This Is Fiction I Swear: Part 10

Part 10: The Ride


Sometimes I wonder if I could be a sociopath. But maybe the sheer fact that I wonder about it disqualifies me. Or maybe it strengthens my position among the rest, among the best. I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure you’re a sociopath because I caught you lying that one time, and I only caught you because I’m so good at it, too. Sometimes I wish I weren’t, but it’s for your own good! I’m only protecting you!

From me, that is.

You finally stepped back because you knew you’d never be secure here. You finally put up your hands and backed into the dark where I couldn’t see you. I reached and reached but you were gone. I tried to cry out but like in a dream I had no voice. I stood blinking, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the dark, but they haven’t yet. I’m still standing here waiting. I could go forward but I’m not sure how far this tunnel goes and I can’t see a thing. I’m frozen and you’re gone. And I’m starting to pick up habits like dust.

Luckily today the sky is blanketed in gray. The Indian summer has long passed and November is digging in its heels. Rippling clouds with ivory tops and dirty bottoms spread out above me and keep me on the ground. It’s nice, though. It’s nice to have something pressing down on me from up there just so I know I won’t be sucked into some cosmic hole that might open up in the exposed heavens. It could happen.

I’m climbing the stairs to the train platform and pulling my scarf closer to my neck to ward off the sudden cold. Where did this cold come from? Just yesterday we were sweltering in the summer heat. Just yesterday we were standing half-dressed in front of the fan in your apartment. Just yesterday we were in love.

Just kidding. I never loved you. Smoke and fog and clouds are all mixing out the window of this train car as it pulls in and out of stations heading downtown. I’m supposed to go to the 14th floor of some building to interview for a job, for some legal assistant job, but I doubt I’ll make it there. I don’t know why, but I just have that feeling, that feeling like when you know the answer to a question but you ask it anyway.

The man across from me is sitting with his girlfriend. I think she’s his girlfriend, but she’s not looking at him. He’s talking to her, saying things like The worst part is the separation. I missed you so much. He kisses her cheek but she’s still looking out the window behind my head. Her indifference is sharp and I’m glad I’m across the aisle. I want to look away but I can’t. He’s still trying, still talking, still to straining say something that reaches her. Or maybe just something so there’s not silence. Looks like tomorrow it’ll be nothing but the house, the boring old house. But at least I can go to the refrigerator when I want. Haha! It’s things like that you don’t realize. He’s got a large duffle bag next to him and I realize he’s coming from the prison.

How long he was there, I don’t know. What he did, I don’t know. How long she was alone and hating him and yet still here picking him up at the end, I don’t know, but I know she’ll forgive him and it’ll be good—so good!—for a while before he does something else and she’s standing solitary in the cold once again.

They get off at the same stop I do. I rush down the stairs past them so I won’t have to watch anymore. I don’t want to see him try to grab her hand while she shoves it in her pocket. I don’t want to hear him talk about the traffic or the cold or anything while she pretends not to listen. The light is turning red but I run across the street anyways to put some distance between me and them. The legal building I need to go to is two blocks north but I keep walking straight east, straight to the lake. I need to see what the lake looks like today.

Gray and blue and white and spray! I knew it would be excellent. The cool lake air wraps around my face and dots it with water. I breathe in deeply and shut my eyes for a second and detach from everything, from everyone. I knew I wouldn’t make it to the interview.

This is Fiction I Swear: Part 9

Part 9: The Daily Herald

standees sign

A most excellent kind of panic attack. If you’re going to have one, have one like this.

I’m leaving work after the first shift a little after five and the time changed a few weeks ago so night has been slinking in for a good half hour. I exit the building through the back door and see the sky to the west is a million different colors: black, indigo, blue, purple, pink, gold, white. It’s so beautiful it hurts. But it keeps hurting and I wonder if the pain is from something else, like the cold biting at my neck where I forgot to bring a scarf. Like the knowing how close you live but how far apart we are.

I walk on and the pain only gets deeper, only gets sharper, until my breath is coming in short bursts, barely filling half my lungs. Oh god I want to stop or pass out or die or something but its Sunday and the streets are almost empty and I’m sure in the morning my body would be mangled and robbed so I keep walking for five more blocks while the fear seizes me completely—

And then it evaporates.

And then I’m back to drinking too much coffee and buzzing so badly it’s like I did a couple hard lines in the bathroom of Bar Deville. Not that I’ve ever done that. Must make analogies less specific! And one day I will but right now my phone’s going off and I’ve got some place to be. It’s Graham who has agreed to meet me at a café near my apartment to talk about things because he needs a game plan or something.

I don’t like this café, but I don’t like many cafes so it’s nothing personal against this one. Actually this one is better than most because it’s mainly neighborhood people and construction workers getting coffee instead of the usual flannel-clad crowd working on their Mac Books and not tipping the staff because they’re “poor” because they have all these loans from liberal arts school. For christ’s sake.

Graham is already here sitting at a small table against the exposed brick walls. He’s got a drink in front of him and looks up immediately when I walk in but doesn’t wave or anything, just looks at me in that sort-of nervous, sort-of intense way he does. I sit down and he says Hey and slides a newspaper over to me before I can say anything. My breath gets caught in my chest when I see the headline on page 4, the local news page:

Bicycle Collision Leads to Two Arrests in Bridgeview

You must be kidding me. That fucking girl in a beret! I snatch the paper to read the rest of the article which goes like this:

Two Bridgeview residents, Ana Kasic and Michael Devin, both 23, were involved in a bicycle accident late Friday night that turned violent and led to the arrests of both Kasic and Devin. The crash, which took place on 18th Street just west of Racine, appears to have stemmed from some personal, possibly romantic, conflict between the two. It is still unclear how the collision occurred because both parties lay blame on the opposite side. Devin says Kasic pushed him from his bicycle, while Kasic maintains that Devin harassed her while she was riding and caused his own fall. Law enforcement got involved when two officers noticed the pair arguing loudly in the middle of the westbound lane. The argument seems to have turned physical only after the officers arrived on the scene. Devin suffered a bloody nose from the altercation, and Kasic had scrapes from the crash. Both were released from custody within hours and neither side pressed charges.

I look up at Graham who’s staring at me, waiting for me to say something, waiting for me to explain myself. I know he’s fixating on Michael’s name. If it had been anyone else! But it wasn’t. It was you. You and your—

But before I can finish having that thought, the one I’ve had so many times it’s become like a heartbeat, I see my landlord’s truck pull up to the stoplight outside. He’s on his way to my place there’s no question about that and I have the money! I’ve got to give it to him! I tell Graham I will be right back—right back, I promise!—I just have to do one quick thing. I think I said half of this on my way to the door because the next second my feet are pounding against the cement to catch up with the truck.

Things I Am Good At That I Can’t Make A Career Out Of

espresso in paris

1. Leaving the house in exactly the number of minutes it takes me to catch the train

2. Drinking wine

3. Drinking tea

4. Drinking coffee

5. I guess just drinking

6. Avoiding people I don’t like

7. Avoiding people I do like

8. Eating with chopsticks

9. Mornings

10. My birthday

11. The physical part of relationships

12. Being the only non-brown person in an Indian restaurant

13. Walking forever down rural roads

14. Saying F. Scott Fitzgerald is relevant and meaning it

15. Saying “I really like you, too” and not meaning it

16. Thinking I am invincible on my bike

17. Cleaning my kitchen

18. Not answering my phone

19. Cutting my own hair

20. Wanting things

21. Taking things

22. General mischief

23. Change

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