Read Eleven Online

Authors: Karen Rodgers

Tags: #fiction, #romance, #erotic, #love, #texas, #dating

Eleven

Chapter 1

Intersection

In each of us dual universes exist: the
lives we create that become our reality and the parallel lives our
minds imagine could have been. On rare, precious moments—those
universes intersect and it changes the course of our lives
forever.

My intersection occurred in the autumn
of my thirty-fourth year. I was not where I wanted to be in life. I
had been divorced, with no children, for three and a half years. I
lived in a shabby rental house in a not-so-good part of town; smack
dab in the middle of a city in West Texas. My nine to ten hour
weekdays were spent under the employment of a vile, arrogant boss
who had absolutely no respect for women, or much of anything for
that matter. In addition to my already hectic work schedule, I ran
a transcription service out of my house and pedaled Mary Kay
Cosmetics in order to keep my head above the water from the
lingering debts my ex-husband had accrued. I was paying for his
imported beer, two twelve dollar cigar a day habit, and
international skiing excursions of which I had not been in
attendance.

I lived paycheck to paycheck. The debts
were slowly, but surely, being whittled away. Paying them off was a
hard pill to swallow, especially since I had absolutely nothing to
show for my efforts.

I learned the definition of community
property the hard way. Paying for someone else’s luxuries when you
live in near-poverty is a daunting, character building experience.
In spite of what I had been through, doing the right thing became
important to me. I had to hold on to what I valued most: the things
at the center of my core that distinguished me from the people who
had wronged me. If I lost that part of myself, I would lose
everything.

It became a daily struggle in
determination; to not just physically survive, but to emotionally
survive. The excruciating part was the fact that it lasted for so
long.

There were several times the thought
would run through my head, “How did I get here?” Knowing the answer
to that question didn’t make it any easier to bear the reality of
the situation. I had arrived at this destination as a consequence
of all the lousy decisions I had made so far. It was going to take
a lot of good decisions to counteract the damage I had inflicted
upon my own existence.

Chapter 2

The Little
Cottage

I referred to my residence as the
little cottage. That sounded much better than a hole-in-the-wall
dive. The house was very basic; a kitchen, a living room, two tiny
bedrooms, and a bathroom that was big enough for only one person to
stand in at a time.

I could afford to live there. The rent
was low, the utilities were reasonable, and the landlord cared
enough to keep the house in livable condition. After all, the house
had belonged to my landlord’s parents. This place had been his
childhood home. It meant a lot to him to have someone dependable
living in the house. I did my best to honor the sentiment the
little cottage held for him. Obviously, there had been many
wonderful memories made inside the walls of this little abode—there
would be more to come.

I enjoyed very few modern amenities.
There was no dishwasher, no central heat or air conditioning, no
walk-in closets. The washer hook-up was in the kitchen. The dryer
was in the guest bedroom. Numerous times, I trudged from the
kitchen to bedroom lugging a hamper full of heavy, wet clothes. The
dryer did seem quite convenient when one considered the only other
available option was using the clothesline in the back
yard.

There was a large farmer’s sink in the
kitchen. I used a dishpan to make the washing & rinsing of
dishes a bit easier. The kitchen had a 1940’s Roper gas oven into
which a Pyrex casserole dish would hardly fit. The house still had
the original linoleum floors in the kitchen and bathroom. The
bedroom floors were covered with the original, closely woven carpet
from the 1940’s. However, the living room carpet had been replaced
with a drab, two-tone brown sculpted carpet in the 1980’s. During
the hot summer days when the swamp cooler created a sweltering
dampness indoors, the scent of spilled beer from the past college
tenant’s parties would permeate the thick air.

During the winter months, the
intermittent click and “whooomp” from the thermostat triggering the
gas floor furnace became a comforting sound that lent a certain
homey-ness to the place. The heat radiating up from the 3 x 4 grate
kept the living room wonderfully toasty in the wintertime. But the
warmth rarely reached all the way into the bedrooms. There was much
comfort to be found under the down covers of my heated waterbed. My
ex-husband had once chided and laughed at me for purchasing the
waterbed. But it had turned out to be a necessity in that little
cracker box of a house.

A rickety, glider swing was on the
front porch, situated in front of the multi-paned front window of
the house. In spite of the swing constantly beckoning me to come
enjoy its comfort on warm summer days, I remained indoors. There
were too many unsavory aspects of my neighborhood to consider an
extended venture outdoors. However, the swing became a favored
respite for several of the stray cats in the neighborhood. It was
not uncommon for a couple of them to be found enjoying the shade of
the porch and the gentle sway of the swing on sunny afternoons.
They became so comfortable they barely opened an eye or swished a
tail when they noticed me watching them through the window
panes.

Although the sometimes friendly fur
balls were welcome company, the thought of becoming known as the
“old-maid-crazy-cat-lady-on-the-block” stirred an uneasy feeling in
the pit of my stomach. So I guarded my privacy and only was only
seen outside when walking from the front door to the one-car garage
on the side of the house.

There was no garage door opener. The
heavy door was attached to heavy, rusted springs and had to be
pulled by two rope handles situated on the center of the door, then
pushed up and overhead. The fact that there was no door going from
the garage to the inside of the house became an important security
feature for me. Being a single woman who lived alone in the inner
city, it was necessary to take certain precautions. The only way
someone could get into the house was through the front door or the
back door—and they were both secured with locks, padlocks, and
dead-bolts.

At the time of my divorce, I was left
without dependable transportation. Forced to rely on the charity of
my parents, they allowed me to drive one of their old cars for a
while. It was a mustard colored 1972 Ninety-eight Oldsmobile. The
car was so long, it would not fit entirely into the garage.
Therefore, the manual garage door was always a bit ajar.

At least I didn’t have to worry too
much about appearances in my area of town. In any other
neighborhood, I would have surely caused the property values to
spiral downward. One of my proudest days as a re-singled woman was
the day I was able to purchase a little used Honda Civic that
actually fit into the garage! Things were starting to look up—and
every step in the right direction felt like a huge accomplishment
for me.

My prince charming’s armor had
long-since rusted. He had fallen off his horse and ran into the
sunset without me a long time ago. I knew my destiny was in my
hands. I was the only one I could count on to make things
better.

I made the best of the situation—or at
least I tried. My friends referred to my place as “grandma’s
house”. That little shack was one of the few things in my life that
could be considered quaint. I was fortunate to be living there
during a time that “shabby chic” was in style. That happenstance
afforded me a small modicum of dignity regarding my living
conditions. I reminded myself on occasion that a large family in
Romania would consider my home spacious and luxurious.
Umm—yeah.

While it was rather painful to compare
my situation with some of my friends who were happily married and
enjoying the spoils of their husbands’ successes, I had managed to
escape a marriage of hellish proportions. My independence was
invaluable. I was simply starting off with a clean slate. I learned
to be thankful—even for that little hole-in-the-wall dive; ahem,
cottage. Although I longed for more, it would have to do for now.
What I didn’t know then was—some of the most momentous occasions of
my life would be spent within the walls of that tiny
house.

Chapter 3

Eleven-Eleven

During the time in which I had become
re-singled, I suffered through a plethora of relationship
calamities. My love life had turned into a roller-coaster of
comedic proportions. Yet, it seemed everyone was laughing—but me.
However, humor was my only defense. And it was better to laugh than
cry!

Ten men in row had left me for the
women they would eventually marry. I swore the tenth would be the
last. I declared that 11 would henceforth become my lucky number.
After all, I always noticed the clock when it read 11:11. It had to
be a sign—a good sign!

My friends referred to me as “the
transitional woman”. Any time they attempted to set me up on a
blind date or introduce me to a member of the opposite sex, the
running joke was, “If you want to get married, date her for 3
months, and you are guaranteed to marry the next woman you
meet”.

This admonition usually elicited
counter-productive results. Most men left smoking tracks in their
attempt to get as far away from me as possible. I assume the others
took it as a challenge; to prove they were indeed “not the marrying
kind”. Even they eventually succumbed to the spell. I do believe
most of them are married to this day—and I’m sure my curse had
something to do with the imminent change of their marital
status.

My romantic experiences became
legendary fodder for my happy-hour group. All in attendance, mostly
women and a few men peppered in for good measure, had been married
and divorced—at least once. There was no judgment amongst this
group of peers. Each of us understood all too well the trials of
middle-age dating.

Adept at the art of embellishment, I
would regale them with tales of my boisterous break-ups. Quite
often, I would garner free drinks offered up to the one in our
group who could come up with the saddest divorce or break-up story.
Usually, my turn at the barstool podium was saved for last. I took
no pride in having the winning story—but there was no shame in
winning the drinks. Should someone spin a more pathetic yarn than
I, then I would have to settle for Diet Coke or water with lemon.
Those options didn’t do much to dull the affliction of the
lovelorn.

It was quite a challenge for someone to
steal my thunder with their break-up story. Our tight, little
circle always delighted in fledgling members that had not yet been
serenaded with our miserable anecdotes. I would decide which tale
to tell based on the pathetic factor of the other participants’
stories. I had quite an arsenal from which to choose.

In most instances, I began mildly by
telling the story of the man who “Han Solo’d” me: when I told him I
loved him, he replied, “I know”. That one would always generate a
low “ooooooh” with a few chuckles.

Should anyone up my ante, I would tell
about the alcoholic whom I caught in bed with his grotesquely plump
ex-wife, who happened to be named Edie.

When he jumped up, hurriedly wrapped a
sheet around his lower body so he could follow me outside to
explain the situation; I turned to him and replied, “You can’t have
your cake and Edie, too. Dumbass!”

Best-breakup-line-ever! Alas, the
spell’s power overcame him. He remarried his ex-wife. I’ve often
wondered if he thought of me while eating his wedding
cake.

Knowing it would clinch my victory in
the event anyone else offered up a heart-wrenching tale, I saved
the best for last and only used it in dire circumstances. Only then
would I recount the bawdy details of discovering one of my lovers
was indeed a transvestite. You could always hear a pin drop during
my recitation of the scene. There would be gasps. Jaws would be
dropped in shock. They wouldn’t know whether to be repulsed, feel
sorry for me, or laugh.

I would simply smile with a wink and
tell my opponents, “I’ll have a martini, extra dirty with three
olives.”

Bada bing!

Not to worry—the spell was cast even
upon the transvestite. He supposedly married the next person he
met. However, I never found out whether it was a wedding or a
commitment ceremony. I’ve oft wondered who wore the
dress.

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