Marlon S. Hayes is a writer, poet, and author from Chicago, Illinois. He loves to travel, cook, and likes old movies. His work can be found on Amazon and he can be followed at Marlon’s Writings on Facebook. This story appeared in his short story collection, Watching for Potholes.

by Marlon S. Hayes

I smile on the inside when people attempt to show their concern for my well-being. All of the people in my life think they know what’s best for me, or what I need.

“Dennis, it’s been long enough, don’t you think? It’s time for you to get on with your life.” Family, friends, co-workers, the refrain is similar from all of them. The only variations are the suggested mates, whom they say would be perfect for me.

I feign interest, in order to be cordial, but I’m not interested in meeting someone new. Even if I make the attempt to meet someone, it would be a wasted effort. I try to imagine myself at dinner with one of these new women, and even in my imagination, it doesn’t work. I’m only used to being at dinner with one woman, being entertained by one amazing creature. None of these imagined women could hold a candle to my Carlita, so until I see her again, I’ll be faithful to her memory.

I wake every morning to the scent of her. Even though she hasn’t slept in the bed with me in three years, eight months, and seventeen days, I still need the reassurance of her presence. I spray a spritz of her signature perfume on the pillowcases whenever I change the sheets. Daisy by Marc Jacobs. One bottle usually lasts about a year and a half, if used frugally. So far, I’ve only bought two bottles, but the sentimentality of my actions, I keep to myself.

I haven’t told anyone of my little idiosyncrasies because I really don’t need any more sympathy from the people who know how much I miss her. Yet, I strive to keep her as part of my daily routine. I can’t help it.

I’m not, nor will I ever be, a ladies’ man. There’s nothing glossy or riveting about my looks. I know my physical shortcomings, thank you very much. On a scale of one to ten, I might be a six on a good day, a five every other day. I’m not disgustingly ugly, just rather plain and nondescript. If I were an actor, I’d be typecast as the bank teller, or the clerk at the video store. I’m the type of guy who’s invisible to most of the population, a blip on their radar.

I never expected a Carlita in my life. Life doesn’t prepare guys like me for women like her. The law of averages suggest there’s someone for everyone, so even someone like me should have a soul mate, or at least a canasta partner.

I smelled her before I ever saw her. I was sitting in a coffeehouse, enjoying my laptop and a latte. I was tapping away at my keyboard, and a fragrance sweeter than any I’d ever known wafted into my subconscious. I’d find out eventually the fragrance was Daisy, the only perfume Carlita ever wore. My eyes followed my nose, and Carlita entered my world. I didn’t know her name then, but it felt as if a band of musicians should have been following her, playing Irish ballads or something.

To call her beautiful would have been an understatement. Long, flowing hair, an unforgettable face, and a smile which lit up the room. Just watching her lips form words to order her coffee was entrancing.

Our eyes met as she walked towards me, and I couldn’t help but to nod at her, my mouth being unable to even murmur a greeting. She smiled at me then, and my life hasn’t been the same since.

The coffeehouse was part of my daily routine, a needed stop on my way to work. I would prepare myself for my daily battles in corporate America by relaxing for an hour or so before continuing my day. Apparently, Carlita included the coffeehouse in her daily routine as well, because I began to see her every weekday morning around the same time. My morning nod eventually led to me mustering the courage to say “Good morning,” and to hear her lovely voice return my greeting.

Then one day, she sat down at my table.

“Good morning. I’m running early today, so I figured it’d be a change of pace to sit down and enjoy my coffee,” she said. “ I’m Carlita.”

She extended her hand towards me and I shook her small, soft fingers. It felt as if electricity coursed through my veins, like I’d touched a live wire. It was a magical moment, and looking back, I think it was a confirmation we were supposed to be together forever.

I introduced myself to Carlita, and our romance took off from there. Her curiosity about my laptop activities led me to telling her of my love for role playing video games, which is why I work for a video game company. I was so happy to discover that Carlita was into video gaming as well, and our discussion the first day was about our common interests such as video games, fantasy books and movies, and our mutual love for adventurous tales. We began meeting for coffee every weekday morning, and I fell deeper under her spell as the weeks went by.

Over those first few weeks, my courage grew with each cup of coffee we shared. I began to open up to Carlita about my background and my history. I told of being a change of life baby for my parents, being born when they were in their forties. My siblings were both almost twenty years older than me, so we were more like polite strangers than siblings. I escaped into books and video games growing up, and the few friends I’d gathered over the years, shared my interests.

Carlita had been raised by her now deceased grandparents, and she had no siblings or relatives. She explained to me she was somewhat of a vagabond, moving from place to place, and city to city whenever the mood struck her. Carlita had friends scattered across the world, but she knew no one in my city yet, having only moved here recently. She worked at an art gallery downtown, and invited me to check out an exhibition on Irish fairy tales. Yes, Carlita asked me out on our first date.

I still rejoice in meeting her, because it seems as if my life started then. On our first magical date, we discussed ghosts, Irish folklore, fairies, little people, and our mutual interest in things not of the natural world. I was hooked on the conversation with her, and I daydreamed of having Carlita to talk to for the rest of forever.

Later, underneath a full moon, I kissed her. She and I were walking, laughing and talking of what we had seen. Carlita paused in her speech, lips parted, her eyes looking into mine. I couldn’t help myself. It was my moment, so I leaned into her and poured my soul into the first meeting of our lips. With eyes closed, I kissed my soulmate’s soft, willing lips, sealing our fates in the process.

Our romance sped forward from then on, as we became inseparable, intimately intertwined in the scary process of falling in love. Carlita confessed to me early on in our relationship how she’d never stayed in one place for too long. She said the world was too big and fascinating to tie your hopes and dreams to one place. Yet, she fell in love with me, a man who didn’t share her wanderlust, and who preferred life to be routine in all aspects. Somehow though, we kept falling deeper into each other.

A month later, ironically underneath another full moon, we made love for the first time. With lit candles illuminating her bedroom, Carlita and I made love to the sounds of flutes, soothing drums, gently, fiercely, exploring and devouring each other. A month after our initial lovemaking session, this wondrous gypsy agreed to move in with me, taking another step along our pathway to forever.

Carlita brought brightly colored stones, eclectic art, and heretofore unknown dreams into my world. Instead of having coffee at the coffeehouse, I was sitting at my table, across from the most beautiful woman in the world, with her clad only in a nightshirt. 

Every morning was magical and every night was memorable. Bliss was my routine, and I began to daydream of children who’d have Carlita’s eyes and her joy for living, with maybe a little bit of my intelligence.

Around four months or so after we’d began cohabitation, Carlita started talking about taking trips sometime soon. I mentioned looking for a small house, so we could have a place with no landlord or controlled heat or air. In the spirit of compromise, I agreed to plan a whirlwind trip with her, and she agreed to look at houses with me. I envisioned our future together, a shining beacon of love and hope.

On our regular Saturday drive, as we visited houses, I noticed Carlita seemed somewhat distant, even a bit morose. Yet she didn’t say anything remotely out of the ordinary then. She didn’t hint at any unhappiness, so I thought maybe she was just having a moody kind of day. How little did I know about her.

The following Monday, I went to pick up Carlita from her job at the art gallery. She walked out with a cardboard box containing her belongings. I opened the back door and placed her box in the back seat, then I held the passenger door open for her. Carlita was not her usual self, she was unsmiling and silent. Not good at all.

“I quit my job today,” she announced. “The mundane is not for me, nor is a typical life. I’ve tried to be someone I’m not, but it’s not working. It’s time for me to move on.”

My world tilted on its axis, and my insides started crumbling. My emotions were teetering uncontrollably and I didn’t know what would happen next. My voice trembled as I asked the only question I could summon forth.

“What about us?” I whispered.

“Us? Ha. When I met you, I thought I’d found my kindred spirit, a dreamer like me, who wants to see the world we live in,” Carlita said. “I fell in love with him, the dreamer, only to find his adventurous nature was only a façade. Dennis, you just want to read about living, and dream of going on a quest. I want to live it.”

Outside the car, the world I knew flew by, familiar places. Places I was comfortable in, and where I knew how to get from point A to Z. As much as I wanted to go to the ends of the world chasing waterfalls, I knew the rhythms here, and I was used to it.

“So, what happens next?” I asked, scared of her answer, but needing to know. I’d pulled over in front of a work site, where a new house was being built. My emotions were frayed as I turned to look at her. Her white sundress sculpted her curves beautifully, an image which torments my mind still. Carlita turned her body towards me, and proceeded to break my heart.

“I’m going to Minneapolis. Then I’m going to catch a riverboat bound for New Orleans, stopping at every port on the way. Then, once I get there, I’m gonna find my people. Not relatives or anything, but my people. People like me who don’t give a fuck about what the world thinks. And no baby, you ain’t invited,” she finished.


I’ve been trying to learn how to live again. I never bought a house, but I still take Saturday drives to look at houses. For one day a week, I could dream of how life could have been with Carlita by my side, building a foundation for our future. I still clung to the hope she would one day return to me, but hope was finally starting to fade.

Lately, it seemed as if vestiges of Carlita started appearing. Sitting at the coffeehouse, all of a sudden I’d smell her scent, and I’d look up expectantly, but there wouldn’t be a woman in the vicinity. Maybe I was having psychosomatic episodes, but she was suddenly everywhere. A floating laugh as I walked down the street would sound so much like her, I’d look around wildly, but it was never her. Lying in my bed at night, my sleep is now uneasy and restless. My face buried in Carlita’s scent-soaked pillows brought me no ease. My dreams were filled with her, and my waking hours were spent imagining her everywhere. I had a hopeless case.

My recurring nightmare was of my Carlita, in a white sundress, exactly like the one she was wearing the day she left me. In my dream, she’s never smiling at me, never talking to me, just glaring at me as I scream “I’m sorry,” over and over.

I wake, drenched in sweat, alert, and wondering what these dreams mean. I sit up until the wee hours of the morning, nervous about going to sleep, yet somehow thrilled to see Carlita again, if only in my dreams.

Waking from my dreams of her, I could swear she was still there, sitting on the bed next to me. Her fragrance threatening to overwhelm me, I reached for her, hoping she was real. Unsmiling, simply looking at me, her image would begin to fade as my hands closed around nothingness. In those moments of half sleep, half awake, Carlita was a visual reality, dissipating only when I reached for her.

I didn’t know if I was hallucinating, or if I was wishing too hard for her to be here. Brushing my teeth yesterday, I saw Carlita in the mirror, standing behind me. My reflection looked right into her eyes, still beautiful, but unsmiling. Her perfume was suddenly overwhelming, making me nauseous, instead of nostalgic.

I was scared to turn around, because I knew she’d disappear again, the same way she’d done in life. I maintained eye contact, hoping she’d stay long enough to hear my words.

“I wish it could have been different for us, Carlita,” I said. “I should have just followed you to wherever you desired to go. I think we could have been happy together.”

Carlita just stared at me in the mirror, and suddenly, I felt a chill in the air, as if there were a draft. I turned around quickly, but she was gone, leaving me with nothing. I wished she could have been content with me, the way I am. I could have grown more, I think. I might have blossomed into a beautiful butterfly, matching her in every way. I took too long, I guess, because she hadn’t even invited me to go to New Orleans with her. I wish she had.


Today started off the same as all of the days since she left me. I woke alone; weary from another restless night, still puzzling about my recurring dream of Carlita. I wondered why she appeared in my dreams and waking moments, yet never said a word.

I didn’t go to the coffeehouse today, nor to my job. I simply sat and thought. I made the decision of a lifetime around noon. I decided since Carlita had not come back to me, I would go and find her. My life wasn’t really worth anything without Carlita. I’d surprise her by showing how adventurous I truly was at heart.

Before embarking on my journey to find Carlita, I made sure all of my affairs were in order. I’m meticulous about disorder. I packed a few mementos, and left my apartment for the last time, the door closing behind me with the sound of finality. I exhaled, knowing I was finally on the path to my destiny, or rather, to Carlita.

I placed my bag upon the passenger seat, removing one item as I did. It was a bottle of Daisy, which I liberally sprayed in the interior of my car. I wanted Carlita with me in spirit, as I set out to find her. I placed a CD of Irish folk music into the player, knowing it would remind me of the first time I’d held Carlita in my arms and made love to her. Soon, she’d be in my arms again, because we were supposed to be together forever.

I drove unerringly to the last house Carlita and I had visited, only it hadn’t been a house then, just a foundation with a huge sign showing how the house would look upon completion. I parked the car, shutting the engine off. I have driven past this house for the last three years, eight months, and seventeen days, watching it being built from the ground up, then eventually inhabited. A lovely young family with two young children lived there now.

I opened my bag and retrieved a couple of bottles, a fine Irish whiskey to toast Carlita with, and to wash my sorrows away. I know now certain birds aren’t meant to be caged, but their plumage is too beautiful to just let fly free. On the day Carlita informed me we could no longer be together, we were driving in the vicinity of the house I was now parked in front of. I twisted the cap off of the bottle and I winced as the fiery liquid burned its way down my throat. The first shot of whiskey burns, but every shot afterwards goes down smooth.

I reflected on my last conversation with Carlita, and wondered how I could have reacted in a different way. I unscrewed the sleeping pill bottle I’d brought along and started swallowing them two at a time, chasing them with whiskey.

Love makes us do foolish things, and I didn’t even really remember choking the life out of Carlita. I remember the look on her face afterwards, her beautiful eyes bulged out, her tongue exposed for eternity. I vaguely remembered pulling over, and maybe I pleaded with her, or swore my undying affection. Didn’t matter to her in the least.

Sitting now in my car, I swallowed some more whiskey and pills, determined to empty both bottles.

It hadn’t been easy to dig down into the freshly lain cement of the foundation, but I did. I dug down deep enough, then I retrieved Carlita’s body when the sun went down. I placed her body in the hole, then I put fresh cement over her, and smoothed it all out, making it as it was before it became a grave.

No one missed her except me, because Carlita had no ties binding her to other people. I drove past every day, watching them build the house that should have been for us, but her body was never discovered.

I’ve grown weary of her being everywhere in my life, but in reality, she’s nowhere at all. Maybe it’s only been my imagination which sees her, feels her, and smells her everywhere I go. All of the times she appeared to me, she never said anything. I kept waiting for her to say something, but she never did.

The bottles are now empty, and I drift off easily, impatiently hoping dreams come before death. Carlita appears, clad in her white sundress, and I smile at her. “I got tired of waiting for you, my love.”