The Beat Of My Heart

(Memoir Excerpt #7)

Between eating apples, we worked nonstop from 7a.m. to 4:30p.m. That’s when the man came around to collect the tags from our filled-up crates, and pay us our hard earned cash. Our bodies were completely exhausted, but giddy with excitement at the idea of going to the grocery store and cooking a big dinner.

The man walked slowly from crate to crate, inspecting them and peering in, “Ohhhh…”

My heart began beating a little faster as I watched him.

“Hmm. You’re not filling them high enough.”

Chuck started to argue.

“I can’t pull any of your tags” the man said.

I took a deep breath and spit out, “Give us an hour”

I wasn’t leaving without that money. I began moving more swiftly than I had all day. Something took over me. My limbs were on cruise control, set at top speed. I was driven by my internal motor to finish what we had started.

It took us just over an hour to go back and top up all the apple crates. I filled them to the brim. There was no room for debate now.

Seven filled crates. The man pulled out a wad of cash and counted out $105 and handed it to Chuck.

It had been ten and a half hours and we had only filled seven crates.

As we dragged ourselves to the car, I calculated how many crates we needed to fill in order to pay for the weekly motel, our food and gas, and enough savings to get us back on the road. We needed to fill a lot of crates.

On our way back to the motel we stopped at the grocery store. Our hands were still smeared with dirt as we shopped. Chuck picked up a large bag of brown rice, a block of very expensive white cheddar cheese and a bunch of fresh spinach. We had decided to take turns making dinner and tonight was Chuck’s turn. He was making a spinach stir-fry with melted cheese for the sauce. Did I mention that Chuck was a vegetarian?

As soon as we got back I locked myself in the bathroom and filled the tub with hot water. My bones ached. I peeled off my mud soiled jeans and could see my hip bones poking out. I crawled into the bath and submerged my entire body. If I titled my head back under the water I could hear the clicks of fluid as it plugged my ears. Three small tilts, click, click click and the outside world was completely muffled. I could only hear the beat of my heart and the sound of my body. I was alive. More alive than I had ever been.

I stayed in the bath until the water turned cold. Then I wrapped myself in a towel and sat on the toilet reading The Call Of The Wild by Jack London. I could hear Chuck making dinner.

We were mostly alone inside ourselves, just existed in the same place and time.

After dinner I wasn’t feeling very talkative. I was never feeling talkative. I didn’t have much to say to this man I barely knew. I certainly didn’t feel like explaining the phone call with my mother.

I curled into the bed and closed my eyes. When I woke up around 2a.m. I noticed Chuck was sleeping on the floor again. “Why aren’t you sleeping in the bed?”

“I am SLEEPING. BE. QUIET.” He hadn’t opened his eyes, but his voice was strong, powerful, he had shouted those words, and not a shout you can muster up coming out of a deep slumber.

I switched on the light.

“Turn off that light or I will get up and break every single light in this room.” He wasn’t kidding.

I quickly turned off the light. I felt around for my jeans and slipped them on. I tiptoed to the door, imagining him grabbing my ankles as I hopped by him in the dark, like they do in those horror movies. I bolted out the door and stopped. I stood there in the dark, outside our motel room. Where am I gonna go? I sat in my car and smoked a few cigarettes. I went back inside. Chuck had moved to the bed. I gently sat on the end of it.

I whispered softly as not to disturb the giant, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry I wasn’t talkative. I’m sorry that I upset you.” Hopefully this will settle it. We can get some sleep, get back to the farm in the morning.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I upset you”. Chuck began mocking me, repeating my words back to me in a high-pitched whiny voice.

I moved to the floor, put my hands over my ears to dull the noise and closed my eyes.

I opened my eyes in the morning startled by Chuck and a glass of orange juice two inches from my face.

Chuck was kneeling down in front of me, “I love you”

It was the first time he had ever said those words to me. I starred back at him blinking the sleep from my eyes.

Over his shoulder I could see the mountains through the motel window. They looked like they were much closer than they actually were. The bright warm yellow sun was shining in the window but Chuck’s hovering body had me trapped in a shadow.

I blinked more and pretended I hadn’t heard what he said. I felt like a child. He was only 5 years older than me but I suddenly felt like such a child. I was a child.

“I have to pee” I scrambled to get out of his grip and went into the bathroom.


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