The Orange Dress: Rules of Engagement

The Geneva Convention outlines certain rules for warfare.  The most well known rules protect women, children civilians, and non-combatants.  Medics and religious persons, such as priests or pastors  regardless of which army they are serving, are also protected.  Prisoners of war are to be fed and treated respectfully, and returned to their respective countries once the conflicts are over.

“Dum-dum” or expanding hollow point rounds are banned, because the damage they inflict on human flesh is too difficult for medics and surgeons to treat.  Imagine a corn kernel super-heating and bursting inside of a steak at three-thousand feet per second, and instead of soft fluffy popcorn it’s hot molten lead bouncing around, ricocheting and turning every piece of flesh into shredded dog meat.

Really think about that for a moment: there exists a bullet too lethal for war, and people on both sides of the war have agreed not to use it.  If people can honor rules of war, why not rules of love?

We had rules for our relationship.  Rules in place for when the fighting got ugly and muddy in the trenches.    Rules for when emotion overtook logic, or planning, or history, or love.  They were simple rules:

– Don’t sleep with other people.
– Don’t say it’s over, unless it’s truly over.
– Don’t ignore phone calls.
– Don’t block social media.
– Respond, answer and acknowledge.

and there was one rule specifically for me:

– Don’t write about us.

She never wanted to air our dirty laundry.  But there is no “our” dirty laundry anymore.  There is just my dirty laundry, and her dirty laundry, and both are being washed quite separately now in different washing machines.  Mine still carries the wounded stink upon it of dried blood and unanswered questions.  And it’s with that constant musky shameful smell in my nose I realize I am holding on to a bygone time, and a set of rules that only one of us are abiding by.  The only way to get clean at this point, are harsh chemicals or sunshine.

…and I choose the sunshine.

The Orange Dress: A Moment of Clarity

In a moment of clarity, I know these will be few and far between.  I know the struggle that lays in front of me, the jealousy the monsters, the doubt the rage.  And I know what will become of me if I don’t beat this.  I’ve tasted the drowning waters, the wretched sea of loneliness and a life barren and without you.

So in my moment of clarity– I release you.  I release you from the promise of the big house, with a big yard, with big dogs.  I release you from the dream of reading to our children together.  I release you from the memory of thousands of home cooked meals, conversations over wine, and movies together curled up on your bed.  I release you from your father walking you down the aisle to a sea of smiling faces, and me standing there waiting for you at the end, which would have truly just been the beginning of everything for us.  I release you from the promise of a life together, of growing old together and ultimately dying together.  I release you from everything we spoke of, everything we dreamed of and everything I ever hoped us to be.  I release you from every time you told me you loved me, and that I was “the one”, and how those words carried me forward for so long.

This was our dream.  Now it is just my dream.  And it is time to fold it up and put it away for someone else to one day have.  I release you from all of this.  Goodbye love.

The Orange Dress Part V: The End of the War

No one writes stories about peace time.  No one comments about the lull of happiness, the daily bliss of being together with someone.  The trivial things, cooking a meal together, watching a movie, falling asleep next to each other.  It isn’t until it’s snatched away that we feel the gaping hole it leaves.

The relationship was a constant struggle of “if you could be a little less you” and “If I could be a little less me“, like two obtusely misshapen pieces of luggage trying to fit into a specifically finite amount of space.  With craned necks and tucked knees we tried so desperately to fit each other.  But like luggage we are made out of soft spots and hard surfaces.  Some things we can bend and adjust, but other things, our core, our fundamentals, our essence, will simply crack under the strain of change.

I realized she would never be caring and compassionate like all the women who filled my life growing up. I would never be cool and stalwart, able to take weather her fury without retaliation.  I would always be a clingy heart with a short fuse and a hair trigger.  She would always be a passionate megaphone attached to a fist.  These are things we cannot fix, things that should not be fixed, because that would change the very core of who we are.

Try as I might, love alone could not brute force fix us.  Relationships are more than just about love. It’s about comparability and timing, and people told me that repeatedly but I could never understand that until now.

The Orange Dress Part IV: Social Media is Killing me

A breakup is like twisting an oreo cookie with a partner.  One person is indubitably escapes with most of the proverbial cream filling, while the other person is left with various smudges of their dignity clinging to an empty chocolate wafer.  I am the raw cookie.  Whatever was shared between us, she took most of it with her.

The internet, and namely social media is slowly killing me.  In the wake of a breakup, as the one broken I am left wondering constantly as to where she is or what she is doing.  But thanks to Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and twitter I know exactly.  I know what she ate, I know what music she’s been listening to.  But it’s not really her.  The internet makes no mention of the pile of dirty clothes on her floor, or the way she grinds her teeth when she sleeps, or the way she’ll stubbornly believe anything her gut tells her to, regardless of the copious amounts of proof to the contrary.

There’s a study published in the Newyorker: How Facebook Makes us Unhappy naming the “social comparison” we feel when we look at others on the internet, measuring the satisfaction and the happiness in our lives compared to the lives of others.  Social comparison is kicking my ass.  The internet provides a 24 hour voyeuristic view into her personal life.  At my weakest moments, when I am the most alone, her whole life can be sprawled out in front of me on a glowing screen.  Only it’s not her whole life, it is the “best-of” reel of everything she’s ever done or experienced.  Each glossy photo is meticulously chosen among many.  The one where her hair falls perfectly.  The one where the light catches her face just right.  The one where her breasts look heavenly.  It’s a clean and tidy storefront of exactly the life she wants to portray.  It’s ribbons and lace.  It’s perfume and polish.  And my aching heart, battered and bruised as it is becomes all the more damaged each time I look.

Twenty years ago this wasn’t a problem.  Maybe a friend would see her out somewhere, and that would get passed back along eventually, but for the most part people were left alone with their thoughts to mourn.  In this modern day and age, all of the internet works against me.

The ideal solution is to just not look.  To put it all away and think of this as a growing moment.  But I know I can’t shut out the internet.  It travels with me in my pocket, it courses through my television set, and sits atop my lap at night.  Lap – top.  It takes a second of weakness in the dark of my bed and I can have her prettiest face in front of me on my tiny screen clutched in my hand.  I can’t beat it.  My own curiosity eats me alive on the daily. So instead I will counter it.

For a while at least, this blog is going to be for remembering exactly what I need to remember.  So every time I see this face:
Pretty

I can remember that it’s also this face:

Sushi Mouth

…and who she really is, is somewhere in between these two extremes.  Not the perfect made-up fantasy the internet and my imagination has created to haunt me.  But the girl I took out to eat sushi with no makeup on Halloween because we were sick.  Someone human and flawed, full of perfect imperfections.  This is going to be my fighting chance for maintaining my own sanity in an otherwise insane time.  Wish me luck.

Edit:
http://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/fair-use/four-factors/

The Orange Dress Part III: Reconciliation

We miss each other… the way two warring snipers miss each other for hours or days on end.  The battlefield is littered with fog and smoke, obstacles and corpses of who we were and the wreckage of it all.  We fought a prolonged campaign of long distance tag.  A text message.  A late night phone call. Both hiding and shooting but never truly making any real contact.

We waged this war for weeks.   All I thought about was her.  All I wanted was her.  But all I could muster is a stray shot every few days.  Missing her was a constant gnawing pain, a fever that pulled at my bones and muddled my head.  But missing her, taking that chance to start a dialogue only to have it ignored or brushed aside, that killed me.   No matter how many times I thought over the phrasing or the timing, how many times I rewrote the lines it always came out like the sharp crack of a bullet spiraling down the barrel of a rifle.  There would be no re-connection, no rekindling.

I knew there were guys taking her out on dates… social media let me be eaten alive by my own curiosity-monsters as they gnawed at me relentlessly.  I checked in on her frequently, now an outsider peeking through a window on my lap into her quickly fleeting world.  I hoped somehow she was doing the same.  I buried myself in other girls, each one more shallow and hollow than the last.  No amount of rouge or soft skin could satisfy me.  Each experience left me feeling all the more alone and missing her.  I hoped she was feeling the same.  I hated every single one of the guys she was out with.

Finally, she texts me that she’s dropping off my stuff.  She’s leaving it outside of my car in my parking spot, unwilling to face me directly.  This makes me furious, to have my things so casually and cowardly discarded.  I tell her I have things of hers to give her.  She says she’ll wait.  I bolt down the stairs with the tattered Orange Dress in hand.  I see my things piled neatly outside of my car.  She’s parked on the side.  I stride up to her and throw the dress through her open window.  I go back to my car and begin putting my stuff away.  Weights.  Books.  Heavy things from our past life I was too quick to grab, things she laboriously carried back to me.

She exits her car.  I hear her car door close and see her approaching me  I ignore her and continue stuffing my belongings into my truck.  I hold tightly to my anger, unwilling to feel anything else.  She catches me in an embrace.  We stand there in silence for what seems like an eternity.  Reluctantly, my arms wrap around her.  I’ve missed this.  I’ve missed her warmth.  I breathe in the familiar scent of her hair.  My mouth finds her mouth, it’s a salty and hungry kiss.  I press my body against hers, feeling the squish of her breasts against my chest, the curve of her hips against my own.  Instinctively I put my hand between her legs, reaching up her skirt.  She stops me.  I can see the the same passionate hunger gnawing in her eyes, pulling at her.

“Do you want to go driving somewhere?”

We go barreling up the mountainside in her car.  I look over at her; she’s more beautiful than I ever remembered.  More alive, more vibrant than ever before.  This time apart has refreshed us, renewed her energy and renewed my thirst for her.  The orange dress is on the floor of the passenger seat at my feet.  I wrap it around my foot, like a fork twirled in rancid spaghetti.  It clings to me like a wounded animal.  The road we’re on is a series of hazardous switchbacks, zigzagging back and forth.  I can’t take my eyes of her.  She keeps looking over at me.  There’s a strong likelihood these longing gazes will end up getting us killed.  The dress is in my lap.  I stroke it, like a super villain stroking his cat.  There was something important I was supposed to remember about this dress.  Something about the texture.  Something about the color.  Something tugging at the nape of my neck, ready to unravel everything.

“Throw it out the window!” she yells.

“Just like that?”

“Do it!”

I dangle the dress out the window, my clenched fist unwilling to let go.  The wind whips it from my grasp pulling it out into the black night.  With that one sweeping gesture, every past slight is forgotten.  Every wrong and every fault of who we were and the damage we did to each other leaves the car with that horrible tattered garment.  At the top of the mountain, we’re together.  Talking, reconnecting.  The misery that I carried with me for months drops off of me like a heavy iron cloak and instead we are draped together in a joyous veil of each other.  It colors the night so the stars sparkle brighter, the air tastes crisper, and every breath every second is better than the one before it.  Eventually words fail and steam fills the windows, we’re doubled over each other in the backseat.   We drive back to her place and the night fades in a tumbling blur of sex and ecstasy.  I wake up with her face inches from mine.  I spend the morning just gazing at her, trying to relearn every curve, every line, every nuance of her face, a memory I tried so hard to repress.  This is the happiest I’ve been in months.

It isn’t until the next morning, the glowing morning haze when she’s driving me back to my apartment.  I spy something on the ground of the passenger seat.  A torn strap from the orange dress, a little twisted larva wriggling for survival.  She hasn’t seen it.  I tuck it into my boot.  I don’t know why I kept it– but I did.

The Orange Dress Part II: Cursed

I’m packing up my things.  The hampers I bought her now serve as baskets for me to haul my clothes away.  I see her orange dress, crumpled on the floor.  I scoop it up and shove it down to the bottom with the rest of my dirty laundry.  It’s a thoughtless gesture.  I know she’ll never wear it again.  I take it with me as a reminder, as a keepsake so I’ll never forget what it’s like to be cheated out of happily-ever-after.

I’m home, and in the days to follow I begin unpacking.  Funny the things I now have doubles of… two toothbrushes, two deodorants, two hair gels…  Now single… I have doubles of everything.  I have so much stuff, but I feel so empty.  My life is full of vast tracts of time where I sit and do nothing.  My life slips away from me, minute by minute.  Hour by hour.

The orange dress… it sits in a torn heap in the corner of my room.  There are probably thousands of dresses just like this, bought and sold around the world.  Dresses made out of the same fabric, produced by the same sewing machines and stitched together by the same needle and thread. Thousands of girls wore those dresses to dinners, parties, prom even.  Girls, who had their first slow dance in their dress, girls who got their first kiss, or even lost their virginity in their dress.  Not this dress– This Orange Dress is the shredded pelt of a slain monster.  It is the vile shadow that lives between the veil of sleep and awaken-ness, the bitter pain created by failed love This dress has been imbued with all the rage and violence of our a slowly dying relationship, and that anger has fermented and seethed into the fabric, filling it with sorrow and guilt.

I contemplate cutting that orange dress into strips.  I imagine weaving those strips into a thick braid, and those thick braids into a rope.  I see myself folding and bending that rope into a noose and lashing it up someplace high for her to find.  I can feel the scratch of the material against my cheek as I poke my head through the eyelet of the noose.   I can feel the coarse fabric against my throat as I position it just right.  I can picture the gradual weight of my own body pulling me downwards, with nothing but the thin rope of that orange dress holding me up.  I can feel the soft tissue of my larynx and windpipe crushing under my own weight, the sputtering choking sounds clinging to the very last traces of life in my throat.  The flesh of my neck flaying away like a slow Indian burn that pulls the skin from my meat like a roasted pig.  I imagine the world slowly going hazy, dim and dark as my body begins to shudder in its final thralls.

But most of all, I imagine Her… finding my blackened bloated body hanging in her room, and the look on her face and the noise that comes out of her mouth at that very moment when she realizes what I’ve done.

Eventually I shove the tattered orange dress into a drawer.  Surely this dress is cursed.

Bump it with:

The Orange Dress: Part 1.5 Purse Strings and Bologna

He wasn’t inside of me for long” she says.  “That’s always been his problem, lasting I mean.  And we were very drunk so he was kind of soft…”  It’s weeks later.  I’m not sure why she thought these would be comforting.  The sex they did have was, not as much as I imagined it to be?  She only cheated for a few minutes, rather than a couple hours, so that somehow makes it better?  He still fucked her.  She’s still cheated.  These are the facts.

I study her lips.  Sometimes when we’re making love, sometimes when she’s passed out after a night of binge drinking.   I had a friend in elementary school who had a nervous habit of tugging on his earlobes whenever he felt anxious or self-conscious.  As an overweight asthmatic in a school full of kids who loved to play dodge ball every recess, this happened often; so much so that by the time we hit the sixth grade his earlobes were angry red waddles, stretched out and flopping against the sides of his face like one of those tribal women in National Geographic photos.

Her lips were like that: an inelegant mismatching of flesh, a medieval purse with the drawstring pulled taught, but the extra material still spills out between her legs.  Or a sandwich with too little bread and too much bologna and melted cheese.  Yep, how’s that for imagery.   Somehow I know His intrusion in there has left an indelible mark beyond the psychological torment that’s been etched into me.  I scour her, like the Salem Witch Trials, for any proof of her heart’s true intentions.  Any Freudian slip, any trace of him.  Each turn of phrase, each sideways glance, each time her phone goes off and she saunters to the bathroom to check it, gets another tick mark added to the indelible chalkboard of my mind entitled “You Fucking Whore”

Call it deep seeded insecurity, call it pathetic… though he is miles away and their encounter was weeks ago, I am convinced he has changed her.  Because I. have. changed.

The corruption spreads through me.  I imagine myself as Peter Parker, being slowly overwhelmed by the black symbiote.  It covers me; it colors me; it seeps into every aspect of my life until it is the only shade left.    I don’t know if I love her or if I want to kill her.  Sometimes I wake from fitful nights of sleep, dreaming that I’ve strangled her to death and I wake white knuckled to the steady rhythmic rise and fall of her chest. I’m grateful that she’s still breathing.  Grateful I didn’t kill her accidentally.

I could never forgive myself if I slept through it.

The question lingers: can I do this for the rest of my life?

I’ll try until I can’t.

The Orange Dress Part I: Discovery

 

It’s a moment that travels with me, a moment that defines me.   Deeper than the scar on the base of my right hand where I thought I could cut myself free from this tragic wreckage of a relationship.  The moment when I realized the woman I loved had cheated on me.  She would have never told me, had I never found that snippet of a text message that she saved as a picture and forgot to delete.  The conversation itself, long purged from her phone, along with any other trace of him.  A snippet, I found by accident the night she was out with her co-workers, and I picked her up and carried her out of the bar, I drover her home and tucked her into our bed.  Her phone buzzed, and that’s when I saw it.  I went looking for a picture she had taken of the two of us the day before where I thought we looked particularly nice, and that’s where I found this:

The Text

I shake her awake, bleary eyed she denies  everything.  “It’s a joke” she mutters.  Though, there’s nothing funny about this.  I’m surprised by how easily the lie comes to her lips.  Then again I’ve heard her lie countless times to her family and her business partners.  I assumed these lies were reserved for others– not for me.     I am left alone with my thoughts until the morning.  The day passes and I almost forget.  Almost.  Like an afterthought, as casually as if I had asked her about the weather or what she wanted to eat.  Her face drops.  For the moment, she can’t speak.  And that’s when I knew.

We sit there on our bed.  She tells me this in great detail because I keep asking questions.  I am torn between the fury and the fascination for the truth.  I need this, I need this image, as bright and as accurate in my mind, deep and embedded into my flesh so I can never forget it.  So it haunts me forever.  I ask questions, because it keeps me from screaming and unraveling the very room.  She paints it for me:  She’s drunk in Mexico while on vacation for her friends’ wedding, and her ex-boyfriend carries her from the party to her bed.  He undresses her, and presses himself inside of her, and there they lay until morning.  That same morning, when she texted me she loved me, and that she was thinking about me.  That same morning where she joked about riding golf carts and sunrises and longing for my arms.  That same morning I spent sanding and polishing the wooden stand for the globe I was restoring, a present to surprise her on her return.  To show her she was my world, encapsulated literally on a stand for her to twirl under her hand and survey at her whim.  My world, given to her.

That same morning, she’s wearing the orange dress I helped pick out, the dress she modeled for me in the wedding shop, talking about how one day in the near future we’d be there again, and she’d be trying on a white dress instead of an orange one.  That orange dress, pulled up around her waist, and her wasted on a bed somewhere in Mexico, with him thrusting on top of her, and everything here, everything at home, everything that was us completely forgotten.  She never did unpack that orange dress in front of me.  I always assumed it was stained with him.

The Orange Dress

I close my eyes.  She continues talking.  I feel something shift and shut off inside of me, it hurts terribly as it moves.  A little blinking light attached to a switch to a thread of my humanity.  The light flickers and goes black; the bulb cools with the cold wind of each one of her words as they pass through her lips.  It’s weeks later when I even notice its absence.   I try the switch again, fluttering and muttering to myself, wondering when it broke and what it did in the first place.  Over time it becomes just another dismantled piece collecting dust, mounted on the wall-turned-museum of all the things I used to believe, like miracles and Santa Claus– just one less light in the world, one less thing to believe in.

I’m inside of her repeatedly that night.  She cries.  I’m not sure if she’s thinking I’ve forgiven her, or she’s just happy she has me for a few hours more.  I push myself inside of her, reckless and unprotected.   Somehow I’m thinking if I fill her with my seed, there’s less of him and more of me, and I can somehow push him out.  I know this is the last time I’ll ever get to see her like this.  This is the death of us, orchestrated by His cock and her inability to remain faithful to me.  I watch her panting, as she finishes, her back arching and her mouth open, her toes curled and her eyes rolled back in her head.  She says I’m the only one who can make her cum like this.  She’s probably told him the same thing too.  I think about how many other people have seen her this way.  How many other people will.  It kills me.  The light in me has gone off.

– – – –

Somehow we limp on, battered and embattled, this bitter ragged relationship.  Bound by stubbornness and pride relabeled as love.  I watch her, like a wounded creature waiting to be struck again.  My heart never stops wincing, always anticipating the next blow falling, the next lie unraveling, so much so my face has contorted into a permanent snarl.  Part sneer, part scream, part fear, each day– less and less me.  We’re held together by superglue and band-aids.  The slightest upset to our delicate balance pulls us apart at the seams, sending us spiraling in opposite directions only to smack back together like two cocked fists made of glass.  I begin striking preemptively.   The rage explodes without warning: it covers the walls in frothing butter, lines the floors with broken glass and sends her cowering to the side of our bed.  Door frames get kicked off their hinges.  We run out of dishes to break.   Even on the good days, we’re still picking shards and splinters out of our feet, drinking out of plastic cups because everything else has been smashed to pieces.  The light has gone off.   I am no longer me but I refuse to leave.  Stubbornness and pride, mislabeled as love.   I love her, but I can’t stand her.  I hate her, but I can’t stand the thought of her with someone else.

I begin to realize there is nothing more she can do to me, no further way she can harm me than she has done already.  In our final fight, I shred that orange dress to pieces.  It’s become a symbol of everything wrong with us.  My fingernails claw through it, as if it were her flesh.  The seams tear as I twist it violently, ripping, unraveling– destroyed.  I leave it as a tattered heap on the floor of her room.  The light in me is off.

…and it never goes back on again.

The Orange Dress: Hide and Seek

 

This is going to be funny.

I think to myself as I’m climbing up the support column to my girlfriend’s apartment.  We’ve been inseparable these past few weeks, so much so that I’m beginning to forget what my own apartment looks like.  I climb my way over the railing.  I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket.  I pull it out still straddling the banister, the bright beacon of light cutting through the darkness:

“Just finishing up with some friends. Going home soon.”  From this tiny flickering screen a smile flutters up through my fingertips, into the pulsing cavity in my chest and escaping to my face.

“Okay.  Lava.”  I text her, my legs still wrapped around the iron-wrought railing.

“Lava you too.”

It’s this silly inside joke between us.  It goes like this: What did the boy volcano say to the girl volcano?  I lava you.  Haha stupid, right?  It was my way of telling her I loved her, without using a word that had become tacky and trite through overuse by every single other person.  It’s our word; something special just between us.  And if she was ever kidnapped by ninjas, I would know it wasn’t her on the receiving end because they would have no idea how to interpret a quick quip about lava.

I make my way up her flight of stairs,  Imagining ninjas jumping onto chairs and tables as the ground beneath them burst into hot molten flames.  Yeah, ninjas would definitely do okay with lava.  Her bedroom is dark.  With expert precision, I navigate my way over her laptop, past our wine glasses from last night, around the half-eaten bag of jalapeno chips and over her growing pile of dirty clothes.  I make a mental note to buy her one of those cool fold-able hampers the next time I’m out shopping.  Hamper.  That’s a funny word.  Why would someone want to “hamper” you, from doing laundry?  Hamper.  I say it again.  Hamper.   Ham puur.  Ham puurr.   It’s one of those words the more you say it, the weirder it sounds and feels in your mouth.

“You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means”

I do my best Inigo Montoya impersonation.  Somehow it sounds more Mexican gangbanger than accomplished gentleman-swordfighter.  I need to work on that.  I lie on her bed in the darkness, reciting more of my favorite Princess Bride lines.  “Fezzik, you did something right” Her pillowcase smells like her; wet hair and that flowery shampoo.   I’m over here so often my hair smells like it too.  We have the same smell. I wonder if people at work have noticed.  I look at the clock on my phone.   She’ll be home in about thirty minutes.

I am going to scare the crap out of her so good.

This is going to be so funny.

– – – –

When I would play hide and seek as a kid, I was always found first.  I could have the best hiding place in my grandma’s house (in the bottom shelf of the linen closet after I tossed all the neatly folded sheets onto my grandparents bed of course)  But my siblings and cousins would still always find me.  I didn’t know it at the time but whenever they got close, I would start to giggle uncontrollably.  Like Ernie from Sesame Street with his raspy-salt-shaker giggle, I could never stifle my laughter.  The anticipation of getting caught was always too much.

I check my phone again. An hour has passed.

She’s got a lot of friends, and I know them all by name and vice.  The girls for the most part, are all those new age self-empowered-modern-day-feminists.  They all talk a big game about their dreams and aspirations and having a career before a relationship, but one by one they seemed to be getting picked off by wedding rings and pregnancies… not always in that order.  Her guy friends are a  bunch of white-knight-sycophants, showering her with platitudes to try to get into her pants, always hopeful to one day cross that platonic river with nothing more than a leaky boat and a lot of hope.    They all talk a lot.  And she’s too polite to cut them off and just leave.  I’m sure that’s what’s happened.

I imagine the look on her face when I spring up from under her sheets like some B-movie villain making his one last cheap-thrill scare before having  a slow and dramatic death.  Maybe I should ask her to pick up food?

I’m getting hungry.

This is still going to be funny.  
– – – –

I must’ve dozed off.  Two hours have passed.  All the bars have closed.

“Hey where are you?”  I text her.

No response.

I give her a call.

No answer.

I text her again, “Are you okay?”

I sit there in her bed, unsure of what to do.  Those cute lava dodging ninjas have evolved in my head into tattoo’ed girlfriend raping thugs.  I imagine her car obliterated to pieces in a ditch on the side of the road, and her blood splattered hand reaching for the dashboard where she kept her phone, to call me to save her.  I imagine the police pulling her out of her car and dragging her off to jail by the nape of her neck, where those same girlfriend raping thugs are waiting for her in a cell.

I can’t stay here.

– – – –

I spend the next hour driving between her apartment and the bar she was last at with her friends.  I check all the parking lots for her car.  I’m tempted to call the police, but I know she’s been drinking and if the police to get to her first she could end up in big trouble just because of my overactive imagination.  I’m back at her place, sitting in my car in her driveway, my fingers drumming anxiously on the steering wheel.  I’ve blown up her phone with calls and texts, my fingers frantic-fraught with worry.

The sun is breaking over the horizon, spilling its first rays across my car.  Neighbors begin rousing, brewing their coffee, eating for breakfast and then leaving for work.  They eye me suspiciously, this ruddy eyed stranger sitting alone in a car.  But I’m not a stranger.  We live here.  We practically live here together.

We were gonna live together.  But now I think she might be dead.

– – – –

The roads are filling up with morning traffic and the sun is well up into the morning sky when she calls.

“Are you okay??  How come you didn’t come home?”  I blurt out.  Had I taken two seconds to think and reword that question as simply ‘where are you?‘  I think my life would’ve turned out very differently.

“I… I crashed over at a friend’s house.”

“And you didn’t see me calling?”

“I fell asleep.  How do you know I didn’t come home?” I hear an anxious strain creeping into her voice.

“I was at your place.  I was going to scare you.  Where were you…?”

I’m tired.  She’s tired.  This conversation doesn’t make sense.  It feels like some impromptu sketch hastily thrown together by audience members against a swiftly sinking suspension of my disbelief.  I start my car and begin reversing my way out of her driveway. Her place feels alien, and unwelcoming.  I don’t want to be here when she gets here.  I don’t live here. I just want to go home… to my home.

– – – –

She shows up outside of my place, wearing yesterday’s clothes and yesterday’s makeup still smeared on her face.  The collar on her blouse is pulled uncharacteristically high around her neck.

“I told you I stayed over at my friend’s place.”  She sighs.

“Which friend?  A guy?”

“A girl friend.”

“Who?”

“I don’t think you’ve met her.”

“So you slept over at a girl’s house, that you’ve never mentioned once before?”

“Yes.”

“Are you lying to me?”  I lock eyes with her.

She looks away and laughs.  It’s an exasperated snicker, part sigh, part frustrated grin.  At this time I don’t know it, but this is an important sign.   Just like me as a giggling eight-year-old hiding in the linen closest for my siblings to find– moments from discovery.  My eyes catch something on her neck.  Purple-ish, slightly discolored…

“…No of course not.”  She rejoins my gaze.  “I lava you.”

I stand there, shifting uncomfortably in the silence.  I want to say more.  Her story has Swiss-cheese sized holes, and I am painfully lactose intolerant.  I don’t know it yet, but swallowing this bit of misinformation in this point in time leads to a painful bloody diarrhea torrent of a relationship that will last two and a half years, alienate me from most of my friends and family, result in five stitches in my hand, and ultimately lead to me be fired from a job I love.

“I Lava you too.”  I kiss her and we go inside my apartment.

This wasn’t that funny.  

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