too quick for the guard to notice, and then he’s led away.
I decide to write Danny a letter as soon as I get home. He can’t be nibbling on me and making me tremble and killing ex-boyfriends for me. He just can’t.
This is something I have to do with my own two hands.
Like Danny always says, if you’re going to be a killer, be a killer by yourself.
Don’t even tell your mama what you did.