Standing at the top of the ramp behind the theater for a couple of minutes, I waited for intermission. The view down the hillside over the fence behind me caught my attention, so I lit a smoke and looked out at the lights of the valley. I took in a deep drag from the Camel 100. Blowing it out, I whispered to myself.
If she doesn’t touch me on the shoulder, it’s over. She’s going to
break up with me.
Of course I hoped I was wrong. I heard the crowd coming out of the theater to stretch their legs and backs before the second act. The flicking of lighters, clomping of hard soled shoes on concrete and the occasional aluminum can connecting with the sides of the garbage can before settling on top of the rest of the trash.
I felt, more than heard her slowly coming up the ramp behind me. I didn’t turn. She leaned on the wooden fence more than an arms length to my left. She didn’t touch my shoulder.
I don’t think we should see each other any more.
Such a profound response. The first girl I ever dated, my first relationship ending and I couldn’t even muster a vowel.
At least I put in two syllables that time.
You gonna come see the rest of the show? It’s…pretty good.
Well, I should go back.
See you later?
I remember driving home listening to an old Asia cassette. Heater blasting with the windows rolled down. I sang every song at the top of my lungs. On the freeway nobody could hear me anyway. It didn’t matter.
I knocked on my neighbor’s door to see if he had any beer.
No beer. But I got tequila.
Perfect. I’ll spot you back.
Fine. Need some drunk time.
Come on in man. We’ll drink together.
Need to be alone. Cool?
Sure man. No prob.
He gave me the bottle.
I left the lights off. My dorm room window opened to the parking lot across the walkway and the lights out there were enough if the blinds were open a little. Music bled through the walls from a party down the hall so I didn’t need my stereo. I didn’t care that they liked hip-hop. My ears shut everything out for me along with the alcohol.
The next morning I drove to my folk’s house. Dad moved the scooper back and forth along the surface of the pool cleaning out leaves and dead bugs. I waved. He nodded and smiled.
How you don’ tiger?
He looked me over.
That I can see. What’s up?
She broke up with me last night.
He lifted a scoop full of soggy junk from the water and dumped it in the bushes.
Sorry to hear that. She say why?
I shook my head.
Well, you’re better off without that one anyway.
Awful cliché of you dad.
Yeah. It’s a cliché situation though. What’d you expect?
Something more philosophical I guess.
He dropped the scooper in the side yard. His head angled to the side and he raised his hands palm up to the sky.
The hug made me feel a little better.
I slept in my old room that night. After mom and dad went to bed I swiped a bottle of really old Manishevitz from the bar. They weren’t very big drinkers, so there wasn’t much else to chose from other than flat champagne and half finished wine from ten years ago. She called around midnight. I don’t know how she knew where I was. The slight buzz I had going made the conversation more interesting.
How are you?
Wonderful. How’s by you?
I hate it when you’re sarcastic.
What do you want me to say?
I don’t know.
Then I’m just friggin’ wonderful. Apparently you’re not my
girlfriend anymore so I don’t really need to worry if you don’t like
You called me. What do you want?
I…I’m back with Ronnie.
And I should care because?
Why are you making this so difficult?
Why are you calling me in the middle of the night to tell me you
got back together with your ex boyfriend who treats you like
shit? Are you checking to see if I’m jealous? Do you want me to
tell you that it’s okay and you’re not being a complete and total
bitch right now?
That’s not fair.
Fair? Shut the fuck up. You don’t get to complain about fair right
now. You broke up with me remember? You ditched me so you
could go back to the douchebag who hits you and cheats on you
and makes you feel like scum. You’ve probably been fucking
him for a while behind my back anyway right? I don’t give a shit.
Do you expect me to feel bad now?
I hung up. I wish I could say that it felt good telling her off. Getting it all off my chest.
The thought of his hands on her broke my heart. I’d never felt that way about someone before her. I don’t remember breathing for the next few weeks. The pit in my stomach distracted me through all of my classes. My grades slipped. I missed rehearsals and almost got fired from a few gigs.
I went to parties. Friends took me out trying to hook me up with girls they knew through other friends. I tried. Flirting became work. I watched people dancing or making out on couches at house parties. I leaned against the wall nursing my beers watching the images of the two of them fucking in my head.
There were a few random hook ups. Sorority girls or liberal arts majors with a few too many jell-o shooters in their button pierced bellies. I probably called them by the wrong names. Which was more embarrassing for me than them.
Slowly, things got better. My new routines fell into step and I lost myself in the music of life moving forward. I went on some real dates. Some second dates. One third that should’ve ended at the second. Then I stopped and worked on being alone for a while.
I hated it.
Then it wasn’t too bad.
When I didn’t notice it anymore I fell in love.
That’s the best part.