IT WAS like it was happening in slow motion as the overloaded grocery bag I was carrying ripped and small oranges of fury made a mad dash for escape. I sighed. Of course the bag would choose now to rip after I walked up the flight of stairs to my second-floor apartment. Just the perfect crap topper to an already crap-tastic day.
Sighing again, I set down the other bags and slowly started to collect my runaway fruit. It seemed that everything was either slightly off kilter or going completely wrong today. First there was my ’98 Honda—I left the overhead light on all night and had a dead battery come morning. Luckily, I live in the apartment right above the little second-hand bookstore I own, In the Margins, so I wasn’t too late to open it. Later I realized that a donation of books I had received two weeks ago was ninety percent water damaged and couldn’t be sold. After work, I went to the grocery store, where the bag boy was too busy drooling over the cute cashier girl to notice that he was crushing my eggs under the two jars of jam I bought. And now the ripped bag and lost oranges. What else could go wrong?
As if on cue I could hear the phone start to ring inside my apartment.
“Crap!” I grabbed what I could, fought with my keys to get the door open, tossed the groceries on the kitchen table—studiously ignoring the loose oranges falling off—and managed to grab the phone on the final ring.
“Hello?” I gasped. There was the sound of something shuffling on the other end and then a sigh.
“Mark,” I replied, both smiling and grimacing. After six months of dating I could recognize his voice pretty easily. But still, after all that time, he continued to call me “Monty,” not Montgomery, which was my whole name, or Gom, like everyone else. No, it was “Monty,” which always made me feel like a seventies porn star. “Hey babe, what’s up? Are we still going out tonight?” I asked. Again, Mark sighed, and I got a sinking feeling in my stomach.
“Listen, Monty, we need to talk.”
“This isn’t working out; I think we need to see other—”
“Wait!” I interrupted, almost in disbelief. “You’re breaking up with me? Over the phone? What are we, in high school?”
“You couldn’t even come over to do this in person?” I was starting to get pissed. It had been a long day, and this just added to my frustration. And I’ll be the first to admit that when I get pissed I get a bit snippy.
“Gee, Mark, why didn’t you just have your friend Jay call; that way we can be really juvenile.” There was dead silence on the other line and then a slight cough in the background. “Oh my God, he’s there, isn’t he? Am I on speaker?”
“Listen, Monty, let’s not get nasty. We both knew this was coming,” Mark said, in his annoyingly placating manner.
“No, we didn’t. I didn’t. I mean, Jesus, Mark, we just had sex on Wednesday! It’s only Friday! How do you change your mind after fucking me all night not even two nights ago?” A horrible thought dawned on me. “Is there someone else?”
“No, Monty, that’s not it. It’s, damn it, I didn’t want to tell you this, but you’re just too damned needy!” Mark growled.
It took a moment to comprehend what he was saying, and when I did, something inside me seemed to crumble. “Oh.”
Again Mark sighed, but when he spoke his voice was still gruff. “You’re always touching and wanting kisses and wanting to talk, and damn, I mean, if I wanted a woman, I would be dating one.” I sucked in a sharp breath and tried to stop the tears that were burning my eyes.
“Sometimes a guy just wants to fuck, not make love. You’re looking for a partner, someone to spend your life with. I’m not. Don’t get me wrong. You’re a great lay, but not what I want right now.”
You’re not what I want…. it seemed to play over and over in my head, the vicious words stuck on repeat until they were all I could hear. Mark continued to speak, but I couldn’t listen any more. I felt sick to my stomach. Instead of replying I just hung up the phone.
Sinking to the kitchen floor, I pulled my knees to my chest and tried to stop the stem of tears flowing down my cheeks.
It was always the same, wasn’t it? It seemed like I was always unwanted, by the men I dated, by my mother and her new marriage. Hell. Everyone. I was like the gum stuck to the bottom of someone’s shoe, as soon as I showed up I was scraped off and thrown away.
It had been that way for as long as I could remember. First my mother, who was constantly pawning me off on some poor family member who had better things to do than watch one little boy. Then later my boyfriends, each one coming up with some excuse to dump me. Starting with Luke.
You’re not what I want….
No! I wouldn’t think about him. I wouldn’t think about the first man I gave my heart to, only to have it ripped up and thrown back in my face. That was a long time ago, back when I was young and naïve, back when I believed in true love and happily ever after. I used to believe in that old saying about if you love someone, let them go; if they return to you, it was meant to be; if they don’t, their love was never yours to begin with. But I was sure my love would return. He just needed time to figure things out, to see if his love for me could equal mine for him. I learned, though, didn’t I? I wasn’t seventeen anymore. A decade had passed, he never came back, and I was wiser and smarter than I was then.
Sitting on my kitchen floor in tears, though, could make that highly debatable.