You’ll Have to Save Me

Alone

It’s going to be a Harry Potter party. I get my costume ready in the bathroom: hike up my skirt, get my makeup right, tousle my hair to look like Hermione’s. You’re watching Netflix in the other room, trying to make it seem like you don’t care. You’re still mad about me flirting with my coworker last week. I don’t know why I did it, but that didn’t stop me from calling you a baby. I don’t know why I’m doing the things I’m doing anymore.

I thought of inviting you, of introducing you to my new work friends, maybe trying to mend what’s been broken. But I didn’t. What I did was accept the invite, order the pieces I was missing from my costume, and hide the Amazon boxes once they got here. What I did was change my mind, wait till you got home, and try the costume on where I knew you’d see me. And the way you tried to be nonchalant about hanging up your coat, but how your eyes trailed over me as you walked over to the closet. And when you didn’t say anything, when you started to walk away, how I asked you what you thought. How I looked. How your eyes showed your hurt, but you said I looked good. How you opened your mouth to say something, to ask something, but stopped yourself.

It’s gotten so I’ll stay at work till 7 or 8, tell myself I need to stay late to prepare for the next day, but I know that isn’t true. I know that I just want to walk past my coworker one last time and imagine what he’d smell like on top of me. I know that he’s staying late on purpose too, that we’re moving past each other over and over, closer and closer, waiting for one of us to bump into the other. He’s single, and I think about this as I fiddle with my engagement ring, as I pee one last time before heading home, staying in the stall so long that the lights automatically go off.

We haven’t fucked in weeks. I find an excuse every time, and when you remind me how long it’s been, I go to the bathroom and use my vibrator. The last time I did this, I walked back in the room to find you jerking off, not bothering to hide it under the covers. You left yourself out for a while even after I walked in, and I acted like I’d seen nothing. I got into bed and under the covers, and when your foot touched mine, I told you to move over.

When we do touch, it’s in the form of a play fight, and we grapple and vie for control because to hug and to hold would be too much at this point. But by the end of these play fights, we’re sweaty and tired, leaning up against each other like spent boxers, and you’ll try to sneak a kiss. I’ll jerk my head away and tell you how sweaty you are. If you’re lucky, I’ll pretend to be dead weight, and you’ll have to grab me and pull me back up. You’ll have to save me.

I think of all the ways I could end it. I could sit you down over dinner, or call you when I’m at my mom’s, or text you after work. I could pack up all my things and leave without saying a word. I could do these things, any of them, without hesitation. Don’t think I couldn’t.

When it’s time to go to the party, I rush to get my shoes on before you can get up and go to the door. I just say, “bye,” and I leave. I sneak out the bottle of Jim Beam I’ve stashed in my purse and nurse it for courage before getting on the CTA bus.

When I get there, I do that thing where I hug the wall, near my friends, and smile and nod when someone I know walks by and acknowledges me. My coworker spots me eventually, pours something I can’t see into a cup and brings it to me. He challenges my HP knowledge with some trivia, which I ace, but I smile anyway. He refills my cup and challenges me to a duel. Produces two wands and hands one to me. My cheeks burn as I smile and shake my head, but he challenges me loud enough that everyone hears. Gets everyone to clear out of the way and form a circle around us. It’s over in seconds: one shout of “Expelliarmus” and he tosses his wand high in the air. I send out my Patronus for good measure, but he surrenders.

An hour goes by, maybe two. My coworker and I stop drinking and just talk. When the party starts to thin out, he offers to give me a ride home. No sense in taking the CTA and dealing with weirdos, he says. I say yes.

When I tell him the address, he says he’s just a couple blocks away. That we’re practically neighbors. There’s silence for a while, and he says something about stopping by his place for coffee. So we can wake up. I say yes.

When he’s inside of me, all I can think of is our first date, sneaking into the mall with you after watching a movie, getting into the playplace that was meant to be a forest and lying on the grass carpet as Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” piped out of the mall speakers. How we were silent. How we had smiles, matching, unaware of the future. How we followed the song’s advice and just lay there, our fingers intertwined.

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Friends, Romans, Countrymen

Orange juice :)

When I was little, I thought it was possible to know everything. I collected encyclopedias, dictionaries, old textbooks Dad left around. I read about things I didn’t understand so I’d remember when I would understand. I hung around conversations in Dad’s office, picked up on facial cues and double entendres. Understood that when the whiskey was around and Mom wasn’t, things would happen.

Closed door. Knock. Open. “What are you doing?” “Things.” Lather rinse repeat.

One day I came into the kitchen to find a naked woman drinking orange juice straight out of the bottle. I told her that wasn’t very hygienic. That she should pour it into a glass. Dad came in and nearly passed out. Shooed the woman out and into the living room, where I could still see her guzzling from the bottle, sitting on our couch.

“Want to play a game? Hey. Let’s go into the den and play a game, doc. Ignore the lady.”

“She shouldn’t be drinking straight from the bottle. It spreads germs.”

“Sure. I’ll tell her. But don’t tell your mother. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“It’s just things anyway. Only things.”

“Okay.”

He bought me a brand new OED a week later. A new word, one I heard Mom hissing behind closed doors:

Infidelity

NOUN

1. The action or state of being unfaithful to a spouse or other sexual partner:
‘her infidelity continued after her marriage’
[count noun] ‘I ought not to have tolerated his infidelities’

2. Disbelief in a particular religion, especially Christianity.

Origin Late Middle English (in the senses ‘lack of faith’ and ‘disloyalty’): from Old French infidelite or Latin infidelitas, from infidelis not faithful (see infidel).

Infidelitas. Latin. Romans. Gladiators. Cool.

I spent the rest of the day charting the origins of gladiator fighting, first held in 310 BC by the Campanians in celebration of their victory over the Samnites. How the practice changed over time, but almost always followed a military victory. Celebrating death with death. The way Dad would gargle mouthwash before Mom got home. The way he straightened his tie and shooed the women out the door, friends, all of them. Friends, Romans, countrymen.

Shakespeare and his tragedies. The Hubris of Macbeth. Hamlet. Alas, poor Yorick. So much to learn. The orange juice lady back. This time with her clothes on. Coming over more and more often. Dad putting empty whiskey bottles in the neighbor’s trash. Changing and doing laundry quick enough that it’d be done before Mom got home.

Trying to think of knowing everything in the context of an image. Clear. Transparent. A house made of glass giving way to more houses and more glass. The goings on of everyone out and on full display.

Sitting with Mom on days that Dad’s out busy. Asking me if anything was on my mind. Anything at all. Anything your father might have said or done.

“Can I be excused?”

“Why?”

“I don’t feel good.”

“You seemed just fine a minute ago.”

“Please, Mom?”

There must’ve been something desperate on my face, because she actually let me go.

Not even hiding it from me anymore, the orange juice lady out and playing card games on the kitchen table. Solitaire. Early 18th century. From Latin solitarius. See solitary. Showing me how to play, how once you have the Aces you have to pile one card on top of another on top of another till every card is gone. Dad watching me watch her, his eyes glazed and far away.

Mom coming home.

The tears and the apologies and the hands held to hit but dropped at the side. The orange juice lady walking one way then another like a pinball locked between two bumpers. Dad nearly stumbling over, though from the whiskey or situation it isn’t sure. Probably both.

Then it’s watching the cards scatter then fall as Mom grabs the table, one at a time, an avalanche of them, and it’s in seeing a thing that you truly know it. That you can read about it, hear about it, but until you’ve seen it right there in front of you, you know nothing.

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