This story was original published in 2007. Yes, I am still overwhelmed with work.
He always stepped just right, with his heel too close to the door, so that his sole hit at an angle to the kickplate and completing the step pushed the door open silently, like a courtier taking leave, allowing him to keep his hands in his pockets and amuse himself with his telekinetic powers.
He always claimed to have reached an epiphany after seeing one of those movies where reality isn’t quite what it seems, where if you just pay attention, the metaphysical conspiracy is laid bare for you to master. He was always stopping to take a second look in a mirror. For months I thought he was just a narcissist. He was actually a narcissist with a new, informed outlook.
Some people get defeated by constant rejection; others are just oddly optimistic even in the face of repeated catastrophic results. It was often noted by casual observers that he should really be in sales, especially on the occasion of a kick-out the door accompanied by a pair of heels. He always scoffed at this. He hated convincing people that they needed some bullshit.
I once saw him smoke a cigarette. I never saw the pack, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one. He sat on that rock wall throwing pebbles at the backstop and all of a sudden it was between his fingers. The cigarette, of course, not the backstop. He snapped the filter off and jammed it between his lips. The tobacco part, I mean. He lit it with a completely ridiculous flourish from a genuine Zippo with an Army insignia on it. It stank. His eyes watered a bit. He wouldn’t cough. We both wondered how long it would take, and I’m sure we were surprised in different ways. That shit is nasty, I agreed.
We sat on the beach with the ocean providing a more gentle rhythmic background than the freeway we were used to, our feet to an illegal bonfire and our heads in the laps of symmetrical underage girls unsure of what to do about our resemblance to bookends. It was as if someone had died.
He always claimed to love spontaneity, said that anything else would lead to a boring predictable death. I surmised that at least boring predictable death was probably the end of a long life. A boring predictable long life, he pointed out. So he ran across I-5 and I nearly shit myself.
We took a ride one night in his ’69 Mustang Mach I. I thought it was just something to do in a sweet ride, until we pulled into an outlook point on the hillside. Another car was there with the same purpose, but during the exchange something went inappropriate. I stepped between him and what he probably deserved and pleaded with the offended party armed only with my eyes and the potential consequence of several witnesses wakened from their makeout sessions by such a loud sound. I was at a weird peaceful intersection until the ride back, when I reamed him hysterically, a mother angry, terrified, and grateful.
One time he called me and asked me a question I really didn’t understand. I figured he was stoned or something. I hadn’t heard from him in five years, why did he have to wake me up in the Goddamn middle of the night.
Sweat streaming off of my scalp and into my eyes, one of those experiences that stretches your vocabulary, so much pent up anger and justification, so much revenge and honesty and fingernails. Redness and yelling and a ferocity we’d never had when we were together. By the time I came out of the bathroom with a towel, she was rearranging her breasts in her bra and silently looking for her jeans, my handprints still visible.
He knocked on my door about an hour after she went home and confessed it all. She was leaving him for a woman. Her scent was still in the air. I invited him in.