Delia Done Wrong

Brian Ellis

Brian Ellis

1

Delia and I have been together for God-knows-how-long, and what I want, more than anything, is to cheat on her. I figure, to have just one more good year (all the others seem far behind) to sleep with as many women as possible (before forever settling into domestic docility) has, well—it’s been a long time coming.

In fact, I often dream of my impending infidelity. Riddled in guilt and sour longing, I awake wanting to never sleep again. Yet at the same time, I embrace these visions.

I am a man obsessed, and it’s exciting.

 

2

At the airport Delia says, “Don’t forget to call the guy about the air conditioner. I taped a note to the fridge reminding you. I don’t want to come home to a muggy house.”

I say, “We’ll see.” I grin.

She hates “We’ll see.” Always has.

I tell her, “Of course, honey. First thing in the morning.”

“And don’t leave Freckles inside when you’re not home,” she says. “He’ll crap and piss on everything. Understand?”

I nod, tell Delia I love her, kiss her goodbye, and then pat her on the ass, which is a nice one. I figure, if we don’t work out, Delia’s ass will be something I’ll miss most.

This time she’s flying to Utah or Maryland or New Hampshire, for a wedding or a reunion or a baby-bridal-something-or-other, something to keep her occupied for at least a few weeks. I, of course, declined my invitation (or was I not invited?), stating I had too much work to do, which is a likely excuse. In actuality, I have nothing to do but be pitiful, to fulfill, or at least contemplate, the pact I’ve made with myself.

Delia is away often, so in the past I’ve had many opportunities to cheat. Only I could never do it; second guessing myself, I’d falter under pressure: I was too drunk the one time, not drunk enough the other time, or the mood wasn’t right and there were just too many people around. And each failure left both sadness and relief. There was conflict. I was conflicted.

Next time, I thought. Next time, for sure.

 

3

A week into Delia’s trip the dog is out of food, the house smells, the air conditioner remains busted, and (most importantly) I have yet to cheat.

Still, I am optimistic.

So I phone Wally, one of the remaining single friends I have.

I wait. I let it ring. It’s taken several days of courage-building for me to make this call.

He finally answers.

“We’ll go out tomorrow,” he says. “Hit the bar. I know of a party.”

Wally always knows of a party. That’s what he’s good for. That’s why I keep him around.

 

4

Everyone is naked, it’s one of those shindigs, and it doesn’t take long for Wally and me to follow suit. I believe whiskey and pills are involved. There are women, too. I keep eyeballing them. Wally turns to me and says, “Don’t get any ideas, bro,” but I already have several. They are all bad.

A girl asks if she can hold it. I let her, and nearly have a seizure I’m so nervous. “Wow,” she says, “I’ve never seen an uncircumcised cock before. It’s like an overgrown Tootsie Roll.” Then she asks if she can taste it, so I nod, and she does.

I feel outside myself, as though I am voyeur to my own life. I make my own rules. I levitate. I’ve needed this.

Wally walks by, sees what’s happening, and then tackles me out of this poor girl’s mouth. He has me pinned to the floor, and he’s shouting, “You’re ruining your life, bro!” I feel his cold balls brush against my saliva-coated tootsie, think about how strange this whole scenario is and puke.

The girl is named Paige, and I watch her long, thick legs (she has on high red heels) as they lead me to her car.

Prince comes shrieking through Paige’s car speakers, shaking things. She has taste. I take a cigarette I bummed off Wally from behind my ear and light it. I haven’t smoked in years. Paige rolls her window down and says, “You coming?” I think about my car, which is parked up the street, in front of a church. I figure I’ll let God sort it all out in the morning, and get in.

Paige, letting go the steering wheel, places my hand between her legs. She holds it there as the car sails over a curb. I am now thinking about death, about someone having to explain to Delia why my cold dead hand is clutching, in a post-mortem grip, this strange girl’s crotch.

 

5

The sun is up and I don’t recall having slept. Paige has got coffee going. She brings it to me in, for whatever reason, a wine glass. It’s hot, but I manage to get it all down while smoking a cigarette. Then I really feel like garbage.

Paige is a nice girl. She is young and carefree; we talk about many things. What we don’t talk about is Delia.

Paige pulls directly in front of the church, which I had hoped she wouldn’t. It’s Sunday, and I want the drop off to be as discreet as possible. I want discretion without actually asking for it. I don’t want her to think I’m embarrassed to be seen with her, which I am, though it’s more shame than anything else.

“Well… it was fun,” I say. “See you around?” It’s all I can muster. I kiss her cheek. I get out.

Paige chuckles, winks, and then revs her engine before speeding away. I wish she hadn’t, for I am now shuffling past frightened and confused churchgoers, looking for my car, looking like hell.

God has sorted nothing out.

 

6

I am scum. The guilt is suffocating. I can hardly breathe. I shower, dress, undress, shower, sit around, shower, dress, feed Freckles leftover KFC, and reread the note stuck to the fridge about the still-busted air conditioner, though I’ve memorized it by now.

I think about suicide.

I make excuses:

If it didn’t take so long to obtain a gun, I’d shoot myself; if I didn’t feel so bad about the house already in disarray, a bathtub and a razor blade would suffice; if it wasn’t so incriminatingly auto-erotic, a belt tied from the doorknob to my neck might work.

Sleeping pills: coward.

A plastic bag over the head: coward.

Leave town. Join a cult. Go Republican. Go Green.

I try convincing myself that maybe Delia is up to no good. Perhaps she’s taken a lover. Perhaps that’s why she’s always away. I’ve thought about it before.

For a moment, I feel better, less guilty. Then I get jealous and curse the possibility of Delia doing me wrong. Then I feel stupid about it. Then the guilt returns.

I shower.

 

7

I get shit about the condition the house is in. I’ve literally done everything I wasn’t supposed to. I tell Delia I’m sorry. The roses I bought her only soften things so much. She isn’t happy.

In bed, Delia says little about her trip, which gets me thinking.

“I missed you.”

I say, “I missed you, too,” which is true, despite…

“Still love me?”

“I do.”

I find it’s possible to still love and miss the person you’re betraying. There must be scientific proof somewhere. I’d bet on it.

“My parents want to have dinner with us. Tomorrow night.”

I decide, then, that I never want to see Delia’s parents ever again.

“We’ll see,” I tell her.

She hates “We’ll see.” Always will.

“Sleep?”

“Sounds good,” she says, and we kiss before I kill the lamp beside our bed.

Delia is breathing down my neck, whispering to me as I pretend to sleep. From under the covers I feel her hand groping for me but I can’t do anything about it. “My overgrown Tootsie Roll,” as Paige called it, goes into hiding. This of course frustrates Delia, who sighs while turning her back to mine. I know this frustration all too well, and it’s best, I find, to just wait it out, which I do, and soon she is snoring, the space between us so wide and impenetrable that I get lost in it. And so I sleep.

I sleep for real, this time.

2 Comments

  1. Spry reads blind, and Brian threw me for a loop–I read this piece never knowing it was his work until the soft launch of this issue–which to me, re-affirms my excellent taste in friends & peers, as well as in writing. I’ve had the pleasure of reading a lot of Brian’s work, and I have to say that one common thread that runs through his fiction is exactly the thing that attracted me to “Delia Done Wrong”–many of Brian’s narrators & main characters are morally grey (or straight-up dark)–often, they’re not entirely likeable people. But somehow, Brian manages to create a bond between those characters and the reader, which at times can be disconcerting to the reader, because, hey, this character is a jerk, I’m not “supposed” to like him! And that’s the trick of Brian’s writing–he finds the core part of even the most distasteful character and shows you the part of that character that’s just like you the reader are–or could have been–if your road had been just a little bit different. He shows you the sympathetic in his dislikable characters, reveals a bit of tender flesh beneath the hard facade of his anti-heroes, and shows you that underneath all the ugly bits, bleeding wounds and broken glass, that everyone’s got something salvageable inside. As a reader, I find myself hoping that at least a few of his characters–including Delia’s boyfriend– figure out how to find it. “We’ll see,” I can hear him smirk. Yeah. Delia’s right to hate that.

  2. Couldn’t have said it better myself 😉 Thanks so much for the kind words and for liking my stuff. It takes an open mind to appreciate a character as flawed as that guy.

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