Sitting across the room from her, my face was as blank and expressionless as humanly possible. I was a wax sculpture, staring dead-eyed, looking through her. She was crying again, tears welling in eyes that held a delicate balance of anger and pleading.
This was what now passed as a normal evening together. Sarah would stop by my parents’ house after her evening shift at McDonalds, and we would sit there in my room and stare at each other, neither ignoring our problems nor addressing them. After three and a half years, this, it seemed, was it. Sarah felt everything, I felt nothing, and yet both of us felt miserable.
Things used to be better. My dad was usually either late in coming home from work or asleep by the time Sarah showed up. My mom, it seemed, was always gone, busy taking care of my dying grandfather and later, his estate. For a while, Sarah was my escape from that. These after-school rendezvous were once nothing but passion and sex. Then just sex. Finally, just nothing.
I couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment things started going wrong, but I first felt it when she made me choose. My promises that we’d have the rest of our lives to be together weren’t enough. She was jealous of the time I spent with my grandfather, and I was too busy mourning the death of a man still half-alive to even notice or care.
I was grieving over the loss of his independence. She was angry at me for gaining some of my own, leaving her behind. I stood by and watched my hero die; she stood by and watched us fall apart. I couldn’t be consoled, and she couldn’t bring herself to come to his funeral. I didn’t care about us, and she didn’t care about him, and yet here we still were, staring at each other, waiting for something to happen.
“Say something. Do something.” Her hands and her voice were shaking.
Flat, monotonous, “What do you want me to say?” I let out a deep breath and leaned back, crossing my arms.
A tear rolled down her face and hung at her upper lip, but she didn’t wipe it away. Her breath came in short, quick bursts. “I want you to get mad!”
It seemed like an odd request. Unshaken, I responded flippantly, “I fail to see what that would accomplish right now.”
Sarah stood up, clenched fists at the ends of stick-straight arms held tight to her sides, “At least then I’d know you felt something! Anything! You’re like a zombie!” Each sentiment was louder than the last. My German Shepherd slinked out of the room, her head hanging low. “What the fuck is wrong with you! Why won’t you talk to me?” Her voice was tinged with desperation, and the tears fell freely now.
I was on autopilot. Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached complete detachment. Serenely, “I think you should go now. I don’t think any good would come from talking to you like this.” We’d reached this point before, and I knew that as long as I stayed collected, she’d get frustrated and leave.
Not this time. “God damnit, Jeff!” A quick streak of silver and a loud, discordant clang broke my calm as crumbled bits of ceiling paint fell onto my shoulder. She had channeled all of her frustration into one swift kick to my trash can, missing my head by only a few inches. This was new territory, and definitely, finally, beyond my ability to ignore.
I bolted out of my chair like I was waking up from a nightmare, and my gaze met hers for the first real time in weeks. My wax statue had been melted by a deep, burning rage. In a moment, her expression snapped from fury to wide-eyed fear, and she began slowly backing away toward the door.
“Is this what you wanted?” boomed a voice that I didn’t even recognize. “Angry! Honest! What the fuck is wrong with me? What was that little show of yours?” I could feel the muscles of my throat tearing. After tonight, I would lose my voice for almost a week. I grabbed her wrist as she turned toward the hall. “Why don’t I talk to you? You’re the fucking problem! You were actually glad when he died, God damnit! You didn’t have to share me with him anymore! You selfish—“
“You’re hurting me.” So relatively quiet, it’s a wonder I heard her at all.
It was like a mirror shattering in reverse, offering a dark, shameful reflection. I looked down and let go of her wrist, stark white imprints of my fingers fading from her skin. I couldn’t bring myself to look into her eyes. Immediately, a wave of nausea came over me and I ran down the hall to the bathroom. I knelt in front of the toilet and threw up until I had nothing left. I stayed there for a long time, spitting, crying, my arms holding tight to the sides of the bowl.
When I finally stood up, I was alone.
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