[FICTION] Nothing to Do
You waited with her mother in her cousin’s apartment in the Old North End of Burlington. There were crusty socks on a shoe mat by the door, and a peach rotting on the dining room table. Both you and Donna had headaches, so only the sizzling bathroom light was on. It was practically midnight and they were at least six hours later than expected, which could be attributed to the airlines, but you couldn’t stop, imagining her lost luggage, or her fainting—she had only eaten Mentos and airport bar wine for the past two days. You missed her, and at the time the thought of kissing her lips seemed like a far away wish.
You both returned to New York City at the end of that month. You had taken a hefty amount of time off to spend time with her, and your families during the holidays. Things had been good then—more or less good—she had said things would be hard before she left, when you had been in the taxi her Paris plane ticket peeking out of her jacket. Over the holidays, she missed Paris all the time—you still see it in her eyes—but she never spoke about it then. She seemed scared of her body, and yours.
The transition from missing her in Paris, and having her here has been hard for you, but you say nothing. You listen. She is stressed about an upcoming promotion—if her Paris work is received well—and mending things with her sister, and the accident that happened in Paris. You are so happy she is back in the country, the state, the town, your arms, but sometimes, when you’re listening all you can think of is running. You are dehydrated—as usual, she reminds you—and the two of you sit down for dinner with her parents, and teen brother. There is butternut squash on one end of the table, and sausage lasagna on the other. Donna and Mark—the parents—are tipsy, and you sit next to Alex sipping on his vitamin water. The conversation is pleasant but unmemorable.
You get home from work, and a cold tea bag sits on the counter. You see her searching for something in the fridge. You know what. You say the wine is in the pantry. She hasn’t said hello. She is stressed. The big promotion you remind yourself. Her absent stare is scary; you are anxious when she is depressed. You tell her your day was fine. There was some shitty boss drama, but fine. She says she needs to shower. You are scared when she showers. Your stomach knots, but microwave artichoke dip can cure that. Anything is better than last year you tell yourself. You were not good for her last year. Toxic it was, and it was your fault. There are no lights on in the dining room, but she sits with a glass of wine and her laptop.
Everything is more or less routine again. You sleep together every night and wake to hectic breakfasts. You talk a little at dinner, and while you watch episodes of “Twin Peaks”.
You haven’t been sleeping well, and you think about last year before things got bad, and you kept her up to hold you in the early mornings. Last year you had torments. You thought about your father and his fists on the kitchen table when you were a boy. You ruminated in those thoughts—marinating in the trauma of it all. Last year you lied. A lot, and you stopped eating. Even now you can remember the taste of your rumbling stomach in your mouth. She took care of you because you refused to. It was bad. You didn’t notice how dark her hazel eyes had become—how slender her wrists. You didn’t notice that you had let your father drink up her too.
You told her last year, that you hadn’t been broke, and that you had taken advantage of her love, generosity, and more than two thousand dollars. She had been lying in bed when you told her, and you felt her body seize up. By the end, tears had oozed onto the pillow, and even in the dark, her skin looked pallid. She left and threw up in the apartment bathroom. When she came back she seemed foreign to you. She whispered to you that it felt like you had scooped out her insides. She wanted to know how long you had been stealing, and why you chose to tell her that night.
You don’t know if she will forgive you. Every day is more or less good. Every relationship has downs, but you love each other. You talk through things—most things—you never fight just talk. But not about the money you stole. She drinks about it. You know she hasn’t forgiven you. By the last drop of the second full glass her eyes look weird, and you are scared she’ll bring it up now. You remember the Pamphlet in your pocket and hurry upstairs to hide it. You don’t know if you have the right to tell her she needs rehab.
She mentions the trip and your hands sweat. You don’t want to talk about it ever again, but that doesn’t feel like your choice. You saw a therapist after you told her. You worked hard on yourself—you still are, and you try not to take on more than you can apologize for. There isn’t really anything you can do now to make this go away. It won’t.
You know you’ve taken too long because when you come back downstairs she has ditched the glass and is taking substantial sips from the bottle. You want to run from here, you’re scared of what she’ll say, you feel sick. There is nothing to do about this. You love her, though, despite her shit.
Téo Chesney is an undergraduate at St. Lawrence University with a double major in creative writing and psychology.
You teetered through LaGuardia with your cousin, Sam; she had offered to pull your hulking black suitcase. Your mouth tasted like stress and sleeplessness but had said you were fine. You were not fine; the corners of your vision had gone foggy, and you smashed your hip off more than one airport bench. It had been months since you had been home, and you were slammed by the winter draft the automatic doors sucked in from the street. Working in Paris had been nearly all you had hoped. That night your mom, and boyfriend had been waiting for you. You couldn’t even imagine sleeping with him.
Being home had been beyond strange; once you forgot where the bowls were, and how to start father’s fancy espresso machine. Your room had smelled different, he smelled different, and only a scum ring remained of your favorite lemon vanilla soap that had always been in your bathroom. He was warm, and He hugged you all the time. Maybe it was too warm… maybe too often. You couldn’t be sure then. Things were good, though. You did want to be with him. You loved him. Nothing had changed for the long term you thought, but the reverse culture shock felt perplexingly similar to last year when things had been bad with Him.
You’ve been thinking about the accident, but only when he isn’t home. You don’t want him to know how loud the rememories of crunching of glass and your own bones is in your head. You’re fine, though. You’re fine. You’ve been through worse; you finish off the merlot and think about last year. You want to know why he did what he did.
You feel a headache and nausea coming with your thoughts. You hear the tinkle of the key missing the keyhole. You realize the lights are still on, and that your face is probably hazy. He walks through the door and you watch his face twist up in a sentimental smile and then he sees whatever emotional residue is left on your face. You grow fearful. You do not want him to know. You grow protective and angry. You wish you were tipsier.
You miss Paris when you wake up on the lumpy futon in the apartment. You miss the coffee shops—as disgusted with the stereotype as you are—and biking to work. Once you cried thinking about Lindsey, the co-worker who you actually had trusted. You told her about what happened last year—in summation—and the men of the past. Lindsey had shared an apartment with you; she guided you home when you stumbled out from the club bathrooms. She drank a lot too. Too much—like you. You think about her in your blue Saturn, before shutting down the rattling engine and walking into work.
It’s just you and him here. There isn’t an entire ocean to hide behind, and you’re not sure how much longer he will stay silent. You’re scared he will ask you the questions you don’t want answer—like if you have forgiven him—you also fear that he will give up.
You miss wine. You like wine; red wine, white wine, pink wine, Italian, Californian, boxed, bottled, cheap, fancy, too sweet, too dry. Wine means not thinking about last year, and there were so many options.
You think about everything even though you’re tipsy—about childhood assault and your first girlfriend who broke up with you. Then you think about him. You thought when it started that it was the truest love, that you would get married, and that you would drink scotch together in a little house on rocky cliffs of Maine. You still want those things, but you think about the money, and how long he took advantage of you. Your mother told you never to have children with someone you don’t trust your life with. The wine isn’t working. You go for another glass or two while he is upstairs.
You talk about the kayaking trip you both went on last year. It was the weekend before the Monday he confessed to stealing the money. Everything had been so fucked up then and you didn’t know it. Well, you did, but you didn’t say anything. You didn’t stop it, and you think that some of this must have been your fault even though your ex-friend Suzy told you otherwise.
You figure you should just finish the bottle, and see if you can distract him with sex. You know he knows now and you don’t want to talk about it anymore. There is nothing to about this, and you love him despite his shit.