Friday, August 20, 2010


"Oh, my God, oh, my God. I did it. Finally. I fucking did it!" He could tell by the looks of those around him that he had actually verbalized this, rather than merely thought it.

Jimmy couldn't catch his breath. He gazed over his left shoulder, then his right, then his left again and clumsily boarded the city bus. He had no idea where the coach was headed, nor did he care; he needed some time and space to process what he'd done.

He'd definitely blindsided her. But had he really? For the past six months, they'd fought on at least a daily basis, sometimes for an entire day at a time. The obligatory "I love yous" which concluded every monotonous phone call now sounded as hollow as their ensuing dial tones.

Her neediness had driven him to distraction. How many startling calls had been visited upon him in the middle of the night for reassurance about some sociology midterm? How many times had she dragged him along to Neiman's to spend a perfect Saturday afternoon searching, with her daddy's credit card, for the perfect pashmina? How often had she told Jimmy his stomach was getting a little too big, that he should look more like that guy over there with that confident strut.

"Stop walking on your toes. Stop wearing those t-shirts. Do you think I could be a model? Go back inside and change into a nice polo shirt with that matching salmon sweater draped around your shoulders. I'll help you, honey."

"No more," whispered James Liam Michaels, tracing his finger along a rip in the tan, upholstered bus seat. "You did it. You are the man."

Even little things had driven him to the brink during the final weeks—the flecks of lipstick on her sizable front teeth, that extra splash of "Babe" on her wrists and neck. The worst, however, were her unspoken requirements to incessantly hold hands in public or her need to sit on his lap at football games. One must portray unbridled bliss in all situations where people are watching.

"Did I just say you're the man? You're a spineless idiot...until today, anyway." Jimmy mouthed the words to his reflection in the dirty window.

Originally, Jimmy had pursued her for her seeming perkiness, cute demeanor and attractive butt and legs. His lack of maturity quashed any desire to further peel back the onion of her pathological personality. Mistake made, lesson learned.

He'd awoken this morning with a singular desire, but not the same one as usual. Today would be forever known as November 12—Breakup Day. Jimmy showered, dressed and left his apartment feeling buoyant, not just happy, but Christmas-morning good. On the sidewalk in front of her campus apartment, he'd run into his old fraternity friend, Seth, and interpreted that as a positive omen.

"What's up, Jim?" Seth had no idea.

"I'll tell you what's up, Seth, my man. Today, your boy, Jimmy, is throwing his hat back into the ring. He's punching his dance ticket again. That's right. In a few short moments, I'm breaking up with her."

"Holy shit! Okay, I can see you're on a mission. Call me afterwards. Good luck man." Seth half-hugged, half-slapped Jimmy's back.

"No luck necessary. Dude, as of today, I am master of my own domain."

Jimmy had climbed the stairs to the third floor flat she shared with her roommate, Cheri. He'd always gotten along well with Cheri; he'd even wondered what it would be like to date her. "Hi, Jimmy," Cheri had waved him into the apartment for the ten-thousandth, and maybe last, time. "She should be back from class in about five minutes."

"Cool, thanks." He'd sat in that familiar spot on the right cushion of the love seat, next to the jade plant. Jimmy's endocrine system had begun betraying his attempts at calmness. The ensuing five minutes had felt to him like the hangman was driving around outside, looking for a good parking spot.

Finally, she'd appeared in the doorway, wearing a tan cowl neck sweater, tweed skirt and brown boots, perfect for fall, he was sure. "Hi, Baby," she'd said in her battle-tested sweet voice.

"Hi." As Jimmy stood, his knees had fought back and wanted to sit back down. He'd forced himself into an awkward, upright stance. He'd said nothing.

"What's wrong?"

"I...I want to break up."


"I'm not kidding. I'm sorry. I want to break up." The words had come out high-pitched and weak.

"No!" She'd lunged at him and grabbed both his biceps, her nails piercing the skin. "No! You're lying!"

"How could I be lying?"

"You're lying!"

Jimmy didn't know what to do. No one did, so they'd simply held their positions, including Cheri, who stood next to the refrigerator.

"Look, I'm going to go. Please don't call me for a while." He'd pried her fingers loose and backed away. He'd watched himself, as if from above the room, crying and veering toward the door. He'd bolted out without closing the door, leapt down each flight of stairs and up the sidewalk, zig-zagging as if being tailed. After he'd convinced himself that he wasn't being followed, he had slowed down and walked to a streetside bus shelter and boarded the first bus that approached.

Jimmy had been riding around for an hour now, and had managed to sort a few things out. He'd still need to speak with her about an exchange of apartment keys, as well as confiscate his favorite hooded sweatshirt. Hopefully, the "Babe" would eventually wash out of it.

He decided he was ready to go home—to sit down, maybe have a beer and process this event. As he hiked up to his home north of campus, his overwhelming emotion was that of relief, with speckles of guilt and grief. After his adrenaline-dominated condition slowly subsided, he realized he hadn't relieved himself in hours. He reached the front door and fumbled with his keys, his bladder causing a newfound clumsiness. He tripped through the door and jogged to the bathroom, flipping on the switch to his left.

She hung from the curtain rod. For a noose she had fashioned a paisley tie she had given him last Christmas. Jimmy had always hated that tie, and never could tie it. Apparently, she could. He ran to the kitchen for the scissors and cut her down, her limp body awkwardly tumbling into the tub.

He rolled her onto her back and saw the note. It had been crudely and quickly scrawled with lipstick on a sheet of college ruled paper and safety pinned to her cowl neck. "Hmm, a safety pin? Ironic," thought Jimmy. The note wasn't hard to read. Bold, block letters spelled out, quite succinctly, "THANKS."

"She always did get the last word," he thought.

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