A Year and a Day
Valentine's day is such a LIE. There may have been romance and tenderness in the world at one time, but there isn't anymore.
Susan was right. I've been such a goddamned IDIOT all these years, moaning and puking about tenderness and intimacy, moping and crying and suffering. The pangs of loneliness that have made my life the nightmare it is have all been manufactured right here in this defective heart. I thought because she and I both wanted kids that she had the same understanding of love that I did. What a MORON I am. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times we made love before she got pregnant with John. The entire time she was carrying him, I wasn't allowed to touch her. Not even to stroke her hair or rub her back; all touch was strictly shunned and any attempt was punished with a fusillade of invective. After John was born, we made love EXACTLY one more time; it was the day after his second birthday. I can recall that night in crystal clear detail; the night we made Lacie. I remember seeing myself reflected in the mirror over her dresser, remember seeing myself pumping away, filling her with my love, thinking to myself that things were finally going in the right direction, that we would be sharing that kind of love all the time from that point onward. Goddamned IDIOT. All she wanted was my seed. I should have realized that, after she had spent so much time talking about wanting a little girl. She loved John, I know she did, but he just wasn't the daughter she had had her heart set on.
Lacie's been 21 for just over a month now. I didn't even get to take her out for the drink I promised, the bar trip I'd been looking forward to for so many years, because she had to go hang out with her friends. Par for the course. I realize now that was really more of a promise to myself than to her. God. Susan was right about that, too. I really am a selfish bastard. All I ever really wanted, was for me, for my own pleasure.
Well, I'm pleased to prove her right. My last wish. My last thing I've ever wanted, my last hope for myself, and I'll be damned if I'm not going to give it to myself. It's just taken me a while to figure out how to get it. But tonight, after that little scene at the old mall, it came into view, the whole thing, it just suddenly crystalized, and now I know how I'm going to do it. Now I know how I'm going to kill myself.
Starvation. I'm going to starve myself to death. It's going to take months, but that's part of the beauty of it. I don't want anybody saying I did it in a fit of despair, that it was an act of passion, that if I had just taken a little more time to think it through, I wouldn't have done it. When I finally die, months and months from now, they'll have to understand. They'll have to see that it was the action of someone who was dedicated and passionless, a rational plan, rationally thought through.
I really have those girls to thank for it. I hope I get the chance to see them again, to thank them in person, some fine day before I finally expire. If it hadn't been for their casual cruelty, I wouldn't have started down this path. It was in the terraced, carpeted conversation pit at the old mall, under the giant wooden clock. I had gone there to sit in isolation, to have a good cry and think about how much I hate life. That section of the old mall is deserted these days; I can usually count on solitude in that wing. But they were there before me, sitting on the other side of the pit, laughing and giggling and generally enjoying the delusion that life is worth living. I would have gone somewhere else, but I was so depressed I didn't even care anymore. So I just sat down there to bury my head in my hands and think about ways to end it. I could see they kept looking over at me and that I seemed to be a source of great amusement to them. It was when one of the blondes shoved the brunette down the steps in my direction and shouted across at me, "Hey, she wants to go out with you! She thinks you're cute!" and the brunette hurried back up the steps and slapped the blonde on the shoulder and hissed at her. I tried to ignore them, but the blonde wouldn't give it up. She had to have her cruel laugh on me, she just kept whistling at me and yelling, "Hey! Hey, she thinks you're cute! Don't you want to ask her out?" and then collapsing in a fit of giggling and mockery. When they finally gave it up and walked away, I could clearly hear them telling each other what a fat loser I am. I know I heard the word "fat" several times, and I was pretty sure one of the blondes said something like "pathetic turd".
So that's how I decided on starvation. As they were walking away, the only response I could think of was, "I'm sure it would please you if I starved to death, you miserable little cunt." Of course I was too much of a coward to say it out loud, but once the thought was in my head, I just kept turning it over and over until it detached itself and became not just a retort but an actual plan that I could carry out. It's slow but sure, and it takes a lot of pressure off me. I don't have to worry about getting my hands on a gun or poison or anything like that, I don't have to find a bridge to jump off of, all I have to do is just keep living my pathetic miserable mistake of a life until I stop breathing. It might be hard to start with, since eating is about the only real pleasure left for me; but if I can just stick it out, I'll probably find that the pleasure of ending it all will prove a worthwhile substitute. My only regret is that I can't take everybody else with me. Why can't the sun just explode? I wish the world would just fucking end.
Valentine's day is such a LIE. Romance is a big bogus load of CRAP to sell candy and flowers and SHIT. Any shallow silly stupid vain girl who thinks otherwise is fooling herself. Jimmy Vinson proved that to me. Come on baby, he said. Everybody does it, he said. It's the best way I know to show how much I care about you, he said. God damn him. I let him stick his stupid thing in me cuz I thought he was so romantic. He brought me flowers on the first date and earrings on the second date, and on the third date I let him stick his STUPID GODDAMN MEATSTICK in me. He didn't even apologize for hurting me and making it so sore down there, but I didn't mind because I thought he was so SWEET. The next half dozen times he FUCKED me weren't even dates, it was just under the bleachers or behind the Driver's Ed trailer or in the back of his stupid pickup. And then he FUCKED me on my birthday, my GODDAMN SWEET SIXTEENTH FOR CHRIST'S SAKE, and then just took off when he was done, just hiked up his stupid goddamn pants and left me laying there on my bed with his stupid goddamn sticky MESS leaking out of me, and when I told him I missed my period and I was scared of being preggers, that was the last GODDAMN TIME HE HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH ME. He's been going out with Annie Ivo since then, and he never returned any of my calls and he won't even look at me in the halls at school anymore. And even when I gave up trying to talk to him and all I wanted to tell him was that I finally got my period, he still wouldn't even look at me or listen to me. GOD DAMN FUCK HIM ALL TO HELL. GOD DAMN BOYS and GOD DAMN SEX FUCKING and GOD DAMN ROMANCE STUPID FUCKED UP BULLSHIT LYING ROMANCE BULLSHIT!!! AAAAHHHH!!!!!!!
So I was in a totally shit mood when Jamie and PJ wanted to go to Rings-n-Things at the Galleria today. PJ was looking for heart shaped nipple rings to go in her pierced nipples cuz Alan Barnett asked her out tonight and she was all, "He's so awesome" and "I think he's gonna try and do it tonight" and just cuz it's FUCKING VALENTINE'S DAY she was all fluttery and googly. They're such airheads. They think they're so hot but most of the time they act like such stuck up little bimbos. I wonder why I hang out with them, I really do. Cuz I don't have anybody else, I spose. Cuz I'm ALL A-FUCKING-LONE.
Like that one guy we saw today. God, I hope I don't turn out like him, sitting all alone and crying. What am I talking about, that's exactly what I'm doing right now. God damn it. After PJ got her stupid little rainbow heart ring shit and we got sodas at the food court, she wanted to go sit under the big clock on the other side of the mall, the creepy side with all the closed up stores where nobody ever goes anymore, cuz she wanted to put the nipple rings on right away and she didn't want to go in the disgusting mall bathroom to do it. So we went over there, and like usual, nobody else was around, so she had Jamie and me keep watch to make sure nobody was coming, and she unbuttoned her shirt and unhooked her bra and and after she got them put in, they did look pretty cool, but it was HEARTS, little sparkly RAINBOW HEARTS, on GODDAMN VALENTINE'S DAY, so FUCK IT anyway. Anyway, after she got them in and got her bra and shirt back on again, we were just sitting there, and this guy comes in and sits down on the other side of the clock from us. He was dressed like he just came from work or something, he had this black coat on that was almost kinda cool, like a trenchcoat or something, and he just looked us at kinda funny, and then he sat down and put his head in his hands and just sat there and didn't look at us again. He was old, older than dad even, like maybe 50 or something, and he was big, real big, even fat I guess, but that's mean to say, and he seemed so sad, he might have even been crying, I couldn't tell for sure, but his face did look kinda wet. And I just got this heavy feeling in my chest, kinda like a heartache or something, and my throat got kinda heavy, like my heart was trying to climb up in it or something, and all of a sudden I was real sad for him, cuz he looked so sad and like he was crying maybe. Big fucking mistake. Jamie and PJ both picked up on it and started giving me all kinds of shit, like pushing my shoulders and taunting me, saying I was gross for getting all mooshy and like what the fuck was wrong with me, was I fucking crazy or what, and I tried to explain that I just felt sorry for this guy, and they were like, "that old fat dude, oh my GOD SICK you are so SICK", riffing on me and teasing me, except meaner than teasing, they kept saying shit like I should go over and ask him for a date, and making fun of how fat he was and saying he probably had a tiny little dick and couldn't get anybody to fuck him, and Jamie, that little BITCH, started in on how since I didn't have a boyfriend since I dumped Jimmy (how could she say that, the heartless little BITCH), that I should go over and talk to him and see if I could get him excited, and then she pushed me down the steps at him and started shouting at him that I wanted to go out on a date with him. I was so pissed that I just walked away, in the opposite direction of the fat guy ... I mean, the old guy ... I mean, the guy ... God damn it. Damn those idiots. Now it's 11 o'clock on Valentine's night and PJ's probably getting her rainbowy hearty tits fucked by goddamn Alan and Jamie's probably sucking off the whole goddamn football team and here I am laying on my bed and crying and all I can think about is that old guy crying. God damn everybody. I wish the world would just fucking end.
So dad said I have to start thinking about college more. He said it's almost too late, that I shoulda started thinking about it last year. Of course, when he says "thinking about college", what he really means is "stashing as much cash as I can cuz he's not gonna be able to pay for any of it for me". Which is cool, I understand, I really do, but I wish he could just come right out and say it. I know we're hurting for cash. I know he's upset all the time about money since his hours got cut back at work. He's so sad and tired anymore, he just sits in his study all the time and looks at bills and stares out the window. And I thought about Jamie getting that job at her uncle's carpet cleaning company, and how unfair it was, cuz she didn't need to even try, like all she had to do was ask her uncle, and presto! she had the job, like it was just there waiting for her. Or like he maybe even just invented the job out of thin air just to have a job to give her. And I have to listen to her talk it up, just laying it on thick about how she doesn't have to do any real work, all she has to do is take papers from the installers when they come in from laying carpet and scan 'em into the computer and then file the papers away in these big gray filing cabinets. Of course she says "laying carpet" like she's telling some big goddamn joke, like all these guys do when they go out on jobs is fuck lonely housewives or something, and I asked her how many times they'd laid her carpet, and she got real quiet and wouldn't talk anymore about it. So I don't know what the fuck's up with that, she probably is getting groped and fingered and FUCKED by greasy sweaty smelly guys in overalls, but you know what? I don't give a good God damn. I don't wanna know.
So anyway I went down to Sav-Rite, and the help wanted sign that they had up last week wasn't up there anymore, but I went to the front desk and applied anyway, and I almost got out of there before some manager came up and put his arm around me (YUCK!) and took me in a back room and leaned in real close (YUCK! YUCK!) and breathed his horrible salami breath all over me (YUCK! YUCK! YUCK!) and asked me about a zillion questions like, what would I do if a customer got real mad at me, and how would I handle it if a customer insisted an item was on sale when it really wasn't, and did I mind working the crap shifts, like until 2 AM on a school night, just a bunch of shit like that. And I must have answered everything the right way, cuz he handed me a shirt and said to come in the next day to start training and he'd have a name tag ready for me. So I went home and told dad, and he was so proud of me and pulled me on his lap and hugged me real close and called me his poopsiekins like he used to do when I was a little girl, and he even cried a little bit. I think he must of been drinking, I could smell like beer or something on his breath, but I didn't mind, cuz God, it felt so nice, just so warm and fuzzy when I was in his arms, it's been soooo long since he hugged me, for a few minutes there I really was his little poopsiekins again, and I started to cry a little bit myself, but then it was over and he was off in his own world again. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.
Working at Sav-Rite sucks ASS!!! The manager is Mr. Slubotkin. He told me to call him Gary, but no way am I getting that familiar with his sorry greasy ass. He had me shadow one of the other checkers, it was this older lady named Helena, she was like 30 or something but she's real pretty and real nice, she smelled good too, she took her time and made sure I understood everything she was doing, and I was picking it up pretty good, so then Slubotkin came over and said he thought I was ready to go on my own already, and he leaned in real close and his hand was all over my back, like rubbing up and down, and then he had his hand on my shoulder, like he thought he had to guide me around or something, and I could see his disgusting THING sticking out in his pants and I was like, OMG, so fucking GROSS, this nozzle wants to FUCK me, but after he got me checked out with a cash drawer and set up on my own register, Helena came over and she was laughing kinda quietly and she told me not to worry, he does that with all the new ones. She said his bark is worse than his bite, he doesn't even have a bite, he's just horny all the time but he never does anything about it, so don't worry, just grit my teeth and smile. She's so nice, she's the only nice part of the entire place. So then I was on my own checking for the rest of the day, and it was okay for the most part, but I kept running into stuff I didn't know, like what's the code for red grapes and how do you get the scanner to read those wrinkled up wrappers on Choco-zooms and just shit like that, and I kept turning around to ask Helena, but half the time she was busy with stuff, and people get so impatient when you don't know what you're doing, they huff and puff and look crosseyed at you and I felt so stupid and it just sucks ASS. And Slubotkin kept coming over and coaching me, telling me how to do it, but half the time he said stuff that was different than what Helena said, I think he doesn't know as much as he thinks he does, and he just stands so goddamn CLOSE, I swear he was sniffing my hair, and he had his hand on my waist, and then on my hip, and one time I swear I even felt his stiff weiner poking me in the butt, I almost SCREAMED, but I thought about dad sitting at home buried in bills, and I gritted my teeth like Helena said and I tried to smile at him, and thank GOD he finally went away. There's gotta be a better way to make money than this shit.
Duane. My best friend, my hetero life partner. Why can't I make him understand? Why can't I get him to see that I deserve this shit? I told him about my plan to starve myself to death, and he at least understood my death wish. I knew he wouldn't fight me over that. But he thinks I'm doing it for the wrong reason. He puts all the blame on Susan. All he can see is that I allowed Susan to run me into the ground, to grind me under her heel until there was nothing left. He even offered to kill her for me, to release me from my servitude. It was an offer made in jest, I'm sure, but since he's a cop, I couldn't help but feel a little chilled by it. He can't understand why I've stayed in this loveless marriage. He can't understand that I deserve all this misery and loneliness because of what I did to Liz.
Liz. I'm so sorry, angelic creature. So, so sorry. You wanted the baby so bad, and I couldn't understand it at the time. I was so blind, so ignorant. All the time I tried to talk you into wanting the abortion, tried to talk you into not wanting the baby, and all you could do was talk about how smart you thought the baby was going to be, because it was my baby. You thought I was smart. If I was so smart, then why did I try to strongarm you into aborting the only thing that gave you any joy in life after I turned so savagely on you?
It was nice to see Duane again, anyway. It's been so long. God almighty, has it really been five years since we sat down over pizza and beer like we did last night? I wish I hadn't let him guilt me into eating that slice of pepperoni. My body was finally starting to settle into the prolonged fast. Funny, I've actually had more energy and felt a lot stronger in the last few days. I suppose it was a natural result of cleaning most of the crap out of my system, but now that that's out of the way, I can get down to the business of actually starving myself to death. If only I hadn't slipped and eaten that damned pizza with Duane last night. God, it tasted so good going down, like manna from Heaven, I couldn't help myself and I ate a second piece without even thinking about it. Afterward I was so bloated and stuffed I felt like I was going to explode.
Hmmm. Maybe that's a quicker way out. Maybe if I starve enough to shrink my belly, I mean just really shrivel it down, then sit down and eat a five-course Italian dinner in five minutes, I could make my stomach literally explode ... no, that sounds painful, and I'm not in this for the pain. I'm just a big damn coward who wants to exit as cleanly and PAINLESSLY as I can. Best stick to the original plan.
Lacie came home from college again this weekend. Third time this semester. "Here's my laundry dad, see you later, going out with the girls tonight." And like the good little milktoast I am, I dutifully loaded the washer. She's got some new underwear since the last time, little frilly black things with some lime green cartoon character on the crotch. Looks like a dog with a zipper down his front, riding a pig and eating a cupcake. What the hell.
Susan sent me to Sav-Rite tonight for hamburger and taco seasoning and taco shells and shredded cheese. She thinks that after I cooked the food and brought her a plate in bed like usual, that I ate alone in the kitchen, like I have so many many many nights in the past. She hasn't realized it yet, she hasn't seen that I've stopped eating altogether. How unutterably typical.
There's a new checkout girl at Sav-Rite. Looks a little familiar, somehow, like I've seen her somewhere before. She's not one of Lacie's friends, I'm sure of that. Nametag said Barb. She's got brown hair and brown eyes and a smile that rides up a little higher on one side of her face than the other. Adorable, really. Why does she seem familiar? Maybe it's just because she's so cute, in a real off-the-wall sort of way, and I'm having one of my usual self-deluding fantasies. I even took off my ring before I got to the register. Now why in the hell would I do that? It was a pretty simple exchange, the total was $9.23 so I handed her a twenty, and she was flustered, nervous, she kept dropping the change, she had to bend over to pick it up off the floor, and God help me, I leaned over to look at her backside when she did. I could see the outline of her panties through her pants and it made me wonder if there was a cartoon character on the front, and suddenly I wanted to see for myself, I wanted to pull her pants down and take a good long look, before I caught up short and gave myself a mental slap to the face.
Jesus. What the hell am I thinking? What in the hell is wrong with me? I don't care for young girls. I'm not a dirty old man. Am I? I don't even care for females, period. I'm done with desire and pain and longing and regret and all that noise, remember? All I care about is checking out, leaving this vale of tears behind me.
OMG. Worst. Day. Ever. So that ASSCLOWN Mr. Stettler makes me stay after class for 15 minutes to do extra credit to make up for the paper I turned in too late, I begged him could I do it some other day but he said no, this was the only time he had available, so I missed the bus after school. So then I called PJ to see if she could give me a ride, and she was super bitchy about it, she came and picked me up but I had to listen to her moaning and wailing about Alan Barnett, she was so proud of her nipple rings cuz he oohed and aahed over them and she let him titfuck her and he titfucked her like two more times since then and he wanted to fuck her for real and she told him she wasn't ready just yet, but she really did want him to fuck her but she was just trying to get him good and hot, like it was a tease game or something, but it backfired on her cuz he thought he wasn't gonna get to fuck her so he went and fucked that big slut Janelle instead and now she thinks it's the end of the fucking world. Jesus. So after having to listen to that steaming pile of drama, then I was late to work at Sav-Rite, and that fucking ASSHOLE Slubotkin comes over and says he wants to make sure I know that even though I was 22 minutes late, he has to dock me the whole half-hour cuz that's the way the system works, and he hopes I know that I need to be on time from now on, but not to worry, he's not mad or anything, and I swear to god the STUPID FUCK TRIED TO HUG ME, I mean he put his goddamn arm around me and pulled me in close and squeezed me and I know he was trying to feel my boobs, and he had a GODDAMN HARDON THE WHOLE GODDAMN TIME, and I was like JESUS GODDAMN CHRIST GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME YOU GREASY FUCKING ASSCLOWN!!! But I didn't say anything, I just got my cash drawer and went to work. And who do you think shows up in my line? That stupid fucking Jimmy Vinson. And he said he was sorry for dumping me like that and he made a mistake and he wanted me back, but I wouldn't listen to him, I was so pissed that he thought he could just walk right up like that. And he was trying to buy beer, and I was like, ha ha fuck you, and I told him if he thought he could get me to ring up beer for him just cuz I let him fuck me then he had another fucking think coming, and to get the fuck out. And he pulled out this driver's license, it looked fake to me, the DOB/DDN said he turned 18 like 3 months ago, and then that stupid fucker Slubotkin comes over and he's all like, what's the problem, and Jimmy showed him the license, and Slubotkin muscled in and took over my register and rang up his fucking Labatt's and smiled his greasy goddamn smile at Jimmy and said to have a nice day, and he gave me a squeeze on the shoulder before he walked away, and Jimmy took the beer and just looked me up and down and said he still wanted me, but he said it like he was doing me some huge fucking favor, and he shook the beer at me as he was walking out. I was so mad I was shaking all over.
And then HE came in. I was like, OMG, I couldn't believe it. I didn't recognize him at first, but then I recognized the black coat, and then I looked at his face and it was HIM, it was the guy at the Galleria, the old crying guy from Valentine's day. I didn't think he remembered me, but the way he smiled at me, it seemed like maybe he did. And it was such a nice smile, it was kinda sad but it was so warm, he has these little crinkly lines around his eyes that get a lot bigger when he smiles, and he was kinda chubby, but not really fat, and he didn't look so old as I thought before. And he was TALL, I mean he must of been 4 or 5 inches taller than dad, I had to look up at him. And I noticed he wasn't wearing a wedding ring, and then I thought, OMG, what the hell am I doing, looking at this old guy's hand to see if he's married or not, and I got so nervous that I dropped his change, some of it rolled under the checkstand and I had to get down on my hands and knees to dig it out, I must of looked like a FUCKING IDIOT, I felt so stupid, I just wanted to crawl away and disappear, but he was so nice about it, he just smiled even bigger at me, and when I handed him the change, he touched my hand for about a second longer than he really had to. Maybe that part was my imagination, but I could feel the tips of his fingers rubbing against the palm of my hand, almost like romantic or something, and I thought, how nice to be grown up, and not be a fucking stupid little PECKERWOOD like Jimmy. And I almost said something to him, I almost said it was nice to see him smiling and not crying and I was glad that whatever made him so sad wasn't making him sad anymore, and I did, I started to blurt it out, but I chickened out at the last second and changed it to "have a nice day", and he smiled even bigger when I did, and he said, "I will if you will," and he FUCKING WINKED AT ME!!! And my heart was going like a mile a minute, cuz he was so nice, he wasn't an ASSHOLE like Jimmy or Mr. Stettler or FUCKING GODDAMN SLUBOTKIN, and it was like, maybe there really are nice guys in the world, only why did he have to be so OLD?
Okay, so obviously I didn't think this all the way through. Wow, that's a shock; me just jumping ass-over-teakettle into a situation and not having any idea of the ramifications. That's never happened to me before, only about a million times, it's only my damn life story. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to stick with it. I just have to amend my expectations and my attack.
For one thing, Susan has finally noticed. Well, she hasn't noticed that I've stopped eating, per se; but she has remarked that it looks like I'm losing weight. Of course, starvation never even crossed her mind as a reason, all she knows is that my face looks thinner. She asked if I was on a specific diet. I knew I'd be safe telling her it was the Bobby Sands diet, so I did. She doesn't remember who Bobby Sands was. Nobody does. One of the things that's always separated us; my penchant for remembering obscure, useless trivia that makes no difference to anybody and has no impact on anybody's life. Maybe she would have caught on if I'd said it was the Ghandi diet. No, of course not, she wouldn't have been an iota closer to getting that one either. I almost laughed in her face when she said it's been good for me and that I should keep it up. She didn't have a damn clue what she was saying, telling me to keep starving myself to death. Ha.
I know Susan won't miss me when I'm gone. She'll miss her status as a married woman, she'll probably resent her status as a widow; she'll miss me as the live-in cook and housekeeper and launderer, but the MAN? The real human being that I think of as ME? She won't miss me at all. She doesn't even know I'm there now, so there'll be nothing to miss once I'm gone; nothing of the hopes and dreams and disappointments and lusts and loves and desires and regrets and fears and plans and schemes ... John won't miss me, he hasn't had any use for me since high school. When I co-signed on his car loan; that's the last time I can point to where he had any need for me at all. Lacie ... well, she might miss me, but I have to think it will be more like the regret of someone who sells their childhood stuffed animals by mistake at a garage sale; there will probably be a few pangs of regret, of nostalgia for past times, but I can't seriously think that my absence will in any way impede her daily progress. She's got her life set the way she wants it, and it hasn't included me for a while now. Duane ... he might miss me, but I doubt it. Except for that outing a few nights ago, it's been literally years between run-ins with him. He's got his own life, that he values as little as I value mine. Good old Duane; I knew he wouldn't try to talk me out of it. Him, I would stick around for. If, by some miracle, Susan suddenly changed her mind and decided he wasn't an asshole and said it was okay for me to spend time with him; him, I would stick around for.
The other thing that's been troublesome, that I didn't foresee, that I should have, was the chemistry. I've obviously fucked up my blood sugar or something. I was in a team meeting today and one of the managers wanted to use the projector to show some damned spreadsheet or something equally useless. She couldn't get logged in on the conference room PC, so I went over to the cabinet where the tower was, I was squatting on my haunches to check the connections, and when I stood up, suddenly I got this tingling sensation in the back of my skull, between my ears; it was like a roaring noise, and my head felt hot and prickly and my vision started to fuzz out; the next thing I knew, I was laying on my back with a sharp pain in my elbow, looking up at a bunch of concerned faces staring down at me. I guess I must have passed out. Some of them wanted to call an ambulance; somehow I managed to talk them out of it, but I couldn't get away with it completely, because Annette INSISTED I go to the health office; she made a huge issue out of it and wouldn't let it rest until I agreed. Of course I didn't go, because I didn't want to risk them figuring out the real reason I passed out, so I hung out in the men's room for about fifteen minutes before going back and giving Annette some song-and-dance about the nurse advising me to cut back on some medication I was taking. That satisfied her, but obviously I can't have too many more occurrences like that, for fear of winding up in a hospital bed somewhere with an intravenous tube force-feeding me and wrecking my suicide, and having to waste useless months talking to some damn psychiatrist. So I'll keep to the original plan as best I can, but I'll have to take in just enough nutrition to keep my blood sugar from betraying me. God damn it.
So I figured I'd stock up on eggs and shaved turkey. Lots of protein there, right? Enough to keep this traitorous body moving around, to keep suspicion at bay while I go about the process of killing it. So I went to Sav-Rite after work to get some, and the new checker Barb was there, working the express lane. God, she was so adorable, I just wanted to pick her up and stick her in my pocket and take her home, and take her out and put her up on a shelf somewhere, so I could just look at her and look at her and look at her. She's a damn pixie, I swear, the way her smile lifts up higher on one side, and the way her hair is cut; not too short, not too long, but in between, just right, her hair is so straight and brown and it comes down just past her shoulders and stops there ... the way she moves, the way she holds her head ... I stood there in the cereal aisle for maybe fifteen minutes, just watching her as she checked out customers ... it wasn't sexual at all, I wasn't lusting after her tits or ass, I was just fascinated ... enamored by her waifness ... God, what's wrong with me? Why am I acting like a starry-eyed adolescent? It can't be love, I don't know the first thing about her. What am I DOING? This is not the behavior of a suicidal loser. A loser, maybe, but not a suicidal one. When I finally roused myself from my stupor, as I approached the express lane, right when I got there and laid my eggs and turkey on the belt, I suddenly realized I didn't have my ring on again, and I panicked because I didn't know where it was. While Barb was checking the customer in front of me, I was doing a furious pat-and-search of all my pockets, and finally found the ring in my left hip pocket. It was so bizarre, I have no conscious memory of taking the ring off, but I must have, because there it was. And I didn't put it back on, I just left there in the pocket. And then it was my turn, and there I was, getting my purchases rung up, and she kept giving me all these shy smiles and then looking down, but then she looked up again, right at me, and she put her hand on the back of her neck and grinned, and it was so sweet I nearly swooned, and she told me the total, and then in a rush, in a literal explosion of breath, she told me I was looking good today and said whatever I was doing, it was working. And then she got so shy again, she started blushing like crazy and looking down at the register. So I said thanks, I would keep it up, and I thanked her for noticing, and all the while I was SCREAMING at myself because I was thanking a CHILD for COMPLIMENTING me on KILLING MYSELF. I didn't need any cash, I had plenty, but I used the debit card anyway, just so I could get $20 cash back, so I could prolong the exchange a few seconds longer. And when she handed me the $20, she dropped it on the belt, and she said something like "whoops, sorry, i'm such a klutz", and she picked it up and put it in my hand, but she used BOTH HANDS to do it; put the bill in my hand with her left hand, and put her right hand on the back of my hand, so for a second there she had my hand sandwiched between both of hers. Her hands were so cool, cold even, like two icy gloves, but it felt so good, the skin-to-skin contact, just to be able to feel the caress of another human being ... the touch of a woman's hand ... GOD! What what what!?! Was she just doing it to make sure the bill didn't slip again, was she just doing it to make sure I held onto it? Or did it mean something more? When I thanked her, she was so demure, she kept ducking her head down like she couldn't look at me, and I turned into a goddamn zombie, I walked right into a shopping cart on the way out because I kept looking back at her. And when I got to the car, I stuck the receipt in my wallet ... because it has her name on it, at the bottom; "Cashier: 0108 Name: Barb F". Why? So I can pull it out and look at it and think about her when I'm alone? What the HELL? What is FUCKING WRONG WITH ME?!?!?
Maybe I'm going about this all wrong. Maybe I do need to just get a fucking gun and stick it in my goddamn mouth. Leave it to me to fuck up my own suicide.
Oh. My. God. He came in again today, the guy, the crying guy from the mall, and he used his debit card, which is how I found out his name is Steve Porter. He's not as chubby as I thought he was at first, or he must be losing weight or something, because his face looks thinner than I remembered. And the way he was looking at me, it was like I was the only other person in the whole world. His eyes are so BLUE, they just sparkle and shine, it's like I was looking at little blue stars or something, and the way his face crinkles up when he smiles, it's just so ... Jesus, I don't know ... and when he laughs, it's so warm and deep, and it feels so good to hear it, like he was never sad at all, like he's this contented happy guy who doesn't have a care in the world ... like whatever was making him cry when he was at the mall has completely disappeared, like life is just treating him right or something. And I was such a fucking IDIOT, I know I was babbling like a goddamn RETARD or something, what the FUCK is wrong with me? This guy is so old, he's gotta be older than dad. My hands were shaking when I handed him his change, and I dropped the money, and when I picked it up to hand it back to him, I couldn't help myself, I just needed to hold his hand for a second, and I did, I mean I just grabbed onto his hand with both of mine, I was pretending like I was making sure I didn't drop the money again, but really I just wanted to cop a feel. GOD DAMN!?! DID I JUST FUCKING SAY THAT?!? I wanted to cop a feel of an old fat guy?!? PJ and Jamie were right, I must be out of my FUCKING MIND. But if they could just look into his eyes for a few seconds, they'd see ... they'd see ... no, fuck it, they're right, I must be mentally ill or something. I'd better go talk to the school shrink or something.
Fucking Slubotkin. He's still watching me like a fucking hawk. He came over later, it must of been maybe like 30 or 40 minutes after Steve left, and he was all like, who was that, your uncle? And I'm like, my who? cuz I didn't know what he was talking about at first, and he was like, that guy you were wasting all those smiles on, the guy in the black coat, and I came THAT CLOSE to losing it, I almost spit in his face, I mean seriously literally really almost hocked up a big loogie and SPIT IT IN HIS GREASY GODDAMN SALAMI-STINKING GOB, but I kept a lid on it, I kept my mouth shut, but I couldn't say anything cuz I was so ANGRY, I just stared him down, and he let go of my waist and went back to the office. And then Helena came over, and she was like, oh my GOD girl, what did he say to you, you were staring poison daggers at him, if you'd had a knife in your hand, we'd be going to his funeral tomorrow. And I didn't know if I was going to laugh or cry, I was shaking all over, and finally I managed to turn it into a laugh and said I had just about enough of his groping me. And Helena smiled real sweet like she always does and she was shaking her head and she said that she didn't think I'd have to worry about that anymore, anytime she's seen someone looking at Slubotkin like that, he always backs off and leaves them alone. And I was like, I wish I'd of known that a week ago, and she was like, no, it had to be real, you had to have it coming from the gut, you had to be mad enough to actually want to stick a knife in his ribs, or else he wouldn't of taken the hint. And she hugged me and said, welcome to the club sister. Huh. Getting hugged by her was about a million billion times better than getting hugged by Slubotkin.
I wonder what it feels like to hug Steve? JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!!! That's it, I'm going to see the school shrink for sure.
I don't remember my dreams anymore. Not for years and years. I just don't, I literally don't remember any of my dreams at all, when I wake up, I'm just waking up from a big blank.
Which is what makes it all the more outrageous that I'm remembering them now. For the second day in a row, when I get up, I have a complete record of the last thing I dreamed of before waking up. Do I even need to say who I'm dreaming about?
Yesterday's dream was like some kind of Victorian set piece. We were in a rowboat on a lake somewhere, surrounded by huge yellow and white and purple flowers. I was rowing part of the time, and the rest of the time we were just drifting. I don't remember what I was wearing, but I remember Barb's outfit with crystal clarity. She was wearing a yellow hat and dress, the hat was one of those huge swooping things that just goes up and up and up, dripping with lace and feathers and flowers and such; and the dress had huge gathers of lace around the neck, with a plunging neckline that displayed her cleavage to magnificent effect. Isn't that ridiculous? I've never even seen her cleavage in real life, I don't even know if she has cleavage; all I've ever seen her wearing is that ratty black and orange Sav-Rite polo that she keeps buttoned all the way to the top. But in the dream, there it was, her Victorian bosom, serene and shining in the strange dream-light that was being reflected from every surface around us. She was talking to me, but I couldn't hear anything she was saying. I kept straining to hear her, I was leaning forward in the boat and making it rock back and forth dangerously; I was afraid the whole time that I might tip the boat over and dump us both in the water. And she was still talking the whole time, I could hear her voice, the sound of her syllables falling from her lips, but I couldn't divine any sense from them, I didn't know what she was saying. Right as we were drifting under a bridge, there was a shout from above, and I looked up to see a policeman standing on the bridge, he was pointing a nightstick at me and yelling, demanding to know what I was doing with the young lady, telling me I'd better get her to the shore right away so he could get her away from me. It struck me that he thought I was some kind of child molester, and I was trying to tell him she wasn't a child; I was gesturing at her cleavage, without trying to make it obvious that's what I was doing, but Barb saw me gesturing, and she undid some kind of zipper thing on the side of the dress and pulled it down, and suddenly I was looking at two perfectly formed breasts shining in the light, and the policeman was just screeching and screaming; and then his screaming turned into the alarm clock, and it was six-goddamn-o'clock, time to get up and go to fucking work.
Then there was this morning's dream. We were in a cabin in the mountains somewhere, and there were a bunch of kids with us. At one point they might have been smaller, like grade school maybe, but at another point it seemed like they were a little older, like junior high. We were there as chaperones or something, like we were supposed to be tending to them on a school trip. The cabin was huge, with multiple rooms, almost like a suite of rooms at a hotel, and we had to herd the boys into one room and the girls into another, but they kept slipping out and mingling in the center living-room-type area. And Barb was trying to tell me something, she kept taking my hand and trying to pull me into one of the bedrooms attached to the center living room. And she did, we went into a little bedroom and sat on the bed, and then suddenly she was on my lap and hugging me real close, telling me she was scared of something and begging me to protect her. I was putting my hands all over her back, I wanted to move further down and put my hands on her butt, but I didn't dare, because it felt like I would be taking advantage of her trust. She just kept hugging me and pressing herself up against me, and I could feel her breasts pressing into my chest, and I was getting an erection and getting nervous, worrying what she would think of me for getting aroused when she was asking me to protect her. And then she started slipping off my lap, I was afraid she was going to fall off and land on the floor, so I put my hands on her butt to stop her from sliding down any further, and it didn't seem like it bothered her, she just kept hugging me tight and asking me to not let go, and then suddenly we were surrounded by the kids that we were supposed to be keeping an eye on, and I knew I should let go of her butt, but I couldn't, I was holding on for dear life. The next thing I knew Susan was yelling at me that it was 6:45 and I was going to be late for work.
What is going on? I wish I could go see the EAP counsellor at work, but it probably wouldn't do any good describing my dreams if I didn't include the fact that I'm starving myself to death, and then where would I be? What is my traitorous brain doing to me? Why is it trying to trick me into thinking that I'm falling in love with a grocery checker who's young enough to be my daughter? Is this some kind of twisted self-preservation mechanism? Am I really that close to winning, to killing myself, that my subconscious has to resort to this straw-grasping maneuver?
Okay, I have to nip this in the bud. Tomorrow, I'm going to talk to her; I mean, really, seriously, absolutely talk to her; I'm going to find out when she gets off work, and see if she'll meet me somewhere to talk. I need to scare her, I mean just give her a good fright, make her so absolutely disgusted with me that I'll see the hatred and fear in her eyes every time she looks at me, and I'll be so humiliated and ashamed of myself that I'll have no choice but to slink off to another checker every time to ring up my groceries; and we'll look at each other with lingering suspicion and paranoia, and that will be that. Yes, good plan. I am so clever. HAH!
Kill me. Please just kill me, I don't want to live through any more of this shit. I can't concentrate in school anymore, I don't even know where I am or what I'm doing half the time.
I didn't go see the school shrink like I said I was going to. I was too nervous; I've never seen a psychiatrist or psychologist or whatever the fuck he is before, I had this idea that I was going to be laying on a couch or something and being asked a bunch of goddamn pointless questions about my childhood, like that has anything to do with anything. And then I remembered that Jamie went to see a shrink, only not through school, it was through her dad's work or something, like some kind of program that his job pays for, for employees and families, that need counseling. So I asked Jamie about it, cuz I wanted to know what to expect. BIG MISTAKE. She told me a little bit about it, like how she had to go sit in this lady's office, it wasn't laying down on a couch or anything, it was just sitting in a regular chair. She had to go cuz her mom caught her sucking off Mr. Peterson behind the concession stand at the homecoming game, and they got in a huge-ass fight about it, and she slipped and told her mom that she's sucked off like a hundred guys, and when her mom was able to breathe again, the first thing she said was that she had to go see a counselor, so then of course Jamie said, oh goody, another cock to suck, so then her mom made sure it was a woman shrink. Then Jamie wanted to know why I was asking, and I said no reason, I was just curious. Of course she didn't buy that, she figured out right away that I was asking for myself, and she wouldn't let it FUCKING REST, she just kept hounding me and hounding me and just kept digging and digging and digging and finally I just kind of exploded and said, "It's about a guy, okay? It's just this guy I can't ever be with and I can't get him out of my FUCKING HEAD", and then I wanted to rip my tongue out or blow my brains out or something, cuz that was like opening the WHOLE GODDAMN BARREL OF WORMS cuz she had to know EVERYTHING, but then I was literally saved by the bell, lunch was over and we had to go to class, but of course she and PJ cornered me after school and shoved me in PJ's car and drove over to the mall parking lot and they wouldn't let me get out of the car, they just kept badgering me and asking asking GODDAMN ASKING ALL THESE GODDAMN QUESTIONS, like who is it, do we know him, is he a junior or a senior or a teacher, and goddamn PJ was like, I'll bet he's a janitor, and they were like, did you suck him? did you fuck him? does he have a car? does he have a job? what does he look like? does he have a girlfriend? where did you meet him? where do you see him? how often do you see him? does he know how you feel? what have you told him? and on and on and on and on and GODDAMN FUCKING ON UNTIL I LOST MY FUCKING MIND and I screamed that it was the old fat crying guy from the mall. And that shut them up for a few seconds, and they were like, what? who? And I had to remind them, I said remember on Valentine's day, PJ, when you got those rainbow heart nipple rings and we went to the clock part of the mall and you guys were yelling at that crying guy that I wanted to go on a date with him, and then they both remembered, and they were like staring at me funny, and then Jamie said, fine, don't tell us who it is, if you want to keep it to yourself that's okay, but don't say ridiculous shit like that and insult our intelligence. And we went in the mall, and it seemed like they were cool with me after that, but they still couldn't quite let it go, cuz we wound up back at the clock and they were saying shit like, maybe he'll come back, your big fat huggy teddy bear, tiny-dick pigass loser. But they finally got the idea that they took it too far, cuz I just started crying and saying Fuck you, so they said they were sorry, but it was too late, the day was ruined, so they just took me home and said, see you tomorrow.
So that was yesterday, then today I tried to make an appointment with the shrink, but he was GONE ON VACATION! I mean, what the HELL? How can they not have a shrink there every day, in case somebody suddenly flips out or something? So I schlepped through the rest of the day, and Jamie and PJ were decent to me, they didn't bring up yesterday or anything, and PJ even gave me a ride home. And I changed and went to work, and Slubotkin was actually decent to me, he said I was doing such a good job that I might even get my first bump-up raise after 30 days instead of 60 days, and he didn't even touch me, he told me that from a good ten feet away, in front of Helena and Frank and Agnes and all the other checkers. And that actually made me feel good for a change, and the only thing that could have made it better would be seeing Steve again, and getting to tell him what Slubotkin said. So of course he never came in. And I kept checking groceries after my shift was over, I stayed and kept checking for an extra 45 minutes, hoping I'd get to see him, and he never showed. And that just let the air out of everything, and I was cursing myself for being so stupid, of course he doesn't feel the way I do, he's an old guy and he's probably got a girlfriend, or maybe even divorced and has kids or something, I'm just a stupid little kid to him, I built myself up over NOTHING, I told PJ and Jamie the truth for NOTHING, thank god they didn't believe me, but I was so let down that I just went home and cried and cried and cried.
Why can't I just be FUCKING NORMAL?!? Why can't I just like guys from school the way PJ does? Why can't I be happy sucking a lot of cocks the way Jamie does? She's happy being the blowjob queen, maybe I could ask her to teach me to be the blowjob princess or something. Maybe I should just go back to Jimmy fucking Vinson and tell him I'm sorry for being such a bitch to him and just let him fuck me all to hell.
Or maybe I should just jump off a fucking bridge and end it all. Then dad won't have to worry about paying for college and PJ and Jamie won't have to worry about being friends with a loser who likes old guys and Steve won't have to worry about having a stupid baby slobbering all over him and dreaming about him.
Maybe I'll wait and give the shrink a try. But what if he says there's really something wrong with me?
I'm trying. I swear to God I'm trying. Facing my death was the easy part. It's like my fatigue, my mortal exhaustion, decided the issue for me, like deciding to die was almost an afterthought. But talking to the girl ... deciding to sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with a real live breathing woman, THAT'S the hard part, the terrifying part. It's like, on a scale of 1 to 10, the decision to die was a 1 and the decision to spill my deepest private feelings to the cutest sweetest girl I've ever seen is a 137.
I went to Sav-Rite to do what I said I would, to see if I could set up a meeting with her after her shift was over ... and I couldn't do it. I mean, I literally couldn't even approach her. I slipped into the store while her back was to me, and I wandered around the produce section for about fifteen minutes, just squeezing melons and rearranging cucumbers. I walked up and down the aisles, and at one point I had a box of pancake mix in my hand, just so I could have something to buy, so I could have an excuse to go through the checkout lane; and I walked around with that damn box for an HOUR, and I could see her on the register, I watched her ringing up one customer after another. Some of them she smiled at, and some of them she barely even looked at, but none of them was ME. I rehearsed and rehashed and re-hemmed and hawed my way through a dozen different conversations in my head, trying to find the best way to play it out, and each one was clumsier than the one before it. And then I thought, what in the name of all that's holy am I doing? I don't even have to shop here! I can just go to Arville's from now on, it's not really that much farther away, I can just walk out of here, and walk away from her, and never have to see her again, and I can get back to killing myself ... and my head said, yes, good plan, let's do it, but my gut said, shut up you pussy and go buy the damn pancake mix so you can watch her ducking her head and smiling at the floor again like you know you want to. And in the end I just put the pancake mix back on the shelf, and I waited until she had to look up a produce code in the cheat sheet, and while her attention was absorbed, I slipped out the door.
And I repeated the whole tragic performance again last night. And again tonight. If there is a God, he/she/it must be having a hell of a belly laugh at my pathetic antics.
But I had a little more resolve tonight, a microscopically tiny bit more resolve. After I made my tragic tail-between-my-legs exit, I sat in the car in the far corner of the lot, the corner farthest away from the store and the lot lights, and I sat in that car and I ate half a pack of Tic-Tacs one at a time, and I waited for her shift to end. And FINALLY, at 9:45, she came out of the store. I watched to see which car she'd get into, but she didn't, she just walked across the southwest corner of the lot and then started walking down 37th. And I watched her walk down the street until she was almost out of view, and then like some grotesque stalker, I got out of the car and started walking down 37th after her; and the whole time I was thinking, 'what if she sees me, what if she turns around and sees this 51 year old stalker sneaking up on her, what am I going to tell her? What am I going to tell the cops? What am I going to tell Susan?' But she never turned around, she just kept walking down the street with her head down, hunched over like she was in pain. And I kept following her from about 4 or 5 blocks' distance, until she turned up a side street, looked like it might have been Marley, might have been Monson, I couldn't tell because I was too far back, and I ran like an insane thing to catch up, but of course it was a lost cause, when I got up to Marley I couldn't see a sign of her anywhere, and I ran along up to Monson, I couldn't see her anywhere there either, and I kept going to Adelaide, but zilch, she was nowhere to be seen. So I huffed it back to the car, and I drove home, and Susan asked where I'd been, and I made up some insane lie about going to Sears to look for furnace filters and getting distracted by the Blu-ray display showing "Amazing Spider-Man" that I never got to see in the theater, and she just shook her head dismissively like she always does when she can't be bothered with my trivia and went back to watching Real Housewives of Babylon or whatever "reality" show is her favorite nowadays. And I got undressed and ran a hot bath, so hot I thought I was going to pass out, and I laid back in the tub and I closed my eyes and I thought about Barb. I wondered where she went when I lost track of her; did she go home, or go to a boyfriend's house, or go to a party; and I pretended to myself she went home, and she was taking a steaming hot bath and leaning back and closing her eyes and wondering where I was and what I was doing. I could see her clearly in my mind's eye, see her leaning back in the tub; but I wasn't seeing her breasts or her hips or anything, just her face with her hair pushed back against the back wall, her adorable little elfin features getting all red and flushed from the heat of the bath. And then I got out and toweled off and put my sweats on, and I laid down in bed next to Susan. It wasn't five minutes after I laid down that she turned off the TV and rolled over. I reached out in the darkness and touched her shoulder, and she shrugged it off. I tried again, knowing how useless it was; I slid over and put my hand around her waist, and she grabbed my arm and threw it off, and she snarled, "What the hell are you doing?" And I said, "I'm lonely, same as the last time I tried to hold you, same as I've been for so many years now," and she said something about how she thought we agreed I wouldn't start this shit again and haven't we been through enough without having to deal with my sorry little tantrums and childish shit. So I gave up, again, and went out and laid down on the couch, like I have so many times for the last 24 years, and I cried myself to sleep. Did I mention how much I hate my life?
I dreamed about Barb again; we were at an amusement park, riding a roller coaster; I had my arm around her, pulling her in close to me, and she had her arm around my chest, hugging me tight to her, laughing and screaming as the ride car whipped us up and down and over and under. I could see at some indeterminate point up ahead that the tracks weren't finished, but for some reason it didn't bother me, I was just enjoying the ride too much. And then the tracks ran out, and we were plunging down down down, and my whole body gave a galvanic jerk like I had hit the ground, and I woke up.
After I started the coffee, I went back to the bedroom to get dressed for work; and as I walked past the bathroom where Susan was taking her shower, without even thinking about it, I walked into the bathroom and pulled back the shower curtain and just stared at her. She didn't see me at first because she was facing the spray, but when she picked up her loofah and turned around to wash her back, she saw me standing there. I braced for her righteous anger, but she didn't say anything, she just stood there and looked at me. For perhaps 15 or 20 seconds, we just stood there looking at each other. She didn't try to cover her body or anything, just stood there completely exposed to me, and somehow, I couldn't look at her body; not her luscious breasts or her full hips or even her beautifully rounded belly that pooches out a little bit; or even her face; my whole world was narrowed down to just her eyes, looking at me. And then she said, not in anger or exasperation, just in a very quiet and resigned sort of way, "You're getting water on the floor." So I closed the curtain again and got dressed and got our coffees ready. She came out in the kitchen about 20 minutes later and took her travel mug from me and turned to leave; but she stopped at the door to the garage, and with her hand still on the doorknob, she looked at me with a sad expression and she said, "Steve, I know you're losing weight, and it looks good. But if you're trying to make yourself more attractive to me, you know it isn't going to work. I don't want you to think it's a wasted effort, because you do look trimmer and healthier, but we've been through this too many times already. It's not that I don't love you, it's just..." and she paused while she searched for the right words; and eventually she just gave up and shook her head and walked out the door. I stood there for so long after that, feeling the tears running down my face, that my coffee started to get cold, so I poured it out and poured a fresh cup, and I went to work, and I was 10 minutes late, and I didn't give a good God damn. And in the afternoon, Annette called me back to her office, and she played back tapes of a couple of my calls from this morning and pointed out to me a few howling errors I made while I was talking to customers and she wanted to know what was wrong. I just sat there and looked at her, and I could feel myself starting to mist up, and I knew I was in serious danger of having a full-fledged crying jag right there in front of her, and I said something about how I must have cut back too far on my medication, the pretend medication I made up the other day to explain my fainting spell, and I said I'd go back to the doctor and ask him to adjust the dosage or something. That seemed to satisfy her, and she made some notes on a form and put it in her binder thing, and then I was back at my desk staring at the goddamn computer screen that's probably leeching all the vitamins and minerals out of my body, not that I should care anymore because I'm trying to FUCKING KILL MYSELF, and then it was 5:14 and I was in the car driving home with no conscious memory of having even gotten up from the desk. I might have killed a dozen people on the way out the door and I wouldn't have remembered it.
I drove straight to Sav-Rite, and there was a parking space at the very front of the lot, right in front of the door, and I parked in it, and I went through the front door, into the outer lobby where the carts and the gumball and claw machines are, and just stood there and looked in. She was there, at the very first register, the one closest to the door, leaning back against the counter and talking to the checker at the next register. I stood there and just watched her for the longest time, watched her beautiful face and her beautiful smile, and everything about her was just gorgeous, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest and my breath filling my lungs, and I remember thinking in a semi-lucid fashion, "I"m alive. As long as I'm alive, I can look at her, I can worship her, I can revel in her perfection" ... and then some damn kid came out and plunked a couple of quarters in the claw machine closest to the door. I was embarrassed, and ashamed of my stalker behavior, and I knew if she saw me haunting her like that, she'd be disgusted and frightened. I knew that was exactly what I wanted, and I knew that was exactly the opposite of what I wanted, and I knew I was thinking schizophrenically, and I got in the car and drove home and started thawing some chicken breasts for Susan's supper. Just as I was putting the breasts in some Italian dressing to marinate, she called to tell me she was going to Flinger's with some friends from work. So I rinsed off the breasts and put them in a plastic bag and put them in the refrigerator for tomorrow.
It's funny, you'd think after cutting myself down to 200 calories a day I'd be hungry all the time. But something happens to your body; it adjusts, and you get to the point where you don't feel hunger anymore. Sure, my stomach growls and makes weird gurgly noises, but for some reason, I don't get an accompanying urge to shove food down there to shut it up.
So then I was bored. I tried to watch TV, but just like Boss Springsteen said, 57 channels and nothin' on. I sat down in front of the computer, but as soon as the Google homepage came up, I knew it was a mistake, there was nothing on the Internet that I would be remotely interested in. I checked email; the usual fluff, advertisements and crap; weird tricks to cut my car insurance bill, weird tricks to cut fat from my belly, weird tricks to increase her pleasure by adding 2 to 4 inches to my penis. Weird scenes inside the gold mine. Another day in paradise.
So the school shrink is still on vacation, but I think I've changed my mind. I ate a shitload of chocolate last night and I felt a little better after that, so maybe I can make it for awhile just on the strength of that.
HA! It's so funny how I came by the chocolate. Or not funny, really, it was fucking GROSS, but ... I was working, and it was so slow, time was just dragging. Nobody was coming in to buy groceries, so I was wiping down the belt and straightening up the magazine rack and the candy display, just doing busy work to make it look like I was earning my pay, and Jamie came in with her mom, and while her mom was shopping, she hung out up front so she could shoot the breeze with me. She asked if she could have a candy bar, and I said, "You got 75 cents?" and she was like, "For real, you'd really make me pay for it?" and I was like, "I need this job, I don't want to get fired for letting my friends shoplift", and she was like, "I thought you were cool, was I wrong?" And while we were talking, Slubotkin walks by, and he looks Jamie up and down and says to me, "Who's your cute friend?" And I just stared at him like, really? But he didn't keep walking, he just stood there like he expected me to answer, so I said, "This is Jamie. Jamie, this is my manager, Mr. Slubotkin," and he laughed and said, "Mr. Slubotkin is my dad, call me Gary, nice to meet you Jamie," and then he went back to the office. So I stuck my finger down my throat to show Jamie what I thought of him, but she was all like, "Are you serious? He's a hunk!" And I was like, "Oh. My. Fucking. God. You have GOT to be shitting me!" and she was like, "No, I'm serious, he's cool looking, don't you think his mustache is tight? It's kinda Fu-Manchu-y, the way it curves down around his mouth like that, he kinda looks like a cowboy or something," and I was like, "No. Fucking. Way. He is the biggest GROPER that ever came down the pike," and she didn't say anything for a few minutes, she had this kinda dreamy far-away look, then she leaned in real close so she could whisper to me, and she said, "You might not believe this, but I've never blown a guy with a mustache before, I think that might be the hottest thing ever," and I said, "OMG, that is so GROSS, and anyway how do you even know what a guy's face looks like when you're blowing him, can't you just only like see his crotch and stuff?" and she was like, "Are you kidding? Looking at a guy's face when you're sucking his cock is the best part, like when he's filling up your mouth and you're looking him right in the eyes and you can see how much he's loving sticking his thing in your mouth, and then just before he blows, and his face gets kinda glazed over and you know in another couple of seconds he's gonna be blowing his load right down your throat, right in that moment you OWN him, you just totally OWN him body and soul, he's YOURS, it's like the sweetest feeling ever." And never having sucked a cock before, I had to admit that maybe I didn't know anything about it, and I said, "Well even so, not SLUBOTKIN, like oh my fucking GOD, anybody but that greasy slimy fucking COCKTOPUS!" And she just kinda smirked at me and then her mom came up with a cart full of groceries and stuff, and I checked her out, and then Jamie asked her mom if it was okay if she hung out with me for awhile, and her mom asked if I wouldn't get in trouble for talking while I was supposed to be working, and I told her it was fine, it was a slow day and anyway the manager was cool about it, so she told Jamie it was okay and said not to be too late, and Jamie helped her put the groceries in the car, and after she was gone, Jamie came back in and pointed at the office door and asked if Slubotkin was still back there. And I said yes without even thinking about it, and as soon as I did I was sorry, cuz she headed straight over to the office, and she knocked on the door, and then she opened it, and I could see Slubotkin sitting at his desk, and Jamie said something to him, I couldn't hear what it was, and then she went in and closed the door, and I heard the lock click, and I was like NOOOO!!! I couldn't believe what I was seeing, and I didn't know whether to be angry or what, and I just settled for being TOTALLY GROSSED OUT. And she was in there for like 10 minutes, and then she came out and she was smiling from ear to ear, and like 30 seconds later Slubotkin came out, and he came over to my register, and he reached out and almost put his hand on my waist, but then he pulled it back real quick like he thought better of it, and he said how I have really cool friends, and he had me come to the back of the store with him, and he had Jamie come too, and he took us both in the stock room and showed us a bunch of chocolate Easter bunnies that had got left on the dock too long, I guess they sat in the sunlight too long or something, and they were melted, not completely, they still looked like bunnies, but the ears were at weird angles and the hard candy parts that were the eyes and noses were not in the right places and just all kind of a little melty, and he said he could send them back but he would only get part of the store's money back and he was just gonna throw them out, and he asked Jamie and me if we wanted any, we could help ourselves to as much as we wanted. So Jamie and me filled up like two huge cardboard boxes full, and she called PJ for a ride, and we carried the boxes out through the store and loaded them up in PJ's car. And by then it was after 7:00, and even though my shift was supposed to run until 8:00, Slubotkin told me to go ahead and take off, and he said he'd even punch my card out at 8:00 for me. And Jamie was all like, OMG, that's so SWEET, thank you Gary, and she kissed him on the cheek right there in the front of the store, and he turned RED, I thought he was gonna pass out or something, and he was looking all around like he wanted to see if any customers or checkers or anybody saw Jamie kissing him, but there was nobody around, and he put his arm around her and squeezed her tight and kissed her back on the cheek and told her to come back anytime, and she was like, "Oh, I WILL, I WILL, thank you about a million times Gary". And PJ drove us back to her place, and the three of us just FUCKING PIGGED OUT on chocolate bunnies, we were like little kids on Christmas or something, just shoving those goddamn free melty bunnies in our mouths until our faces were all smeared with chocolate and we looked like fucking lunatics, and Jamie was telling us about Slubotkin's eyes rolling back in his head when she blew him, and she was imitating him, like when he blew his load, she imitated the noise she said he made, it was like "uff! uff! uff! oh! oh! oh!", and we were all laughing so hard I thought we'd pass out. And she just grinned at PJ and me and she said, "Chocolate bunnies is just the beginning girls, let's see what I can milk this for!" And PJ laughed and laughed when Jamie said that, but I just got sad, I think it was partly because it bothered me to think of her sucking Slubotkin off, but mostly it was because I was thinking about Steve again, and how much I missed seeing him and wondering when he was going to come in to the store again. And damnit if Jamie didn't make me wonder what Steve's face looks like when he's getting a blowjob, and then I got really upset for thinking about him like that, cuz I didn't want to think about him like he was just another horny bastard who all he cares about is fucking and sucking, and then I ate another bunny, and that made me feel a little better. And I grabbed two more chocolate bunnies, one to take home to dad and one to save for Steve when I see him again, but when I got home I was like, you big fucking IDIOT, Steve's probably on a diet, he won't want a chocolate bunny, but I put it up on my closet shelf to save for him anyway, just in case, and when I was laying in bed I could see the bunny looking down at me, Steve's bunny, watching me sleep.
Susan was a little put out by the empty state of the cupboards last night. She wanted to know why I hadn't gone to the grocery store, and I just had to hold my head down and mumble an apology, and I told her I'd do it tonight. So she sat down and made a list of stuff she wanted to make sure I got, and said to make sure I hurried home, because she wanted me to grill steak and bake some potatoes.
So I planned to go to Arville's, and as I was driving there, I was picturing the store in my head, picturing Arville's wider aisles and better lighting, thinking about their meat counter and produce section, and I parked and got out and walked up to the store, and as I walked into the cart lobby, I realized I wasn't at Arville's at all; I had driven to Sav-Rite, whether from force of habit or unconscious design or I don't know what, but there I was, ready to walk in. And she was there again, at the register closest to the door, talking to some hundred-year-old looking customer about his coupons or something; it looked like she was trying to explain something and losing the battle. I knew I couldn't fight it anymore, so I grabbed a cart and rolled boldly on in to the store.
She looked up when I came in, she looked right at me, and her face lit up like a thousand watt light, she smiled the biggest smile I've ever seen on anybody, ever, and my heart just stopped beating, and then it was beating a thousand times a minute. I smiled back at her and I winked, and as soon as I did it, I was castigating myself savagely for making such a lame gesture as a wink; how CASUAL, how PLEBEIAN, how OFFHANDED and COMMON, like chucking a favorite niece under the chin, the same kind of moronic gesture a hundred thousand other middle-aged LOSERS might make. She didn't seem to mind, her hand went straight to her heart, kind of an "I'm touched to see you again" sort of gesture; and I tore myself away and trundled off back into the store to load up the cart. My first stop was the deli, where I asked the kid behind the counter for a half-pound of turkey breast, and after I dropped the white paper package in the cart, I looked down at my hands and realized I was taking off my wedding ring again; and even though I watched myself doing it, I couldn't stop myself as I put it in my hip pocket.
I finished in a daze, checking off each item on the list as I dropped it in the cart, and when I was done, I looked at the list again and realized I had to go back, because I had gotten pork ribs instead of New York strip steak; and cream cheese instead of sour cream; and sticks of butter instead of the butter substitute spray Susan had written down; and a half-dozen other mistakes, all absolutely idiotic and indicative of there being nobody home upstairs. And finally, after triple checking the list and ensuring everything was as it should be, as I was walking back up toward the front of the store, I passed by the floral section, where prearranged bouquets sat in a spinning rack waiting to be plucked up ... and when I got to the register, I realized there was a bouquet of flowers in my hand, a riot of color, purple and yellow and blue and white and orange, with green stems and delicate sprays of baby's breath. I turned around to put it back on the rack, and realized I was a long way away from the floral section; and then another customer came up behind me, and I was trapped, standing in the checkout line. I could have backed up and made my way back into the store, but it was getting late, and I felt committed somehow; so I just stood there and waited.
Although there were a couple of people ahead of me, she saw me standing there, and as she was scanning items, she kept glancing up at me, which caused her to make mistakes with the groceries; she kept accidentally double- and triple-scanning items and had to keep backing out the over-rings by hand, all the while still glancing up at me as I just stood there with what I hoped was a quiet smile but what in all actuality was probably an ear-to-ear idiot's grin. And then she got those customers out of the way, and it was just her and me, standing there looking at each other. And she didn't look down like she always did before, she just stood there and looked me right in the eyes, and she said, "Hi Steve," and I said, "Hi Barb"; she said, "I missed you," and suddenly she was self-conscious again, her face turned fire-engine red, and that adorable little head-bob came into play; she kept glancing up at me and then back down at the floor; and I said, "Thanks. I missed you too." I unloaded the cart without watching what I was doing, I couldn't tear my eyes away from her; I just kept reaching down into the cart and dragging up whatever came to hand and dumping it on the belt. She scanned the items one by one, without looking at any of them, she just kept glancing up at me and then looking back at the register. When she came to the final item, the bouquet, a tiny frown creased her features, and she picked up the cheat sheet to look up the code for floral displays; and when she couldn't find it, she turned to the checker in the next lane and said, "Helena, what's the code for the large bouquet?" Helena consulted a sticky note on the side of her own register and called a number back to Barb, who punched it in. She looked at the display and read the total off to me, and I swiped my debit card and punched the keys on the little display pad to tell it I wanted $20 change. As she handed me the $20 bill, I took hold of her hand and didn't let go, I just stood there and held her hand. She was staring at the bill, and at my hand holding hers, just kind of gawking at it like she couldn't fathom what was happening. I said, "Barb," and her head jerked up like she'd been shot, and she was looking me right in the eyes again, and she said, "Yes, Steve?", and I said, "Do you work tomorrow?" She gaped at me, her mouth opened and closed a few times, and she said in a faint voice, "Tom ... tomorrow? What's ... what's ... my shift ... yeah, yeah, I work 3 to 9 tomorrow." I swallowed hard, felt my Adam's apple bobbing in my throat, and my ears were faintly roaring as I said, "Do you have to be somewhere after you get off tomorrow night, or can you go get a soda or something with me? I'd really like to talk to you." Her lower lip started trembling, and then she caught herself and with her head shaking almost imperceptibly, she said, "Wha ... what ... uh, yeah, sure, that's fine, I'd like that, let's do that. Please. Steve," my name added almost as an afterthought, tacked on to prove that she knew who I was.
The groceries had been bagged by one of the kids whose job it is to drift from register to register, bagging as needed; he stood there with the last item, the bouquet, in his hand, and he asked me if I wanted it in a bag. I stared at the flowers for a moment before I realized why I had bought them, and I told him, "No thanks. They're for her," and I took the bouquet and handed it to Barb. She took them from my hand in a daze, her eyes suddenly grown to the size of platters, and the bouquet started shaking violently in response to what I assumed was the trembling of her hand.
The next thing I remember, I was standing at the grill watching flames shooting up, and Susan was yelling at me through the kitchen window, "STEVE!!! STEVE!!! THEY'RE BURNING!!!" I hadn't burned the steaks too badly, one was charred pretty well but the other one had escaped any major blackening. Susan glanced at the meat on the plate as I brought it in, snorted, and made an off-hand gesture to indicate the more thoroughly-cooked one, telling me, "That one's yours." And I just chuckled and thought to myself, 'Wrong, I won't be eating either one of these.'
Something in my demeanor that night must have been off-kilter, because Susan kept looking askance at me for the rest of the evening. When I came to bed, she rolled over just far enough to look at me and said, "All right, what's up?" I put on my best 'what are you talking about' expression and shrugged my shoulders, and when she renewed her scrutiny, I confessed ignorance; and I apologized for burning the steak, and cooking the potatoes too long, and she said, "Maybe your diet's throwing you off, maybe you should take a break from it for a few days." And I was only too glad to acquiesce and consider the subject closed for the night.
I can't believe this happened. I'm looking at the flowers and I still can't believe it. Steve came into the store tonight, when I saw him walk in the door, it was like the world just started over again, like somebody hit the reset button and all the stupid shit that happened in the past didn't matter anymore. And he smiled his crinkly smile, and he winked at me again, and right then I knew, I KNEW, he was there to see me. And then he walked off into the store, walked off to get groceries instead of coming over to talk to me, and reality hit home like a fucking ton of bricks, and I started kicking myself in the head, like telling myself what a stupid ignoramus baby I was being, of course he's not here for me, he just needs groceries and I really am a fucking delusional lunatic. And the world just went all gray and black, and I was right back in my ugly stupid little shit joke of a life again, and I told myself that I better just pick myself up and dust myself off and keep slogging along. And for a little while, I managed to forget he was even in the store, I just forced myself to pay attention to the customers and scanning their stupid shit, like I had blinders on or something. So I was scanning groceries, not looking up or anything, and just concentrating on scanning the stuff, and then something told me to look up, and there he was, in my lane, two carts back, and he was smiling like he always does, that warm crinkly smile with his sparkly blue eyes that look as blue as the ocean, and even though my head was telling me there was nothing magical about him being there, my heart was like just drowning in this warm gooey sea of violins and shit, and I had to keep looking back at him to reassure myself that he was actually in my lane, waiting for me to check him out, and I made all kinds of idiot mistakes with the customers ahead of him, like I'd scan something and then couldn't remember if I'd scanned it or not, and I had to back up and keep checking the tape, and I re-rang so many things that it took forever to get them cleared out. And then it was his turn, and he was standing there right in front of me, and that's when I knew it was true, he really was there just to see me, he was there for ME. And all I wanted to do was say his name, just to hear myself say it, so I did, I said "Hi Steve," and he said "Hi Barb," and there were so many things I wanted to say, but all of a sudden I was conscious of where we were and of all the people around us, and I knew I had to keep things normal; and I opened my mouth, and the first thing that came out was "I missed you," and as soon as I said it, I knew how stupid it sounded, I mean, that's something you tell a family member or significant other or like that, it's something you say to somebody you've known all your life when they get back from being gone a long time, and I realized I don't even know him, he's just this customer that's come in a couple of times and I'm just fawning all over him and telling him I missed him, I mean JESUS, what's he supposed to say to that? Honestly, what's he supposed to SAY? And he said he missed me too! And I was like, thank GOD! But it was really just a pat on the head, like what else was he supposed to say, and it felt like he was saying "Oh that's cute, she missed me, guess I'll tell her the same thing." And I was scanning his groceries, and I knew what I wanted to tell him, all the things that I'd been thinking about, and I wanted to hear him talk too, I wanted to hear him tell me more about how he missed me. But I knew we couldn't talk like that, not right then, not while I was doing something so stupid and ordinary, and I couldn't think of any normal small talk to say, and I wanted so bad to hear him talk, to hear him tell me anything, anything at all, but neither one of us said anything, it was just scanning, scanning, scanning, and then I got to the last item to scan, and it was a huge bouquet of flowers, and when I went to ring it up, I could feel my heart going right into my shoes, I was like, oh my God, of course, he's got a girlfriend or something, he's buying flowers for his girlfriend, who else could they be for, and I was so ashamed for letting myself get so carried away, and embarrassed that I was being so moony over him, that I just wanted to curl up and die right there. And what made it worse, like how could it get any worse, but it did, was that I couldn't find the FUCKING CODE to ring up the FUCKING FLOWERS, and I had to ask Helena, and it was like the universe was just rubbing my face in it, like I had to make these flowers the center of attention, like pointing out that he was buying flowers for his girlfriend, and everything just kinda shrank up on me, and in that one second I had this picture of him giving the flowers to his girlfriend, and his girlfriend getting this big gooey sappy fucking smile on her face, and getting down on her knees to give him a blowjob, and I knew, again, how FUCKING UNFAIR life is, and I wished I was dead. And then he used his debit card again, and he got $20 change, and when I handed him the money, instead of taking it, he held my hand! I mean, he took my hand in his and he didn't let go, he just stood there and held my hand in his, and it was so warm and powerful, I mean I could feel his warm skin, and his fingers were wrapped around my hand and touching my palm, and for a second I thought he was gonna kiss my hand, and I was so confused and lost that I didn't even know where I was. And then he said my name, he said, "Barb," only it wasn't like he was just saying it, the way his voice sounded when he said it, it was like it was real important, like there was a whole lot of meaning behind it, and I said yes, and he wanted to know if I work tomorrow, and my head was spinning, I felt like I was gonna get dizzy and fall down, everything just seemed so unreal, like why he is asking me that, and then I couldn't even remember what he said, it took everything I had just to calm down enough to focus, and I remembered he was asking about my hours, and I told him what my hours are for tomorrow night, and he ASKED ME OUT! He asked me to go get a soda after my shift tomorrow, and said he wanted to talk to me! And all I could think was, is this a date? It must be, it must be a date, and I was like OH MY FUCKING JESUS GOD IN HEAVEN, HE'S ASKING ME OUT ON A DATE, and then I realized he was waiting for an answer, and I managed to find my voice and I told him yes, I wanted to do that. And then he GAVE ME THE FLOWERS!!! He just fucking reached over and handed me the fucking bouquet and said it was for me! He said it, he said it was for ME! And I couldn't even hardly hold them, everything just got real slow, like time just slowed down and stopped, and I was standing there holding these beautiful flowers that weren't for a girlfriend, they WEREN'T FOR A GIRLFRIEND, they were for me, they were FOR ME! And he walked out pushing the cart with his bags of groceries, and right when he got to the door, he turned around and looked at me again, and he brought two fingers up to his mouth and put them on his lips, and for a second I thought he was gonna blow me a kiss, but then it was more like he was saying "shhhh", and then he just put his hand down, and he turned and walked out. And I put the flowers up next to the register so I could look at them, and I leaned down and smelled them, and for the rest of the night, whenever I got done checking someone out, I smelled them again, just to prove to myself that they were really there.
And when I walked home, I was carrying them in front of me the whole way home, like I was carrying a torch or something, like I was walking down 37th and the traffic was whizzing past me and I was wanting everybody who drove past me to see me holding them. And when I got home, dad was watching TV in the living room, and instead of going straight to my room like I do every night, I went in the living room and I sat down next to him and gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek, and he looked at me surprised and asked how I was doing, and I told him I was just peachy. Then he saw the flowers, and he looked at me strange and he said, "Barbie?" And I showed them to him, and I told him they were a gift from a guy, and he wanted to know who it was. And I told him it was somebody he didn't know. He could tell from the way I said it that I was so happy about it, and he kinda scowled and he asked if it was Jimmy Vinson, and I told him, "No dad, I told you, it's somebody you don't know." And he said that he didn't know everything that happened between Jimmy and me, but he knew the breakup was rough, and he was gonna be damned if he was gonna let Jimmy break my heart again. I told him, no, it definitely wasn't Jimmy, I knew Jimmy was an asshole and I wasn't gonna have anything to do with him anymore, this was a new guy named Steve, and he was a real gentleman and not a putz like Jimmy. And he pulled me close and pulled me up onto his lap, he was stroking my hair and rubbing my back and kissing me on the neck, he was getting kinda weepy and telling me how proud he was of me, and how sorry he was about mom dying and wishing she was here to see me growing up and have mother-daughter talks with me about guys and dating; and then he wasn't dad anymore, he was my daddy, my big strong protecting daddy, holding his little Poopsiekins, and I was bawling like a baby and telling him that he was doing just fine, and how much I loved him, and that I would be glad to have daddy-daughter talks with him about guys and anything else. And we sat like that for a real long time, just hugging each other and stroking each other like we haven't done in FOREVER, and my heart was so full that it was like overflowing and getting everything all gooshy.
So then I went to the kitchen and got a pitcher of water to put the flowers in, and I took them to my room, and I've just been sitting here looking at them and touching them ever since. And I keep getting all these ugly doubts in my head, like, of course it won't be a date, he didn't ask me to dinner or a movie or anything else that's a date, he just wanted to chat over a soda, what kind of moron would call that a date? And I keep thinking that he's just fond of me, the way you would be of a neighbor or a coworker or something just as innocent, and realizing how stupid I am to get so worked up over it, and if it was a real date, he'd give me a chance to wear a nice dress and get my hair and makeup done up real nice, and not just pick me up after work and take me out in my goddamn Sav-Rite shirt; but then my heart says, you don't buy bouquets for something innocent like a chat, you don't set an appointment for something as meaningless as a chat, of course it's a date. But then I keep going back and replaying it in my head; his exact words were, "can you go get a soda or something with me? I'd really like to talk to you." He said REALLY, he said he would REALLY like to talk to me. Not, "I'd really like to see you", not "I'd really like to be with you", but "I'd really like to talk to you". And I don't know if it's good or bad, but it's kinda scary, so it's more like it's bad. Talk about what? What is it he wants to tell me? He can't possibly say he feels the same way about me that I do about him, I know in my head that's not possible. I mean, what if he knows how obsessed I am over him and he's trying to let me down easy? Oh God, what if it's the "you're a young woman with your whole life ahead of you, you don't really know what you want yet" speech? I won't be able to handle it if it's that, I won't, I'll go into a meltdown or something.
I wish I could talk to Jamie and PJ about it and have them just really LISTEN with their HEARTS and understand and not give me shit about being in love with an old fat guy who's not really fat anymore. I wish I could tell dad more about Steve and not have him freak out cuz Steve is so old. I wish it was tomorrow night and Steve and me were together so I could know whether it's really a date or not. I wish. I wish. I wish. I wish I could turn off my goddamn brain. Jesus. How am I supposed to get to sleep?
Writing this at work. Supposed to be on the phones, but I can't concentrate, can't think straight. I'm picking her up tonight when she gets off work, at 9:00, and I don't even have an excuse to get out of the house yet. And when I do pick her up, where am I going to take her for a soda? Burger King? That's INSANE. But I don't even know where else to go. I'm so out of it, so insulated by my cozy suburban nightmare; where do people go on dates? Especially when it isn't a date, it's just me trying to freak out and scare a little girl so badly that she stays away from me for the rest of my pathetic life, so I can get back to ending said pathetic life with as few complications as possible.
Okay, just checked the showtimes at the Southgate Cineplex, that vampire thing is showing at 9:10, that's perfect, Susan will be fine with me going to a movie by myself on a Friday night.
Okay. So what else is left? Someplace nicer than Burger King. Vincenzo's? Red Lotus? Aunt Sadie's? Yeah, that's perfect, Aunt Sadie's is twenty miles away in Peace Landing, I won't see anybody I know there, and we won't sit in the restaurant anyway, we can just stay in the bar; I can buy her something more than a soda. I wonder if she likes beer? Or maybe a mixed drink? AAUUGGHH! GOD! Planning too far ahead, just get her there first and then worry about what she wants to drink.
I should bring her something, a nice gift or something, to seal the deal. But what? How tragically out-of-synch with reality am I? I don't know her, I don't know anything about her. I don't know what she likes or dislikes. I don't have any idea what to get her.
STOP. TAKE STOCK. What was she wearing last night? Besides her Sav-Rite polo and black slacks, she was wearing pink sneakers; looked like Keds. She was wearing deep purple nail polish. She has pierced ears, she was wearing dangly earrings with stars on them. Jewelry. That's it. A bracelet, I'll get her a bracelet or ... I'll run by the mall after work, I know there's a couple of girly stores there. Something with a heart maybe...
Oh my god. I'm doing this all wrong. I'm supposed to be scaring her, I should be making her think I'm going to rape her, and all I can think of is how to court her, how to woo her and win her. Should I call Lacie and ask her where she got those cartoon character panties from? NO! God, she'll want to know why I'm asking. Think, man; where do you get cartoon panties? DUH, Hot Topic. I hope the one at the mall is still in business. Wait a minute, what if she doesn't like the character I choose? How can I find out what cartoon character she might like? What if she thinks cartoons on panties are stupid? Oh my god, I'm going insane. I'm certifiable. I can't keep going like this.
Up til 3 last night. Overslept, dad drove me to school. Have to make this short, don't want Mr. Stettler to catch me writing something personal like this in class. I shouldn't be writing it at all, but GOD, I can't keep it bottled up inside anymore. Steve is taking me out tonight! He's going to come to the store, and he's going to walk in, and I'll be there checking, and Slubotkin's going to give me one of those greasy smiles he can't stop giving me since Jamie sucked him off and tell me it's okay to leave early, and I'm going to run in the bathroom and change to the rainbow blouse I brought in my backpack, and we're going to go and get in Steve's car, and we're going to drive to... ??? he's going to ... he's going to take me to McDonald's and buy me a soda, cuz he thinks I'm a good little girl who needs a pat on the head ... NO, he's going to take me to Flinger's and we're going to have chips and salsa and he's going to touch my hand and look into my eyes and tell me he can't stop thinking about me and he wants to get to know me a lot better ... NO, he's going to drive to Petro4Less and make me wait in the car while he goes in and gets two fountain drinks, and we're going to sit in the car while he tells me how much I remind him of his niece ... NO, he's going to drive to the Cedargrove Park overlook and park the car and he's going to ask me to get in the back seat with him and then he's going to ... AAUUGGHH! GOD! I can't think straight! How can I make it to 9:00 tonight? Oh my god, I'm going insane. I'm certifiable. I can't keep going like this.
22 Mar (2nd entry)
Where do I start? How do I untangle the dream from the reality?
After work, I went to the mall. I meant to go to Hot Topic, but somehow I wound up at Rings-n-Things instead. I was standing there in front of a display of necklaces, the store was full of young girls, and I felt distinctly like an intruder, a stranger in a strange land; so I wandered out into the mall and walked around for awhile, and I stopped at Bling It On, and Foxxy Moxie's, and Classic Girl, and NOTHING looked any good, it all looked like cheap trinkets, like gaudy costume crap you might hand out at a child's party. I ultimately wound up at Goldstein's, where nestled among all the diamond wedding rings and diamond earrings and diamond bracelets, I saw a pretty little silver necklace with a heart-shaped charm on it. It was originally $90, on sale for $30, and as I walked away with the package containing the necklace tucked away in my pocket like the guilty secret it was, I reflected that at least I had spent more on Susan's last birthday gift, so I didn't feel completely evil; only mostly.
It was after 6:00 by the time I got home. Susan wanted spaghetti, so I prepared that while daydreaming about Barb and wondering whether she likes Italian. With supper over and the plates cleaned up, I puttered around in front of the computer for an hour and a half before casually announcing to Susan that I wanted to see a movie. She barely looked up from her TV show, just a quick glance at me and a mumbled "okay, have fun" before returning her attention to the idiot box. I was a nervous wreck; I brushed my teeth twice, then put on cologne before realizing Susan might question why I had applied cologne to go see a movie by myself. Of course I needn't have worried; my departure barely registered on her awareness.
It was 8:40 when I pulled up in front of Sav-Rite. My nerves were wound tighter than a drum, my fingers twitching and my leg shaking. As I pulled off my wedding ring and tucked it in my pocket (next to the box containing the necklace), I realized that despite my haphazard plans, I really had no idea what I was doing or what I was getting myself into. All I knew for certain was that I was about to go somewhere with the most beautiful creature I've ever seen and that she appeared to be agreeable to going with me. It took me 10 minutes to work up the courage to approach the store, and when I finally did make it in, she was nowhere to be seen. My mixed emotions were about 20 percent relief at the thought that I had apparently been rescued from my own stupidity to 80 percent disappointment and fear that she wasn't there. I walked a little further into the store to make sure I hadn't missed seeing her, but still saw nothing. I decided to go back out to the car and wait until 9:00 proper. I didn't know she had crept up behind me; when I turned to leave, I collided with her, I had to reach out to grab her by the arms to stop her from falling down due to the force of the impact. I didn't realize at first who it was I had grabbed hold of, but when I realized she was gripping me as tightly as I was gripping her, recognition dawned. She started laughing, the absurdity of the situation hit me like a freight train, and I was laughing as hard as she was. We stumbled over apologies to each other, and I was able to stand back and take stock of the situation. She wasn't wearing the Sav-Rite polo, somehow she had changed into a beautiful multi-colored shirt. She explained that she had gotten permission to leave a little early and that she had just been in the bathroom changing. I made some idiotic remark about how beautiful she was; she mumbled a thank you, but it was clear didn't quite know what to say to that, she was doing that heart-wringing little headbob of hers that had me wrapped around her little finger; then she told me she was ready to go. I walked her out to the car, and followed her around to the passenger side so I could hold the door open for her. She seemed surprised that I would do that, her head was doing this incredulous little shaking thing and she put her hand on her heart for just a second, before she slid into the seat.
Once we were underway, I asked if it was okay if we went to Aunt Sadie's. She put her hands on my arm and let out a little squeal as she told me she'd love to go there, that she'd only been there once before, years ago, and she'd always wanted to go back, to take a closer look at the fish. It took me a couple of seconds to realize that she must be talking about the floor-to-ceiling aquarium behind the bar, and I congratulated myself on my astute choice. After that, things got very tense. We rode in silence, neither one of us saying anything, and I was in agony. I wanted so badly for us to have an easy conversation, I needed there to be a rapport, a connection; anything but the uneasy quiet, the deafening silence of two people who didn't know what to say to each other. When the pain of the silence became unendurable, I turned on the radio. The first thing we heard was that annoying commercial for Edmundson Mazda, so I hit the preset for 106.3, the Fox. The announcer was telling us that the weather for the rest of the evening would be cool and clear; the next thing we heard was Roberta Flack singing "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face". It was a transcendent moment; Barb was turned sideways in her seat, her leg tucked up under her, and she was just staring at me with her lips slightly parted while this tender love song just rolled over us and buried us in milk and honey. The timing couldn't have been more perfect; the final notes died right as I pulled into a space at the end of the Aunt Sadie's lot, and when I shut off the car and turned to face her, it felt like we were on the verge of something unexpected, something unprecedented for either of us. Her eyes were glistening as she whispered that that was the most beautiful song she'd ever heard; I saw her shivering briefly as she said it. After that, we just sat there looking at each other in silence for what felt like a lifetime; I was aware of the smell of her perfume, and the sound her breathing, and the sound of my breathing, and of the infinite possibilities swirling around us and between us with agonizing imprecision. Eventually, I leaned over and took her hand in mine, and drew it up to my mouth, and looking her full in the face, I whispered, "Barb, you are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life. I can't stop thinking about you..." I intended to say more, but I didn't know what to say or how to say it. I kissed her fingers, one at a time, while she just stared at me with huge doe eyes, her head shaking ever so slightly. I'm not 100 percent on anything else I may have said while we were sitting there in the car, it's all still wrapped in an aura of indigo uncertainty; but I think I told her that I didn't know what I wanted or why I was there, that I didn't know anything beyond the fact that her beauty had me intoxicated and I just wanted to be near her so I could look at her. We continued to sit there in silence for awhile after that, still holding hands; she was gently stroking the back of my hand with her thumb, and my heart grew so dense in my chest that it felt like it had turned to lead. And then she reached over with her other hand and stroked the side of my face; and she leaned in until our faces were almost touching. Her lips were still parted ever so slightly, her perfume was filling me to the point of oblivion, the entire universe condensed to the half-inch gulf between our faces; and then our lips were touching, and she was kissing me, and I was kissing her, and my entire being melted into that single timeless moment, that unbearably sacred joining of our lips.
When the kiss ended, we were still just sitting there, our foreheads touching as we looked into each other's eyes. She whispered that her heart was beating so hard that it felt like it was going to fly out of her chest. I suggested that we should go in and have that drink that we came to have, and she nodded eagerly. We got out and walked to the door of Aunt Sadie's, and as I held the door open for her, she touched my arm and whispered something that sounded like "It IS a date." I waved the hostess off to indicate that we didn't want a table, and with my hand on Barb's elbow to guide her, we made our way to the bar. She made a little gasp when she saw the wall-length aquarium behind the counter and ran around to the end of the bar, to the little three-foot section where patrons could actually touch the glass. Her reaction was so excited, so full of little-kid wonder, that I couldn't help but laugh out loud. She glanced back at me with her eyes sparkling and an impish grin on her lips, and I almost swooned, feeling hot and cold all over at this display of her unworldly beauty. I came up behind her and stood close enough to smell her hair, and she leaned back into me and reached down to take my left hand in hers and lock our fingers together. Eventually, I pulled away and led her to the bar, where we chose stools somewhere near the middle. As the bartender approached, I asked her what she wanted to drink, and she looked at me with something resembling horror, then leaned over to whisper in my ear that she couldn't have anything alcoholic because she was only sixteen.
I didn't understand what she'd said at first; the words didn't make sense, they didn't gel in my head. I had to repeat to myself several times, "only sixteen", before the meaning finally began to come through. I felt the floor opening beneath me; vertigo was reeling up to snake it's way through my head, and I was in very real danger of falling off the barstool. She was still the sublime goddess, the gorgeous dream, but the universe had suddenly sunk some decidedly sharp hooks in her, anchoring her to reality in a way I couldn't have anticpated. The feeling of Barb's hand on my forearm helped me regain my equilibrium. I looked up to see the bartender standing there smirking at me; I leered back at him and ordered two Cokes. He scooped ice into two square cut-glass tumblers, filled them from the handheld soda dispenser, and with a small flourish, set them in front of us on a couple of Captain Morgan coasters. I automatically took a swig; the sweet taste sharpened my focus, and I was able to return all my attention to Barb. She was sitting there timidly, peering up at me as if afraid she had said or done something wrong. I managed to smile at her, which brought out her own smile, that amazing sweet wonderful heartstopper that lifted one corner of her mouth a little higher than the other, and I was once again overwhelmed by the wonder of her unbearable beauty.
I laid a ten on the bar to pay for the drinks and, taking both glasses, I led her to one of the tiny tables in the darkest corner of the bar. As we sat there, while I struggled for how best to begin, Barb took the lead by asking me if I remembered our first meeting. I thought back to that day in the store and realized with a savage embarassment that I had wondered what her panties looked like. I started to say something about Sav-Rite, but she shook her head earnestly and described the Valentine's Day episode at the mall. I recalled the incident immediately, the humiliation of being mocked by pretty young girls and my promise to thank them for inspiring my suicide. My expression must have provoked alarm in her, because she was falling all over herself apologizing for her companions and saying that it had hurt her deeply to think of having caused pain to someone so obviously already in agony. She went on to say something about how my despair had touched a nerve in her, and that she had had trouble getting me out of her head since then. Something clicked in my heart, something that felt like a recognition of destiny, and I wanted to pour out my life to her, to admit to the lonely agony and dead grey despair that have been my constant companions; and I knew this was someone I wanted to give nothing but truth to, for as long as we both might live. I knew I had to tell her about my slow-motion suicide attempt, and how her capture of my heart had blown away that desire. I had to tell her that if I couldn't keep seeing her, my life would be diminished to the point of unliveability. And I had to tell her that I was married. But I knew I couldn't do any of that where we were, in the dingy little pit that was Aunt Sadie's bar. The world was spinning off it's axis, and I had to get her someplace where we could breathe the night air and see the stars doing their ancient majestic pavanne above us.
I stood and took her hand and pulled her out of there, out to the car. She made some slight protest, which I silenced by telling her we needed to be someplace else. She accepted this and said nothing more as I drove to Cedargrove Park, to the overlook with it's commanding view of the streets laid out below, of the twinkling streetlights, the headlights coming and taillights going. I told her that I needed to kiss her one more time, in case I never had another chance ... I was scared to death that once I told her the complete truth, she would want nothing more to do with me. She readily agreed, and leaned in to kiss me, an exchange of breath and promise, a kiss that was ... a kiss that was...
My God. I can't begin to put into words what kissing her was like. I just ... there are no words. It's like, knowing what a kiss can be like, and how sweet it can be, and to go for so many many years without ... and she just, she was just THERE, she was just so completely THERE, I mean, she was real and present, completely existing in that moment, she was real and soft and warm and her whole being was in that kiss, her whole body and soul, there wasn't anything of her that wasn't in that kiss ... god. god damn it i cant finish this right now i cant even see what im doing for the tears in my eyes...