THE WAY IT SHOULD HAVE GONE
“What an indelible look you’ve got going, you son of a bitch,” Caleb said, drawing out each word as if it might be his last. He was partially right though, I was still clinging to the freshness of a Spring that would never flourish in our grey city, with my intentionally dewy skin and white cotton sheath. As often as Caleb now got drunk, I never discounted his words as if they were any less true. Even though I hated nearly every word that came out of his mouth, I knew he never lied. (That’s probably why I hated his every utterance) I had lived in flophouses and pseudo-crack dens so I was able to tell when someone was speaking an undeniable truth, even if it was provoked by an otherwise foreign substance.
“You’re fucking bitch, you know? I would do anything you asked me to, you selfish fucking bitch. But you, you just want to go out every night, licking the side walk, asking strange men to take you back to their apartments that they share with equally transparent assholes that don’t care about your college experience at some private school in New England.”
I wouldn’t cry before Caleb; he wasn’t a Buddhist alter or a burn victim. I furrowed my brow, unconsciously and deep, and sat down on a stoic wooden chair, my ass perched on its edge. I was ready to escape at any given moment.
“I think I’m sorry,” I said, ruffling my hair like I was tossing a garden salad. Really, I wasn’t sorry, but I thought that some added volume to my roots would increase my chance of making it out of Caleb’s apartment alive, or at least half-conscious. “I should have warned you months ago that I was only, you know, sleeping, sleeping with you or something.”
My vocabulary had been reduced to that of a horny sixth grader and I also noticed that I was stuttering slightly, a habit that Mrs. Habbitz had allegedly done away with when I was eight. I glanced over to my right, noticing a fish enclosure that only housed water turtles. Each of them was using their pathetic fins to try and climb their way up the algae covered glass.
“Yeah, well, I figured. I just don’t know what to say to you Violet,” he said, in a startlingly optimistic tone. I stared down at the floor as he gazed at me with his eyes that had always looked dead to me; eyes that belonged to a mummified ice man.
“Why did you even come over here?”
“I wanted to make sure you were okay. Is that okay?”
The shuffle of my feet on his bubbling linoleum floor.
“No,” I said, not sure where I was going with my argument.
Caleb looked at me, more intrigued than startled.
“No, not whatever. I’m so tired of this bullshit nonchalance. Obviously you really care about me and the fact that we don’t feel, I don’t know, the same, makes you upset. That’s why you left everyone last night and left us all searching the city, looking for any sign of your survival. I know I’ve been terrible to you. I know that I’ve used you. But, that doesn’t mean that you’re allowed to terrify every member of our group of friends. It doesn’t justify this transition you’ve made from a saintly, sane do-gooder to a self-indulgent asshole who’s obsessed with creating as much havoc as he’s endured. It may be fair to me, but it’s not fair to my brother, or any of your other friends. And what about your real family? Why the hell should they have to put up with your newfound addiction to grain alcohol and self-pity when all they’ve done is send you your monthly check so you can afford to live somewhere other than the streets? I won’t try to convince you that you deserve what I’ve done to you, because you don’t. But I will say this; everyone has their heart broken Caleb. Everyone. I know that you like to think you’re different than everyone, that you’re better and somehow less deserving of romantic anguish, but you’re not. Plus, this melodrama is just making you like every other sad, pathetic lovesick guy who whines about the girl he lost, or never had to begin with. And isn’t that your worst fear? To be like everyone else? Please, just stop. I cannot handle this guilt trip jihad you’re on.”
“What the fuck do you know about my life Violet? What do you know? What do you know? WHAT DO YOU KNOW? Just cause you’re pretty doesn’t mean you have psychic powers. It doesn’t mean that you can read my mind. That doesn’t mean you have the right to as-s-s-s-s-s-sume you know what’s going on up here (using his index finger, he pointed to his temple). I love you so, so much. All I ever did was good. I did good Violet. I was honest with you. YOU. I was honest. To you, for you, by you. And you fucked me over. You lied to me. You said you loved me when you were busy fucking every other guy that looked at you. Well I don’t have to stand for that. No sir. No.”
His anger and sadness seemed to be making him even more drunk than he was when I had first arrived.
“Caleb, listen to me. I never promised you fidelity. I never promised you security or some everlasting fairytale tryst, okay? I’m not capable of that and I told you from the very start that I wasn’t. Hell, I told you point blank that I’m practically a con artist when it comes to deceptive abilities. But you want what you can’t have and that’s not my problem.”
“Even after you told me allofthat I loved you because you are ama-z-z-z-zing Violet. Or you were amazing. Now you just look like every other shallow, commitment phobe to me. But with a great ass, at least.”
“Shallow? I’m shallow? You’re the one who would rather opt for relationship with surface appeal than actually connect with the person you’re with, as opposed to the fantasy girl you have on a marble pedestal in your head. That isn’t real life, Caleb. It’s funny because you’re the one always going on and on about reality and accepting life for what it is. Accept this! Accept it, please, so I can go back to being myself and you can go back to laughing at the Friday night stumblers, with their brown bag clarity. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
“Supposed to be, huh? Did you ever think that maybe I’m supposed to be with you, Violet?”
“Exactly my point, Caleb. It’s all about you. Did it ever cross your mind that maybe I’m not supposed to be with you? That your happiness is contingent upon my misery, and always has been? You would honestly rather me be miserable, caged, and suicidal than myself? Because that’s the choice you’re forcing me to make.”
“Oh come on, you weren’t miserable when we were together.”
“Yes, yes I was.”
“But you told me all the time that you were happy, that I made you happy.”
“I’m a LIAR, remember? I’m a soul-stealing liar who has a thing for instant gratification. I liked the way you smiled when I said it. That doesn’t make it anymore true.”
“So you’re saying that every time I kissed you and you said you loved me, you were lying?”
“More or less, yeah.”
“I won’t accept that. I won’t. I fucking won’t. No, that’s not possible. What the fuck is the point, Violet? What’s the point of lying about something like that? I don’t get it. Make me get it. Please. Help. Me.”
“I couldn’t tell you if I tried, Caleb. It’s just something that I’ve always done. I’ve tried since the time I became aware of my own behavior to change it, but I haven’t been able to. Hopefully I’ll find someone I don’t have to lie to in order to be with. But let me tell you, that is not you. It will never be you.”
“Fuck you. Really. Fuck you, Violet. Get out. Get out! Get out! Get out!”
He kicked a piece of cardboard in my direction and swayed momentarily, unsure as to whether he was going to fall or not. I shook my head like a nun who has just found porn hiding in the textbook of one of her pupils.
I left, hoping and praying with all my might that Caleb wouldn’t try to extend some romantic gesture my way, knowing that I’d probably fall victim to his whiskey lips, if only momentarily.
Thankfully, he remained in the place that I left him, looking delusional and buoyant.
I did not say a thing to Caleb for three months.