What the Fireworks Are For

1. We’d been married for a year when I ran away. Alabama allowed me the nearest ocean, but I wanted Florida. Eleven hours in the car, alone.

2. When Dominic asked me to marry him, I said I wanted to be the one who asked. I put that wooden ring on his finger and of course it would only fit his pinky. Yes. He rolled his own cigarette, he kissed my knees. In December, Dominic threw out our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Idiot. He claimed it was because it was too sad, seeing Christmas trees after Christmas. I made him bring it back inside and he went out for Febreze or some sort of spray and he sprayed it too much but it needed something because it’d been out with the garbage for a couple of hours. I went to bed mad. I woke up mad.

3. Dom got high with my brother in my parents’ garage. My brother was nineteen. Dom was thirty-five. Dom said that didn’t matter but I thought it did. My parents were on an Alaskan Cruise. Weed smells really good though and that reminded me so I used one of my gift cards to buy cannabis perfume. “Why? You could just smoke it instead,” Dom said, turning the little bottle over in his hand. I snatched it back. “Stop policing me,” I said.

4. “Stop policing me,” I said, later that night about something else. “You keep saying that. What does that even mean?” And God heard my eyes roll.

5. Panama City. Cori flew down from Nashville to meet me there. “I need my best friend right now,” I said to her without crying. She was crying as she unpacked her stuff. “Fuck men,” she said, slipping a tank top strip of black lace through her fingers. Slip, slip. We left the balcony door open, the TV turned up; the meteorologists on The Weather Channel were talking to us while we did each other’s eye makeup.

6. Fireworks.

7. We sat on the balcony and shared a bottle of red wine; cool ocean mist-spit on our cheeks. No crying, just cigarettes. We walked half-drunk to the bar downstairs. Dominic called but I didn’t answer. I sent him a picture of the pack of cigarettes on the wooden table and the palm of my hand turned upwards like I was waiting for something. Or like I was dying. Or like I was dead.

7. Fireworks.

8. Dominic called again but I didn’t answer. This time he left a message. Tell me where you are. I have no idea. Tell me if you’re okay or if I fucking . . . fucking . . . need to get like Red Alert because you’re not. And I do love you, Violet. Damn, girl. I texted him back. You got my picture. I’m okay. I’ll call you later. Cori and I are at the ocean. You know how much I love the ocean. He wrote me back. Of course I know how much you love the ocean.

9. I didn’t see his text until right before we went to sleep. I didn’t see it because two guys came up to Cori and me and asked if they could buy us drinks and we said no then we said yes. I got a bourbon with ice. Some cherries. “I’m from Kentucky,” I said after he asked. His name was Roscoe and I pointed to my ring finger and winked at him. He winked back.

10. I let him kiss me because fireworks.

11. “I’m married,” I said. “I’m sorry,” he said. He held my hand for a long time, wouldn’t let it go. The guy kissing Cori, I couldn’t remember his name.

12. Cori and I locked them out and got in the same bed and I checked my phone again. I kept blinking because I was too drunk and couldn’t read it right.

13. Four in the morning I called Dom back. Opened the glass door, kiss-swish, and I went out on the balcony. Sat down and pressed my feet against the cool railing. Smoked and stared out at the rushing black of the night ocean. “I kissed someone tonight,” I said. “Who? Who was it?” His voice was small and it got smaller and deeper like a hole I was falling into when he opened his mouth. “A guy named Roscoe.” “Can I come down there and get you, please?” “I haven’t been here that long. Were you sleeping?” “No.”

14. “There were fireworks.” “What for?” “I don’t know. Maybe someone won something.”

15. I made Dominic promise not to kiss me on our first date. I liked him too much. “I feel like I’m too attracted to guys who look stoned even when they’re not.” “I’m not stoned.” “I know.”

16. “Are you stoned?” “No, Violet. No.”

17. The time I was cleaning my apartment. I picked up one of his shirts with my toes and put it in the hamper. “I found an envelope full of random pictures of some Asian family. Someone had left them on the top of my car. I don’t know who,” he said. “You have questionable origins yourself, Dom,” I said, “I don’t know who left you here either.”

18. That night before he asked me to marry him, we were at Jenky’s with its billion flashing flat screens and balloons. The waitress came over and cleaned up the pitcher of beer his mom had spilled because she was wildly fanning her cigarette smoke.

19. “I don’t think you can smoke in here,” I said. I took a sip of Dom’s Cherry Coke. Dom was adopted and had an awful relationship with his parents which made me sadder, in a way—because they hadn’t become parents on accident. They’d chosen him. My parents didn’t choose me but at least they were happy with what they got.

20. On our second date I let him touch me everywhere. Didn’t stop him at all. Not once. And I said his name with that heat, burning in my throat. Puffs of smoke pouring out. Dominic. Come here.

21. Out there on the balcony, I put out my cigarette and put my hand between my legs and let him hear me breathing harder and he was breathing harder too. When I was finished, he told me he needed me. I told him yes he needed me, but what I needed at the moment was his mouth. Told him I missed fucking him because I did. And I didn’t want to be with anyone else like that. It was just a kiss. “And now I can cross ‘Kiss a Guy Named Roscoe’ off of my list.” I promised Dom I’d call him back the next day or the next.

22. Dominic was obsessed with my vagina. He wanted to look at it all of the time and tell me how beautiful it was how good it tasted how much he loved how it smelled. Okay I missed him. Okay so I missed that too.

23. Cori rolled over onto her stomach and unhooked the back of her bikini top. “You still don’t want to tell me what he did? Why you left?” Her eyes were closed. I sat up on my elbows. “He didn’t do anything.” I shielded my eyes from the sun. I watched two cinnamon-brown children load blue buckets with wet sand and carry them back to their parents who were reading and letting their feet touch. When they went back for a refill, I took a picture of them with my phone and sent it to Dom.

24. I know how much you love the ocean he wrote back. I didn’t respond. Two minutes later he wrote me again. I would’ve taken you.

25. The Who. Tom Petty. James Brown. More fireworks; hot-white, electric-blue, heartbeat-red—strings popping and stretching across the sky. Led Zeppelin’s “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp.” “Every Led Zeppelin song makes me want to take my panties off,” I said to Cori. I leaned over. Said it close to her ear. “That’s the point,” she said back to me and kissed my cheek. Roscoe and his friend came up to us when we were clapping to the song. All I’d had to drink was that big bottle of Fiji water. “Still married?” Roscoe smiled at me and asked if he could sit down. “Yes. To both,” I said, those same fireworks in my arms now. My feet, my knees and wiggling around in the back of my head. He put his arm around the back of my chair. “Fuck, you smell good,” he said. And I took another sip of my water like such a good girl. I sat there and watched the fireworks and drank my clean, married, good-girl-water.

26. One bourbon. Rush. The Allman Brothers Band. Styx. More water. The Black Keys. Salt-N-Pepa. Montell Jordan. Two cigarettes. Slick Rick. Kings of Leon. Brad Paisley. I knew all of the words to all of them. Still wasn’t drunk. Still didn’t check my phone.

27. This time when Roscoe tried to kiss me I told him no. Cori and his friend were inside in the corner booth, sitting too close, ordering too much food for all of us. I didn’t want to go inside until the fireworks show was over. “I’m on the lam. I have a good husband who’s good to me and I’m good to him some of the time but I ran away a couple of days ago,” I confessed. Roscoe’s water-green eyes looked back at me when he asked me what my husband did to make me run away. “He didn’t do anything,” I said, “but I can’t kiss you again. Sorry I did that. I don’t even know where you’re from.” “California. I’m from California.” “Of course you are,” I said. I touched his arm.

28. “I don’t know anything. I don’t know why I had to come down here, I don’t know what the fireworks are for,” I said, shaking my head. My glass was empty. My bottle of water was empty. Roscoe folded his hands in his lap and looked up at the sky; gray clouds of smoke lifting and disappearing against the humid black. “Someone won something,” he said.

29. I cried a little when I said goodbye to Cori. She was my favorite best friend and never asked too many questions. On my way back home, I sent Dom pictures of the weirdest stuff I found at the little gas stations and I stopped at McDonald’s a lot to pee. I sent Dom pictures of the candy I bought and the as-big-as-your-head coffees. He sent me the same text over and over again. I miss you. I got a huge bag of Skittles and spelled out MAMA I’M COMING HOME on the hood of the car and sent him a picture of that too.

30. And I ate those good-girl-Skittles one by one by one as I drove away from the ocean. I searched the radio for songs about how it ached in the same place whether you were leaving or heading home. How sometimes your body couldn’t tell the difference between not loving someone enough or loving someone too much.  

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