I Ain't Proud

By Margaret Hundley Parker

A search for love in a world of married men, best friends and professional wrestlers.

"Married Man was an addiction and
I never have been much of a quitter."

I been trying to get rid of Married Man Boyfriend for months. I amsick to death of that shit. If playing second fiddle wasn't enough, nowthey're threatening to take my baby away. If anyone tried to take SarahSue, I don't know what I'd do. Guess I'd have to become an outlaw. It'sThe Wife -- we have been going at it. We got into a fist fight at ourdaughters' basketball game a few months ago, and ever since then she's beenshowing up at my house, yelling for her husband. Whenever I see thatfrizzy perm outside my window, I know it's time to pull the shades down andturn the TV up. She's been talking all this mess about going to court tohelp my ex-husband get custody if I don't watch my ass. I don't care ifMarried Man finally moved into a motel; I am sick sick sick of it. But outhere in Denver, North Carolina, who else is there? That's why it's takenme so long to get rid of him -- we keep fucking. But after all thisbusiness with The Wife, I have finally had enough.

My best friend Lea is sick of it, too. She's been telling me the only way to get rid of Married Man Boyfriend is for me to go get me some Strange. Like I'm gonna go and screw that one-armed man who pumps my gas, get real. There ain't nobody I don't know in this pea-niney town. She's tired of my antsy pants anyway. We had a little episode a few weeks ago. We were at her house drinking and I got too drunk to drive so Lea told me to go get in her bed. I was sleeping when Lea and her husband got in next to me and started fooling around. I thought, yum, some sex! So I took off all my clothes. Lea jumped outta that bed like I had thrown a curling iron in her bathtub. I put my clothes back on and left. I felt awful; Lea is my best friend and I didn't mean to fuck that up. The next night we sat in the car and talked. She knows I have a crush on her, have since we met five years ago. She admitted that she thinks about me that way too, but she doesn't know if we could love on each other and then get up and be friends again.

Anyway, one night a couple weeks ago I was at home watching a movie with my daughter when the phone rang.

"Hey girl, get your ass over here to the Beer Joint." It was Lea. She sounded drunk and I could hear the tinny harmonies of Lynyrd Skynyrd in the background. Gimme three steps towards the door.

"Girl, I'm sitting here watching a video with Sarah Sue," I said.

"Damn. Well, there's somebody here you outta meet." Then she put her hand on the phone and yelled, "Hey, Boogie Man, come here."

"Hello?" A high pitched male voice asked. I didn't say anything yet because I was trying to figure out who the hell the Boogie Man was.

"This is Clay, maybe you know me as the Boogie Man. You ever watch wrastling?"

I had to admit that I did not watch wrastling.

"You ought to! Oh Shit! My song's on! You wanna meet me for lunch tomorrow at The Open Kitchen?" His voice actually squeaked when he said this. Lea must've told him that was my favorite restaurant.

"Umm," I looked at Sarah Sue; she was concentrating hard on Men In Black.

"Okay," I said. "How about noon?"

He said fine and we hung up.

Sarah Sue paused the movie. "Who was that, Mom?"

"You ever heard of the Boogie Man?"

"The wrestler?"

"Yeah, that's what he said."

"That was the Boogie Man on the phone? How do you know him?" Sarah Sue was clearly excited.

"Lea knows him. I'm gonna have lunch with him tomorrow."

Sarah Sue jumped up on the couch with me. "Can I come?"

"No honey, you have school," I said and ran my fingers through her sandy hair.

"But Mom! He smashed up the Undertaker! Will you at least get his autograph for me?"

"I'll try, sweetie. Let's finish this movie so we can go to bed."

"Is it a date?" she asked.

"No," I said but I could feel a smile creeping through. "Come on, now, let's watch this movie."

"It's a date," she said and turned the movie back on. I could tell she was glad; she hated Married Man Boyfriend.

"I ain't got time for that mess," I told him and hung up the phone, quick. I couldn't risk softening up.

I work at a magazine corporation in Charlotte. My job involves calling businesses and telling them to pay their magazine bills, which means I have to deal with stacks of paperwork and people who do not want to talk to me. The lies they tell! Sometimes that can put a person in an ugly mood.

When I got off work Friday, I felt like I had spent all day slamming my head in a door, so I went to Lea's house. She gave me a Xanax and that helped the hairs on my back lay down. I picked Sarah Sue up from after school care and dropped her off at her Dad's. It was his night to have her. We finally got all that visiting shit straightened out, got us an every other weekend pattern. It seems easier on Sarah Sue to know when she's going to that Jesus-infested house. I can talk to his new wife, but he can't even look me in the eye much less discuss something. He discovered The Lord after I left, and he can't bare to face a sinner. My daddy was into that Jesus shit but I left all that when I was 16 and never looked back.

I know Sarah Sue's Dad's house must seem like a more stable home in the eyes of The Law, but Sarah Sue belongs to me. We're like toes in a sock. Her dad just doesn't get her. When she was a baby, he didn't even know how to change her diapers; he'd hold her legs up and crane his head back and try not to look. He was embarrassed by his own child! And now he gets mad at me because I don't make her wear dresses like some kind of priss-pot. The other day he even told her, my beautiful 10 year old, that she was getting chubby. Hello eating disorder! Lord, don't get me started on that man and his poisonous ways.

I went home and put on my snake-skin cowboy boots that Married Man Boyfriend gave me for Christmas (he does have taste), and squeezed into my tight black jeans. I knew Clay had a flair for the exotic, so I went ahead and wore my off-one-shoulder leopard print lycra top. Mee-ow. I slapped on a little lipstick and let me tell you what, I looked good. I was all that and a bag of chips. Clay picked me up in his truck and we went to Club Diamond. He was looking pretty damn fine his own self.

Club Diamond is the new karaoke bar near by. We got there around nine and the place was already filling up, but we found a couple seats at the bar.

We hadn't finished our first beer when some scrawny guy in a Budweiser tee-shirt came up and yelled, "Boogie Man! Hell yeah! What's going on, buddy? Who's your friend?" He looked me up and down.

Clay grabbed the guy's head and gave him a fake head butt. The guy let out a yelp and scurried off, rubbing his forehead.

Turns out, Clay's like me; he likes to drink beer. I forgot to go to the bank machine so he bought us beers all night. More and more people came up to talk the Boogie Man, and after awhile, I couldn't help but call him by his professional title, also.

Somebody put on "Funky Cold Medina" so me and Boogie Man cleared a little space and started dancing. We danced pretty good together, close without stepping on each other's toes.

After that song about six people got up there and howled out "Sweet Home Alabama" so we sat down.

"You wanna sing something?" Boogie Man nudged me. "I bet you could break some hearts!"

"I might could sing something funky," I said.

Boogie Man put our names on the list.

Once my name was on there, I got nervous. I'm usually the heckler in the crowd. A few beers later, when I heard my name called I almost ran out, but once I got the microphone in my hand, I was ready to get it. I sang that George Clinton & the P-Funk All-Stars song that goes, "If you ain't gonna get it on, then get your dead ass home." I worked my shit like a drag queen. I sounded good, too. When the song was over I took a big bow and everybody clapped and hollered.

Boogie Man was up next, and then the crowd started chanting for him, "Boo-gie, Boo-gie, Boo-gie." On his way to the stage he gave me a big kiss and told me I did good.

He sang his theme song, "I'm your boogie man, that's what I am." He shook his butt and flexed his biceps. He pulled his shirt up and moved each tittie individually to the beat of the song. Good lord I never laughed so hard.

It was loud.

I was happy.

I didn't think about Married Man once.

Later, when he was driving me home, we turned up the radio in his car and yelled out all the words to a Led Zeppelin rock block. The funniest was him singing "Black Dog" in that high voice. I invited him in to teach me some wrestling moves. My neighbors were out of town so I cranked up the stereo and cracked open a couple cold beers.

"Boogie Man, what's your favorite move?" I asked him.

"Girl! I'll teach you the Boogie Hold! Nobody on this earth can mess with you after that."

He got behind me and grabbed my arms, then he jammed his knee in my back. "Now I ain't gonna do it to you, you sweet thing, but you get somebody like this and then WHAM you slam 'em on top of you with yer knee all jammed up in the small of their back."

Normally I would've killed anyone who grabbed me like that but the Boogie Man was gentle and I really did want to learn the Boogie Hold. A girl never knows when she's going to need a pro-wrestling maneuver. I took a self-defense class for gym credit at the community college where all we got to do was yell NO! to some man with an oversized head. Fuck that pussy shit; mess with me and I'll put you in the Boogie Hold!

"Now you try it," he said and let go.

I got behind him and started to mash his arms together but he felt so good I started rubbing my hands all over that giant barrel chest. It felt like he was made of solid rubber, all muscle and not a stick of body hair. After a little more of that I heard myself saying things I never, ever thought I'd say: "Fuck me, Boogie Man! Fuck me!"

It was good, too. I hadn't done it with anyone but Married Man Boyfriend in three years. I slept in Clay's (I went back to calling him that) arms all night and we did it again in the morning, then we dozed off. About that time, I heard a motorcycle pull into my driveway. Married Man Boyfriend still had a key so he walked right into my house! I know he knew I had company because Clay's truck was there. I jumped out of bed and met him at my bedroom door and backed him up into the kitchen. Even though he deserved it, I did not want him to come into that bedroom and get his ass kicked by the Boogie Man.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" I was naked and mad. "Get out of here, you married truck full of dog shit!" was all I could say.

He just stood there like I had goosed him with a knitting needle, all hurt and surprised looking.

"Don't look at me like that!" I said.

"But Suzel, baby..." he whined and held his fat paw out.

He looked so pitiful it started to make my heart hurt so I opened up the front door and told him once more to Get Out. I gave him a little shove on his back, and shut and locked the door. Then I went into my room and curled up with Clay. Finally, I heard Married Man Boyfriend's Harley spin a hole in the driveway and tear on down the road. Clay acted like he was asleep, and I had been yelling in whispers, but I knew he heard what happened. I was afraid my chances with him were shot to hell.

On his way out, though, he asked me if we were still on for pizza on Tuesday before he had to go back on tour. He still wanted to meet Sarah Sue. I wanted to beg him to take us with him, but I didn't. Married Man was an addiction and I never have been much of a quitter. If you want me to quit smoking, you better hide all the cigarettes in North Carolina. I wanted to grab Sarah Sue and jump in the car with Clay, and get away from Married Man, my job, my ex-husband, everything. Maybe I had found a safe place for me and my daughter. Or maybe it was just lust. Whatever, just keep me away from Married Man Boyfriend and his frizzy headed Wife.

Later that morning the asshole came back over and I told him right away to get off my property.

I said, "You are no longer welcome in my home." I meant it.

He screamed and cried, "Come on, honey, it's me! I'm staying at the Motel 6 now! Let me in! Who the hell was over here this morning?" but I wouldn't let him in. I just cracked the door and yelled at him through that small space. I tore Sarah Sue's sign off the door and threw it at

him. He tried to muscle his gorilla body in anyway, but I leaned all my weight on the door and finally he stormed off. He still had my damn key. I called The Law. They said I could put a restraining order on him but I had to file all kinds of papers, so I said, "What else can I do?" I didn't want to file nothing because I was already worried about losing custody of Sarah Sue. They said they'd keep an eye out and if they ever saw his bike in my driveway while they were patrolling, they'd stop by.

Good. That way I can't let him back over. Unless he borrows somebody's car.

Then I went to Lea's house. We drank a few beers. She wanted to know how my date with the Boogie Man went, but I was so pissed off, all I could talk about was Married Man.

Lea said, "Fuck him, he ain't worth losing a daughter over." And then she confessed, "besides, he don't love you. He gave me his beeper number last weekend at the Beer Joint."

Big fucking surprise there. That Married Bastard had a lot of nerve because he knew Lea would tell me anything. He had us lined up like Mormons, but the biggest chump was his wife. She knew all about me, but I was tired of being the bad guy, she needed to hate her husband. I didn't do this all by myself. I wanted her to back off those goddamn custody threats. Married Man cheats on his wife, always has. He had a dang girlfriend when they got married! On one of The Wife's rampages, she asked me to tell her everything but I wouldn't. She begged me, "As a friend, you got to tell me everything you know." I almost did, too. Until I found out she was just gathering information to take to court. That was the night we stepped outside at the basketball game and I lost a fingernail in her arm. I had been ready to fight then, but at this point I needed for this shit to be resolved. I was done with Married Man Boyfriend and ready to get on with my life. The last three years had been like eating a bowl of ice cream with a rock in it; tastes great until you crack a molar. I couldn't do it anymore. I wanted to be clean.

"Let's go tell her," I said.

"Tell her what, exactly, Suzel?"

"Tell her it ain't just me. I ain't the problem, it's her husband. He's the fuck-up. I swear she's going to court with my ex. I do not need her as an enemy." I stood up; I was getting into it. "We gotta tell her what a piece of dog shit, ocean-bottom, scum-sucker her husband is! We owe it to her as a fellow human in this world!"

"Damn, girl. If you put it that way, come on then." Lea said.

"Will you tell her about him hitting on you and all that?"

"Yeah, come on. Let's go before we get too drunk."

We got our cigarettes and piled in Lea's Dodge Caravan.

I went to the front porch by myself and rang the bell. When Married Man's wife opened the door and saw me, her body got so rigid it started to curl up on itself like a drying shrimp. She had asked me to tell it, and I was ready to, but I guess she changed her mind. I must've looked wound up because she called out to her daughter, "Casey call 911! Call 911!" What a fucking wimp. If it were me I'd a just stepped outside and dealt with it. No need to get your damn baby all scared. Anyway, she tried to shut the door on me but I grabbed her arm.

I said in a low voice, "I got something to tell you and you are going to listen."

That's when she went ape shit. She yelled, "I HATE YOU I HATE YOU I HATE YOU!"

I asked her how many times she could say that. "Do you really hate me?" I was cool. Let her have her little shit fit.

She was all squealing trying to wiggle out of my grip, calling me a "BIG FAT FUCKING BITCH. HE EVEN SAYS YOU'RE A BIG FAT FUCKIN' BITCH AND WOULDN'T BE CAUGHT DEAD WITH A FAT ASS LIKE YOU!"

So I said, "You don't believe me, then hang on a minute." I hollered for Lea to come on out and talk.

Lea wouldn't come to the door.

She yelled from the yard, "Shit girl! The Law's coming. Get back in this van!"

I let go.

As we drove off, I got madder and madder. For some reason I thought about the time I got an abortion when I was a teenager. I had waited for hours at the bus stop for my boyfriend to come to the clinic with me but he never showed up. Never called me back after that, either. People fail, they always have. Lea was supposed to back me up, that was the whole reason we went over there, to tell that bitch that it wasn't just me that her husband was after. It wasn't all my fault.

"Why the hell didn't you say something?" I said.

"She was calling the Law!"

"Your ass is going to get me in trouble." I pouted.

"Your ass is already in trouble. His wife is a dumbass, but it ain't worth going to jail just to tell her off. I heard her yelling, 'call 911, call 911'. Fuck that. I said that man gave me his number. Did I call it? No, I did not. Don't blame this shit on me," she said with so much meanness, I couldn't stand it.

I didn't really intend to, but I reeled back and punched her in the side of the head and made her swerve.

She screeched into a driveway of an abandoned house and we both got out. She jumped over to my side and punched me dead in the eye. I came right back at her and we were nothing but arms and legs and hair tangled up. Finally, I got behind her like I was going to put her in the Boogie Hold but she was wiggling around too much so I chomped down on her neck.

"Ouch, bitch!" she yelled and tore herself out of my grip.

We stopped and faced each other.

I don't know if she kissed me or I kissed her but all the sudden we were leaning up against the van making out.

I had just put my hands under her shirt when she stopped and said, "You hear that? I hear a siren. Get in the van."

I got in and ducked down just before the ugly blue lights of The Law appeared in the rearview mirror.

"I just thought I heard something so I needed to check my tires," Lea said, her voice loud and shaky. "Everything looks okay, but thank you for stopping, Officer." I was feeling bad for her; she's had her share of trouble with the men in blue.

"Tires look fine, Ma'am. I'm looking for a Suzel Suitor."

When I heard Johnny Law say that, I couldn't hold it in. I stepped out I said, "I'm Suzel Suitor. I had an affair with a married man. I ain't proud, but I did it. I went over to come clean with his wife. We thought we should tell her what's been going on, that's all."

The Law just stood there stony-faced and told us to go on home. I don't think he knew what to make of the two women standing in front of him, looking pitiful and wild with hair shooting up out of bobbie pins and shirts all sideways and torn. Maybe he thought we got whatever punishment we needed already. No ticket, no handcuffs, nothing.

When we got back in the car, me and Lea looked at each other and started laughing. We gave each other a big hug and drove off.

"Don't listen to that woman, honey," she said, patting my thigh as we rode along. "You ain't fat, you're voluptuous."

That made me feel good because it's true, that Wife can sure hit me where it hurts.

I wanted to go home with Lea so bad, but her husband would be there, and besides, I needed a night to get myself together before Sarah Sue came home. I couldn't wait to see my daughter, even if I was a big mess. I miss her on her weekends away. She's my anchor, without her to come home to, I could float away.

When I got back, I saw a bird lying in the grass under the window. I leaned down to see if it was breathing, but it was dead. I thought, is that typical or what? Every year seems like we get at least one kamikaze bird flying into our window. Stupid damn bird. I carried it to the back

yard and dug a little grave with my garden shovel and threw it in there and covered it up. I stuck my chewing gum between two sticks and made a cross and put it on top.

The phone was ringing when I got inside.

"I just wanted to make sure you got home okay." It was Lea.

"Yeah, I'm here. Hold on, let me go get a cigarette." I ran to my room, I was glad she called. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"Making this family some dinner," she said.

"What are ya'll having?"

"Beer," she said and broke out laughing.

"I miss you," I said.

"I miss you, too. David, quit it! Suzel, honey, I gotta go. I'll call you back."

I sat by the phone and finished my cigarette and looked at my reflection in the microwave. My eye was red and bruised and I had scratches all over my face. My voice was still raspy from whooping at the karaoke club. I was in some sorry shape.

Now, I have a date with Clay and a meeting with the big boss at work this week and I don't know how I'm gonna cover up this eye. I guess I'll wear my tinted glasses; say I was helping Lea paint her house and the ladder fell and hit me in the face. That's what I'll tell Sarah Sue and Clay and everybody at work.

But right now I just want to be myself, put some ice on my eye and watch the sun go down. I want someone to come over and make me some soup. Shit. I swear I learned my lesson. I'm done with Married Man. I'm done with fighting.

Goddamn would you look who just pulled in the driveway, carrying a bunch of flowers.


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