He kept talking about the Rapture. He knew I was an atheist, so in the beginning I assumed he was either trying to convert me, scare me, or bug me. As it turned out, it was the latter. He said later that he liked the way my mouth got pouty and full when I was annoyed and it made him horny.
But later isn’t the story. Later isn’t the hell he put me through when he disappeared. It was on a day when we were walking on a flat, sunny beach. There wasn’t the hint of a breeze, so every movement, every step was like being turned on a spit. Even the ocean looked flat and hot.
He didn’t look appealing in bathing trunks. His stomach protruded, and the cut of his suit made his legs look short. The sweat on his hairy back glistened, and I felt my stomach churn as we discussed our future.
“Hey, a June wedding would be terrific. Traditional,” he chirped.
“Of course, you want to do it in a church.” I could hear my own sarcasm.
“Well, yeah!” He turned and sneered as if I’d just suggested an orgy.
“You really want all that religious mumbo jumbo when it’s supposed to be about you and me?”
“It’s a union sanctioned by God.” He sighed heavily.
“What if I don’t want to be sanctioned? Maybe I want to hang loose and be happy.” I stopped and adjusted my straw hat. I could feel the dampness at my hairline.
He was quiet for a while. Then he said, “I don’t know how you and I ever got this far.”
“It’s not too late to change our minds,” I said, my mouth probably going pouty.
I knew why. Because he was the only man who ever proposed to me, that’s why. I had dated asshole after asshole and they all just wanted sex. On the day we met, he went all goofy and said, “I think you’re the one. I bet I marry you.” It took me by surprise and both charmed and terrified me, but he was like a locomotive’s cow catcher, pushing me, pushing me — away from other men, away from my disapproving family, away from my old friends. His sheer will and determination were more than my energy level, admittedly low, could fight off. So I kept going along with the program, almost dazed but fully cognizant that this would never happen in 100 years. He was nothing like the man I wanted for a husband.
At that moment, I looked at him, squinting in the bright sunlight to see his reaction, and he wasn’t there. He had just disappeared into hot air.
What happened was a little like a national crisis; a baby 9/11. Seven hundred people that day disappeared and the freaking churches had a field day. The Rapture is Real screamed the headlines.
My family and friends were happy he was gone, no matter by what transport. I didn’t believe in the Rapture or disappearances, so I figured he’d played some hoax on me. But I have to admit the other six hundred and ninety nine people on the same day gave me pause. I found myself suffering. He had loved me. I had been a bitch. Assholes came and went, but I was still single.
A year later there was a knock on my door. And there he was. He looked different. He was thinner and more handsome. He had on strange clothes, but it was his attitude that was most disconcerting. He was pleased to see me, but in a tentative way; not goofy or ardent. The only interest he showed was in getting me to bed. He couldn’t get his silver spandex uniform off fast enough.
“Don’t touch that,” he warned, when my fingers sought to feel the shiny fabric.
He was much better in bed than the old days.
“Where have you been?” I murmured.
“It was the Rapture, remember?”
“Don’t bullshit me.”
“I don’t believe in that anymore, so don’t worry. And you? You still don’t believe in anything, right?”
That annoyed me.
That’s when he told me about my pouty mouth and kissed me again.
I found myself really getting excited at these new prospects.
But you know how you just know something? Well, I knew, right then and there, he was going to disappear again.
Beverly A. Jackson is currently writing the libretto for a one-act opera set in the wild west, and seeking an agent for her new novel, “The Passage.” Visit her website at beverlyajackson.com.
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Art (cropped) by Waiting for the Word