Another Piece Of The Autumn Puzzle

Autumn’s brother invited me over to his place this past weekend for a BBQ. Due to prior commitments Autumn couldn’t make it, but I decided to head on over by myself anyway. Her brother was a friend whom I knew since high school. Along with him other mutual friends would be there like Canopener and Jerry D, so I figured why not go and hang out? Besides, Autumn’s brother was one hell of a cook. His grub kicks ass, from the grill to the kitchen. Everything he mixes up will please my family-size stomach like there is no tomorrow. That alone is reason enough to arrive at one of his weekend backyard BBQ’s.

Shortly after I drove across town to his house and walked in through their garage, I opened up a bottle of beer. Slugging it down in bright afternoon sun I stood next to a flower garden that appeared to be freshly groomed. Quietly taking in the scene of children running about playing on their lawn I cast my gaze around from random clusters of people having involved conversations. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. My beer was dead so I grabbed another. Taking a gulp from the bottle I noticed Autumn’s brother walking towards me. As he came near he said there was something that had been on his mind for a while. Something he wanted to ask about. He wanted to know how long Autumn and I had been friends, when we first met. That sort of stuff. I guess it wasn’t a topic we had talked about together before.

Autumn and I first met in 1987 or thereabouts when I was still in high school working part time at a record store. I explained to him that Autumn was somewhat of an enigma to me then. She would blow through the double doors in the record store’s lobby wearing full length, flowing skirts that obscured her shoes from view and probably dragged along the ground half the time she was walking. Her hair was long and dark, hanging down to her backside. She used to ask me for recommendations on horror or sci-fi films. I mentioned to him that Autumn used to bring me little presents like polished rocks tightly wrapped in paper and twine. Nothing ever happened between us though. I was dating Jennifer at the time and Autumn had a boyfriend. I didn’t find out about her man until many years later though.

Continuing on about my past with Autumn I told him a story about a strange night I never forgot. Autumn and I did not have any relationship because she was confusing to me. At times I thought she wanted something more than just a friendship, but other times she was standoffish and distant. Mixed signals girl. I couldn’t figure out what it was that she wanted, if anything at all. One particular night after she finished a late shift at her job she called me up saying she wanted to go out. She wanted to take a drive with me over to the town of Napa. It wasn’t far away, but I knew nothing would be open in the middle of the night. Napa is in the heart of California wine country. It is a tourist town that closes up shop fairly early each evening. There’s no night life. Nothing to do. I thought it strange but what the hell. I agreed to go for the late night drive.

We took the Cougar. Just as I expected when we rolled into the downtown part of Napa proper there wasn’t a single shop or restaurant open. Autumn wanted to criss cross up and down each street. I didn’t get it. It was like she was searching for something that wasn’t there. We drove around town away from shops that were little more than tourist traps for the wealthy. There wasn’t a single person out on the streets that night no matter where we went. A half hour later I was becoming bored and suggested we drive off to a secluded spot to park the Cougar and hang out together. In the back of my mind I was thinking maybe the two of us could get busy making out or some shit. Heading North on a deserted rural road I found a spot with a wide, flat shoulder off the pavement under a single file grove of Eucalyptus trees. I eased the car to a stop, shoved the gear shift all the way forward, and pulled the parking brake. Twisting the key to the left, pleasant rumbling from both exhaust pipes abruptly ceased. It was silent.

I don’t remember how long Autumn and I sat together in the dark making little more than small talk. Initiating action with a girl like trying to lean over across a car seat and skillfully plant a kiss was always a stressful moment for me. The fear of rejection was great. Nevertheless, I made a move towards Autumn. She anticipated this and reacted quite unexpectedly. Autumn reeled backwards against the passenger door away from me with a threatening look on her face. She appeared tense. Confused by what I was dealing with I tried once again to gently move towards her. That was a mistake. Autumn positioned her right arm against the glass ready to strike out at me with a fierce punch. So, I got the hint. She wasn’t into me.

That night set the tone of our friendship for years to come afterward. I explained to Autumn’s brother that she and I never had anything more although I stayed in touch. When she was away at college in Southern California we wrote letters to each other. And when Autumn was living in Russia we still wrote back and forth frequently. Eventually I lost contact with her though. The letters stopped and I didn’t know where she ended up living or what Autumn was doing for work. The rest of the story William knew well enough. Autumn and I started talking again when he moved back into town. Coincidentally he happened to be renting a room at a friend’s house. It was all thanks to him myself and Autumn were talking again. Nearly five years had passed since then. Five years Autumn and I were in a serious relationship.

The funny thing was, after Autumn and I were in a serious relationship together we talked about that night occasionally. The first time it came up in conversation Autumn remembered it vividly. We both had a good laugh. Another time I brought it up a couple of years later and Autumn claimed no memory of the incident whatsoever. It was strange, like she was being evasive for some reason. I let it go.

William didn’t know any of this past background between his sister and myself. I finished another beer as William quietly looked me in the eye and said, “I think I know why Autumn acted weird that night in Napa.”

“Really?” I asked dryly.

He said, “When she was working that late night job she was seeing a guy who lived out that way, by Napa somewhere. He dumped her, Autumn was real spun out about it. Took it bad. I think maybe she was kinda following up on him… you know.”

I got what he meant. Maybe Autumn took it so badly that she was stalking the guy, but William wasn’t going that far by actually saying it. Interesting. The thought never even crossed my mind. Later in the afternoon as I rolled it around in my mind it made more and more sense. More than ever I felt like Autumn hadn’t really wanted to be with me. I was second best, not what she wanted at all but slightly better than nothing. Things between us had been strained lately, this made it all seem worse. But it was plausible. It figured, like one of the long missing pieces of my Autumn jigsaw puzzle was finally located and placed correctly in the picture.

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~ by factorypeasant on November 27, 2007.

2 Responses to “Another Piece Of The Autumn Puzzle”

  1. well you may have been unwittingly roped into helping to stalk a rival, but at least you lost no teeth.

  2. Rocks wrapped in paper and twine? Driving around a deserted town looking for something that wasn’t there? Balling up her fist at you after leading you on? These were all red flags that this chick was a crazy bitch. Sorry to hear it took you 5 years to recognize it. I speak from experience when I tell you that a year from now you will be so fucking glad you broke things off with this chick. And who knows, maybe you can remain friends with benefits, sometimes that ends up working even if it’s hard to fathom right after the breakup.

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