Green park bench. Elbows on my knees. Kat next to me.
I tell her I can't do this anymore.
It's really hard to look at her.
I tell her I don't know what I am. It used to be so easy--wake up, go to work, drudge, go home, have dinner, sleep, repeat. Over and over. It used to be my life would end somewhere in the middle of that cycle. I'd be going from one step to another and my heart would stop. Simple as that. And if the family was lucky it would happen during the "druge" step and not between dinner and bed. I'd be Robert Young. I'd be Ozzie Nelson. I'd be Desi Arnaz. Life would end in the middle of a sitcom episode.
The screen blares: Technical Difficulty--We'll be right back. But when you come back, nothing is the same. Cover the kids' eyes because on your television screen is Cristy Canyon and John Holmes screwing to elevator music.
"I always thought it would be different. When I was young I thought I'd be a musician by now. I thought I'd be a novelist. Maybe you have those dreams to keep you going. If when I was seven they'd told me I'd become this, I'm not sure I would have wanted to keep living."
I have to wear sunglasses indoors now. Almost all the time.
Kat says, "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean for it to be this way."
Well it is this way. Sorry doesn't make it change. Now I know the reason H.G. Wells invented the time machine was to go back and undo his mistakes.
"What the hell was I thinking?" I say, not thinking of her feelings. It makes her cry. My not wanting to see her for the past month makes her cry. My hating myself for sleeping with her makes her cry. My glassy eyes make her cry. Charlene, Kat, my kids, me. We're all crying now. "Why is it so disproportionately hard to make people happy compared to making them miserable? Who came up with that scheme?"
"Did you tell Charlene?"
"I didn't have to," I say, somewhere between bitterness and anger. "She figured it out. She called me on it and I couldn't lie. What an idiot. That's even a bigger mistake than doing it in the first place. Mistake piles on mistake and soon you can't trust the ground to hold you up anymore. I should have lied, Kat. I thought honesty would make things better--cleanse my soul of this perpetual guilt. How fucking selfish. I should have kept my guilt to myself and let it eat me alive instead of spreading it around like an incurable virus. So what if guilt killed me? I can't bear the pain I caused her."
"And it would have been better to live a lie?"
"There is no living," I say. The words crack in the air like the speeding tip of a bullwhip. "It wouldn't have been living a lie because this is over. It's not happening again and I could have sheltered her from my outrageous stupidity. That's what an honorable man would have done. Now I don't even have that."
Kat wipes a ragged paper tissue against her reddened nose and wipes the tears from her cheeks.
She deserves to cry. She should feel like I feel. Maybe between the two of us we can do something right for a change. Stop seeing each other forever. Go on with life with this big pothole in our pasts and try to keep everything we love from falling into it.
"Did you tell Jarret?" I ask, figuring she didn't. Kat's sexual past reads like a slightly abridged version of The Hite Report. Surely her having slept with a married man six weeks before her alleged wedding wouldn't change anything.
Now her tears become sobbing, her voice something between a whine and a moan, an animal with its leg caught in a trap.
She manages to say, "He left me," and the shard of red I call my heart drops through my feet. I'm seeing my own fate. Surely I would have to lose my family over this. God knows what Jarret would do, to whom he'd advertise his adulterous fiancee. It would riccochet onto Charlene.
"Well, I suppose..." I start to say, ready to pass my judgement onto her. I'd already judged myself. Why not everyone?
"Two months ago," she says.
First I'm confused. Then I'm angry. This was planned.
But you didn't have to fall for it: asshole, I say to myself. It's not her fault, she just led you to the cliff. You were the jerk lemming who jumped.
I can't think of what to say when she keeps going, "The NASA thing," she says, "I'm sorry, Will. Oh God, I'm so sorry."
What? What is she saying? Her words are a barrage of non sequiturs. I can't thread any logic between them.
For the entirety of my life I'd felt the stupidest way to die was by being hit by a train. A train can only be in one place--on the track. To be hit by a train you have to be in the one thread of a place it can be, exactly when it wants to be there. Life's easiest task is to avoid being hit by trains.
Why the hell am I still standing on the tracks?
"He...um..." she says, swallowing, holding down her crying so she can speak. "That night at Vahl's, when we were there...there was this medical NASA made me do to qualify. It wasn't fair to say. I couldn't tell you...I'm..."
Oh shit, had she given me something? Some kind of disease?
When Kat tells me what happened to her, Jarret's reaction, and what she was doing to me, I wish for my heart to stop. I wish to not be a part of this great world and this sunny life anymore. I know I don't belong here. My birth was a terrible mistake.
Because everything is meaningless and whatever I do will lead to ruin I put my arm around her shoulders and pull her toward me.
Now she's crying so hard people are watching and I'm trying to hug the pain out of her. There's not enough warmth in me to help. She may as well be in the embrace of a corpse.
I don't realize I'm crying until I try to speak and it's too hard.
"Maybe it's not that bad..."
How could I not have noticed the thin spots? How could I not have noticed how much weight she's lost? How could I be so self absorbed I didn't see it happening?
I am helpless. Worthless. Nothing I have ever done in life, nothing I could hope to do could atone for this.
"I just wanted you to love me," she says as if fighting her way through a storm.
It's a sunny day in the park. White clouds waft overhead like swans on a glass-smooth pond. Children flip bright plastic frisbees. Joggers sweat. The grass is cool and green.
Overhead are a billion stars we can't see through the azure sky, hydrogen burning in nuclear fusion. Four protons to helium and light. The forces of physics without regard. We are all made from stars. Maybe that's why we know hell is so hot. We're all from there.
Nothing I know will save us.
I tell her I do love her. I tell her I wish it was me. I tell her I want to take it away. I feel like we're a million miles away in the darkness of space, the only warmth and light forever.
I'm talking to the air around us, into her flesh which is still warm, into her heart which is with me now, "God, if you exist, make this go away. You can have anything. I'll give you anything."
Hate comes into my life which has never known it.
I have no love for a world that kills my Kat.
the next episode is Where deeper is
the last episode is How vampires feel