Sunday, September 17, 2006

"No, I also want my mix tapes back!"

Sunday, March 21, 1993, 8:45am
Steve and Paulie's apartment

The phone rings.

"I thought you were calling me after your gig last night," Renee says.

I had anticipated the question and was ready for it. "It got late," I reply immediately. The lie was efforless, natural.

"Yeah right," she chuckles. She's just teasing, but doesn't realize how right she is. "I'm sure you and Dennis hooked up."

"No, we're not gay, thank you."

She laughs out loud, and it strikes me how the flawless the tactic is: I have now used it twice in less than 12 hours! I made a joke, and it's almost as if she forgot all about what her concern was.

"Did you get any phone numbers?" So much for laughing it off.

Nope, no phone numbers. Fucked a gorgeous 20-year-old though. But the phone number count was a big zero.

"I was there for work, Renee."

"I know."


Friday, April 23, 1993, 7:30pm
Renee's apartment

"What's wrong?" I ask. "You've been acting strange all night."

"I've been--"

"You've been what?"

"I've been thinking."

"About what?"

She sits up straight in her chair and exhales heavily. I look at her; she avoids eye contact, and I know right away she's dumping me.

"Steve, you've been so sweet to me--"

"Say it, Renee."

"It's just that, and this isn't about you at all..."

I sit silently, careful not to avert my eyes. I'm not trying to make this easy for her; if she's going to break up with me, she's going to have to work for it.

"The plan has always been that I'm gonna marry a Jew, Steve, and you aren't a Jew. We're graduating in a week, and I'm moving back home, so--"

I keep staring, emotionless. I could throw in an "I understand" or a "This is totally unexpected", but I don't want to help her. I want to hear what is truly on her mind.

"Why, I mean, um, why, like, prolong it?"

"Why prolong it?" I retort. "Is it a disease, Renee?"

"Steve, you know I didn't mean it like that."

"You're a coward, Renee."

"How am I a coward?"

"You're not a Jew. Not a true one, anyway. When's the last time you've been to temple?"

"Totally irrelevant," she spits, but her cheeks have flushed and she's breathing just a bit heavier then usual.

"Never mind what your parents want. Never mind what your bubbe and zade want. What do you want?"

"I just told you," she says, with a stiff jaw, and I almost believe her. Almost.

"I think you don't give a shit about religion. I think you want to find someone you love and get married, and I think religion is the farthest thing from your mind."


"I don't think you care whether or not your kids are running around with little yarmulkes on their heads. I bet you think keeping kosher is the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard of. I bet you think it's stupid. I bet you think all religion is stupid. Don't you?"

She stares at me, so still that she might as well be a cardboard cutout.

"I'm gonna meet someone else, Renee, and one day I'll get married, and I'll be really, truly happy. And you know what? I won't give a FUCK if she's Jewish or not. I feel sorry for you. I actually feel sorry."

"Is that all, Steve?"

We had been together for months, most of them really happy. When I looked back, all I could remember was laughter and passion. I could have forgiven her, but as far as I was concerned, she didn't deserve it. She had the freedom to make whatever choice she wanted to, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. But I sure as shit was not going to reward her selfish stupidity with a hug and a warm goodbye. Fuck her.

Without another word, I turned my back and walked out of her life forever.