wench: Pronunciation (wnch) n. 1. A young woman or girl, especially a peasant girl. 2. A woman servant. 3. A wanton woman.
The Wench was all three.
My freshman English Lit class is my favorite. We read stories, write stories and study the masters. I am unlike most students in class and my appearance sticks out. My usual attire is a flannel shirt, Levi button-up blue jeans and my hair goes to my shoulders. At age 24, in 1975 I am older than most of the students in class. This also means I get to live in the foreign students dorm. It is quiet there, I can study AND I can have girlfriends over.
The first few weeks of class, I notice interesting people. But there is one student that sticks out above all others. It's not only her looks but her contributions, what she writes, her observations and how she carries herself. Her frizzy, orange-red hair falls to just below her shoulders. She wears a plaster cast on her right ankle and tells me she injured her foot playing touch football. I learn that the Wench is nineteen-years-old. I tell myself "Don't do it!" but I fall for her.
It amazes me how far I fall too. I am reeled in to the point that I am mystified. It is a grip that I can't shake, even though I know better. The Wench is like a single flower surrounded by bee hives and constantly being pollinated.
Her first tryst is the day after my father passed away. At 4:00 AM the phone rings she wakes up, answers it and hands the phone to me. Pre-dawn phone calls are never good. I hear my mother telling me my father has passed away. My friend Ram is spending the night with us, he's sleeping on the couch in the other room. I leave for home that morning on a bus to be with my mom and Grandparents. Not 10 minutes after I have left, she is in bed with him.
She carries on with Ram for another year, until he can no longer bear to keep the secret from me. On my trips back home to help my mother, she invites him over and they spend the weekend together. I suspect lots but say nothing. She was with me not them. I come home one day from out of town. Sitting on the couch I can see her in the bathroom. I notice that she is cleaning her diaphragm in the sink. If she didn't want me to know anything about it, she would have shut the door.
"What are you doing? Who have you been screwing?"
I question her a little shocked at her blatancy. Time to bring all of out.
"OK OK" she admits.
"Ram spent the weekend here; while you were away."
Amazed that she told me, I keep telling her that if she wants to have affairs just tell me, but don't be sneaky about them. However, for some reason she is compelled to taste them all. I suppose it was the thrill of it all. I am not sure why we didn't leave each other.
It doesn't run through the family, it GALLOPS...
It isn't just the Wench either, it's her whole family that's wacko, including both sides. Going to a family gathering is like going to a carnival complete with freak shows, tumbling midgets and evil clowns. I should have gotten the hint.
Then, there is the weekend at her parents.
We drive to her parents on a Saturday morning. They live on the plains in the middle of farmland, in a small rural town. The Wench and I aren't married yet and it was a pain in the butt not being able to sleep together. But this time it is different. Her parents let us sleep together and the idea of it doesn't seem to bother them. It's Saturday evening. Her mom is parading around the house excited that her sister is coming to visit the next day. Wine has filled up the refrigerator, the house has been practically remodeled with the cleaning she has done.
But I notice something very curious, almost out of place.
In the den amongst knick-knacks, pictures are scattered here and there in plain view...Polaroids. I notice this and pick one up laying on a stack of five or six. To my amazement there are various nudes and sex acts of her parents! The strange part is someone has taped paper over various parts of the photographs so that only the faces can be seen. If that was all anyone could see, it would be innocent enough...but I peeked.
I didn't say anything to the Wench about this. I figured that discretion was the better part of valor and kept my mouth shut. If the Wench stumbles across the photos that is one thing, but for me to go around to everyone asking about the photographs is quite another. Dinnertime conversation is the next interesting event of the evening.
"I can't wait for my sister to get here." her mother blurts out as I cut off a piece of charbroiled steak.
"When she does get here I am going to have her get rid of this boil on my butt. It really hurts too!"
She says this as I am about to take a bite of this luscious, blood-dripping and rare piece of meat.
At the very second after she said that, I fake a sneeze, kick the Wench under the table and stifle a laugh. This could get interesting.
"It's been bothering me for two weeks. I can't reach it either."
I almost gag...a "boil"?, at the dinner table? I don't believe what I am hearing. The possibilities that run through my mind are endless.
The next day, Sunday, starts out as a normal day, then the unbelievable gets weirder. Everyone goes to church except me and the Wench. I also notice that the Polaroids are put away as they are now nowhere to be found. I fix us breakfast, go to the den, turn on the TV and read a book. Around noon everyone returns from church and the Wench's aunt shows up.
There is Sunday lunch with lots of sandwiches, wine and talk among the women. I go back to the den to watch football with the Wench's father and brother. We laugh and joke and yell at the game on the TV screen.
The next thing I know her mother announces, "Me and Missy are going back to the bedroom and get rid of this boil on my butt. We'll be out in a little while."
This time I laugh out loud but no one laughs with me. My imagination gets a grip on me and doesn't easily let go.
The Wench's father grabs his son, "Let's go outside and finish cleaning the yard and haul it off to the landfill." This all seems to be quite normal around here.
Over an hour passes and I am the only one left in the house except the two sisters doing gawd-knows-what in the bedroom. I strain my ears to hear anything. I am even tempted to walk back to the bedroom and press my ear to the door. But of course I chicken out. The Wench, her brother and father are all outside doing yard work. After another hour, everyone appears in the house as if out of nowhere. I never talk to the Wench about what I thought was really going on in the bedroom. A boil...my ass!
"If you kiss me I will turn into a pumpkin"
I should have taken the hint. Why didn't someone hit me with a two by four and knock some sense into my pinhead?
The rest of my college years with the Wench are like that and worse. But I am busy with my studies and finishing my honors classes. In our Senior year we decide one night, after being blasted on mushrooms, to get married. There is only one place in the state that one can get married on a fluke and it is an all day trip to the corner of the state. After sleeping little that night we get up early and head out.
The town we get married in is notorious for getting blood work done, the marriage certificate signed and getting married at a preacher's house all in one day. We arrive just before noon and make our first stop at the courthouse. They tell us we have to find a minister to marry us first, then get a blood test, bring all that back and then pay a number of bucks at the courthouse and it's done. The clerk at the courthouse gives us addresses and a map to help us find a preacher. We pull up to one church and the minister is at lunch. The secretary makes a call to his house and we are told to go on over; he'll marry us right away.
I guess the mushroom effect really starts to wear off as I start thinking about the last couple of hours. I freak out and start to panic. I think the Wench does too. It's hard to tell what we both are thinking right now. I look at the Wench and realize that I might have to spend the rest of my life with her. With all the hints I have been given the last four years, I start to think about driving off a bridge somewhere.
We arrive at the preacher's residence and enter. We are greeted by a gentleman that I could swear just stepped out of a KKK costume. He looks at us like we are carnival workers just passing through. We chit-chat, laugh nervously and I then notice that the Wench hasn't said much at all in the past hour. My hands sweat, my feet sweat and my stomach is in knots. I feel like I have just swallowed a bottle of ipecac. The preacher goes through the ceremony. It is short an' sweet.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."
It sounds reasonable to me. To my surprise, she has to make a big scene out of it. As I turn to kiss her, she turns her face away from me. I control my impulse to slap her, pay the preacher $25 and quickly get the hell out of there. I shoulda taken the hint...long before now.
The beginning of the end, the Dream
Having hitch-hiked across the Western U.S. for our graduation gift to ourselves, I leave Oklahoma for the last time. I occasionally return for visits. We have to decide what to do with ourselves and whatever we decide, we decide we don't want to do it where we are living. We pick New Mexico as our destination.
We hadn't been there for more than a week and we are sitting around in the trailer we are renting until we get jobs and get on our feet. We both look for jobs during the day and at night we are left to entertain ourselves. We have no cable and no phone, just books to read and a sad portable TV with aluminum foil on the antennae.
One evening, for entertainment, we decide to describe and analyze the dreams we remember. We talk about the dreams we have which seem to recur from time to time. Everyone has them and everyone ponders their meanings.
"You remember that Dream I have every now and then? The one that haunts me, the one that is like a nightmare, you know, the one about my cousin?" she asks me.
"Yeah, I remember, how does it go again?"
She retells the dream she has about the sordid intimacy with her cousin and her, with her mom vacuuming in the other room.
"I had it again the other night. It gives me the creeps."
Then...it all makes sense to me.
There is a long pause and the feeling of crystal clear realization hits me. It's as if someone came up behind me and hit me in the back of the head. I shudder for a moment. Then chills and goose bumps erupt over my body like a wave of electricity in slow motion. The feeling is not pleasant and my stomach is instantly in a knot.
"Whats wrong? you're white as a sheet." she observes.
I start to speak but the words won't come out.
"Are you OK?" she asks still puzzled.
"The man is not your cousin and it's no dream."
"The man is your father."
With that, her mouth drops open and she does not breathe nor moves a muscle. The inside of the trailer seems to be frozen in time. She turns pale and stiff as the words that came from my mouth echoes through her thoughts.
Some time later, long after we are divorced, her father is seated on a lawn chair. He is staring at his fence where he has lined up three empty beer bottles.
He aims his revolver. ONE...he shoots the first bottle, TWO...he shoots the second bottle, THREE...he blasts the third bottle. He then places the revolver to his temple......FOUR......
She tells me a few years later. "My only regret is that he didn't go see my mom and shoot her first."