The President of Costa Rica
By Shane Jones - Feb 19, 2018
My sister is in love with Lieutenant Jonathan Legs Junior. He is a cop who enjoys big sweaters and Percocet. Not the worst combination in the world. Once, he carved a horse into a pumpkin. That was surprising. Another time, he told a story about handcuffing a woman dressed in all purple. Even her hair was purple. When I leave my sister’s house, after our weekly dinner, he hugs me and offers to walk me home, which I always refuse.
It is a short walk from my apartment to my sister’s house. It is winter here and always snowing. Lieutenant Jonathan Legs Junior is never cold on account of his big sweaters. When I let the dog out I have to dress him in a sweater and shovel a “shit zone.” I don’t call the dog by his name because he is my ex-husband’s. He lives in Sacramento in a car. An ideal place to live in a car.
The first time Lieutenant Jonathan Legs Junior texted me was a Tuesday night. I was drinking because I wanted to be dreaming but awake. Everyone knows if a man contacts you after 11 p.m. they want to put something inside you. I had a boyfriend once who texted me, “Need my crank yanked.” I hated that. He showed me a video of a man feeding a woman grapes. That was okay. But there was another man, putting frozen grapes inside her pussy.“Wrong number,” I texted back.
“It’s Lieutenant Legs,” he said.
I was in bed. I rolled over and onto my stomach. “That doesn’t sound real,” I said.
“My father,” he said. “Legs Senior lives in Reno. He collects ants in a glass box. Ants are identical but he has names for them. He buys them sand on the internet.”
“Ants are the devil’s semen,” I said.
There was a long pause where he didn’t say anything but I could see he was typing.
Finally, he said, “I want to take you for a drive.”
I sat up and finished my drink. “In the police car?”
“It’s a regular car,” he said. “Well, it’s police issued. It’s a Dodge something. A 2015.”
“But no lights.”
“A red one comes on between the headlights,” he said. “The car goes 200 miles per hour.”
“This is the President of Costa Rica,” I said. “Goodbye.”
The following night he texted a picture of a police car, a devil’s face, and a martini glass. I laughed so I sent him a smiley face. This is how the world works. When I asked him about my sister, wouldn’t she be upset he was texting me late at night when men think about putting things inside women, he said he would tell her, eventually, that honesty sets us apart from animals, but you had to be careful because honesty can be hurtful, so it’s also important to be compassionate with your honesty. I texted back a hospital, a skeleton, and the flag of Costa Rica.
“I’m considering moving in with your sister,” said Legs. “What do you think about that?”
“I read an interview once with a famous interior designer named Bubbles,” I said. “Bubbles said living with someone you loved required deception. Bubbles said to imagine living in a house with no darkness. To imagine every inch of every room illuminated with lamps never turned off.”
“Bubbles,” said Legs. “Hmmm.”
“Bubbles tells the truth,” I wrote back. What I wanted to say: “And don’t you see, you dope, that I’m your darkness?”
Lieutenant Jonathan Legs Junior liked to tell police stories. There was a story about shooting a horse in the head at a racetrack. I asked about the Percocet. The Percocet came after a robbery. Lieutenant Jonathan Legs Junior fell. He just kind of slipped while looking out a window. There was an orange light in the sky, he said. His cop friends lifted him off the grass because the fall didn’t seem that far and shifted his back out of place. He described the hospital in sensitive detail. How he couldn’t move his hand to wipe the tears from his face. He watched football and ate pasta that fell apart before it touched his lips.
During our first car ride Lieutenant Jonathan Legs Junior didn’t try to penetrate me with anything which was so nice. We discussed the snow in excruciating detail. He told a story about a robber who took so long inside a home that he couldn’t leave because his car was stuck in the snow, it fell that fast.
Legs wore a big orange sweater and at a red light took more Percocet because of a back spasm. He had shoulders that looked like another pair of shoulders were fitted inside. I liked how he didn’t use the windshield wipers. Instead, he put the heater on full blast and aimed the heat at the glass. The orange pill bottle he kept on the dashboard. That was arrogant. That I did not like.
He insisted on eating at Johnny B’s BBQ Chicken Shack. I wanted to be in the car driving around in the snow. He knew all the roads that were poorly plowed and because he had special tires and couldn’t get arrested we drove fast. He hit garbage cans on purpose. It wasn’t scary because it was funny. He did this all the way down this one road, swerving and hitting the garbage cans. From the back window the garbage cans lay in the snow, some of them with their tops off and plastic bags split open with garbage strewn across the dark and the snow.
All the waitresses at Johnny B’s BBQ Chicken Shack admired Lieutenant Jonathan Legs Junior. The owner, Gail, wore leopard print and touched his arm when she spoke. I don’t like people who do that move. It is unnecessary.
I understood Legs wanted me at Johnny B’s BBQ Chicken Shack so he could be surrounded by women, and then, later, by my sister, who would yank his crank. Like most men he could not be alone. He ordered the Lumberjack Pulled Pork Sandwich.
“Now you take care of this good man,” said Gail with her hand on his shoulder.
Legs smiled with strands of meat hanging from his mouth. He had taken too much Percocet.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I won’t.”
Each night we drove for an hour in the snow before going to my place. I became suspicious of his need not to put things inside me. He always looked depressed and I liked that. It was difficult to imagine him arresting someone and yelling into their face. But since his accident he was a desk cop. He got everyone else their ham sandwich at a local deli. I feel like I would be very good at a job like that.
“I’m your darkness,” I finally said in the car one night. It was snowing and inside the car it was a hundred degrees. “That’s why you’re doing this.”
“But I’m not doing anything,” said Legs. “I am literally doing nothing.”
“Your life is police enforcement and a false sense of goodness. You possess the human need to balance this goodness with the bad.”
“I think these pills are making a hole inside me,” said Legs. “And in the hole I just keep pouring all this food but it doesn’t work. The hole runs my entire back and stomach. It’s a terrible way to live. I’ll probably move in with my father and collect ants. I’ll name one of the ants Franklin.”
“You fill the hole with people,” I said. “Look at what you’re doing. You are unable to spend one minute alone.”
“I’m alone all the time,” said Legs.
He paused for a moment. “When I do laundry.”
“But everyone is alone when they do laundry,” I said. “That doesn’t count. Name another.”
I told him about this street in France. The street is cobblestoned and full of prostitutes and drugs and café lights from little windows. It is the filthiest street in Europe. And everyone, at one point in the year, walks down this street. They don’t necessarily do anything on the street. They just walk down it. Later, they confide in their friends about walking down the street and the friend, who has walked down the street, pretends he hasn’t. He just listens to the friend and nods. Years later, they switch places.
“I’m alone when grocery shopping,” said Legs.
“The reason why they walk down the street,” I said, “is because they need the filth of the street on them. Then they go home to their family and get clean. You see? Understand how this works?”
“And I’m alone when I shave my head,” he said. “I’m forced to look at myself in the mirror.”
When Lieutenant Jonathan Legs Junior wasn’t at my sister’s house getting his crank yanked we started going to his apartment where I cooked meat and rubbed his back. The apartment had two bedrooms and sometimes his daughter was there. She called me A Hundred. As in, a nickname, regarding my weight. After that I never spoke a word to her. She had beautiful red hair but a face that would make her suffer later in life.
His apartment was similar to mine in that nothing was in it and it was also on the fifth floor. There were some differences. Where I had only books and liquids, Legs had pills and big sweaters. We both had a twin sized mattress on a scuffed hardwood floor.
“Here,” he said one evening at his place. We were in bed reading on our phones. He reached over himself and handed me a Percocet.
“Why do they bother making it blue?” I said.
“Mix it. With your drink.”
So we had some Percocet and gin. Lieutenant Jonathan Legs Junior took all his clothes off. I had to move so I walked around the apartment in a loop until I overheated. I opened a window in the dining room and cold air and snow blew in. It was great. I looked out of the window and below was his daughter talking to fifteen boys in hooded sweatshirts. They surrounded her. They were getting high. All I could see were phone screens and puffs of smoke. The snow melted on the back of my neck.
I was a little zoned out when my phone rang. I answered it without looking at who was calling. People don’t call me because I am the type of person who family members call toxic. But everyone in the world is toxic. The world was designed for trees. Birds came later to move the seeds around. But people who label people toxic are the most toxic. They are worse than hippies. When he’s not living in his car in Sacramento my ex-husband emails me from a library and ends them, Peaceful Journey.
“I wanted to say,” said my sister, “this over the phone.”
“Yes,” I said. “This is the President of Costa Rica.”
“I don’t really have anything to say,” my sister said. “This is just me letting you know that I have always hated you and I will continue hating you.”
“Not interested,” I said. “But I appreciate the offer for such a product.”
“When dad passed last year, he said you are a person who messes everything up for everyone else. He said that when we were little you sold Mom’s favorite Christmas ornaments so you could buy a cat a diamond ring.”
“I understand you have your job to do, and I respect organic cleaners,” I said. “But at this time, no thank you.”
My sister did her mean laugh. “He said you spent all your time walking around the woods by yourself. That for an entire summer you lived in a tree because some guy wanted to cut it down because it was obstructing his view of the sunset. He told me, right before he died, that you’d rather spend time with trees than people.”
“This isn’t fair,” I said, “but I hope you have a nice night.”
I told Lieutenant Jonathan Legs Junior I needed to see a sunrise. The winter was destroying my mental state and everyone around me. He didn’t believe me. He kept doing Percocet and drinking. I waited for him to fall asleep. I stole his money and flew to Florida and arrived in the dark.
It felt ridiculous to tell the cab driver “the beach” but he didn’t seem to mind. We drove forty minutes until a black ocean and the moon appeared. Because I was a traveler nothing felt real. Palm trees were everywhere but no one had set them on fire yet.
It was much colder than I had expected on the beach. All I could think about was Lieutenant Jonathan Legs Junior and his car with the special snow tires. Then the sun started to come up. First a long tear in the horizon. A red line seeping into the black. Then an expanding void of orange turning to blue, opening, telling me and the world to get in, or else.
This sunrise is made for me, I thought.
I stayed in Florida for three days. I lived on the beach. I got a tan and my hunger came back. I drank coconut-flavored seltzer. Reality isn’t too bad if it’s new. Men jogging, who forgot their shirts at home, smiled at me but didn’t approach me which is how I like to date. I had many boyfriends. I forgot about snow and the sadness of the Northeast because winter is eight months long and there is too much darkness for someone like me.
I had to feed the dog and shovel a shit zone so I flew home. While in Florida not one person had tried to contact me. That’s not unusual. Lieutenant Jonathan Legs Junior had moved in with my sister. He still liked big sweaters and Percocet. He liked mixing gin with the Percocet now. I thought his eyes were brown but they were blue. He didn’t seem surprised when I finished my steak. No one did. His daughter was living there too and she still called me A Hundred. I looked forward to watching her age.
Once I saw a beautiful man. He was sitting in his idling snow plow before the biggest snow storm of the year. He was listening to the intro of “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC on repeat. I waved at him but he continued smoking and watching the snow flurries melting on his windshield. I wanted a ride. What would it feel like to smash snow and still feel safe? I liked the idea of waving to a homeowner whose driveway I had just cleared.
Tonight I’m walking down the street because the sidewalks are too icy. They are always too icy. Dinner was okay. Sometimes it’s sad to see trees with no leaves but I think they’re happier this way. Trees can’t put things inside each other. They can’t make a baby the way we can make a baby. That is one thing we have going for us. I can’t think of much else. They make saffron gin now. And phones for babies.
I’m imagining a sunrise at the end of this street. A storm is coming. Besides the beautiful man sitting in his snowplow somewhere, there is absolutely no one else outside. It makes no sense to be outside if you can stay inside and be okay. Here it comes, just like in Florida. The sunrise is saying to me, “Come inside, you have had enough.”
PHOTO BY NICOLETTE POLEK