Come Alive

Page 12

“You ass,” I said. “Where are you sitting?”

He smiled. “I took one for the team. Middle seat. Between you guys.”

Right. If he really took one for the team he would jump out of the airplane.

“How considerate,” Perry said, her eyes full of disdain. She glanced at me and sighed. “Okay, well let’s get through security then so we don’t have to worry.”

I’ve been in a lot of awkward moments in my life, and most of the time, I actually enjoy them. I don’t know if it means I’m a sociopath or what, but I just don’t feel awkward or self-conscious when I know I should. But lately, I’d been feeling that tinge of heavy air, things unsaid, especially around Perry. Being with Maximus and her was no exception. With him there, I felt like a spotlight was being shined on every single move, every shot I did at the bar pre-flight (whatever, there’s no judgement in alcohol after 11AM), or magazine I rifled through at the gift shop, every glance Perry and I shared. Suddenly everything was everyone’s business and I didn’t even know what the goddamn business was.

The flight was much, much worse. I had strategically planned to get to the seats before Maximus, so that at least I could get the middle and sit beside Perry, but the cockblocker was quicker and pushed past us when it was time to board. Apparently he was a “gold club member” and we weren’t. By the time we got to our seats, he was already in his, looking up at us smugly.

“Do you mind at least moving so I can get to my seat?” Perry asked after shoving her carry-on in the overhead compartment.

“You can squeeze through,” he said, wagging his brows and insinuating that her ass was going to be pressed against his freckled knees.

“Ugh,” she said in frustration, and squeezed past him. I kept my eyes on him, daring him to try anything, just try. I didn’t care if it got me kicked off the plane; I would make a scene.

To his credit he stared right back at me, even moving back in the seat to let her go through.

“Now you,” I said to him, tapping the aisle seat, “you sit here and let me sit next to Perry.”

He shook his head in amusement. “This is my seat.”

“Yeah, yeah, took one for the team. But I would like the middle seat, so get out.” I motioned for him to get out quick.

“Dex, just sit down,” he said, nodding at the rest of the plane. “People here need to get to their seats, buddy.”

It was true, I was preventing a whole line of people from moving down the aisle, and hell hath no fury like people once they are on an airplane. It’s like the minute everyone’s in this giant Tylenol-shaped contraption, their patience threshold changes dramatically. The baby boomer woman closest to me was turning red, a vein popping out on her harried face.

“Fine, you leave me no choice,” I said to no one in particular. I moved into the aisle seat and kept going. I plunked myself down right on the giant ginger’s lap.

“The hell are you doing?” he yelled, trying to get me off of him, but I just pressed myself down into him harder, one leg wedged against the seat in front of me, the other pushing off the aisle seat arm rest.

The passengers in the aisle shot us uncomfortable looks, as if Maximus and I were involved in some lazy, clothed version of the mile high club.

“Dex, get the hell off me,” Maximus grunted in my ear.

“Oh yeah, you like that don’t you, baby,” I said with a grin. I knew his Southern sensibilities were being tested; poor guy couldn’t handle anything even remotely homoerotic.

“Is there a problem here?” A flight attendant suddenly appeared. She could barely hide the disgust on her face; I’m not sure if it was because I was acting like a child or that we were getting loosey goosey. Either way, her bun was tied way too tight, pulling back every feature on her face.

“No, we’re good,” I said at the same time Maximus said, “Obviously there is a problem.”

“Sir,” she said, glaring at me. Boy, how the friendly skies had changed. “Can I see your ticket?”

I handed her my ticket, and she pursed her lips while reading it over. “Mr. Foray, your seat is the aisle seat not the middle. Now if you don’t get off this man’s lap, I’m going to have you removed from the plane.”

“Dex, just sit in your seat,” Perry said beside me. I glanced at her. She was pressed up against the window and looking at us with a mix of revulsion and embarrassment.

“Fine,” I said, and quickly climbed off of him, settling down in my seat and fastening the belt. “Just trying to take one for the team.”

The stewardess watched me for a few beats, giving me one last evil eye, before she moved down the aisle.

“Dex, you are something else,” Maximus said to me, looking a bit shaken. Perfect.

“Once you have a Dex in your lap, you can’t go back,” I said. I looked over at Perry. “Ain’t that right, kiddo?”

“No comment,” she said, and pulled out the in-flight magazine. Yup. Fun trip ahead of us.

After that risqué start, the rest of the flight was fairly uneventful. I started calling Maximus “Vegetable Lasagna”, a Seinfeld reference that was obviously over his head, and did my best to talk to Perry when I could. Too bad the oaf didn’t leave his seat once, not even to go to the bathroom. The rest of the time I just sat back and listened to the new Slayer album, feeling more connected to Perry by listening to her favorite music.

My luck changed once we switched planes in Houston. Maximus was sitting further up on that plane, while Perry and I got two seats together at the back. The flight was quick, too quick to convince Perry to join the mile-high club with me in the bathroom, but long enough to drink a few Bloody Marys in preparation for the Big Easy. Again, I was getting a bit excited at the idea of going to New Orleans and started wishing that it was just Perry and I there, taking the sights in as tourists. Man, what I’d give to go on an actual vacation with the woman. No ghosts, no work—just us, booze, and sex.

“How you doing?” I asked her as the plane began its descent. It was already dark outside, the city a mystery beneath us. I wasn’t a nervous flier but I guess she was because she grabbed on to my hand and squeezed it hard. I squeezed it right back.

“I’m okay,” she said. “Kind of excited.”

“Me too.”


“Fear of flying?”

“Yeah, I mean I’m okay, it’s just not my favorite thing in the world. But I’m also nervous about the next few days…or week…or however long we’ll be here.”

I peered at her closely. “Bad feeling?”

She managed a smile. “Well, I never have good feelings before we do a show. I don’t know, I guess I just don’t like how Maximus is involved. I don’t trust him.”

“That makes me ridiculously happy to hear you say that.”

“You don’t trust him either, I know that much.”

I laughed dryly. “I’ve never trusted him. But I gotta tell ya, I was worried about you.”

She gave me an odd look as the plane rumbled, landing gear coming down. “Worried how?”

I chewed on my lip, knowing I’d gone too far to hold anything back but the truth. I turned my attention to the runway lights outside the window.

“I know what’s done is done but the fact that you and Maximus…that he…”

“You know I wasn’t even myself when that happened.”

Right. She’d said that several times, but that didn’t stop it from hurting; it didn’t erase that it happened.

“Anyway, I guess I worry that you might still have feelings for him.” There. I said it.

She squeezed my hand again, and this time I couldn’t tell if she was trying to assure me or herself as the plane made contact with the ground, bouncing us along before the brakes were applied with urgency.

“Dex, I don’t have feelings for the man. Especially not after what he did to me. He turned on me when I needed him the most and I’m not going to forget that.”

“He has his excuses though, about why he did what he did,” I pointed out, playing devil’s advocate for some reason.

“I still don’t know what they are. He said he was trying to help me in the end, but he nearly got me carted off to the hospital. It was because of him that the whole mental thing started with my parents, that was what put the idea in their heads.”

I wasn’t too sure about that part. As much as I hated Maximus and loved to blame him for everything, I knew Perry’s parents were against her from the moment I first met them. I didn’t mean that they wished her harm, that they didn’t love her. But they didn’t understand her and they were afraid of her and that made them dangerous.

“So you think he’s going to do something like that again? Because baby, you know I am not going to let a single thing happen to you. I’m going to be with you, be in you, as much as I can.”

We deplaned fairly quickly and met Maximus out at the gate. I looked around the airport, a lot smaller than I thought it would be, with all of the stores closed. When we stepped outside to line up for a cab, I was met with the unmistakable smell of swamp—musty, damp, and earthy.

Maximus smiled to himself. “My Lord, is it good to be back home.” He breathed in deeply and for a moment I was almost happy for him. Almost. I wasn’t. It just reminded me again that we were on his home turf and he was the one calling the shots. But I refused to let his love for his state cloud my own opinion of it.

We got in the cab and had one hell of a chatty driver who talked to Maximus like they were old buddies. The Senegalese cabbie moved to the city just after Katrina blew through, attracted by the cheap housing and the underdog spirit of the rebuilt city. Maximus hadn’t been back in the city since right before Katrina hit. Apparently after we cut ties in college, he had come to NOLA and lived there for three years, just working at a bar. That’s what he’d told the cabbie, anyway.

The cabbie dropped us off on a narrow, bumpy street in the French Quarter, telling Maximus that some districts had gotten worse post-Katrina and warned us to stay out of them like our lives depended on it. He said he wouldn’t even drive through certain areas, no matter how much the fare was.

We thanked him for his warning, pulled our bags out of the cab, and looked up at our accommodations. Perry and I had been flying blind so far but Maximus did alright in this department. We were staying in an old three-story house with a wide front porch, gas lamps and wrought iron balconies. It looked straight out of a plantation or perhaps just straight out of the French Quarter itself. That was the thing I’d instantly discovered about the city—it looked exactly as you’d imagined it. I looked behind me at the flickering lanterns that lined the street, the brightly painted houses beside quaint bars where I was immediately tempted to drink my face off, the hidden courtyards; it was like stepping into a movie.

“I feel like I’m in Disneyland,” Perry said, looking up at the house with a big kid smile on her face.

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