As I walk in the door Frank brushes past me and walks to his wife in the kitchen. I can see Sherry on the sofa in the living room.
I go in and stop and she says, Hi, Michael, in a weak voice.
Hello, I say, my voice cold as the grave.
Frank and Annie piddle around for a minute, then discretely withdraw. I sit on the sofa far enough away that she cant touch me.
Now I wish I hadn’t let myself be bulldogged into coming back here. I don’t really want to see her. I had cursed, grieved for her, and given her up. Yet here I am, ready for more punishment. I almost get up and leave. This is unbearable.
I don’t like you very much right now, I hiss at her between clenched teeth. My voice sounds strange and metallic and horrible. Your father came to see me, I say. He says you want me back. Well, here I am.
She looks at me and says, Did we just have our first fight?
Okay, I think. This is how she wants to play it.
Yeah, right, I say and start laughing bitterly and hysterically. That’s right. That’s right. I owe you a big apology. I let my imagination run wild, couldn’t stop it, said things I shouldn’t have that are best forgotten. Let’s blow it off. Forget it. It never happened.
I collapse against the back of the sofa and lie still. IDK how long it is until she decides I wont bite her and comes over and touches me. I put my arm around her and pull her to me.
She says, Does this mean I’m forgiven?
I laugh quietly. And say, Not my place to forgive. There’s nothing for me to forgive, since you didn’t do anything. I should be asking you to forgive me. But if you need forgiveness I forgive you. IDC anymore. I told you that.
And when I remember what I said right here a few days ago I am ready to cry. I am tired and I am broken.
This is the second time you walked out on me but I’m not mad, I don’t care, I just want you with me.
I sigh. Alright, I say. We’re friends again. Take me upstairs and fuck me.
Let’s do that right now, she says seriously.
Friday, February 15, 2002
In the morning it is chilly but not cold and the chickenshit snow has sublimed into patches of white on the dead winter grass beneath the foul sky. Frank is under a corner of the house, hammering and nailing something.
I say, Hey, Frank!
Yeah? He says. He doesn’t look up.
For making me go back to her.
He stops and looks up at me. There is a nail in his mouth. He takes the nail out and says, Don’t thank me yet. In a few years she’ll be your headache, not mine. I just got tired of her cryin and bitchin and I knew you were over there sulkin and miserable. Wadnt no sense in none of it.
He goes back to hammering. Says, You’re a good guy, Michael. You’re just so hard headed cant nobody tell you nothing.
I guess I’ll see you directly then, I say.
He doesn’t answer.
She is in the driveway with her new car, a BMW. I go over and she kisses me on the mouth.
I stammer, I…I’m…, I stutter, trying to get the words out.
She gently puts her hand over my mouth and says, Forget it. Nothing ever comes out even. Let’s start over. I know you’re not right in the head after all they did to you. It’s not your fault. We’ll be alright.
We’re both fucked, I say.
No, we’re not. We’re alright. Get in. I’ll drive you to your car.
She drives me home and stops in front of the Trans Am. She doesn’t stop the engine.
Go to school, she says. I’ll see you tonight.
I will see her tonight and the next and the next and on and on.
She drives off toward Bush Mountain and I drive out Destiny Road, a sorry penitent seeking absolution in a muscle car. An emotionally mangled orphan grown into a scarecrow of a man heading into a dark and horrible millennium until, like all mortals, I am drowned in the ocean of night.