Killer Girlfriend

I didn’t know what the word meant when I first heard it. I was paying attention, too, because when the judge is giving your sentence you pay real close attention, I gotta tell you. And in County they don’t exactly leave dictionaries lying around for the population to peruse if you catch my drift. I mean, from context I could tell it was not good, what the judge was saying, and when she got to the meat and mentioned a few decades I realized it was not good at all, ya know?

So misogynist really, when you think about it, isn’t quite right because I got in trouble because I loved ‘em, not because I hated them. That’s a long story but, then again, seems I have the time so let me tell you but I warn you, it isn’t pretty and it proves what everyone says about if you didn’t have bad luck you wouldn’t have any luck at all.

One thing before I start which is this: I am not the literary type, and I realize I left a teaser at the end there, about bad luck. I am not going to let it hang there, and come back to it at the end of my story and expect you to say “aha, I now know what that was all about, that was really clever!” so let me take it off the table right now. I was driving down Route 93 the day it happened and this guy, he taps my car from behind while I’m braking, so we pull over and then he starts yelling and pointing and damned if the impact didn’t pop my rear latch and when I pull over the door of my SUV slowly lifts up and sticking out from under the tarp wouldn’t you know it but there is Cecel1a’s hand and arm sticking out, white as snow but with some of the splatters of blood on it, just enough to freak this guy out and so he runs back to his car, locks the door, I see him on his cell phone so I hop in my car and slip back into the flow of traffic and slide gently off the next exit but the cops are right on me and next thing you know I am in a cell and the rest is, as they say, history.

So now you know the end of Cecelia, so to speak, but there is lot to say about the beginning which was really pretty good the truth to tell. Not that the good part made the whole thing worth it of course, but ya gotta give the poor girl her due, she was hot and a hell of great gal until later when—well not so much.

It was one of those evenings in the winter when the clouds broke just before night so your sky had those streaks of gray and some purple and some really dark blue-black behind it all. It’s January thaw but it still feels raw, what with the sleet earlier and that Boston wind backing around from the North. I hate those kinds of days. So anyway it’s Thursday which is a real party night in downtown; everyone is in the bars after work, doing what we would call “checking out the action” but what it really was, you’re 32 years old, you’re a guy or a woman but you don’t have any plans for the week-end so you and a few friends you find a bar that looks lively and you get a bottle of Sam Adams lager and you speculate about the other people in the bar, you sort of give them a rating if you know what I mean, and if you happen to be standing close to a girl, let’s say, you try to start a conversation and those things can go any which way, but sometimes you actually do manage to keep your size 12 out of your mouth long enough to say something not so dumb and you and your friends you talk with her and her friends and, once in a blue moon you get an invite to a party in someone’s apartment in the North End or in Somerville and all that you need is for that to happen once in a while and it keeps you coming back on Thursday nights just to stay in the game.

Just so you know, in my experience if you pick someone out and weave your way over to them and they are not right next to you to start with, you might think they were flattered and would be receptive but it doesn’t work that way; I think, because, if you talk to someone next to you it’s natural, it doesn’t focus on the fact that you are on the prowl and she is obviously alone and looking which is maybe a pathetic admission of how her life sucks, so she rejects your approach because you are reminding her that she is showing out her real predicament and who likes to be reminded of that? While if you happen to be right next to someone it’s only normal human interaction, you look, you may smile, you make small talk about how crowded it is, what’s your name, it’s a real conversation among sophisticated and civilized human beings. Anyway, that’s my theory though I guess in the foreseeable future I am not going to be able to test it out, except maybe in the men’s shower room which I tell you, if the things you see on TV are anyway near accurate, is not my idea of a well-spent Thursday night.

The girl next to Harry, her name was Felicia, a nice old-fashioned name; I had a cousin named Felicia and I lost track of her but she was nice. Anyway, Harry he went to college all the way through the third year and he’s pretty smooth, he’s chatting away and then I think he says something like “would you girls like to meet my friends here” and she says something like “there are no girls here but the women might like to meet your gentlemen friends,” which is with a smile that defuses any offense Harry may feel about making what is now known as a micro-aggression ya know, and he comes back with “there aren’t any gentlemen here but I can introduce you WOMEN to my stumblebum friends over here” and everyone is laughing and talking and exchanging names and in the back of your head you are wondering why you had to go through all that preliminary shit but so what, you are where you want to be right now so don’t argue with the road when you’ve reached home anyway.

There are four of us and four of them which is convenient although it does sort of force you to sort out rather than play the larger field. That’s okay with me, I am not very good at sorting out or being selected when someone else is doing the sorting. And by some process you end up with someone you are mostly talking with, because in a loud bar it is hard to hold a group discussion, and my someone is Cecilia who I will now describe as she was that night, which was one of her better nights I might add.

The late Jim Croce sang about a roller derby queen and that came pretty close. Cecilia was not tall, though she did not seem short. She was really solid, which is different from fat. Her chin was square, her nose straight and strong, her mouth was small and pouty and her hair was blonde but you could see the dark roots in her part, which threw her hair left and right from the middle of her face. Her eyes were green and wide apart which I love by the way, and her eyebrows could have used a good plucking and while she was at it she might have lightened them a bit to sort of blend with her hair. But all this was hung onto an open wide face with nice pink skin, and her ears behaved rather than sticking out. I liked that face, it had the feel of comfort food, I felt good looking at it. It was the kind of face that made me not want to say something stupid, and that took some doing.

Cecilia and her friend Didi were room-mates in an apartment near Malden Square, a near suburb of no known attractions beyond cheap real estate near the subway line, but if we brought some beer and maybe some chips perhaps we could come over Saturday night, it was suggested. Sure why not, instant party. Identify the kind of music you like, come by around 7:30 or 8, exchange cell phone numbers if something comes up (a real date? a tsunami?) and sure, see ya then.

So now it’s 11 on a work night and the crowd has thinned, we all feel exposed just standing around the bar with two ounces of beer warming in the bottoms of our bottles. We start the good-byes and there are a couple of hugs, I see Harry gets a handshake that surprises him, but Cecilia gently bends me forward from the shoulders and plants a mildly liquid kiss on my cheek, she catches the corner of my mouth just enough to make me think it was placed on purpose, and then gives me the full two green eye-contact look before she hooks arms with a friend and walks out of the bar. I feel good enough to order a shot or two but everyone else wants to leave so that’s that.

I am no more tired than usual Friday morning, which means I am processing orders at the rate needed to earn the middle of the bonus target for my office, which is fine with me because I split my rent three ways and I got rid of the car and my refrigerator is stocked with brewskis and frozen burritos none of which put a major dent in my budget. Last summer I camped out on the Cape for vacation. I go to see the Red Sox in the summer but bleacher seats are a fine deal, around the fifth inning I cruise into the box seat area and can usually grab a better view from the empties unless it’s a Yankees game. So if you catch my drift, I am totally solvent with at least four weeks of running money in my checking account and over $400 cash in a trophy cup packed on the top shelf of my clothes closet in case of some un-named emergency. What I don’t have is a regular social life, and around 4 on Friday afternoon when my blood sugar is low and I am contemplating the Reese’s peanut butter cups in the vending machine I remember the kiss and I have an idea which is to call Cecilia. But that is hard because she works and if I call later I am going to be accused of assuming she has nothing to do on Friday night which I assume to be true but just because something is true does not mean it is a great idea to mention it. Then I realize that if I reach out to her now then I am admitting that I myself have nothing to do on a Friday night, and what sort of a message does that send?

Well, an accurate message.

Uhm, maybe that is even worse?

Too much thinking, I think. Too much thinking has screwed up many a relationship, I think. If I thought more, I might realize that for me personally all of my screwed up relationships, which category includes every one I ever had, suffered from various sins of omission and commission, and foundered on the rocks of too much thinking, at least on my part.

I decide to send a text, the modern mode of de-personalized communication ranking just above Twitter on the hit parade of interpersonal cowardice. I start by describing that my evening plans have fallen through, which in a way is true because if I end up seeing Cicelia Friday night then by definition my evening plan to drink a beer and watch the Boston Celtics on TV will have been thwarted. I know she is busy, I further lie, but just in case she happens by odd coincidence to have no plans through some unforeseen and rare set of circumstances, perhaps we could hang out? Even go out to dinner (I internally gasp, no one invites anyone to dinner unless they are sleeping together, and regularly at that). I judge my text sufficiently protective of my imagined cool reputation to either work or make her feel guilty if she declines and I send it off. The transmission line moves slowly across the cell phone screen, landing finally on “delivered.” I have done my worst, she probably won’t even reply, well maybe she will, is she cool enough not to even reply until Saturday night when she says she has been so busy she just saw the text an hour ago, or will she never acknowledge and me too scared to compound the error by actually verbally asking her; or, is she so totally cool that she does not care how cool she looks and therefore will respond immediately, in which case any answer she gives will be a ten-point win?

It is now 5:15 and I am shutting down my office electronics, locking my desk drawers and file cabinets. My cell phone, propped up by the base of my desk lamp, has revealed only one incoming call, email, twitter, text or activity in the last two hours, and I have wisely (I think) declined the questionnaire about the electricity used by my electric appliances. The world is giving me what I deserve; it is ignoring my entire existence at any level, I am so low on life’s totem pole that the robo-calls are avoiding me.

A long time ago my mother, rest her gentle soul, used to tell me that when all else fails, tell the truth. Or maybe I read that inside a Hallmark card, frankly I am not sure. For me, in order to tell the truth about myself, at least to another person, I must picture myself in the bottom of a large deep pit, holding a shovel and digging downward vigorously. I look out the window in Mr. Rafferty’s office (the very office I may inherit if I continue to do average work on the invoices desk for another decade or so, and for
now my outlet to the world as my common work area has no window except the Windows on my computer screen), and it looks like a nice warm evening and I close my eyes a moment and immediately smell the wet muddy scent of a very deep earthen hole, I feel the shovel blisters on my thumb and pointer finger, and I pick up my phone and text again to Cicelia: “I lied before, I had no plans tonight, I am desperate and can feel your kiss on my cheek. IS there any way you can save me tonight?” I hit “send’ without rereading, which would only lead me to edit out typos and the truth.

I am in the elevator going down to the lobby when there is a distant ping, it is someone’s cell phone, when we hit the lobby floor I stand aside next to the fake bamboo garden and retrieve my cell phone and there is on the screen the first few words of a text, so I open the site. It reads: “I also have no plans and was afraid to tell the truth and afraid to lie. I will save you if you save me. The bar at Kelly’s Public House at 6. C.”

Hell, I should be doing handstands but all of a sudden I am sweating and unsure. Did I shower this morning? Why did I drop taco sauce on my shirt pocket at lunch? Will she notice I am wearing the same Chinos I wore last night? My beard trim is two days overdue, I must look like a street panhandler, is a signature with a single letter a good sign, a bad sign, or just a way to preserve juice in her failing cell phone? What will we talk about? What did I tell her last night? Hell, did I lie to her, or exaggerate? I cannot remember. HELP!

That night in my apartment we had sex until the sun came up. She stayed in my room until my apartment-mates went out for Dunkin’ Donuts and then I hustled her out to an Uber bound for Malden. I showered, set my alarm for 3pm, and fell asleep on top of a very wet sheet.

I predict that the thing I will miss most while spending the better part of my entire life in prison will be sand. To my experience, sand is the bedrock of the beaches along the Atlantic, and for a Bostonian that means the beaches of Cape Cod, the poor man’s Nantucket. As a kid my parents would rent modest cottages a few blocks off the beach in Bass River or Dennis or Eastham, generally the working-class areas far removed from Hyannisport or Wellfleet. There I fell in love with the two classes of sand: dry sand that you could brush off your skin when you got up from your blanket, and wet sand that got into your bathing suit while you jumped the waves or rode them into shore and that stayed there to rub your skin raw or that clung to your sunburn and stung when you tried to apply sunscreen on top. Both varieties raised pleasant images of simpler days and, as an alleged adult, my trips to the Cape remained almost child-like, staying in cheap cottages or camping at the Audubon, spending all day drinking beer on the beach, alternately baking and soaking.

I only had two weeks vacation and I always tried to take those weeks in early July. While it left you with a whole working summer ahead of you, the days were full of sunlight and the beaches were cleaner and if you could afford a cabin they were more likely to have a clean working stove and less likely to have had the kitchen pans taken away by prior tenants. In July, C and I pooled our money and got ourselves a cabin a half-block from the Bay in a pretty fancy part of Truro, the part nearest Provincetown; it had a deck, a standing charcoal grille, and an outdoor shower, and the toilet bowl didn’t run all night or sweat in the heat of the day and it looked like a deal to both of us. For me, the two weeks looked like heaven, and I was beginning to think of me and C as a permanent arrangement. Now I never mentioned marriage and so didn’t she, like that kind of talk can derail any relationship faster than anything. But I was pretty sure we were tracking together down the same road.

Cecelia brought with her a couple of wildly flowered beach dresses that billowed in the sun, and mostly disguised her squared off body. When she went into the water her one-piece bathing suits were carefully picked out, I suspect, solid dark colors with lots of control and just a hint of cleavage and a small dark skirt rimming the lower edge to ease the transition from her body to her firm and stocky legs. She had the kind of ankles that unexpectedly pinched inward just above the heel, an attractive feature for a thinner person but for someone built the way C was constructed, a cause for concern; it was not clear that there was enough support to keep her legs from buckling under the weight and balance of the rest of her. C’s skin tended to blotch red in the sun and the uneven coverage of sun screen left her with some tan streaks and some red patches that were painful to the touch. And the beating sun, during this particularly dry and hot July, did no favor to her hair, parts of which seemed to bleach white while the under-hairs alternated between ebony and brass.

My friends had stopped hinting to me that C was not much of a looker. It just made me angry. She was my friend; I could confess to her that I hated my job, that my finances were pitiful for someone my age, that my clothes were ragged at the edges (as if she could not see), that my friends were jealous of my having any relationship, and that my days, historically empty in almost every way, were how filled up but with only one thing, that thing being our relationship. For her part, C seemed happy enough and not prone to share her emotions. I came to read her through her actions not her words; some people are like that, what you see is what you get and indeed all of what you get. If you dig deep, all of a sudden you have exited the person and you are in thin air on the other side.

One night I stood in the shallow waters of a neap tide with my bathing suit around my ankles, my torso pitched out, the wind at my back, pissing into the black ocean. I turned to find C a few feet behind me. I pulled up my suit and for some reason, who knows why, I walked over to her, put my hands on her shoulders, took a dive into her green eyes and said quietly and evenly that I loved her. She smiled and stood on her toes and put a small kiss on the end of my nose and said quietly “that’s nice” and took my hand and started walking down the strand, avoiding the clam and oyster shells in the moonlight.

It was, all of a sudden, Friday of our second week. We had spent our time on the beach and gone to Hyannis only once when it was drizzling; she bought a shell necklace and I bought her a dark metal ring, silver I think, with a large green stone set alone on top. I read the Boston Globe a few times but even down on the Cape, without working and moving between apartments and hanging out with friends, even there with lots of time, we never really had a conversation about anything. And I mean what was happening in the world or even about the Red Sox, but also, thinking about it now, we never talked about us, about the future. Our future was one day long starting each day at sunrise. For the first time we went to a restaurant for dinner, one of those seafood places with clam chowder heated up from a plastic pouch sent from some factory in Boston, boiled lobster in a large paper plate with a bucket for shells, cold fries, warm catsup, kids whining in the next booth, big windows looking out onto Route 28 and a line of cars slowly moving down Cape. We talked about packing up the house which would be no big deal, about who would sweep it out, who would strip the bed.

As we were bent forward, counting out our bills, since we split everything down the middle as usual except when occasionally I would say “hey let me” and then she would look up with those eyes and breath “oh gee thinks, hon” and I would feel like a million. We squared up the bill and C reached out her hand, laying it gently on my arm.

“What’s up? You okay,” I asked.

“We gotta talk,” she said. I did not know what to say. We never talked, not in the way that someone starts out by saying “we gotta talk.”

“Yeah, okay. Ya wanna talk while we walk?”

“No,” she said sharply, looking around at the people still crowding the restaurant. “No,” quieter, “we should talk here.”

“You sure we should do it here? Because…”

“I think we need to split,” she said evenly, quietly. She tried the green headlights on me but then she looked down quickly when she saw my face.

It took me a minute to get some focus. “Split?”

“Yeah. Stop seeing each other.”

It took me another minute. “Why,” my voice flat of any content beyond the one word, as if I had said “pass me a napkin.”

“I just don’t want to do this anymore,” she said.

“You mean being together all the time? Is it because we aren’t married?”

She started then. “No, no, it isn’t being married. It’s the—the first part.”

“The first part?”

“The part about being together. I – I don’t want to be together with you any more. I have – enjoyed spending time with you but I want more.”

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“I know,” she replied.

“Jesus, C, tell me why? What have I done? Wasn’t this vacation great? Haven’t the last seven months been great? They were great for me!”

“I think that talking about it, that would be – unkind. Can’t we just agree we had a – a lovely, a truly lovely time, and leave it at that?”

“So do you want some time to think, a time-out, is that it?”

C looked up, forced herself to look up, look right at me, I saw her through what must have been my tears. She shook her head.

“I don’t want to hurt you, and I don’t want to talk. I had to tell you and I wanted to tell you when you were happy, when you had good memories and all. I — I didn’t know how else…..”

“Is there someone else, then,” I asked.

She smiled and looked fully at me again, a small smile spreading out from her pursed lips as she shook her head. I think she was trying to be kind when she said “no, it’s all about us….”

So looking back at my story there really isn’t much of one, is there. People split up, they don’t get along all the time, no big news there. I always thought they fought but I guess I have no idea, do I, having only lived my own life and sort of ignoring other people except as they affected me. I also always thought they would at least talk about it, but again what the hell do I know about such things? I was never much for deep discussion and, I guess, C wasn’t either.

I can’t even say I was heartbroken, whatever that means. I don’t think I ever was so exposed in my heart that it could be broken. I just allowed it to be contented and maybe, whatever love may be, maybe it is just a few ratchets further around than being happy enough not to want to change things. I don’t really know, do I?

And that’s the real point. That night I thought the failure was with C and my anger took it out on her. Now I am not so sure.

Maybe I killed the wrong person.

Just as well I got into that car accident. I still have no idea what I would have done with the body….

February 2018

Killer Girlfriend
Stephen Honig / February 2018

I didn’t know what the word meant when I first heard it. I was paying attention, too, because when the judge is giving your sentence you pay real close attention, I gotta tell you. And in County they don’t exactly leave dictionaries lying around for the population to peruse if you catch my drift. I mean, from context I could tell it was not good, what the judge was saying, and when she got to the meat and mentioned a few decades I realized it was not good at all, ya know?

So misogynist really, when you think about it, isn’t quite right because I got in trouble because I loved ‘em, not because I hated them. That’s a long story but, then again, seems I have the time so let me tell you but I warn you, it isn’t pretty and it proves what everyone says about if you didn’t have bad luck you wouldn’t have any luck at all.

One thing before I start which is this: I am not the literary type, and I realize I left a teaser at the end there, about bad luck. I am not going to let it hang there, and come back to it at the end of my story and expect you to say “aha, I now know what that was all about, that was really clever!” so let me take it off the table right now. I was driving down Route 93 the day it happened and this guy, he taps my car from behind while I’m braking, so we pull over and then he starts yelling and pointing and damned if the impact didn’t pop my rear latch and when I pull over the door of my SUV slowly lifts up and sticking out from under the tarp wouldn’t you know it but there is Cecel1a’s hand and arm sticking out, white as snow but with some of the splatters of blood on it, just enough to freak this guy out and so he runs back to his car, locks the door, I see him on his cell phone so I hop in my car and slip back into the flow of traffic and slide gently off the next exit but the cops are right on me and next thing you know I am in a cell and the rest is, as they say, history.

So now you know the end of Cecelia, so to speak, but there is lot to say about the beginning which was really pretty good the truth to tell. Not that the good part made the whole thing worth it of course, but ya gotta give the poor girl her due, she was hot and a hell of great gal until later when—well not so much.

It was one of those evenings in the winter when the clouds broke just before night so your sky had those streaks of gray and some purple and some really dark blue-black behind it all. It’s January thaw but it still feels raw, what with the sleet earlier and that Boston wind backing around from the North. I hate those kinds of days. So anyway it’s Thursday which is a real party night in downtown; everyone is in the bars after work, doing what we would call “checking out the action” but what it really was, you’re 32 years old, you’re a guy or a woman but you don’t have any plans for the week-end so you and a few friends you find a bar that looks lively and you get a bottle of Sam Adams lager and you speculate about the other people in the bar, you sort of give them a rating if you know what I mean, and if you happen to be standing close to a girl, let’s say, you try to start a conversation and those things can go any which way, but sometimes you actually do manage to keep your size 12 out of your mouth long enough to say something not so dumb and you and your friends you talk with her and her friends and, once in a blue moon you get an invite to a party in someone’s apartment in the North End or in Somerville and all that you need is for that to happen once in a while and it keeps you coming back on Thursday nights just to stay in the game.

Just so you know, in my experience if you pick someone out and weave your way over to them and they are not right next to you to start with, you might think they were flattered and would be receptive but it doesn’t work that way; I think, because, if you talk to someone next to you it’s natural, it doesn’t focus on the fact that you are on the prowl and she is obviously alone and looking which is maybe a pathetic admission of how her life sucks, so she rejects your approach because you are reminding her that she is showing out her real predicament and who likes to be reminded of that? While if you happen to be right next to someone it’s only normal human interaction, you look, you may smile, you make small talk about how crowded it is, what’s your name, it’s a real conversation among sophisticated and civilized human beings. Anyway, that’s my theory though I guess in the foreseeable future I am not going to be able to test it out, except maybe in the men’s shower room which I tell you, if the things you see on TV are anyway near accurate, is not my idea of a well-spent Thursday night.

The girl next to Harry, her name was Felicia, a nice old-fashioned name; I had a cousin named Felicia and I lost track of her but she was nice. Anyway, Harry he went to college all the way through the third year and he’s pretty smooth, he’s chatting away and then I think he says something like “would you girls like to meet my friends here” and she says something like “there are no girls here but the women might like to meet your gentlemen friends,” which is with a smile that defuses any offense Harry may feel about making what is now known as a micro-aggression ya know, and he comes back with “there aren’t any gentlemen here but I can introduce you WOMEN to my stumblebum friends over here” and everyone is laughing and talking and exchanging names and in the back of your head you are wondering why you had to go through all that preliminary shit but so what, you are where you want to be right now so don’t argue with the road when you’ve reached home anyway.

There are four of us and four of them which is convenient although it does sort of force you to sort out rather than play the larger field. That’s okay with me, I am not very good at sorting out or being selected when someone else is doing the sorting. And by some process you end up with someone you are mostly talking with, because in a loud bar it is hard to hold a group discussion, and my someone is Cecilia who I will now describe as she was that night, which was one of her better nights I might add.

The late Jim Croce sang about a roller derby queen and that came pretty close. Cecilia was not tall, though she did not seem short. She was really solid, which is different from fat. Her chin was square, her nose straight and strong, her mouth was small and pouty and her hair was blonde but you could see the dark roots in her part, which threw her hair left and right from the middle of her face. Her eyes were green and wide apart which I love by the way, and her eyebrows could have used a good plucking and while she was at it she might have lightened them a bit to sort of blend with her hair. But all this was hung onto an open wide face with nice pink skin, and her ears behaved rather than sticking out. I liked that face, it had the feel of comfort food, I felt good looking at it. It was the kind of face that made me not want to say something stupid, and that took some doing.

Cecilia and her friend Didi were room-mates in an apartment near Malden Square, a near suburb of no known attractions beyond cheap real estate near the subway line, but if we brought some beer and maybe some chips perhaps we could come over Saturday night, it was suggested. Sure why not, instant party. Identify the kind of music you like, come by around 7:30 or 8, exchange cell phone numbers if something comes up (a real date? a tsunami?) and sure, see ya then.

So now it’s 11 on a work night and the crowd has thinned, we all feel exposed just standing around the bar with two ounces of beer warming in the bottoms of our bottles. We start the good-byes and there are a couple of hugs, I see Harry gets a handshake that surprises him, but Cecilia gently bends me forward from the shoulders and plants a mildly liquid kiss on my cheek, she catches the corner of my mouth just enough to make me think it was placed on purpose, and then gives me the full two green eye-contact look before she hooks arms with a friend and walks out of the bar. I feel good enough to order a shot or two but everyone else wants to leave so that’s that.

I am no more tired than usual Friday morning, which means I am processing orders at the rate needed to earn the middle of the bonus target for my office, which is fine with me because I split my rent three ways and I got rid of the car and my refrigerator is stocked with brewskis and frozen burritos none of which put a major dent in my budget. Last summer I camped out on the Cape for vacation. I go to see the Red Sox in the summer but bleacher seats are a fine deal, around the fifth inning I cruise into the box seat area and can usually grab a better view from the empties unless it’s a Yankees game. So if you catch my drift, I am totally solvent with at least four weeks of running money in my checking account and over $400 cash in a trophy cup packed on the top shelf of my clothes closet in case of some un-named emergency. What I don’t have is a regular social life, and around 4 on Friday afternoon when my blood sugar is low and I am contemplating the Reese’s peanut butter cups in the vending machine I remember the kiss and I have an idea which is to call Cecilia. But that is hard because she works and if I call later I am going to be accused of assuming she has nothing to do on Friday night which I assume to be true but just because something is true does not mean it is a great idea to mention it. Then I realize that if I reach out to her now then I am admitting that I myself have nothing to do on a Friday night, and what sort of a message does that send?

Well, an accurate message.

Uhm, maybe that is even worse?

To much thinking, I think. Too much thinking has screwed up many a relationship, I think. If I thought more, I might realize that for me personally all of my screwed up relationships, which category includes every one I ever had, suffered from various sins of omission and commission, and foundered on the rocks of too much thinking, at least on my part.

I decide to send a text, the modern mode of de-personalized communication ranking just above Twitter on the hit parade of interpersonal cowardice. I start by describing that my evening plans have fallen through, which in a way is true because if I end up seeing Cicelia Friday night then by definition my evening plan to drink a beer and watch the Boston Celtics on TV will have been thwarted. I know she is busy, I further lie, but just in case she happens by odd coincidence to have no plans through some unforeseen and rare set of circumstances, perhaps we could hang out? Even go out to dinner (I internally gasp, no one invites anyone to dinner unless they are sleeping together, and regularly at that). I judge my text sufficiently protective of my imagined cool reputation to either work or make her feel guilty if she declines and I send it off. The transmission line moves slowly across the cell phone screen, landing finally on “delivered.” I have done my worst, she probably won’t even reply, well maybe she will, is she cool enough not to even reply until Saturday night when she says she has been so busy she just saw the text an hour ago, or will she never acknowledge and me too scared to compound the error by actually verbally asking her; or, is she so totally cool that she does not care how cool she looks and therefore will respond immediately, in which case any answer she gives will be a ten-point win?

It is now 5:15 and I am shutting down my office electronics, locking my desk drawers and file cabinets. My cell phone, propped up by the base of my desk lamp, has revealed only one incoming call, email, twitter, text or activity in the last two hours, and I have wisely (I think) declined the questionnaire about the electricity used by my electric appliances. The world is giving me what I deserve; it is ignoring my entire existence at any level, I am so low on life’s totem pole that the robo-calls are avoiding me.

A long time ago my mother, rest her gentle soul, used to tell me that when all else fails, tell the truth. Or maybe I read that inside a Hallmark card, frankly I am not sure. For me, in order to tell the truth about myself, at least to another person, I must picture myself in the bottom of a large deep pit, holding a shovel and digging downward vigorously. I look out the window in Mr. Rafferty’s office (the very office I may inherit if I continue to do average work on the invoices desk for another decade or so, and for
now my outlet to the world as my common work area has no window except the Windows on my computer screen), and it looks like a nice warm evening and I close my eyes a moment and immediately smell the wet muddy scent of a very deep earthen hole, I feel the shovel blisters on my thumb and pointer finger, and I pick up my phone and text again to Cicelia: “I lied before, I had no plans tonight, I am desperate and can feel your kiss on my cheek. IS there any way you can save me tonight?” I hit “send’ without rereading, which would only lead me to edit out typos and the truth.

I am in the elevator going down to the lobby when there is a distant ping, it is someone’s cell phone, when we hit the lobby floor I stand aside next to the fake bamboo garden and retrieve my cell phone and there is on the screen the first few words of a text, so I open the site. It reads: “I also have no plans and was afraid to tell the truth and afraid to lie. I will save you if you save me. The bar at Kelly’s Public House at 6. C.”

Hell, I should be doing handstands but all of a sudden I am sweating and unsure. Did I shower this morning? Why did I drop taco sauce on my shirt pocket at lunch? Will she notice I am wearing the same Chinos I wore last night? My beard trim is two days overdue, I must look like a street panhandler, is a signature with a single letter a good sign, a bad sign, or just a way to preserve juice in her failing cell phone? What will we talk about? What did I tell her last night? Hell, did I lie to her, or exaggerate? I cannot remember. HELP!

That night in my apartment we had sex until the sun came up. She stayed in my room until my apartment-mates went out for Dunkin’ Donuts and then I hustled her out to an Uber bound for Malden. I showered, set my alarm for 3pm, and fell asleep on top of a very wet sheet.

I predict that the thing I will miss most while spending the better part of my entire life in prison will be sand. To my experience, sand is the bedrock of the beaches along the Atlantic, and for a Bostonian that means the beaches of Cape Cod, the poor man’s Nantucket. As a kid my parents would rent modest cottages a few blocks off the beach in Bass River or Dennis or Eastham, generally the working-class areas far removed from Hyannisport or Wellfleet. There I fell in love with the two classes of sand: dry sand that you could brush off your skin when you got up from your blanket, and wet sand that got into your bathing suit while you jumped the waves or rode them into shore and that stayed there to rub your skin raw or that clung to your sunburn and stung when you tried to apply sunscreen on top. Both varieties raised pleasant images of simpler days and, as an alleged adult, my trips to the Cape remained almost child-like, staying in cheap cottages or camping at the Audubon, spending all day drinking beer on the beach, alternately baking and soaking.

I only had two weeks vacation and I always tried to take those weeks in early July. While it left you with a whole working summer ahead of you, the days were full of sunlight and the beaches were cleaner and if you could afford a cabin they were more likely to have a clean working stove and less likely to have had the kitchen pans taken away by prior tenants. In July, C and I pooled our money and got ourselves a cabin a half-block from the Bay in a pretty fancy part of Truro, the part nearest Provincetown; it had a deck, a standing charcoal grille, and an outdoor shower, and the toilet bowl didn’t run all night or sweat in the heat of the day and it looked like a deal to both of us. For me, the two weeks looked like heaven, and I was beginning to think of me and C as a permanent arrangement. Now I never mentioned marriage and so didn’t she, like that kind of talk can derail any relationship faster than anything. But I was pretty sure we were tracking together down the same road.

Cecelia brought with her a couple of wildly flowered beach dresses that billowed in the sun, and mostly disguised her squared off body. When she went into the water her one-piece bathing suits were carefully picked out, I suspect, solid dark colors with lots of control and just a hint of cleavage and a small dark skirt rimming the lower edge to ease the transition from her body to her firm and stocky legs. She had the kind of ankles that unexpectedly pinched inward just above the heel, an attractive feature for a thinner person but for someone built the way C was constructed, a cause for concern; it was not clear that there was enough support to keep her legs from buckling under the weight and balance of the rest of her. C’s skin tended to blotch red in the sun and the uneven coverage of sun screen left her with some tan streaks and some red patches that were painful to the touch. And the beating sun, during this particularly dry and hot July, did no favor to her hair, parts of which seemed to bleach white while the under-hairs alternated between ebony and brass.

My friends had stopped hinting to me that C was not much of a looker. It just made me angry. She was my friend; I could confess to her that I hated my job, that my finances were pitiful for someone my age, that my clothes were ragged at the edges (as if she could not see), that my friends were jealous of my having any relationship, and that my days, historically empty in almost every way, were how filled up but with only one thing, that thing being our relationship. For her part, C seemed happy enough and not prone to share her emotions. I came to read her through her actions not her words; some people are like that, what you see is what you get and indeed all of what you get. If you dig deep, all of a sudden you have exited the person and you are in thin air on the other side.

One night I stood in the shallow waters of a neap tide with my bathing suit around my ankles, my torso pitched out, the wind at my back, pissing into the black ocean. I turned to find C a few feet behind me. I pulled up my suit and for some reason, who knows why, I walked over to her, put my hands on her shoulders, took a dive into her green eyes and said quietly and evenly that I loved her. She smiled and stood on her toes and put a small kiss on the end of my nose and said quietly “that’s nice” and took my hand and started walking down the strand, avoiding the clam and oyster shells in the moonlight.

It was, all of a sudden, Friday of our second week. We had spent our time on the beach and gone to Hyannis only once when it was drizzling; she bought a shell necklace and I bought her a dark metal ring, silver I think, with a large green stone set alone on top. I read the Boston Globe a few times but even down on the Cape, without working and moving between apartments and hanging out with friends, even there with lots of time, we never really had a conversation about anything. And I mean what was happening in the world or even about the Red Sox, but also, thinking about it now, we never talked about us, about the future. Our future was one day long starting each day at sunrise. For the first time we went to a restaurant for dinner, one of those seafood places with clam chowder heated up from a plastic pouch sent from some factory in Boston, boiled lobster in a large paper plate with a bucket for shells, cold fries, warm catsup, kids whining in the next booth, big windows looking out onto Route 28 and a line of cars slowly moving down Cape. We talked about packing up the house which would be no big deal, about who would sweep it out, who would strip the bed.

As we were bent forward, counting out our bills, since we split everything down the middle as usual except when occasionally I would say “hey let me” and then she would look up with those eyes and breath “oh gee thinks, hon” and I would feel like a million. We squared up the bill and C reached out her hand, laying it gently on my arm.

“What’s up? You okay,” I asked.

“We gotta talk,” she said. I did not know what to say. We never talked, not in the way that someone starts out by saying “we gotta talk.”

“Yeah, okay. Ya wanna talk while we walk?”

“No,” she said sharply, looking around at the people still crowding the restaurant. “No,” quieter, “we should talk here.”

“You sure we should do it here? Because…”

“I think we need to split,” she said evenly, quietly. She tried the green headlights on me but then she looked down quickly when she saw my face.

It took me a minute to get some focus. “Split?”

“Yeah. Stop seeing each other.”

It took me another minute. “Why,” my voice flat of any content beyond the one word, as if I had said “pass me a napkin.”

“I just don’t want to do this anymore,” she said.

“You mean being together all the time? Is it because we aren’t married?”

She started then. “No, no, it isn’t being married. It’s the—the first part.”

“The first part?”

“The part about being together. I – I don’t want to be together with you any more. I have – enjoyed spending time with you but I want more.”
“I don’t understand,” I said.

“I know,” she replied.

“Jesus, C, tell me why? What have I done. Wasn’t this vacation great? Haven’t the last seven months been great? They were great for me!”

“I think that talking about it, that would be – unkind. Can’t we just agree we had a – a lovely, a truly lovely time, and leave it at that?”

“So do you want some time to think, a time-out, is that it?”

C looked up, forced herself to look up, look right at me, I saw her through what must have been my tears. She shook her head.

“I don’t want to hurt you, and I don’t want to talk. I had to tell you and I wanted to tell you when you were happy, when you had good memories and all. I — I didn’t know how else…..”

“Is there someone else, then,” I asked.

She smiled and looked fully at me again, a small smile spreading out from her pursed lips as she shook her head. I think she was trying to be kind when she said “no, it’s all about us….”

So looking back at my story there really isn’t much of one, is there. People split up, they don’t get along all the time, no big news there. I always thought they fought but I guess I have no idea, do I, having only lived my own life and sort of ignoring other people except as they affected me. I also always thought they would at least talk about it, but again what the hell do I know about such things? I was never much for deep discussion and, I guess, C wasn’t either.

I can’t even say I was heartbroken, whatever that means. I don’t think I ever was so exposed in my heart that it could be broken. I just allowed it to be contented and maybe, whatever love may be, maybe it is just a few ratchets further around than being happy enough not to want to change things. I don’t really know, do I?

And that’s the real point. That night I thought the failure was with C and my anger took it out on her. Now I am not so sure.

Maybe I killed the wrong person.

Just as well I got into that car accident. I still have no idea what I would have done with the body….

Killer Girlfriend
Stephen Honig / February 2018

I didn’t know what the word meant when I first heard it. I was paying attention, too, because when the judge is giving your sentence you pay real close attention, I gotta tell you. And in County they don’t exactly leave dictionaries lying around for the population to peruse if you catch my drift. I mean, from context I could tell it was not good, what the judge was saying, and when she got to the meat and mentioned a few decades I realized it was not good at all, ya know?

So misogynist really, when you think about it, isn’t quite right because I got in trouble because I loved ‘em, not because I hated them. That’s a long story but, then again, seems I have the time so let me tell you but I warn you, it isn’t pretty and it proves what everyone says about if you didn’t have bad luck you wouldn’t have any luck at all.

One thing before I start which is this: I am not the literary type, and I realize I left a teaser at the end there, about bad luck. I am not going to let it hang there, and come back to it at the end of my story and expect you to say “aha, I now know what that was all about, that was really clever!” so let me take it off the table right now. I was driving down Route 93 the day it happened and this guy, he taps my car from behind while I’m braking, so we pull over and then he starts yelling and pointing and damned if the impact didn’t pop my rear latch and when I pull over the door of my SUV slowly lifts up and sticking out from under the tarp wouldn’t you know it but there is Cecel1a’s hand and arm sticking out, white as snow but with some of the splatters of blood on it, just enough to freak this guy out and so he runs back to his car, locks the door, I see him on his cell phone so I hop in my car and slip back into the flow of traffic and slide gently off the next exit but the cops are right on me and next thing you know I am in a cell and the rest is, as they say, history.

So now you know the end of Cecelia, so to speak, but there is lot to say about the beginning which was really pretty good the truth to tell. Not that the good part made the whole thing worth it of course, but ya gotta give the poor girl her due, she was hot and a hell of great gal until later when—well not so much.

It was one of those evenings in the winter when the clouds broke just before night so your sky had those streaks of gray and some purple and some really dark blue-black behind it all. It’s January thaw but it still feels raw, what with the sleet earlier and that Boston wind backing around from the North. I hate those kinds of days. So anyway it’s Thursday which is a real party night in downtown; everyone is in the bars after work, doing what we would call “checking out the action” but what it really was, you’re 32 years old, you’re a guy or a woman but you don’t have any plans for the week-end so you and a few friends you find a bar that looks lively and you get a bottle of Sam Adams lager and you speculate about the other people in the bar, you sort of give them a rating if you know what I mean, and if you happen to be standing close to a girl, let’s say, you try to start a conversation and those things can go any which way, but sometimes you actually do manage to keep your size 12 out of your mouth long enough to say something not so dumb and you and your friends you talk with her and her friends and, once in a blue moon you get an invite to a party in someone’s apartment in the North End or in Somerville and all that you need is for that to happen once in a while and it keeps you coming back on Thursday nights just to stay in the game.

Just so you know, in my experience if you pick someone out and weave your way over to them and they are not right next to you to start with, you might think they were flattered and would be receptive but it doesn’t work that way; I think, because, if you talk to someone next to you it’s natural, it doesn’t focus on the fact that you are on the prowl and she is obviously alone and looking which is maybe a pathetic admission of how her life sucks, so she rejects your approach because you are reminding her that she is showing out her real predicament and who likes to be reminded of that? While if you happen to be right next to someone it’s only normal human interaction, you look, you may smile, you make small talk about how crowded it is, what’s your name, it’s a real conversation among sophisticated and civilized human beings. Anyway, that’s my theory though I guess in the foreseeable future I am not going to be able to test it out, except maybe in the men’s shower room which I tell you, if the things you see on TV are anyway near accurate, is not my idea of a well-spent Thursday night.

The girl next to Harry, her name was Felicia, a nice old-fashioned name; I had a cousin named Felicia and I lost track of her but she was nice. Anyway, Harry he went to college all the way through the third year and he’s pretty smooth, he’s chatting away and then I think he says something like “would you girls like to meet my friends here” and she says something like “there are no girls here but the women might like to meet your gentlemen friends,” which is with a smile that defuses any offense Harry may feel about making what is now known as a micro-aggression ya know, and he comes back with “there aren’t any gentlemen here but I can introduce you WOMEN to my stumblebum friends over here” and everyone is laughing and talking and exchanging names and in the back of your head you are wondering why you had to go through all that preliminary shit but so what, you are where you want to be right now so don’t argue with the road when you’ve reached home anyway.

There are four of us and four of them which is convenient although it does sort of force you to sort out rather than play the larger field. That’s okay with me, I am not very good at sorting out or being selected when someone else is doing the sorting. And by some process you end up with someone you are mostly talking with, because in a loud bar it is hard to hold a group discussion, and my someone is Cecilia who I will now describe as she was that night, which was one of her better nights I might add.

The late Jim Croce sang about a roller derby queen and that came pretty close. Cecilia was not tall, though she did not seem short. She was really solid, which is different from fat. Her chin was square, her nose straight and strong, her mouth was small and pouty and her hair was blonde but you could see the dark roots in her part, which threw her hair left and right from the middle of her face. Her eyes were green and wide apart which I love by the way, and her eyebrows could have used a good plucking and while she was at it she might have lightened them a bit to sort of blend with her hair. But all this was hung onto an open wide face with nice pink skin, and her ears behaved rather than sticking out. I liked that face, it had the feel of comfort food, I felt good looking at it. It was the kind of face that made me not want to say something stupid, and that took some doing.

Cecilia and her friend Didi were room-mates in an apartment near Malden Square, a near suburb of no known attractions beyond cheap real estate near the subway line, but if we brought some beer and maybe some chips perhaps we could come over Saturday night, it was suggested. Sure why not, instant party. Identify the kind of music you like, come by around 7:30 or 8, exchange cell phone numbers if something comes up (a real date? a tsunami?) and sure, see ya then.

So now it’s 11 on a work night and the crowd has thinned, we all feel exposed just standing around the bar with two ounces of beer warming in the bottoms of our bottles. We start the good-byes and there are a couple of hugs, I see Harry gets a handshake that surprises him, but Cecilia gently bends me forward from the shoulders and plants a mildly liquid kiss on my cheek, she catches the corner of my mouth just enough to make me think it was placed on purpose, and then gives me the full two green eye-contact look before she hooks arms with a friend and walks out of the bar. I feel good enough to order a shot or two but everyone else wants to leave so that’s that.

I am no more tired than usual Friday morning, which means I am processing orders at the rate needed to earn the middle of the bonus target for my office, which is fine with me because I split my rent three ways and I got rid of the car and my refrigerator is stocked with brewskis and frozen burritos none of which put a major dent in my budget. Last summer I camped out on the Cape for vacation. I go to see the Red Sox in the summer but bleacher seats are a fine deal, around the fifth inning I cruise into the box seat area and can usually grab a better view from the empties unless it’s a Yankees game. So if you catch my drift, I am totally solvent with at least four weeks of running money in my checking account and over $400 cash in a trophy cup packed on the top shelf of my clothes closet in case of some un-named emergency. What I don’t have is a regular social life, and around 4 on Friday afternoon when my blood sugar is low and I am contemplating the Reese’s peanut butter cups in the vending machine I remember the kiss and I have an idea which is to call Cecilia. But that is hard because she works and if I call later I am going to be accused of assuming she has nothing to do on Friday night which I assume to be true but just because something is true does not mean it is a great idea to mention it. Then I realize that if I reach out to her now then I am admitting that I myself have nothing to do on a Friday night, and what sort of a message does that send?

Well, an accurate message.

Uhm, maybe that is even worse?

To much thinking, I think. Too much thinking has screwed up many a relationship, I think. If I thought more, I might realize that for me personally all of my screwed up relationships, which category includes every one I ever had, suffered from various sins of omission and commission, and foundered on the rocks of too much thinking, at least on my part.

I decide to send a text, the modern mode of de-personalized communication ranking just above Twitter on the hit parade of interpersonal cowardice. I start by describing that my evening plans have fallen through, which in a way is true because if I end up seeing Cicelia Friday night then by definition my evening plan to drink a beer and watch the Boston Celtics on TV will have been thwarted. I know she is busy, I further lie, but just in case she happens by odd coincidence to have no plans through some unforeseen and rare set of circumstances, perhaps we could hang out? Even go out to dinner (I internally gasp, no one invites anyone to dinner unless they are sleeping together, and regularly at that). I judge my text sufficiently protective of my imagined cool reputation to either work or make her feel guilty if she declines and I send it off. The transmission line moves slowly across the cell phone screen, landing finally on “delivered.” I have done my worst, she probably won’t even reply, well maybe she will, is she cool enough not to even reply until Saturday night when she says she has been so busy she just saw the text an hour ago, or will she never acknowledge and me too scared to compound the error by actually verbally asking her; or, is she so totally cool that she does not care how cool she looks and therefore will respond immediately, in which case any answer she gives will be a ten-point win?

It is now 5:15 and I am shutting down my office electronics, locking my desk drawers and file cabinets. My cell phone, propped up by the base of my desk lamp, has revealed only one incoming call, email, twitter, text or activity in the last two hours, and I have wisely (I think) declined the questionnaire about the electricity used by my electric appliances. The world is giving me what I deserve; it is ignoring my entire existence at any level, I am so low on life’s totem pole that the robo-calls are avoiding me.

A long time ago my mother, rest her gentle soul, used to tell me that when all else fails, tell the truth. Or maybe I read that inside a Hallmark card, frankly I am not sure. For me, in order to tell the truth about myself, at least to another person, I must picture myself in the bottom of a large deep pit, holding a shovel and digging downward vigorously. I look out the window in Mr. Rafferty’s office (the very office I may inherit if I continue to do average work on the invoices desk for another decade or so, and for
now my outlet to the world as my common work area has no window except the Windows on my computer screen), and it looks like a nice warm evening and I close my eyes a moment and immediately smell the wet muddy scent of a very deep earthen hole, I feel the shovel blisters on my thumb and pointer finger, and I pick up my phone and text again to Cicelia: “I lied before, I had no plans tonight, I am desperate and can feel your kiss on my cheek. IS there any way you can save me tonight?” I hit “send’ without rereading, which would only lead me to edit out typos and the truth.

I am in the elevator going down to the lobby when there is a distant ping, it is someone’s cell phone, when we hit the lobby floor I stand aside next to the fake bamboo garden and retrieve my cell phone and there is on the screen the first few words of a text, so I open the site. It reads: “I also have no plans and was afraid to tell the truth and afraid to lie. I will save you if you save me. The bar at Kelly’s Public House at 6. C.”

Hell, I should be doing handstands but all of a sudden I am sweating and unsure. Did I shower this morning? Why did I drop taco sauce on my shirt pocket at lunch? Will she notice I am wearing the same Chinos I wore last night? My beard trim is two days overdue, I must look like a street panhandler, is a signature with a single letter a good sign, a bad sign, or just a way to preserve juice in her failing cell phone? What will we talk about? What did I tell her last night? Hell, did I lie to her, or exaggerate? I cannot remember. HELP!

That night in my apartment we had sex until the sun came up. She stayed in my room until my apartment-mates went out for Dunkin’ Donuts and then I hustled her out to an Uber bound for Malden. I showered, set my alarm for 3pm, and fell asleep on top of a very wet sheet.

I predict that the thing I will miss most while spending the better part of my entire life in prison will be sand. To my experience, sand is the bedrock of the beaches along the Atlantic, and for a Bostonian that means the beaches of Cape Cod, the poor man’s Nantucket. As a kid my parents would rent modest cottages a few blocks off the beach in Bass River or Dennis or Eastham, generally the working-class areas far removed from Hyannisport or Wellfleet. There I fell in love with the two classes of sand: dry sand that you could brush off your skin when you got up from your blanket, and wet sand that got into your bathing suit while you jumped the waves or rode them into shore and that stayed there to rub your skin raw or that clung to your sunburn and stung when you tried to apply sunscreen on top. Both varieties raised pleasant images of simpler days and, as an alleged adult, my trips to the Cape remained almost child-like, staying in cheap cottages or camping at the Audubon, spending all day drinking beer on the beach, alternately baking and soaking.

I only had two weeks vacation and I always tried to take those weeks in early July. While it left you with a whole working summer ahead of you, the days were full of sunlight and the beaches were cleaner and if you could afford a cabin they were more likely to have a clean working stove and less likely to have had the kitchen pans taken away by prior tenants. In July, C and I pooled our money and got ourselves a cabin a half-block from the Bay in a pretty fancy part of Truro, the part nearest Provincetown; it had a deck, a standing charcoal grille, and an outdoor shower, and the toilet bowl didn’t run all night or sweat in the heat of the day and it looked like a deal to both of us. For me, the two weeks looked like heaven, and I was beginning to think of me and C as a permanent arrangement. Now I never mentioned marriage and so didn’t she, like that kind of talk can derail any relationship faster than anything. But I was pretty sure we were tracking together down the same road.

Cecelia brought with her a couple of wildly flowered beach dresses that billowed in the sun, and mostly disguised her squared off body. When she went into the water her one-piece bathing suits were carefully picked out, I suspect, solid dark colors with lots of control and just a hint of cleavage and a small dark skirt rimming the lower edge to ease the transition from her body to her firm and stocky legs. She had the kind of ankles that unexpectedly pinched inward just above the heel, an attractive feature for a thinner person but for someone built the way C was constructed, a cause for concern; it was not clear that there was enough support to keep her legs from buckling under the weight and balance of the rest of her. C’s skin tended to blotch red in the sun and the uneven coverage of sun screen left her with some tan streaks and some red patches that were painful to the touch. And the beating sun, during this particularly dry and hot July, did no favor to her hair, parts of which seemed to bleach white while the under-hairs alternated between ebony and brass.

My friends had stopped hinting to me that C was not much of a looker. It just made me angry. She was my friend; I could confess to her that I hated my job, that my finances were pitiful for someone my age, that my clothes were ragged at the edges (as if she could not see), that my friends were jealous of my having any relationship, and that my days, historically empty in almost every way, were how filled up but with only one thing, that thing being our relationship. For her part, C seemed happy enough and not prone to share her emotions. I came to read her through her actions not her words; some people are like that, what you see is what you get and indeed all of what you get. If you dig deep, all of a sudden you have exited the person and you are in thin air on the other side.

One night I stood in the shallow waters of a neap tide with my bathing suit around my ankles, my torso pitched out, the wind at my back, pissing into the black ocean. I turned to find C a few feet behind me. I pulled up my suit and for some reason, who knows why, I walked over to her, put my hands on her shoulders, took a dive into her green eyes and said quietly and evenly that I loved her. She smiled and stood on her toes and put a small kiss on the end of my nose and said quietly “that’s nice” and took my hand and started walking down the strand, avoiding the clam and oyster shells in the moonlight.

It was, all of a sudden, Friday of our second week. We had spent our time on the beach and gone to Hyannis only once when it was drizzling; she bought a shell necklace and I bought her a dark metal ring, silver I think, with a large green stone set alone on top. I read the Boston Globe a few times but even down on the Cape, without working and moving between apartments and hanging out with friends, even there with lots of time, we never really had a conversation about anything. And I mean what was happening in the world or even about the Red Sox, but also, thinking about it now, we never talked about us, about the future. Our future was one day long starting each day at sunrise. For the first time we went to a restaurant for dinner, one of those seafood places with clam chowder heated up from a plastic pouch sent from some factory in Boston, boiled lobster in a large paper plate with a bucket for shells, cold fries, warm catsup, kids whining in the next booth, big windows looking out onto Route 28 and a line of cars slowly moving down Cape. We talked about packing up the house which would be no big deal, about who would sweep it out, who would strip the bed.

As we were bent forward, counting out our bills, since we split everything down the middle as usual except when occasionally I would say “hey let me” and then she would look up with those eyes and breath “oh gee thinks, hon” and I would feel like a million. We squared up the bill and C reached out her hand, laying it gently on my arm.

“What’s up? You okay,” I asked.

“We gotta talk,” she said. I did not know what to say. We never talked, not in the way that someone starts out by saying “we gotta talk.”

“Yeah, okay. Ya wanna talk while we walk?”

“No,” she said sharply, looking around at the people still crowding the restaurant. “No,” quieter, “we should talk here.”

“You sure we should do it here? Because…”

“I think we need to split,” she said evenly, quietly. She tried the green headlights on me but then she looked down quickly when she saw my face.

It took me a minute to get some focus. “Split?”

“Yeah. Stop seeing each other.”

It took me another minute. “Why,” my voice flat of any content beyond the one word, as if I had said “pass me a napkin.”

“I just don’t want to do this anymore,” she said.

“You mean being together all the time? Is it because we aren’t married?”

She started then. “No, no, it isn’t being married. It’s the—the first part.”

“The first part?”

“The part about being together. I – I don’t want to be together with you any more. I have – enjoyed spending time with you but I want more.”
“I don’t understand,” I said.

“I know,” she replied.

“Jesus, C, tell me why? What have I done. Wasn’t this vacation great? Haven’t the last seven months been great? They were great for me!”

“I think that talking about it, that would be – unkind. Can’t we just agree we had a – a lovely, a truly lovely time, and leave it at that?”

“So do you want some time to think, a time-out, is that it?”

C looked up, forced herself to look up, look right at me, I saw her through what must have been my tears. She shook her head.

“I don’t want to hurt you, and I don’t want to talk. I had to tell you and I wanted to tell you when you were happy, when you had good memories and all. I — I didn’t know how else…..”

“Is there someone else, then,” I asked.

She smiled and looked fully at me again, a small smile spreading out from her pursed lips as she shook her head. I think she was trying to be kind when she said “no, it’s all about us….”

So looking back at my story there really isn’t much of one, is there. People split up, they don’t get along all the time, no big news there. I always thought they fought but I guess I have no idea, do I, having only lived my own life and sort of ignoring other people except as they affected me. I also always thought they would at least talk about it, but again what the hell do I know about such things? I was never much for deep discussion and, I guess, C wasn’t either.

I can’t even say I was heartbroken, whatever that means. I don’t think I ever was so exposed in my heart that it could be broken. I just allowed it to be contented and maybe, whatever love may be, maybe it is just a few ratchets further around than being happy enough not to want to change things. I don’t really know, do I?

And that’s the real point. That night I thought the failure was with C and my anger took it out on her. Now I am not so sure.

Maybe I killed the wrong person.

Just as well I got into that car accident. I still have no idea what I would have done with the body….

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