We called it sitting in the clouds. When you are sitting on the ground under a full moon, surrounded by miles of cotton in full bloom, it looks like the heaven in cartoon world.
Southern Comfort complimented the Stubb's takeout of brisket, slaw and beans we ate with our fingers. I half suspected Stubblefield intentionally left the napkins and plastic eating utensils out of our white paper bag as a joke or to make a point, after hearing we were heading to the cotton fields. On several occasions my relationship with a woman had to be a kept secret because her family didn't approve of non-white friends, and especially lovers. So here I was again, dating undercover. Delia's father didn't approve of me because I wasn't black; he was good friends with Stubb. We made the mistake of using the tissues in Delia's purse, which stuck to the now famous sauce. This had a tar and feathered effect that we took to extreme, decorating each other with bits of tissue. Cotton field camouflage.
Sunset on the Texas plains can be spectacular. The stars in the middle of nowhere, blinding jewels. Before darkness set in I had something I wanted to show Delia. I left the blanket and pillows. She held the sticky bottle while I produced a crossbow from the back of my Blazer. My inexperience with a crossbow became quickly apparent and much laughter ensued. It wasn't clear if we were laughing at my struggle or how silly we looked with tissue stuck on our arms and faces. After much fumbling around in fading light, I had an arrow in place. In a cotton field there are no trees. Pointing the arrow skyward, I strained to see a safe way to unload the bow. Like a bad whisper, the arrow disappeared into the air. Seconds later we heard screaming car tires sliding across the pavement in the distance.
We packed the Blazer in fast forward and headed to the highway. There was a sedan in the ditch. "Stay in the car." It was the only time I ever raised my voice to Delia. As I closed in on the sedan, I slowed my run. The back window was shattered and a man in a suit was getting out. He started yelling about kids throwing rocks at cars from the field. Survival thinking: no one is hurt, I must somehow retrieve the arrow laying across the black as shoe polish tire rubber ten feet in front of me. Delia and I are decorated with tissue and we need to leave. Delia's father ran a bootlegging enterprise and I was far more concerned about his wraith than any confrontation with the Texas Highway Department.
I awoke with a middle-aged woman pointing at me and speaking loudly in Spanish. Who is this woman? Where am I? Housekeeping. I'm naked. Reaching for the sheets, I recognize the decor. I know this motel. Pointing and pointing and loud Spanish. Where is Delia? I follow the bent pointing finger, not pointing at me, but just beyond me. The hospital white pillowcase next to me had a heart drawn on it in brilliant red lipstick with the arrow stabbed into the center.
The last time I saw Delia alive was on the shuttle at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. Her two children were impeccably dressed. I slid my fingers in between the buttons on my shirt Napoleon like, popping them outward simulating a heartbeat. I will never forget her smile.
There are moments some will never forget, a first kiss, your wedding, the birth of a child. I will forever hold the moment I heard Delia had passed of breast cancer. She made my wounds bleed a little less. She had a laugh that made people laugh. She had a heart that made you know your own heart. Even through it has been decades, I can still hear the sound of hers breaking.
If you enjoyed this excerpt from my autobiography, "My Life: The Part I Can Tell," please consider supporting my writing endeavor with a small donation. Thank you - Rhett Lynch