“Ahh, no…it’s cool. Really. You take it.”
Of course I’m not sure. It’s mine. Jeff Buckley is MY favorite artist, not hers. ‘Grace’ is MY favorite CD, not hers. She wouldn’t even know who the **** Jeff Buckley was if it wasn’t for me.
But who really cares at this point.
I nod my head. Agreement. If I can just keep the façade up for a little while longer. Continue to agree. Oh my gaaawd…how much longer?
“Ok…” She turns her back on me and walks away. As always. Turning her back. Walking away.
Only this time…will be the last time.
‘…that we will fight like this…’ I mouth.
I bet she took that CD too.
I’m sitting on a white plastic chair in an otherwise empty living room. This plastic chair, it was the only thing I really brought into this relationship. Except for my CDs. And my books.
This plastic chair. Purchased when I was still single. One late drunken night at a CVS. Or a Wallgreens. Can’t remember which.
But I do remember bringing it home and sitting in it. Smoking a fat blunt. Staring out the same sliding door glass window that I’m staring out now. Watching the head lights on the distance road zip and zoom. Wishing I was in one of the cars, sitting next to one of the women. I imagined we were on our way home from a movie. Once home we would have a late snack. Ice cream, with chocolate sauce, nuts…and a brownie. Maybe even a nightcap. Baileys on ice. Then retire to bed. Make love. Sleep soundly until the alarm urged us into another day.
Sounded so great at the time. Even the most perfunctory details can sound magical when you’re lonely. When you’re stoned. When you’re suicidal.
This white plastic chair…it was the only piece of furniture I had then. Just as it is the only piece of furniture I have now.
She’s taken everything else. Or is in the process of taking it. I haven’t inventoried the rest of the apartment yet, but they have been working for several hours straight. Emptying it. Gutting it.
There are wet footprints leading from the door, down the hallway toward the bedroom. It must be raining. I look out the balcony doors and register that in fact it is.
Amazing how some details can be overlooked. I know I will remember this day for the rest of my life. No matter how it turns out. The emptiness and solitude building up inside me now will only be magnified in the coming hours. I’ll remember the red ribbon, lying forgotten there in the corner. I’ll remember the spot on the wall that’s just a little whiter than the rest…where the framed collage picture of our relationship only an hour ago proudly hung. I’ll remember the date, the time, the baby blue ski jacket, ripped knee blue jeans and wet, bright white and pink tennis shoes she’s wearing.
But if it wasn’t for the wet footprints on the floor I wouldn’t remember it was raining. Even though I’ve spent half the morning staring out this third story window at the colorful falling leaves.
Out there, beyond this window glass…it’s just fiction. The only events taking place that are worth remembering are happening right here around me. The only reality is occurring right here, inside this apartment.
Does all this mean something? Anything? Or am I just avoiding the bigger truth. Avoiding the future. Avoiding the courage I know it’s going to take if I am going to make it through the next…however long it’s going to take before she’s finally gone.
If I can take my mind off of it…keep the door of the closet closed. Just maybe…
I stand and walk slowly into the kitchen. Taking inventory will help pass the time. Help keep my mind occupied.
Plenty of vacancy. Microwave gone. Pots and pans gone. Silverware, spaghetti noodles, ketchup, bottle opener, Tabasco, plates….all gone. What’s left: Two packs of Ramen. Shrimp flavor. Our least favorite. A Britney Spears magnet on the fridge. Holding up a Pirates baseball schedule. The final game of the season already played. Nothing left but falling leaves and falling temperatures. Then, falling snow. Falling rollercoaster hearts. Falling bodies.
I hear a loud noise coming from down the hallway…followed by a string of profanities.
I slowly move in that direction.
Her friend’s boyfriend has managed to jackknife the bed frame and insert one of its sharp edges into the wall.
He sees me standing there…looking at him.
“Dude…I’m really sorry man. This **** thing is so…”
He’s a total stoner. I’ve always liked him.
“Don’t worry about it Zeph.”
I turn and walk back up the hallway toward the living room.
I pause to take inventory of the bathroom. It looks new. Clean. No towels or soap dish or kleenax. Shes stripped it.
I pop open the medicine cabinet. Green travel toothbrush. Used. And not by me. No toothpaste. No floss. No bottles of pills or pregnancy tests or cleanser or q-tips. No make-up.
I look at the shower. The curtain is gone. The rings are gone. No shampoo. No soap. No itchy scratchy scrubby thingy. There’s a patch of mold in the corner where all her conditioners used to sit.
I feel sorry for the mold, now so fully exposed. Will it survive?
I exit and head back toward the hallway. The sounds of Zephs struggles assaulting me from behind.
She intercepts me.
“Are you gonna like help out at all or…”
I can’t look at her.
Because I can still feel her. In my heart. Deep, deep inside.
I can’t look at her.
Because if I do I know I will break. I will explode. I will lose what little control I have, and then…
And then we will flatline.
I have to stay strong.
“No.” is my reply…and I continue walking.
I ignore the ‘sighs’ and name calling that follows me. I’ve heard them before. She hasn’t come up with any new material in months.
That’s when you know a relationship has really come to an end. When all the arguments start to sound exactly the same. When all the names and insults are just recycled words and the things being thrown around, already have little nicks and dents in them from being thrown around before.
I reach out my hand and run my fingers over the indent in the wall where the remote control smashed into it. Seems like so long ago. It’s only been a week.
It’s Zeph. I know he needs help. But I’m not going to do it. She should have brought more muscle. I feel bad for Zeph…but I told her I wasn’t going to help.
“This yours man?”
He’s holding it isn’t he? I just know he is. And I tried so hard to not think about it…
"You get it out of my closet." I ask...already knowing the answer.
He’s staring at me. His face is tired. Sweaty. He’s pissed at me for not helping, but at the same time he sympathizes with me. Anyone who looks around at this empty apartment would sympathize with me. All I did was love her. Apparently too much.
And now this.
“Dude…” He urges me.
“Yes Zeph. It’s mine.” I go to him and I take the wooden treasure chest.
“Thank You.” I lie
He has no idea what he has just done.
I quickly turn my back and walk back over to the sliding glass doors.
Behind me he sighs. Disgusted. Pained. Sick of being stuck in the middle. Sick of moving heavy things.
“Look dude, were almost out of your hair here. One more trip down with this mattress…I think Kiera has one more box…that’s it.”
“When you’re done…” I manage through clenched teeth, as I fondle the lock on the Treasure Chest. “…Tell Maggie to come back up. I’d like to speak to her for a moment. Alone.”
I turn and stare him in the eyes. It’s his turn to nod in agreement.
“Thank You Zeph. You and Kiera have always been good friends. I appreciate…”
What did I appreciate? Not life. Not love. Not white plastic chairs or dinners of Ramen and marijuana.
How about the chest in my hands…
Zeph smiled. Awkwardly. Who ever knows what to say in situations like this?
I turn my back again and listen as Zeph grabs hold of the mattress and starts to carry it through the door…toward the stairs.
I really did. I was just going to let it all go. But,
‘…because I can still feel her. In my heart. Deep, deep inside…’
I open the treasure chest.
Love letters. Maggie was no poet, but she was heartfelt. She used to love to write. The top one starts: ‘My dearest sweetest Baby Boy…’
Beneath the letters...my GED diploma.
Beneath that, my college transcripts. So close.
Beneath that, pictures. Maggs and I in Puerto Rico. Maggs in a bikini, holding up a fish she didn’t catch. Maggs in a stunning blue dress with a tiny white sequined purse. We wound up drinking way too much that night and making love on the balcony of our fifth floor hotel room. Our clothes wound up five floors down, my pants and shoes on lounge chairs, her dress in the pool. Her purse, we never found.
Beneath the pictures…adoption papers. We never followed through. Thankfully.
Beneath that…shiny metal…and two stray bullets.
I tried to forget about it. I tried to let her go. I tried but…
Deep, deep inside.
From behind me…
“Hey…Zeph said you wanted to talk. Let’s make it quick okay…this is hard enough as it is.”
I nod. More agreement.
“Yes sweetheart…please, close the door first.”