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Daphne loved speed.
Not in the traditional sense: she rarely pushed her weathered Honda Civic past third gear. The race for Daphne lay in the corridors of her mind, long and labyrinthine, and the girl needed her get-up-and-go. Cocaine, when she could afford it; ephedrine-powered nasal decongestants when she couldn't. But she was never happier than the couple of times I'd seen her receive a shipment of Simpamina, which was apparently Italian for "seventy-two straight hours of sex, rock and roll, and menial household chores completed with manic gusto." Followed immediately by four hours of paranoid delusions, violent arguments over meaningless nonissues, and, during our final week together, a pair of suicide attempts wrapped around assault with a deadly weapon.
I met Daphne when I returned to the U, a broke sophomore in need of a part-time job. My summer plans to bus tables for the snobs at the Hempstead Golf and Country Club had collapsed when I'd tried to drive a fully airborne golf cart through a plate-glass window. My passenger a bridesmaid with Stevie Nicks hair who minutes earlier I'd been fingerfucking behind the Pro Shop was late for her scheduled toast at the wedding on the other side of the window. The ensuing explosion of glass delivered a thrilling end to what had been, up until that point, a brilliantly executed shortcut across the bunkers on Hole 13, improvised with the help of a half-bottle of Stoli, an angry golf marshal in hot pursuit, and the bridesmaid's reciprocating fingers down the front of my pants. We escaped mostly unscratched, thanks to vodka's armor-plating effects, and the talk of pressing charges turned out to be just that. But the job was history. I spent the rest of the summer as an unemployed thorn in my parents' collective ass.
Back at school, I responded to an ad in the student paper: banquet catering. I began the interview with a heavily edited account of my country club experience, but at the urging of my interviewer a twenty-something peroxide blonde punk rocker and weekend college radio DJ with a killer smile I kept adding details until we were both rolling on the floor. I won both the job and an initiation into the strange and wonderful world of Daphne Robichaux, a crash course in alternative music, pharmaceuticals, and a lot of sex, with the occasional light bondage. I let her pierce my left ear and learned to play a few chords on the guitar. When I returned home for Christmas, I announced that I was dropping out of school to write music and shack up with my new soulmate. My mother wept and refused to talk to me for the rest of the break. My father just shrugged. "Save us some money, anyway," he said.
Whether by miracle or cosmic joke, Daphne and I survived a seemingly endless cycle of dustups and were still together the following Thanksgiving. Neither of us wanted to spend it with family mine was still sore at me, while Daphne claimed to be an orphan so instead we planned a Long Weekend of Glorious Ingratitude: four days and three nights in Niagara Falls, where we planned to make a point of never using the word "thanks," preferably while doing a lot of fucking in the tackiest honeymoon suite we could afford.
We packed the Civic and backed out of her snowy driveway, Daphne nearly guiding the car into the mailman. He sneered at us as he handed her a small white box with an Italian postmark.
"Thank you," she blurted at the mailman. He gave her the finger and walked away.
"I'd just like to point out," I said, looking at the shitty Timex my father hilariously called my inheritance, "that it took you under thirty seconds to violate our only rule for the weekend."
"You're driving," she said, already scampering over me. In the time it took me to get behind the wheel and pull the car into the street, she'd ripped through several layers of tape, cardboard, Bubble Wrap, and child-proofing to liberate a handful of the Italians. Her eyes lit up as they traced the pill's familiar contours: one half painted a sinister black, the other half transparent to reveal the timed-release payload of tiny orange and white spansules. "A salut," she toasted, swallowing one dry.
An hour later we pulled into an abandoned drive-in movie theater near Seneca Falls. She'd already removed her pants and unzipped mine. I barely had time to shut off the ignition before she climbed over the console, sprung my cock from my fly, and pulled her panties aside far enough to take me in. She slid slowly down to the point where our pelvises met.
That was the end of the slow from then on we were moving to Simpamina time. Using one hand to buffer her head against the Civic's low ceiling, I reached down with the other to recline my chair. The seat flopped backward with a bang, its momentum combining with the physics generated by our energetic coupling to start the car rolling backward down a gentle slope. I hadn't thought to secure the emergency brake.
Daphne's eyes widened with emotion. Fear? Arousal? Both? I was experiencing mostly panic as my body slid backward with the car, making it impossible to reach the brake pedal with my foot. Grabbing the passenger seat, I pulled myself through an incline sit-up toward the hand brake, wrapped my fingers around the handle, and jerked hard. We slid another few anxious feet down the icy grass before crashing into a metal post, one of the drive-in's speakers.
Daphne bowed her head and laughed and quickly rediscovered her earlier rhythm. We finished quickly and exited the car to inspect the damage to the bumper, which proved minor. She popped another pill and we were back on the road.
Two hours later, we checked into the Royal Camelot Inn, sold by the availability of the honeymoon suite and the "I came-a-lot at the Camelot" T-shirts on sale in the lobby. We cracked open the complimentary bottle of pink champagne, broke in the Jacuzzi tub, and managed one more ferocious screw in the heart-shaped bed before I collapsed into a dreamless sleep. I awoke eight hours later to find Daphne cleaning the tub, having commandeered a spray disinfectant during her sleepless exploration of the hotel and its surrounding area. She'd already planned our day: a visit to a winery just across the Canadian border.
The region was too cold for traditional winemaking, our tour guide explained the grapes froze on the vine before they were ready to be harvested. Driven by ingenuity and the desire for drink, the locals had developed a time- and labor-intensive process that squeezed just a few drops out of each icy fruit, the result a thick and sweet concoction called "Icewine."
Which we never got to try. While we'd taken the tour as a way to exploit Canada's more kid-friendly drinking age Daphne was a wise old twenty-two, but I still had a year and a half to go before my twenty-first birthday Daphne pulled me into a restroom as our group moved into the tasting room.
Our sexual odyssey, however, was taking its toll, specifically on my manhood: the chafing made Daphne's soft and wet feel like an electric power sander. I told her so when, on our return to the parking lot, she unzipped my pants, seemingly intent on giving me head.
"Whatever," she said, jerking the zipper closed. She began to walk toward the area's main event the roaring Falls then picked up her speed to a light jog. Soon it was a full-on sprint.
Maybe she wasn't going to hurl herself over the side, I thought as I sprinted after her, ignoring all kinds of pain as my jeans gave my sore groin a good working over. But she sure looked hell-bent on trying. As she neared the edge, I literally leapt for her ankles and pulled her to the ground.
"What the fuck, Daphne?"
My chivalry was rewarded with a flurry of punches to the face and chest. I shielded my face and bucked her off me. I waved at a few gawkers who were pointing in our direction. "We're all right," I yelled. "She's got a medical condition."
We didn't speak the entire drive back to the hotel. As I climbed out of the car, she grabbed the keys and sped away. I returned to the room, where I lay in the bed watching the same highlights on ESPN for almost four hours before she returned.
"I wasn't sure you were coming back," I said.
"Neither was I," she replied. "But I was afraid you'd keep the pills." She retrieved the bottle from the bathroom and helped herself to another.
"You want to fuck yourself go right ahead," I said.
"You already told me that when you rejected me in the parking lot."
I don't remember what else was said that night. The pattern, by now, was familiar: accusations and tears, harsh words, and, eventually, reconciliation. An attempt at makeup sex, cut short by the sorry state of my inflamed penis. We fell into a wordless cease-fire and, finally, a restless sleep.
Or at least I did. When I jerked awake, she was staring at me, bouncing slightly, seemingly full of life. Only her zombie eyes betrayed the fact that she was on her second straight day without sleep. "Number Three," she stated.
Our "Worst Fight Ever" took place just two weeks into our relationship, on our way back from a Meat Loaf concert. Then, a week later at an around-the-world party in my dorm, we fought a sangria-fueled reenactment of the Spanish Civil War. During a recent makeup session we'd listed our Top 5 Fights on the chalkboard in her kitchen, hoping the sight of so much water under the bridge would inspire future harmony. So far, the list had only succeeded in presenting more opportunities for argument, as new battles jockeyed for position with the old.
"Seriously?" I asked, pointing to the bruises on my arm. "Number Two, missie. Might give Number One a run for its money, if there's any scarring."
"Pussy," she said, punching me in the arm.
Neither of us felt like returning to the Falls, and after two days the room felt more prison than escape. We climbed into the car and began the drive back to school. Daphne celebrated the start of our journey with another Simpamina.
"Where do you even get them?" I asked.
"From Dino," she replied.
Dino was a Roman she'd dated during a semester in Italy when she was an undergrad art major. He'd been a genius artist, or so she said. I tended to ignore most of what she said about Dino, as in addition to vast artistic talent he'd apparently been endowed with a cock molto mostruoso and the equivalent of a graduate degree in Italian lovemaking. While I was generally confident in my own size and skills, talking Dino reminded me that Daphne was our relationship's wiser and wilder elder, making me feel like a groping pretender.
"Ah, Dino," I said. "Your friend with the Flintstones name."
"That wasn't funny the first time you said it. Or the six thousand times since." Daphne's spine stiffened for a fight. And I was feeling stupid enough to give her one.
"Dino," I continued. "The genius artist who's what, thirty? And still lives with his parents."
"You know damn fucking well that's the traditional living arrangement in Italy. It's not like the consumerist hell we live in here. Family values actually mean something."
"Just saying. Real geniuses don't live with their parents."
Her response was fast, effective, and very nearly fatal for both of us. She grabbed my arm, pulling me and the steering wheel toward her. As I leaned the other way to straighten the wheel, she punched me, without letting go of my arm, around my head and neck as hard and as fast as she could. What she lacked in strength, she more than made up for in speed.
"I hate consumerism!" she screamed.
The car began to spin, slowly, but still precariously out of control. I struggled to restore authority over the vehicle with my free arm while deflecting punches with the other. "I hate consumerism!" she continued to yell again and again, like a chanting monk.
Now we were facing oncoming traffic. Cars swerved past us, their drivers' faces rigid with shock, terror, and fury at an unpredictable universe. I began to smile, the same dumb expression that was plastered on my face when the Civic completed its 360-degree turn and slammed broadside into the center divider.
We sat in the emergency lane, motionless and silent. Until Daphne leapt out of the passenger seat, skirted three lanes of interstate traffic, and disappeared into a snowy copse of trees.
I banged the steering wheel angrily. I had a pretty good case for leaving her here. Let her hitch a ride. She'd get home eventually, full of piss and vinegar and maybe unwilling to ever forgive me, but fuck it: This time our relationship was done. Number Two had become Number One and there was no going back.
I slammed the wheel a few more times, cursing Daphne, Dino, myself, and lastly my parents for being such assholes that I'd had to even take this goddamn trip. Then I unbuckled my seat belt and played a real-life game of Frogger across the highway, hoping to find her.
It wasn't very hard. She'd fallen to her knees about thirty yards from the road. I approached slowly, softly repeating her name, trying to get a read on her emotional temperature. I interpreted her silence as welcoming so I moved in, placing a hand on her shoulder. A sharp burst of pain in my own shoulder provided instant feedback as to just how badly I'd misread the situation.
The switchblade was another Italian souvenir, something she began carrying full-time after a female student had been raped on campus. She dislodged the knife from my shoulder. I had time to scream in pain before she stuck me again, this time in my thigh. Then she went for the chest. Some instinct toward self-defense ordered my forearm to push back, flinging her backward almost comically into a snowdrift. I tried to step toward her, but the pain in my leg dictated otherwise. I crumpled to my knees and rolled onto my back, staring at the dark gray sky, bleeding into the snow, waiting to die. Copyright © 2009 by Showtime Networks Inc.