Under the PierbyLargoKitt©
Jannie had a headache. That's why she had told Ramon she wouldn't meet him under the pier after dinner. But he wouldn't take 'no' anyway. She would have to see him even though she was still feeling Charlie on her skin. She could still smell him; something sweet, but not like flowers, more like one of those perfumed candles, the ones they burn just inside the doors of St. Ignacio.
It was a really old smell, a Bible smell, older than anybody she knew, way back, past the time her grandparents first got here, or the day Tio Max came with the elephant head cane. Now Papi had that and it was the same one he hit her with after her first time, only he didn't even know.
Maybe he figured, but he didn't know. Not for sure. She wasn't even late home. But she had forgot to feed the dog that morning and it had made a mess in the middle of the kitchen. Besides she couldn't look at him straight and ran up to bed first. So he followed and hit her. Probably he drank something, too.
Maybe her hair smelled like Charlie. She pulled some under her nose but she couldn't tell.
Jannie crossed her legs, very tight, the way she did when she needed to go pee but was still on the subway. She could almost feel Charlie's leg against the outside of hers. How come men had so much hair and women didn't even if they didn't shave? Well, there was Rosa, but that was different. She had a mustache, too. Charlie wasn't really hairy. He just had nice fuzz.
She pushed away a thought, her lips tightening on something that wasn't there.
Do you suppose Ramon picked the pier on purpose? But how would he know that that was her and Charlie's special place? He hadn't been around all summer and Tico and them, his friends, didn't hang anywhere near there.
She just got one teeny letter about how it was working with his dad in Canada, the chips of stone as they came off the hammer and sometimes cut his skin when he had his shirt off. She thought he just wanted to make her think of him that way. But maybe even seven hundred miles away he smelled something else. Maybe he could just get a whiff of that candle smell on her letters. Maybe he guessed something when she skipped a day and didn't write him.
It wasn't easy, writing him. Her father always looked at her cross-eyed when she was writing stuff, really, like cross-eyed and his mouth like this little fish. They didn't have much books in the house either, just two Bibles, one in Spanish, one English and some beat up fat romances he wouldn't throw out even though Mami was gone a year and seven months.
Jannie loved the pier the best of any place she had been and that included Disney World. Even when there was other people she felt all by herself, best when the tide was out and she could walk under it practically all the way to the end, the waves that came sideways around the big black posts trying to sneak the sand from out from under her feet.
All the way out at the end you could see where it got deep all of a sudden and when the light hit it right you could see the fish. The fish were smart because almost never did they get caught by the people up on top hanging their lines down into the water.
One time though somebody got a flounder, one of the ones with both eyes on the same side of its head, brown on that side and naked belly white on the other. She saw it come flopping up out of the water right near her face. It did its dance in the air as whoever pulled it up out of sight and people all cheering up there.
But it had looked at her as it went past, like 'how come you don't do something and help me get back in the water?' It was sad and funny at the same time, and when she told Charlie, he was quiet for a minute the way Ramon would never do. And then he starts flapping around like he's a fish, one finger in the corner of his mouth, calling over to her, 'Jannie, Jannie, save me! I don't want to be nobody's dinner.' She about peed she was laughing so hard.
Charlie could do that. He could make her bust up over nothing, and make her cry, too, not cry cry, like she was hurt or anything, but, like, the sweet blues, like when he told her about the spotted puppy he once had and how he took it every place and would, like, buy it ice cream cones, pistachio 'cause that's what it liked.
But then when it was a little bigger they were goofing around near the trains. She told him to stop then, 'cause she didn't want to hear about it getting squished or nothing. Some guys will do that. They tell you stories about people and stuff getting busted up and cut into pieces just to watch you turn green while they laugh, like, hey, 'I'm a hard body dude who can see this stuff and my stomach doesn't never ever turn...' But that wasn't Charlie.
He told how they were watching the men switch train cars around and he was chucking little rocks into the open box cars or the ones with coal and stuff and the little dog just kept barking and running after the rock a little bit, but Charlie would call him back.
He'd say, "Stop!" and the little dog would stop and look at him with his head on one side like, 'Please, can't I go chase it?' But he'd say no in this sad voice and the dog would just sit with its head down, kind of looking up out of one eye.
Only, a pigeon got it excited. There was a couple of them riding right along in a box car, doing that little spin around dance they do and Charlie chucks a stone at them. And the dog runs after it. Only this time he doesn't stop 'cause he sees the pigeons who don't even fly away. So he barks and barks and chases the car and then there's this ramp thing for loading and the dog just runs right up it and into the car.
And then the car picks up speed, and in a couple of minutes it's gone. And Charlie just stands there with his hands in his pockets saying, 'What'd I do?' He didn't know anybody to ask or even how to tell them on the telephone what happened. Besides, he knew they wouldn't stop a train for a dog.
By now Jannie was crying for real and wadding up this nasty little handkerchief which was one of two she always carried because they were her mother's. So Charlie turns to her and said, really serious,
"I made it all up."
So naturally she hit him on the arm and cried some more and told him she was really, really mad at him because she didn't think he was that kind of boy who would tell her something like that just to make her bust all up, and he just shrugged his shoulders and splashed the water around in the little pool next to the big black post where he was sitting with her under the pier.
And then she could tell, from the way he didn't start smiling, and from the water in his eyes and the shape of his mouth, that he didn't make any of it up at all, that it was all true and he probably spent all the rest of the day and maybe the week trying to get somebody to help him get the dog back, but they couldn't do it.
So she asked him, like a little bit of a trick, "did you ever get another one?" and first he shakes his head, not looking up, and then he smiles, still crooked, and says, "Yeah, this really ugly bulldog mutt. And it peed all over my pants, my new Levis, like just when I was heading to the bus and the only thing I've got to change into are these orange shorts. Not a good day. In fact, a disaster. I had to hit a guy."
So then they laughed, and kissed, too, his head over her shoulder the way she was sitting between his legs with his arms around her and the water coming in from both sides and getting sand up the legs of their pants, sinking into that little pool around them against the post.
And his hands went under her blouse then and rubbed her nips until they were so hard and tight she couldn't stand it because she needed his mouth hot on them and him just as hard up against her butt so she kept kind of rocking back against him and she knew his bare back was getting all tore up on the post but he said in her ear that he didn't give a shit.
That was the night they did it, standing up, in the dark, the tide coming in around their legs and people in the lights up on the top of the pier buying hot dogs and calzone and stuff and laughing and drinking beer a lot. And even though he pressed her against the post and her foot kind of ached from being on tiptoe in the sand that kept melting out from under it, still his mouth was so good all over her face, really wet and salty and his hair slapping against her cheek when he turned back and forth.
She wasn't even quiet, 'cause the waves were loud enough so she could whine out like a little dog and up above somebody was playing loud salsa and laughing, and footsteps, and she felt before it was over too soon, when it was still building up and building up, that she was everybody and all of it and when she cried out it was the same as the seagulls and when she laughed real deep in her belly and felt that "oh, god" it was the same laugh, the same shout the people up there were making. And with all the corny movie love she had see before, now she could tell that there was no difference between the way the little waves kept coming in and in and in and Charlie and her.
They both wanted to skinny dip afterwards but she figure by then people would be looking and maybe a cop or somebody she knew, so they just kept their clothes on but got all wet, shaking the sand out of their "dainties" as Charlie called hers, kicking the water at each other, splashing.
Then they just walked until they dried off and since they didn't have any money they scrounged the trash cans and stuff. They got half of somebody's soda with most of the bubbles still in it and a almost perfect hot dog bun from just under the edge of the boardwalk. It was hardly stale and not sandy and they traded bites.
Jannie made herself let herself go all limp and relaxed, except for the middle of her belly where she could feel the pain of missing Charlie, like there was a big dull fish hook inside connected to him by some really thin invisible fishing line. She couldn't see him anywhere, but she knew when he was pulling because that part of her just lifted up all tight and knotted and a little higher than the rest.
She knew that she couldn't argue about him going in the service. It was pretty much all he had. He had told her right away, before they even thought of each other that way, and she said it didn't matter, which it didn't, then. Then, she was thinking he was just somebody to talk to, maybe, for a little while, to keep her mind off Ramon. She hadn't even thought he was that cute, because of his hair always in his face and those tiny little bumps under his mouth.
But she did like the way he smiled, and she especially like the way he listened.
Ramon didn't almost ever do that. That was why she liked him, first. He was always thinking about what he would do, what was next, how he could make something happen, make some guy give him money, someplace where they could just go crazy having fun.
He didn't hardly look at her, maybe didn't really see her, and maybe that was the way she wanted it, with him. She was nervous whenever he said, "What are you doing?"
But Charlie could see her. He said things she was thinking and touched places she didn't know she wanted to be touched until he was there. Maybe Charlie couldn't protected her the way Ramon did, but Charlie...
He told her he was going in the Service because of that, 'cause his dad called him 'queer and moony', and he knew some guys messed with him just 'cause they could. He didn't figure the army would 'make a man out of him' but maybe more of a man than he was, some more muscle, maybe not caring so much if somebody else was sad or hurt, more his own man, making plans, like Ramon. He said that, 'like Ramon.'
And maybe it was good he went away now, because Ramon would kill him if he knew what he did, what they did together. He might kill her, too. She wasn't really scared, though, because she could always go weird on him and beat on him and scream and he would probably just try to buy her something to drink and calm her down. Still.
That was why she had to meet him someplace else. Because she didn't trust her face, or even the rest of her if he started touching her or kissing her under there. She couldn't be thinking about how Charlie looked at her, or laughing at what he said. Ramon couldn't know anything.
She didn't want to think about what happens next or next after that, what happens when Charlie finishes basic and comes back to see her. What, then? Suppose he was the guy who could take her away from Ramon then. Would she want that guy?
Jannie put on the dress with the tiny blue flowers on it, and heels, so probably when Ramon saw her he would see she didn't want to be in the sand, but somewhere else where she could dance and he could watch that skirt switch around her ass. His eyes always got hard and bright when she did that.
Yeah, she would make him take her dancing. That way he could touch her a lot but not much kissing and if he tried to put his hand in her pants she could say she had her period. It was almost true, anyway. She could dance all she wanted, get wild and Ramon couldn't even see anything, he couldn't get up in her head, up there with Charlie and the seagulls and the flounder.
Maybe, like the game she played when she was by herself under the pier, she could walk between the waves, this one comes in, that one goes out, keep moving and they never touch your feet.