Thursday, August 30, 2007

Chapter 1: A Revelation

Bismarck, North Dakota

An online novel by Steve Caruso


For my wife-to-be--thanks for letting me steal the covers.

Chapter 1: A Revelation

RedFoxx85: r u gonna see him again?

I stare unmovingly at the screen. If I sit here long enough, maybe I'll get an explanation.

I'm not stupid. If someone is asking my girlfriend if she's going to see some dude again, it probably means she is cheating. When's the last time you asked a girl that about her boyfriend? "Oh, you've been dating him for three years? Are you gonna see him again?" Duh.

I have no idea who the guy is. I'm not even sure who's asking, though it's probably her best friend, Renee. She's a redhead, which would explain the screenname.

I'm going to have to figure this out for myself, too, since Emily doesn't know I'm watching. I'm at home, connected remotely to her computer. She was having PC problems a few days ago, and I decided to make the repairs from home. I don't sleep at her place very often; she says we're not married yet, so we shouldn't act like it. "I want it to mean something if we commit to each other long-term," she tells me. Why does that line suddenly stink like a week-old pile of dirty laundry?

To answer your next question, yes, I did tell her that I was going to access her computer from my house. She was concerned that, if I could connect to her machine over the internet, then others could too, but I explained that it was safe. As soon as I mentioned the phrase "IP address", she tuned me out, though. Clearly, Emily does not understand that I can actually see what's on her monitor, just as if I am standing behind her. And I'm sure as hell not telling her now.

The IM window is framed in white and pastel pink, like a little girl's Easter dress. Somehow, it has the same delicate charm and childlike innocence that she does.

Emily loves me. She tells me that all the time. There must be some mistake.

There must be.

The screensaver kicks in. It's getting late. Emily must have gone to bed.

* * *

"Did you think I wouldn't find out?" I ask the bathroom mirror, practicing mean looks. But I don't know why I'm bothering. I'll never actually confront her.

I've gotten angry with Emily a few times, and it always unfolds the same way. I yell at her, she yells back louder, and then I feel like an asshole. My mind has a funny way of twisting every disagreement around to make it my fault.

Fighting doesn't accomplish anything, anyway. Why do people scream at each other? Has anyone ever made a good point while shouting? No, the real progress comes when everyone takes a deep breath and talks rationally. Anger won't let that happen.

A guy named Todd Shepard occupied the locker next to mine in high school gym class. He had an almost intellectual curiosity about torturing me, watching my face like an inquisitive infant as he blew his nose on my t-shirt or dumped the contents of my bookbag out on the dirty floor.

At first, I didn't feel I was in physical danger. Sometimes, after sweating it up for 45 minutes on the basketball court, he'd shove my face under his flabby triceps and hold it there until I'd had a healthy whiff of his armpit. Or, I'd lift a leg to put my underwear on, and he'd kick me to the floor. Embarrassing? Yes. But I wasn't going to die from it.

But one day, Todd wrapped his pudgy fingers around my throat and squeezed until I felt my knees give out beneath me and the room went dark. "He's turning purple," he whispered to himself.

I almost told my dad about it a couple of times, but I was afraid he'd think I was a weakling. So I told the gym teacher instead, and he was no help. "You're not going anywhere in life if you need me to solve your problems for you," he said, barely looking up from his newspaper. "You better handle it yourself." So I did.

If I didn't want to get abused anymore, I would have to be dressed and out of the locker room before he got there. So I turned myself into a one-man Indy 500 pit crew.
I wore baggy sweats and t-shirts that I could slip into easily, and hung them in my locker on hangers, facing the right way, ready to be put on immediately. I neatly placed my shoes side by side on the floor of the locker, with the laces loosened, so I could step into them without using my hands. I was a dissheveled mess as I sprinted to my next class, but Todd never bothered me again.

My story will never be turned into an installment of the "Karate Kid" franchise, but I found a way to solve a problem without fighting. I've always been good at that.

Next...Chapter 2: "Kiss kiss" My Ass