brings me toast and eggs
on a tray along with orange juice
. She kisses me
on my forehead and touches the back of her hand to my stubbly cheek
. I sit up, yawning
, and take a sip of the juice.
She's amazing, you should know. She's twenty-two
and I'm three years older. Brown, silky smooth hair, brown eyes, a pearly white smile and a golden heart, she's perfect And above all that
, she loves me
Two days before:
We're walking on the pier
, hand in hand. I step up on the edge and look over the rail at the water below. Kate comes up behind me, wrapping her arms around my waist. She kisses my neck and I smile. She makes me happy, but I don't love her
. I try so hard to love her, to want to take care of her
like she wants to take care of me. But I don't. I can't
On the other side of the city:
There's a boy sitting in a cafe
. He's reading Faulkner
and nibbling on a chocolate chip cookie
. I'm sure he just came back from a shopping trip to the Book Barn
, where he surely has bought at least two new books.
His name is Joel
and he's fresh out of the state university
. He's got a degree in psychology
but he's choosing to waste it and work every other day at a record store
on 8th Street. He's got a crooked smile and a jaded
outlook on life. He claims he's had his heart broken three different times, but in spite all of that, he loves me
" Kate is screaming at me. Hearing the words she's saying is like reading blurring words on a computer monitor when I haven't slept in days. "Oh my God! Adam! Help me!! Help! Somebody!
"Adam? Adam! Can you hear me?
" I do not know this voice. Discombobulate
d and cold, I surface. I have fallen over the rail and I am floating face down
in murky water
There is a man in a red reflective jacket
grabbing me and pulling me up on the rocks. His mouth closes in on mind and I feel him put his breath into my lungs as his hands push down on my chest
. I cough and search around for Kate.
She stands above me, her hands clutched at her mouth
. I close my eyes and everything fades to black
I take a bite of eggs, over easy
. Kate sits down beside me and lays her head on my chest.
"I was worried about you, Adam. That was one of the most terrifying moments in my life. I thought you were gone
I chuckle, half-hearted. "Well, I'm okay. I just slipped
." I didn't slip, I was subconsciously trying to escape
, but I cannot find the right words to tell her this
. I want to. I want to scream
it, blow it with all the force in my lungs
, but I don't. I can't.
"I know. It was just scary
I cough to the point of tears
and Kate brings
my blanket closer around my neck and shoulders as if I was a child with the flu
and she was my mother
"You should get back to sleep. It's been a long day, the doctor says to prevent you from getting pneumonia
or anything you should sleep as much as possible. I'll make some soup
and wake you up around supper." She kisses my forehead again and I curl up like the insecure child
that she's treating me like. She leaves the room and shortly I hear the TV turn on. I close my eyes and fall asleep to the sound of Wheel of Fortune
I awake and Joel
is sitting on the foot of my bed.
"What are you doing here?"
"Checking up on you. Duh. I heard you had quite a scare today. What's the deal?"
"I don't know, I just...I just shut my eyes to think
and then I just remember being pulled out by the security guard."
"Oh," he says as if he's disappoint
ed in my answer, like he wanted to hear something with more heart to it, more meat, more interesting.
"She said she needed to go to the store, so I convinced her to go while I stayed with you." Joel runs his hand up and down my lower leg, from my foot to my knee, from my knee to my foot.
"This can't be happening."
"This complexity. You. Kate. Me. All of this. The way I feel."
"Adam, you know how I feel, but look, do you love her?"
"No, you're grandma
. Yes, Kate
. Do you love her?
"I don't know. Yes. Well no. My mind says yes but my heart says no
. You're not the right person to be talking to about this."
"Why not? You don't love her, even though you want to. You don't. You just can't admit..."
"No, look, I do. I know what you're thinking, what you want, but, look-- she takes care of me
. And she loves me, cares about me. She does what's right for me."
"And you squirm every time she does.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You feel guilty
y? How do you see that?"
"You love me
. And you know it. Guilty because you know you're leading her on
. Not telling her how you feel. You fell off that pier thinking about me and you know it. You feel trapped by her
, and you can't bring yourself to hurt her by telling her that you love--"
"No! Don't say that."
"Why not? It's true."
"So what if it is?"
"So what if it is? So what if it is
! So, tell her. Adam, you know we both love you, but you don't love both of us
. So you've got this over your head. Don't think I don't see you curl up every time she touches you
. You try not to cringe but every day it gets increasingly harder
. Don't think I don't notice you flinch every time she tells you she loves you
. And don't think I don't know you're caught living a lie every time you lay her down on this bed and do things you wish you were doing with me.
Two months pass:
I'm back at the pier. I step up on the rail edge where I was standing the day I fell. Joel comes up behind me and places his arms around my waist. In the distance, I see Kate. This was always her favorite place, I should have expected her to be here. I have not seen her in a month, but she is still so beautiful
. She is hand in hand
with another man
now. The most she has to say about me is, "At least he was honest
Joel takes care of me and I relax