Goes the old cassette player, its tape perpetually repeating its slow mourning. The man that sits slumped on the couch doesn’t bother stopping it; he’s hardly even hearing it in the first place.
“I was thinking”
Says the man. These are the first few words he’s spoken in days since she went away.
“I was never good enough for you.”
Stop it, says the voice in his head. It sounds so much like her.
“I wasn’t worth having you in the first place.”
Do i hear
“All the while we were together…”
No. Don’t say it, you bastard. Don’t you dare say it!
“I always thought how good, how great it would be…if I didn’t have you.”
You don’t mean that.
“I meant it then. That’s good enough for me.”
But you never left, did you?
“No. I never did. Couldn’t bear the thought of being apart from you for even a day.”
That’s good enough for me, then.
“You don’t mean that. I could have given you more…much more…”
Did I ever ask for more? Did I ever pester you for more than what you could give me?
“No. But I could tell…sometimes, I could tell...”
You’re an idiot.
Do i hear
“I know I am. And I had to lose you to realize that.”
You never left me, you idiot. You never walked away, you never shied away from what I needed. You stood by me. That’s all I ever wanted.
“But…but I kept…thinking…”
Yes. Yes you did. I could tell what was going on in that thick head of yours.
“Of course you knew. You could always read me like an open book.”
You were an interesting read. There was a little twist, a surprise ending to each day.
“There was nothing interesting about me.”
Of course there was. There were unexpected developments, cliffhangers and abrupt chapter endings. You’d always come up with a crisis, a challenge and you’d always keep me on my toes.
“I was a pain in the ass.”
Yes. You were. Your head was full of worry. But your eyes…
“What about my eyes?”
I’d see your face frowning, I’d see you pace around the room and bite your nails, thinking big dumb thoughts like the ones you’re having and I’d worry, every day.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
But then you’d turn around and look at me with those big puppy eyes and I’d melt inside.
Do i hear
He felt better now, relieved. The pain in his heart had subsided, just a little bit. He could breathe now.
“I didn’t cry at the funeral.”
No. You didn’t.
“I couldn’t even shed a tear.”
Big tough bastards like you never can. Though you did cry a bit when Arthur got run over by that car.
“You knew about Arthur?”
You think that I wouldn’t be able to tell that you’d replaced him, did you?
“How could you tell? He was identical!”
I saw the way you looked at me. I saw that you had been crying. You looked heartbroken.
“I didn’t want to see you cry. So I made up the story about taking him to the vet, so I could get him fixed.”
Still, I got pretty damn well along with Arthur 2…
Do i hear
He quit trying to hold back. Leaning onto the coffee table, he started crying, his chest heaving with great big sobs. His fingers clenched the surface of the wooden table. He held on to it till his knuckles turned white, till his hands went numb.
“I could have done more.”
“I…I could have gotten you a better doctor, I could have-”
There wasn’t a thing any doctor could do. I didn’t respond to the treatments, remember?
“No! It’s their goddamn fault! They could have saved you!”
So I could stay sick for another decade?
“So you could stay with me. So I could stay with you.”
There was nothing you could do.
“What am I supposed to do now?”
Get off the damn couch, for starters. The cassette player needs fixing.
Do i hear
He’d got up and pressed the stop button. The room was strangely silent now.
“I don’t even know why we kept it in the first place.”
Cause you kept making me dorky mix tapes so I could pass the time in the car. You were kind of a dweeb.
“Did you ever listen to any of them?”
All the time. Even the ones with the really depressing stuff you like.
“I thought you liked them.”
I only pretended to so I could get in your pants.
“My god. Look at this place. It’s a mess.”
You need to get off your back and start tidying things up.
“Yeah, you’re right.”
You also need to get out, get some air. Call the guys, go meet some girls.
“I don’t want anybody else.”
And I don’t want you sitting here, wasting your damn life away in this house.
“It’s so empty without you.”
Give it time. It’ll fit you right back.
“You think so?”
I know you will, tiger. Now come on, get going. You got your whole life ahead of you.
“Will I ever talk to you again?”
You never were talking to me in the first place. You were just having this conversation in your head. I’m dead, remember?
“How can I forget?”
You best not forget it. And you best not forget me. Now get going, tiger. There’s a whole wide world out there.
“Thanks, kitten. I love you.”
He stood silent for a while, listening only to the sound of his own breathing. In his head, there was the distant drone of mundane thoughts. He looked around and saw her smiling at him from the photo on the fireplace, nestled in his arms, her eyes beaming. He turned around and picked up the phone, carefully dialing a number.
“Barry? Hey man, it’s me. Listen, wanna go out? No, no I…I’m feeling much better, honest. Thanks. I don’t know, how’s eight o’clock? Yeah. Yeah, okay. Cool. Bye, man.”
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