My husband owed Codpod a solid. Or at least they both agreed he did. Joe roared off right after dinner. I stood in the doorway, watching him take the corner.
I’ve never met Codpod. But yesterday we received a wedding gift, delivered by a friend of Cod’s. wearing white shorts and a spangly halter top. Fusilli curls. Inside a cardboard box was a cat, a Russian Blue. “I can’t stay,” she said, flashing a smile and looking at Joe. Her accent was also Russian. She wore braces on her teeth. As she dipped down into the driver side seat, I beheld the roundest rear end I’d ever seen.
“See that?” Joe asked me without moving his lips after he’d helped her close the car door. I thought he was about to say more, but he stopped. They had shared a few words. She’d passed Joe a piece of paper. A wedding wish, probably.
He squeezed my shoulder, watching the girl pull away. There we stood with our box of cat. We hustled her inside and named her Loli.
I thought it would be wonderful to have a little friend. Joe was gone so much. But Loli just hunkered behind our cinderblock-and-board bookshelves. Still, in the morning, her bowls were clean. I spent much of the day on my belly, watching her.
“This is trauma,” Joe explained, hunkered down beside me. His brows, lowered in the way they always did when he was teaching me something. “This is what a traumatized cat looks like, Letty.”
Joe and Codpod met as teens in Fernley, Nevada. A blistering summer day on the cul-du-sac where their families were next door neighbors. It seems Joe had stuck his dad’s .22 out a second-floor window and was waving it around. Codpod carried on watering down his driveway, right outside Cod’s window. Everyone else scrambled inside.
Something in Cod’s casual stance had struck Joe. Soothed him. He’d come down without the gun and talked quietly with Codpod until the sheriffs came. So Cod had saved Joe’s life, probably. And I get it about Joe’s allure. You might say I am studying him to become more nonplussed. But so far, it isn’t working.
It was warm. Our front window was open to catch the breeze. It was four hours from Oakland to Reno. Codpod’s place in Fernley was 50 miles beyond that. But now it was two a.m. and no call had come. A pit inside me stretched, widened in terrible vastness. That old familiar feeling.
Our upstairs neighbors began having sex. They were a young couple, my age. The guy stayed home all day blasting rap music. His girlfriend was a plump Latina who left every morning in pumps and a skirt. Her fake sex cries were a running joke between Joe and me. But at least they had sex, I thought now, tears stinging my eyes.
Loli’s bowls were full. She wasn’t behind the bookshelves or in the bathroom, where the litter box was. Joe should have called by now. And now Loli was gone. My pulse banged. I took a shaky breath and phoned Codpod.
“Hey Letty,” he said as though we spoke at two every morning. No, Joe hadn’t shown up. Maybe he had stopped in Reno for a few hands, or a slice of pie.
Joe never would have stopped in Reno. He’d run into some trouble there, before we met. He’d said I was better off not knowing. Maybe he will tell me, now that we are married. A wife can’t be forced to testify against her husband. I asked Codpod to have Joe call me when he got in. Or if, you know, he heard anything.
“And vicey versey,” he returned, and we said our good nights. I didn’t even know his real name. I cradled the unused litter box, feeling like I stood at the edge of one of those yawning sinkholes you hear about in the Alabama or South America.
I was completely alone in our apartment, with mold fuzzily framing the windows. My new husband, vanished in the Nevada desert. And my beautiful kitty had taken a powder the minute she had the chance. I dropped to my knees. “I can’t do it,” I whimpered.
As if in answer, the woman upstairs wailed. This was the kind of sex Joe and I could start having, if only he was all right. I dipped my fingers into the waistband of my underpants.
The phone jangled. It was Joe. Talking fast. It seemed he’d had second thoughts about that favor he owed Codpod. True, Codpod had something big on him, he explained. But he’d rather call Cod’s bluff than continue his association with that bad apple.
Then: After all, he had me to consider now. 100%.
That’s what he said: Continue his Association. He Had Me.
Adoration flooded my chest. Ok! Ok! I yelled. He wanted to bring me a pair of nice cowboy boots, he hollered back. Because he was mine and I was his!
I couldn’t wait to see Joe again. I didn’t care what had happened or what Codpod had on him. Whether he’d start allowing me to leave our apartment. And that was when I did it. Used my fingers to get myself excited. I didn’t stop until a syrupy fire began within me. I buried my-cry in the couch cushion. I wanted to save my wails for Joe.
He would help me find this wild kitty of ours. We would raise and tame her, spending peaceful evenings together at home.
I rearranged my clothing. My flyer was a picture of Loli and the word: HELP. I’d forgotten to include our telephone number. Joe was in it; he was holding her. His eyes held a challenge. Answering that challenge was the key to a wonderful future. And now it seemed I’d solved it, just by waiting long enough. I believed it, 100%.