The thunder of wild hooves echoes through these meditations on the scars we acquire in childhood and those we inflict as adults.
With biting poetry, Martínez roots out those moments in life that define us, exploring the reality of being a woman in a time when everyone has a differing opinion on just what a woman should be.
And in three interconnected stories, Martinez introduces us to three women, each one struggling to put tragedy behind them. An unfaithful woman confronts the consequences of her own poor choices; a widow stares down her husband’s murderer; and a daughter contemplates the impending death of the father who abandoned her.
As a whole, this unique collection delves into that longing we all have for wildness, passion, adventure, and the strength to let the past go.
Drum Roll Please!
Wild Horses Don’t Stop at Whoa is now available! Pick up your copy at one of the retailers below.
And to give you a taste for the book’s contents, I put the first section of the titular novella below. Enjoy!
She is a half mile ahead of him. He can just make out the Ohio license plate from where he sits in the driver seat of his black ’98 VW M3. The whole way he’s kept her in sight but not so close she could look back and see him. He swipes one hand idly over the smooth surface of the passenger seat.
He has kept the M3’s cabin spotless since buying it brand new. He never allows anyone to bring in anything that would soil the dark grey interior. She always marveled at how he maintained it. Once, he told her that he treated his cars like he treated his lovers—with a firm but loving touch. She laughed, asking if he had anymore clichés to shock her with. In the moment, the jibe hadn’t bothered him, but later, when he went home alone to the house his parents had left him, he lay awake thinking of her comment and it grew to rankle him.
He meant to say something to her the next time they met. But when the time came, she fixed him with those smoky blue eyes and drove out all other thoughts but getting his hands on her skin, in her hair.
That was how it was from the beginning. When he first saw her at a planning meeting for her branch library’s building project, she hypnotized him. Not beautiful by any criteria he knew of, she still moved him in those few moments. The cornucopian curves of her body, the lines and planes of her face made him vibrate like a tuning fork. His hands itched to twine themselves in the fall of brown-blonde hair that reached to the middle of her back in tremendous waves and curls.
He feels no shame in his obsession with her. He believes it proves the power of his love. She fills his life like a stream of water into a glass, drowning him. And he welcomes the suffocation. Lusts after it, in fact.
But she left him and told him never to contact her again. This half-mile of road is the closest he has come to her in over two months. Interrupting traffic and the occasional spray of dust from the sides of the road makes him lose sight of her for a few moments. The intrusions do not deter him. Nor does her refusal to see the truth.
She’ll understand, he knows, once he explains everything to her. She is an intelligent woman, though her passions often lead her astray. He just has to find the right words, the perfect words, and she’ll do the right thing. She will come back to him.
Transcript of therapy session between Cecelia Tobias and Dr. Frederick Ellison: Friday, January 22, 2010; 8:00 a.m.
Ellison: This has been a really chaotic eighteen months for you, Cece. I think it would be useful to review the big events. It might help you gain some perspective on things and move forward.
Tobias: Okay. Um, I got promoted at work. Branch manager of my library. It’s been a big adjustment going from being responsible for one department to shouldering the entire branch.
Also, Nick started having ED in January last year. And around the first of February of this year, I began an affair with another man.
Ellison: Because of the ED.
Tobias: I don’t know that I had a good reason for cheating on Nick other than, at the time, we hadn’t had sex for a year. And, like I told you before, there was no affectionate touching either – no cuddling or hugs, nothing. He pecked me on the cheek whenever he left for or came home from work. At first, I tried to initiate all the affection. But it hurt too much to touch him and then have him turn away. So, I stopped reaching out and stopped feeling anything when he touched me. That still doesn’t seem like a reason to cheat. I mean, it wasn’t Nick’s fault that he was impotent. I know he resented it just as much as I did.
Ellison: Remind me how Nick dealt with his ED? Did you two talk about it much?
Tobias: No, not really. Nick doesn’t like to discuss that kind of stuff. Sexual stuff. Especially if it’s not [pause] working the way it should. He found his own therapist and did his own research online. But none of that seems to have helped.
Ellison: Tell me again how your relationship changed when he began having ED.
Tobias: Um [pause] we lived like roommates for quite some time—still friendly and affectionate. Then, it got to the point where we didn’t even have that. We stopped watching movies together after the baby went to bed because when we used to watch movies together, we usually ended up cuddling and making out. A lot of times we made love. So, doing that seemed like a bait and switch, you know? Going out to dinner was a chore because we had to devote our attention almost entirely to whether the baby was stabbing her tongue with a steak knife. So, Nick watched ESPN and nursed a beer while I did my own thing. After a while, we became less than roommates, no longer friends, just acquaintances.
Ellison: And then you met Benjamin.
Tobias: Then I met Benjamin. He was the contractor for my library’s building project. I was attracted to him right from the start. But I never dreamed he’d take an interest in me. Benjamin is very handsome: dark red hair and gorgeous hazel eyes. He’s tall and muscular with beautiful pale skin. [laugh] He reminded me of a highland warrior from one of those stupid romance novels.
Ellison: This is interesting, Cece. You never mentioned your doubts about him desiring you when you first told me about the affair. Were these doubts because of Nick’s ED and his unwillingness to talk about it? Or something else?
Tobias: [laughs] I can’t blame everything on Nick’s ED. Look at me. I’m not exactly a bombshell. When Ben first asked me to lunch, I assumed he just wanted to talk about the project. But, we had a lot of fun. Laughed and joked. It felt nice. After that, we just hung out—friends. I liked having that companionship with a man again. I felt like my thoughts and feelings mattered to someone.
But, as Benjamin and I got to know each other, we started sharing more about our lives. He told me about being raised by his grandparents in New York City after both his mom and dad died in a plane crash. He didn’t get emotional or weepy, but I could tell it hurt him—that hole in his life.
Ellison: And what about your life did you share?
Tobias: The whole situation with Nick. I didn’t really mean to tell him about that because I thought he would think it was my fault. Like I had turned Nick off or something. Anyway, I can’t remember how I got started, but once I did, I told him everything. Then [pause] somehow I was sobbing in his arms. He held me, whispered encouragement. Before I knew what was happening, we were kissing.
After that, we met during lunch hours and during the evenings when Nick had to work late. I told the babysitter I had to work late too so she agreed to keep the baby until seven thirty or so. I feel ashamed to think that I left Judah with someone else for even an extra second. [sob] She needed me, but I made excuses like: I’ll be a better mother for her if I’m rejuvenated—like I was going to the fucking spa or something! [laugh]
Ellison: And you felt guilty about Nick.
Tobias: Of course! But he just kept pulling away from me. And Benjamin was standing there with arms wide open, you know? Which direction would you have run in?
Ellison: Did your guilty feelings about Judah ever make you want to stop seeing Benjamin?
Tobias: Yes, all the time. But I didn’t because I hadn’t realized how much I missed getting a man excited by my very presence. I loved seeing desire in Ben’s eyes. And he seemed so excited to see me. I felt like a woman again.
Ellison: You obviously felt a lot of passion for Ben. Did you ever think of leaving Nick for him?
Tobias: Oddly no. It never entered my mind to leave Nick. Never.
Ellison: So, you’ve ended the affair. Was that because Nick found out?
Tobias: No, before that. When I realized that Ben was taking over my whole life.
I [pause] uh [pause] I dreamt about him at night, thought about him while washing the dishes or ironing my clothes for work. One time I spent half an hour ironing a blouse while I daydreamed about him. I decided to end it when I got scared of how hungry I was for him.
When Nick found out, I realized that I had wanted him to find out the whole time. In fact, I had been fantasizing that Nick would swoop in and demand me back, fight Benjamin and drag me home to make love to me: the classic “make him jealous” ploy. [laugh] I was such a jerk!
Ellison: Do you feel like your plan worked?
Tobias: Not that I can see. After he caught Ben and me kissing in the parking lot of my library branch, I had to do all the swooping and fighting. You remember I told you that during the two months we were separated I called him, I don’t know, three or four times a day – always just got voicemail. I left these pathetic messages begging him to let me explain. I sent him these five page emails trying to tell him why I had cheated and how Judah and I needed him. He never answered any of them. But, I mean, he eventually agreed to come back and try again—for Judah’s sake.
Ellison: Just for Judah?
Tobias: That’s what he said. You know, I always resented that he never understood why I would have an affair in the first place. And I hated the fact that I couldn’t explain my reasons to him in a way that really made sense to both of us. So, our problems never got solved. In fact, they’ve gotten worse, because now I remember what it feels like to be desired and I want that back so much. But Nick [pause] Nick can’t even muster up affection for me, let alone desire. [pause] I feel like he can’t stand me.
Ellison: How did Benjamin react when you broke off the affair?
Tobias: Not good. He stormed around and yelled. Said I was making a huge mistake. That I would regret it. He’s called my work a bunch of times since. Sends me letters like – handwritten, mailed with a stamp, letters. He’s even called the house and left a message. Thank goodness I heard it first and was able to delete it.
Ellison: Has he threatened you?
Ellison: Cece, has Benjamin threatened you in any way?