THE WAY TO EASY ISN’T
By Travis M. Kiger
The Huey P. Long Bridge. Two lanes on each side of a railway that you could reach out and touch from the backseat wind blasted window if you were driving on the inside lane. For eight-year-old eyes it was a concrete rainbow over the roaring Mississippi. I would scare the hell out of my sister, her face mashed in fear against the panel window of my mom’s ‘88 Astro Van. If our father hits a rock the wrong way we’re headed down, into a whirlpool of mud water that churns laboriously across the river.
I would scare the hell outta myself, imagining the dirty blue van going over the railing, my stomach in my throat before slamming into the water. If I escape the whirlpool claws who would I save first? Would I swim like hell to one of the creaking steal buoys or be rolled by a ferry, suffocated in the big dirty.
Often I’d hold my breath, avoiding thin air to preserve my lungs. Thin air that made my ears pop with a pinch of pressure, made everything sound fuzzy. Sometimes I’d be lucky enough to see a train barreling down the center of the bridge and get a sense of adventure, ready to climb high with the counting of the cars. Others I’d get swallowed by anxiety, desperate and fearful.
This is how we got to New Orleans. On that fuck of a bridge.
She bridged across the couch, a cat between uneven surfaces. Her breath hot and sticky. It clung to my neck like grassburs tracing their way into my ears and mouth. She led me to the bedroom but all I could think of was my dad and seven times on the beach. His sandwich bag story. How he got married the first time for a pair of titties. How his father died a half hour after getting a piece. How he was hard on da women when he was puckin’ dis girl. How be put a shot in da’ peter to keep on fuckin’. How I felt incredibly shy and inadequate.
I wish I could tell you that it went perfectly. That I laid wood on those women like the roided porn penises I’d seen in flicks with 3some in the title. But too much tequila, the fruit of agave sent fuck it to my body, my head too nervous with fucking it up. The man who drank the most tequila that night did not finish the race. I’d never worked so hard in my life and every awkward motion reminded me to spend more time at the gym. That is what I remember. I cannot remember their names. And I did not feel like the Cajun Stinger. I did not feel like the great Louisiana lovers that I’d thought my father and his father to be.
I told my father about the women. He asked me for more details than I thought he would. I told him I felt bad. He didn’t understand. He still doesn’t understand. He still says, “You lucky motherfucka’. I never did that.”
This was the end of Icarus. I’d flown too close.
Lisa danced close to me. She spoke almost no English, only ello and dance with me and it’s ok, I will lead. Coincidently, those were the exact phrases I needed to hear. Her arms were strong. I could not tell if she was moving the dress she was wearing or if the dress was doing the dancing. Within the first front step – pause and wiggle, back step, pause and wiggle – I realized in all of my preparation I was not preparing myself as hunter. I was preparing myself to be hunted. She tried, but she was not Louisiana. She was not even earthly. Brown skin sweaty under the lights and bump: You will want me. You will do exactly as I say. I will have you. She spun me. I spun her. Or she spun herself. Front step – pause and wiggle, back step, pause and wiggle, spinning again. I or both. Front step – what a great ass.
Her ex-boyfriend. Flowers. He was distraught. She pouted. “Lo siento, Travis.” She knew I understood. Her lips pressed hard, saying This isn’t over. I like you very much. She looked to her ex and kissed me again. Harder. Fuck my ex for ruining our fun.
Travis Kiger was born in Thibodaux, LA, and grew up in a lot of places. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Cleaver Magazine, Bull Men’s Fiction, Bridge Eight, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The Good Men Project, Hobart, and elsewhere. When he is not talking about books and writing at Keiser University, he is teaching his son to hold the bat with two hands.