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You convey your disdain by lifting a single finger.
“C’mon, get the hell up.”
Churlish, defiant, you roll onto your stomach. Glass bites at your chest through thin cotton, cuts a dozen tiny slivers into your skin. You breathe, which is a good sign, and inhale the copper scent of blood and posies.
Anthony says your name, twice, and then roughly turns you over with the toe of his shoe. “Ever heard the phrase ‘I told you so’?”
You say, “Alright. Okay. Enough.”
When you think about it, you are a thoughtless wasteful sod. It is Maggie’s wedding day and this, like most things, you felt should’ve been about you, and your feelings, and your depression. There was a scene, of course. Maggie looked beautiful, though you can’t remember if you told her so. Likely not. You remember ‘succubus’, ‘whore’, ‘liar’ and ‘harlot’, but no ‘beautiful’.
You sit up. Not because you really feel up to it, but because you feel stupid, lying there. A man of action, etc.. Anthony helps you to your feet and together you sit on the first steps with the sun digging into the back of your neck.
For posterity: “You’re a bastard, mate.”
“Okay,” you repeat. “Yeah.”
“Did you really mean any of that? Or was it a Suicide-by-Groom kind of deal?” he asks, passing you a kerchief.
“I love her,” you claim.
“But not enough to set the alarm clock.”
You give a vague waving gesture, hoping to convey depth and meaning and hopelessness. You then wonder if it came across properly; Anthony looks unmoved.
“You care enough to crash her wedding, but not enough to show up in time for the actual ceremony.”
You had meant to, right. You’d gotten up and gotten dressed and composed all sorts of poetic genius reasons for Maggie to dump that ape she was with and run off with you instead. But on the way out the door, you’d frozen up. Lost the nerve. (Despite today’s contrary evidence, you are terrified of confrontation. Why argue? No one ever changes their minds, never about anything important. Waste of time, arguing.)
Anyway. Anthony looks like a dumbass, in his tuxedo and hair gel. You tell him so.
He touches his thumb to your flattened leaking nose, causing you to howl.
“You deserve everything you got.”
You say, “I’m aware.”
“Did you accomplish anything? Besides ruining one last thing for Maggie?”
“Sort of.” Your nose won’t stop bleeding. “Not really.”
“You little jerk. You don’t love her.”
You shrug. “No. I guess not.”
You point out, “But I did.”
“Of course you did. She loved you, too. It was sickening. But that was over a year ago. Days and days and days.”
“It takes more than a few days to get over the love of your life.”
“Certainly. Three hundred or so, I’d say.”
You explain, “I don’t know who I am without her.”
“You’re a vain, confused, oversized child with a taste for melodrama.”
“Ah. Yes, thanks.”
“So you’re the same as you’ve always been. Maggie never changed anything. It doesn’t matter who you share an apartment with, in the end you only have to live with yourself.”
“That’s deep. Faggot.”
Anthony glances around the sprawling entryway of the cathedral, a long covered courtyard littered in glass and rose petals and black droplets of blood. You wonder at the symbolism of beginning ‘ever after’ in a rented church. Maggie won’t be getting her deposit back, on account of the broken windows. If you squint a bit you think you can detect the outline of your face in the hole punched through the glass. ‘I object’, you had said, to marriage and babies and moving on.
You feel like an idiot. You’d missed the vows by over an hour but still chose to say your piece. The minister was long gone, but the photographer sufficed. Badly dress and arms swinging you can crashed into the photo shoot. Maggie looked beautiful. You are suddenly sorry.
“Do you feel better now?” Anthony asks.
You say, “Yeah, a little.”
Because you had had no intention of stopping a wedding today. If you could rewind and edit you would probably leave in the screaming and the fist fight. Definitely the profanity. Leave in Maggie’s tears, too. Probably. If we’re being completely honest here (a concept that sets your teeth on edge, a concept inexplicably linked to your fight or flight reflex) you don’t even want her back. If you had that magic wand you wouldn’t use it. If you could do it all again, you would still reject commitment and push her away, still ignore all the signs, still choose inertia over the slim odds of success. You would still forget your anniversary, and still flirt with that waitress, and quit your job. Maggie would still screw your best friend, and walk out on you, and you would still let her.
Because, look: it hurt.
But somewhere, one day out of three hundred or so, that just became part of who you are. Maggie, you realize, became a digit. A percentage point. A part in the sum of the whole. You are a thousand different things, a few of them even good, and your ex-girlfriend? Well. She only owns a piece. A sliver. You bleed from your nose and know you can live without it.
“I am sorry,” you confess. “This was a callous thing to do.”
“You don’t want her back? You don’t love her?”
“Not a bit.”
“Then why’d you show up here?”
You point at the hard ground, which you had recently come to know intimately. “I needed to make a scene, you know? I needed to take something away from her. Call it immature, illegal, whatever. I’m sorry. Things fester. If I hadn’t proclaimed my eternal love for Maggie, I’d probably still care about her.”
“That is a special kind of sick.”
“Well, that’s progress,” you say. “This morning I was still the normal kind of sick.”
“What are you talking about?”
‘I object’, you think, to love and soul mates. To expiration dates. You object to flimsy things like heartfelt talks and measuring up. It’s bullshit anyway. Bad excuses and shades of gray. You are a sullen vindictive man, the villain for today, because you are sick of being the victim. Sick of sleepless nights and empty rooms and guilt to strangle you senseless. You know. The normal kind of sick.
So you say, “Anthony, go away.”
“I’ll always be your friend, Jack,” he (unintentionally) jokes.
“Don’t you have a pregnant wife around somewhere? Get out of here.”
He does, so he goes. He tries to shake your hand; you smile, showing your teeth, and brush him away. Once he’s gone you stretch out against the steps and breathe in dust. (Momentarily – minutes, hours, days and days and days from now – you will stand up and go into the world and wonder when everything became so bright and harsh and fast. And you will finally be over the love of your life. For keeps. Until death do you part.)
The fading sunlight illuminates the ornate hall in halos of orange and pink. It would have photographed beautifully. More beautiful, you think, than even Maggie.
Inert, dazed and bleeding, you begin to move forward.