“I ran all the way home, just to say I’m sorry.” The Impalas (1959)
It was his wife, Amylyn, who had initiated the separation. She was hoping to light a spark under his lazy butt. But instead of grasping the importance of what his wife was trying to say to him, Sean motored down to Portland and met Charlene at a vegan strip club.
Charlene was sexy, in a biker sort of way, with a tough, attractive face, tatted cleavage, and a sly smile that begged the question, “Do you like the way I dance?”
She had come into Sean’s life with all the sweetness of a chocolate soufflé and left it as abruptly as a greasy taco after she had hooked up with an environmental attorney and banished Sean to the sidewalk.
Sean knew his only option was to head back home to Seattle to the family he had abandoned four months earlier – his wife, two kids, and Archie, a chocolate Lab.
“Amylyn, I want to come home.”
“Who is this?”
“I’m serious. I want to come home.”
“This is no longer your home. You left it.”
“Charlene left me.”
“I don’t have anywhere to go.”
“Try and understand this, Sean: You are not welcome here.”
“Can I talk to the kids?”
“You’re not even funny.”
“You used to think I was.”
“Now you’re just pathetic”
“Amylyn…” but she had already hung up.
Portland is a three-hour drive to Seattle – if you have a car. Sean didn’t, having sold his beat-up Subaru for lap-dance money. Going against the law, Sean stuck out his thumb and hoped someone would show a little pity. Four hours later, and drenched by numerous downpours, he was offered a ride by two men in a lowered El Camino. The driver wore a leather Harley-Davidson cap and sported a growth of white whiskers on his wind-chapped face. The passenger had a long mustache that reminded Sean of Yosemite Sam. Yosemite just smiled and shook his head when Sean asked if he join them up front. He had no choice but to hop into the flatbed and plant himself on the cold metal ridges for the soggy ride home.
The men dropped Sean off at his friend, Gwen’s, home in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle before continuing north to Vancouver, B.C, where they would be arrested at the border after authorities found two pounds of cocaine under the seat of the El Camino.
Gwen Paradiso and Sean had spent four years together in the grunge band, Devil’s Breath. Gwen was a tattooed drummer with extraordinary energy and an incredible vocal range. She, along with the band’s late bassist, Bing Hampton, had written the majority of the music, which was a cross between primal screams, screeching guitars, and pounding drums; music their fans found easy to mosh to.
Gwen was the pastry chef at The Parker, a boutique hotel located downtown. Thanks to her recommendation, Sean was hired as a parking valet. On their off-days, the two would jam at Gwen’s home. Her incredible energy was still there, though her tats fluttered more than they had in the past.
Every phone call between Sean and Amylyn was met with acrimony and resistance.
“Amylyn, please let me speak to my kids?”
“Would you please get Archie on the phone? He seems to be the only one who understands me.”
“Can I get some clothes?”
“Jesus, Sean. I’ll leave some on the porch.”
“Can I have Archie?”
“No, you can’t have Archie. You can’t have Kurtis. You can’t have Kourtney. And you can’t have me. Get it?”
“I love you, Amylyn.”
“Screw you, Sean.”
“Amylyn, I’m doing all I can to win you back. I don’t know what else to do.”
“Jumping off a bridge would be a start.”
“Gwen and I are thinking about doing a Devil’s Breath revival tour.”
“You must be so proud.”
“Meet me for coffee.”
“How ’bout we get drunk and go crazy on each other like we used to.”
This went on for months. Twice a week, Sean would make the call and twice a week Amylyn would hang up.
Until: “May I please see my own flesh and blood, for crying out loud?”
After a pause, which ended with a long release of built-up air, Amylyn said, “You can have them for three hours next Saturday. I’m going shopping with mom. Come over at ten and be gone by one. And don’t screw this up, Sean. Don’t disappoint the children.”
What causes someone to take a delicate soufflé and turn it into a greasy taco? When Charlene called from Portland to say she wanted him back in her bed, Sean hitched a ride down south.
He was dropped off at a Burgerville in Centralia, halfway between Seattle and Portland. As he ate his food, staring at the traffic speeding along the rain-soaked interstate through the restaurant’s clouded windows, Sean wasn’t sure which direction he would be going.
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