He promised to keep me safe.
A promise that turned out to be total and complete bullshit. Brent also vowed to be faithful, stick around in sickness and health and a bunch of other things that went by the wayside the moment he decided to tell me about his ridiculous, “mid-life crisis” indiscretion.
My second to last thought, before the car went hurtling off Monarch Pass, was that I’d been cheated in more ways than one. I was in utter bewilderment at who designed the stupid road in the first place. A combination of lackadaisical road construction, a soft summer’s night and Brent’s assholery behind the wheel all led to this outcome. And my actual last thought? That my husband had lost his goddamned mind.
The snowfall on Monarch usually topped three-hundred-fifty inches in an average season. It was a simple fact that in the dog days of July, the road crews moved slower. Their mid-summer’s pace took place right next to the discarded guard rails littered alongside the road.
I can recall the very moment Brent made his fateful decision. It didn’t help that he went speeding around the turn going at least fifteen over. An amateur Mario Andretti was Brent Carlson. He swerved to avoid a neon vest discarded in the middle of the highway. Brent pumped the brakes, tires screeching in protest as we skidded towards the edge. It’s cliche as hell, but time really did seem to be standing still, a terrifying slo-mo as we drove to our demise. Till death do us part in an eternity of descent. At least that was one vow Brent would be forced to keep.
I had just enough time to notice the vehicle pulled up ahead along the opposite shoulder, the driver calmly watching our unfolding tragedy. His long skeletal fingers tapped the steering wheel in amusement, one bulky, gold ring on the middle finger of each hand in a gaudy “fuck you” to the world. I’d recognize him anywhere, even if he hadn’t been driving the ugliest godforsaken bright orange pickup truck I’d ever seen. Who knew that Judgment Day would come in the form of a battered old Ford with a “Honk if you’re Horn-ey” bumper sticker on the front?
My last conscious thought before take-off was a picture of the man’s leering face, a single phrase echoing through my terrified mind over and over.
Di mi nombre!
I had no idea why those words popped into my head at the precise moment the car took flight off Monarch Pass. I only knew that Brent’s douchebag antics may have gotten us this far, but the strange man certainly helped to push us over the edge. He tipped his purple cowboy hat ever so slightly to me in tribute. Giving me a final, lecherous wink, he laughed as the front wheels of our sensible Subaru left the earth and hurtled off into the thin Colorado air.
“I don’t know how it happened, Suzy-Q. You don’t plan for these things. Hell, you of all people know me! You know I would never…”
“Oh shove it, Brent. If you were any more full of shit you’d need an enema. And don’t call me that anymore. Save your asinine pet names for your slut. Although, maybe I should thank her? Does she know that you suck your teeth when you sleep? Not sure where the illicit romance is in that, but she’s welcome to it..”
“Suz..Susan! Why all the hostility? Maybe this is why, you ever think of that? Because of your endless fucking harping..”
“The only fucking going on in this scenario, Brent, is apparently due to your latest Viagra prescription…”
Brent slammed hard on the brakes, my neck nearly snapping in two from the impact. It was a low blow, but I was operating on full tilt. The last thing I expected to hear on my thirtieth wedding anniversary was that my husband was schtupping Evelyn-fucking-Howard from three houses down.
Hell, he couldn’t even throw me over for a younger model, say a nice, supple forty-seven-year-old. Evelyn was fifty-nine if she was a day, a full two years older than myself and a widow to boot. I’d just had her and three other neighborhood ladies over for our monthly book club meeting, “Fifty Shades of Grey” as fate would have it. Brent as Christian Grey, now that’s one hell of an image! Evelyn came over, sweet as pie, asking Brent to help clean out her gutters. A task my husband wholeheartedly embraced, in more ways than one, apparently.
“You can have the house, Susan. Michael’s doing fine, he has his own family now. There’s nothing tying us together anymore. Why keep fighting when we can both be free?”
I didn’t have the heart to tell my faithless, asshole husband that all of that was completely beside the point. Our son may be grown, but all the work in getting the boy to be a decent human being was just starting to pay off. His wife, Lynne, was expecting their first child in September. We were going to be grandparents! A grand-slam, jackpot payoff for every struggle, heartache and worry that Brent and I’d ever endured. A million tiny sacrifices in over thirty years together.
I’d earned that reward, it was my right! How could I possibly explain it? We may no longer be passionately “in love,” but something just as strong had taken its place. Like how I know exactly how Brent takes his crappy gas station coffee, with three creamers and a dollop of latte mixed in. That he only sleeps on the right side of the bed and holds onto an old, battered pillow like a child’s toy. The sound of his stifled sobs on the night he rushed me to the hospital after our third, heartbreaking miscarriage, our last, futile attempt to give Michael a little brother or sister. Many years of us sleeping back to back, each one out-snoring the other, but only after he’d made love to me in the quiet dark before dawn singing, “Oh Suzy-Q! Baby I love you, Suzy-Q…”
So yeah. In general, I was pretty pissed off. Just when our life was settling into a comfortable autumn, the man who stood and made vows to me decided to bail. The one person on earth who’s supposed to have my back and love me through it all. There must be a special place in hell for betrayals of this magnitude. I hope he and Evelyn rot there. The two of them, burning on a spit for all eternity. I really, really do…
The Subaru skidded to a stop right in the middle of the highway heading out of Gunnison, Colorado. It was a cute little college town, nestled in the majestic Rocky Mountains. Brent’s boss, Earl, had a timeshare up there, the perfect spot for us to ring in our third decade of wedded bliss. Or, maybe, instead of celebrating, we could decide to drink a few bottles of Rose and have Brent drunkenly admit to his pathetic tryst with the neighborhood round-heeled harpy? Yeah, that’s the ticket! Which is why we were hightailing it out of the mountain paradise a full two days early, Brent’s guilty words and the after-effects of the cheap, pink wine combining to give me the most exquisite migraine of my life, thus far.
The truck appeared out of thin air, coming up behind us with its horn blaring. It was one of those annoying musical horns, a tinny offkey version of the old “Tequila” song, the last note falling off like the sound of a bleating cow. Brent swore under his breath and waved the guy around to no effect. The bright orange monstrosity stayed right behind us, laying on the awful horn until Brent came back to reality and stepped on the gas. The Subaru lurched forward, not used to such drama. My head snapped forward unleashing a fresh batch of daggers into my brain.
“What a moron! Sorry Suze, you ok?”
“If you’re trying to kill me, Brent, you’re well on your way.”
We whipped around the winding road leading up to Monarch doing over sixty, only slowing down when Brent was sure the truck was far behind us.
“Did you see that guy? He looked like something out of a bad B-movie!”
“I’m sure he says wonderful things about you too…”
“Christ, Suze. Can’t you turn it off, even for a second?”
“I’d ask you the same question, Brent, but I already know the answer!”
Brent jabbed clumsily at the radio knobs, drowning out my words with music. Avoidance, thy name is Brent! The beginning saxophone notes of the aforementioned “Tequila” song greeted his effort, bringing me a hilarious, unwanted flashback of Pee-Wee Herman and his famous dance. It made me laugh, causing Brent even more frustration. Mrs. Susan E. Carlson, complete basketcase, on the road to nowhere with my faithless, wandering spouse. The “Thelma and ‘Louie’”of pointless, middle-aged bullshit.
He violently stabbed the off button, rendering us back into stony silence for several (blessedly) silent miles. I just needed to get away from him, somewhere to sit and think. I had some pretty major decisions to make, an entire bottle of single-malt scotch level decisions. I began to actively hate him then, more than I ever thought possible. The feeling caught me by surprise with its intensity. Go to hell, Brent Eugene Carlson. Straight down to hell, Do not pass GO, do not collect $200…
Di mi nombre.
The strange words popped into my head. A man’s voice, low and seductive. Strangely, the second I heard it my migraine went away, just for a moment. Say my name? Wait! How do I know that?
Solo di mi nombre. Presta juramento, sella el pacto. Sangre de mi sangre, la justicia será tuya. Di mi nombre … di mi nombre …
What pact? Who are you? How will I know your name?
Di mi nombre!
“I’m sorry, but we need to talk about this. I’ll pack up and leave as soon as we get home. I’ll make sure you’re taken care of, Suze. You deserve that much.”
“I won’t say what you deserve, Brent! Maybe I’ll contest the divorce, refuse to go through with it? If I have to watch you slinking in and out of that hag’s house every day! You’re really going to humiliate me like this in front of our son, the neighbors, the entire fucking world?”
Sangre de mi sangre, nunca te dejaré. ¡Haz el pacto, di mi nombre!
Brent pressed down on the gas, a five mph increase each time my voice raised in pitch, until I was literally shrieking like a banshee. Like every mind-numbingly boring, over-the-hill broad whose husband trades her in for a SNO (Shiny New Object). My mother berating my own father every night, wearing him down until he did the ol’ Texas two-step right out the door and into a SNO-family…Jesus Christ! Have I turned into my fucking mother? Blood of my blood…maybe I need some new blood…
No sooner did that horrifying thought enter my brain before Brent plucked my anxiety out of thin air, reading my mind just as a husband of over three decades was expected to do. Damn him.
“Congratulations, Suzy-Q. I didn’t think it was possible, but you’ve actually managed to out-bitch Belinda. Like battery acid, the both of you, in the genes…”
Sella el pacto, di mi nombre. ¡Di mi nombre!
Brent sped around a hairpin turn doing seventy, causing us to nearly careen off the road. The migraine bored into my overwhelmed brain like a red-hot poker. I was literally seeing red.
“Now listen, you rotten sonofabitch…” Pact? Any pact to rid myself of your cheating ass would be well worth it….
The “Tequila” horn blasted behind us at an ear-splitting volume.
“Goddamnit! What the hell is this guy’s problem?” Brent screamed in a rage, nearly jumping out of his seat. The orange truck seemed literally fused to our back bumper. Enough so that even a cursory look through the side mirror revealed the driver had several deep pock marks on his feral face with a long, pointy goatee and one enormous gold tooth, right in the front. Greasy dark hair swayed down well below his shoulders from underneath the garish purple hat.
I began to laugh hysterically, visions of Pee Wee Herman wearing a hat from the Red Hat Society dancing in front of me. Bright purple with an ugly red ribbon tied around the middle. Belinda had one just like it for her monthly Red Hat meetings, sneaking in a silver flask of bourbon to liven up her tea and tiny cucumber finger sandwiches. The Pact of the Red Hats! Blood of my blood, where do I fucking sign?
“Cut it out, Suze! This isn’t funny!”
Brent swayed into the other lane, fishtailing the Subaru back and forth in a ridiculous attempt to shake him off. The driver of the truck matched him move for move in a pointless, nauseating game of idiot-chicken. We began to climb the pass, the elevation quickly rising, causing my ears to painfully ring and pop.
Di mi nombre, es todo lo que tienes que hacer. Nunca volverás a estar solo …
The Subaru began to sputter in protest, Brent’s feeble attempts to gun it failing as the truck continued to honk away behind us. Tequila! A momentary lapse in the climb gave the old Sube a merciful second of renewal. We lurched forward into the opposite lane just as an eighteen wheeler came roaring at us, head on. Brent screamed, I screamed, we all screamed for ice cream! The semi was going down the mountain, had no way to stop but even then, my faithless husband refused to budge.
I could see the strange man in the rearview, his face a rictus of excitement. Di mi nombre…a whispered thought played through my mind over and over…say my name, say my name, say my name. Blood of my blood, seal the pact…The orange truck sped up, moving into the spot right next to us, blocking our path to safety from the oncoming semi on the two lane mountain pass. Brent had only one choice at that point, if he would only take it.
“Brent. Brent honey, slow down, just get back in the other lane. Let him go ahead of us. It’s OK. Brent, I’m sorry, honey. Brent, let him go. BRENT!”
Brent slammed on the brakes hard enough to leave a mark, smoke actually rising up from the tires. We had just enough time to veer back into the right lane as the mystery truck sped past with one final, out of tune “Tequila” riff. The semi roared harmlessly down the hill where mere seconds ago, our car had been. The voice got louder, more urgent with every passing second.
Di mi nombre!! Dilo ahora, antes de que sea demasiado tarde …
My husband was in complete shock and honestly, who could blame him? The orange truck and its driver had seemingly disappeared into thin air. Brent’s hands visibly shook as we turned the corner, his voice suddenly childlike and afraid.
“I made a mistake, Suzy-Q. This is all my fault.”
Di mi nombre, él es el que te causa tanto dolor. Escapar de todo. Di mi nombre…
Nearing the top of the pass, he gave the Sube a final tap on the gas. We sped up, the construction workers watching in alarm. Up this high, folks usually slowed down. Brent did the opposite, still reeling from our strange encounter. It was his turn to operate on full tilt, irony at its finest. Di mi nombre!!!
“Can you ever forgive me, Suzy-Q? Is there any way we could start again?”
“Let’s start by watching the road, Brent. Please slow down.”
My husband turned to me then, gently brushing away an errant lock of hair out of my face. We locked eyes right before the bright orange vest loomed before us, Brent fatally swerving to miss it. Or did he?
Pulled over onto the shoulder the strange, enticing man sat, his black eyes boring into me. Brent’s hand suddenly gripped mine, a final affirmation of some sort, as the Subaru nosedived over the side of the mountain. DI MI NOMBRE!!! screeched into my ears at an earsplitting volume. Brent screamed in a final death throe as I threw away his hand from mine and yelled and yelled until my lungs would burst. I think they actually did…
The truck smelled like sulphur and mints and was covered in ancient McDonald’s wrappers. The seat was well-worn and old, the slight bulge of an errat spring causing my only discomfort. When I opened my eyes, El Diablo was staring back at me, his pupils tinged with fiery red. He gave me a slow, smouldering grin, the gold tooth shining in the late afternoon sun. A demented Cheshire Cat, ol’ Scratch in the flesh.
Sangre de mi sangre, bienvenido. Tu eres mia.
I watched in slo-mo as my errant husband of thirty years went over the cliff. He went to his demise as I watched safely from a distance, impossibly, sitting in the orange truck. I tried to muster up some emotion for the man who was such a huge part of my life but quite honestly, the only thing I felt was relief. Relief that he would no longer be leaving me for the neighborhood slut.
“Di el nombre?” my new friend asked in a low, conspiratorial tone.
“Evelyn ‘Fucking’ Howard.”
El Diablo started the truck, giving my knee a small squeeze as we headed down the highway. His touch singed me a little, a burning sensation I knew I’d be getting very used to from now on. I also knew if we drove through the night we would just make it there in time. Evelyn was probably home right now, sitting there like a spider, waiting for Brent to walk through the door. Oh, won’t she be happy to see us! I can hardly wait.
I gave a final backwards glance to my old life, watching the panicked workers rush over to the edge in search of the doomed Subaru and my dead husband, for I had no doubt Brent was well and truly dead. El Diablo was a master at this sort of thing.
Di mi nombre, El Diablo…
Suzy-Q, mi amor…
He cranked the radio as the first few notes of our song blared out. Tequila! I felt a sudden wave of euphoria wash over me. I was finally free. El Diablo put on a pair of neon orange sunglasses and shifted the truck into gear, his laughter low and seductive. I knew the price would be very steep. It would be an eternity of descent after all, a long, long way down. But what a ride it would be!
Feeling happier than I’d been in a very, very long time, we set off to pay a call to my husband’s mistress, the catchy song playing over and over on a continuous loop.
I would be a scorned wife no more.
English: CZmarlin — Christopher Ziemnowicz, Wikipedia. [Public domain]