Sunday, September 23, 2007

Chapter 8: A Double Decaf and a Skin Graft

RedFoxx85: is he back from vacation yet

SugarKookie: no monday hes been gone 2 wks :(

RedFoxx85: is he takin you out when he gets back

SugarKookie: o yeah he and i have unfinished bizness ;-)

RedFoxx85: ??

SugarKookie: told him he had to wait until he got back

RedFoxx85: wait for what??

SugarKookie: O:-)

RedFoxx85: ooo, gonna give him a coming home present eh?

RedFoxx85: ur holding out a long time arent you

SugarKookie: he wanted to do it b4 he left

SugarKookie: says i am driving him crazy ;-)

RedFoxx85: isnt that the point

SugarKookie: exactly :-)

I have been sitting at my desk for two hours, watching the time change in the corner of my computer screen. I can't think about anything else besides Emily, but I'm not going to let myself cry.

Apparently, no amount of optimism, love, or dedication will stop Emily from doing what she wants to do. She is hellbent on destroying our love, on humiliating me in the worst way possible. When she finally goes through with it, it will be an agony that haunts me for the rest of my life, and she laughs with her girlfriend about it like a giddy teenager, complete with emoticons.

It's almost like there are two Emilys: The one who spent a romantic night with me two days ago, and the cock-hungry monster who hedonistically seduces men, treating her long-term boyfriend as a punchline. Sometimes I think about dumping her, but breaking up with the evil Emily would also mean losing the good one, and I can't bear the thought of that.

I wasn't a punchline the other night, when I choked her, was I? It strikes me how nonchalant she was about it afterwards; I kept apologizing, and she kept telling me not to worry about it.

It's strange. Sometimes, when walking behind her, I'll accidentally step on her shoe, and she'll scream at me. This was a hell of a lot worse, and... nothing. Makes you think, doesn't it?

My friend Stainer used to tell me that girls loved being treated like shit. I secretly laughed at him, because he didn't get it. No one liked being treated badly! Holding a door for a lady, saying "please" and "thank you"--these were things that made people feel good. Where could he have gotten such an idea?

But Stainer was with a different girl every time I saw him. A different hot girl. He'd get laid, and the next morning I'd see him on his way to the laundry room, his cum-stained bedsheets wadded into a giant ball. Hence his nickname.

On the one hand, his strategy should have failed miserably. But on the other, women were drawn to him. I never could reconcile the two. I wish I could ask him about it now--


Stainer graduated two years ago and took a job as an EMT in Norwood, a sleepy, cul-de-sac filled town about five miles from here. I'll look him up!

* * *

"Your girlfriend is doing what?" Stainer asks, his face twisted as if smelling a dirty diaper.

I watch as he stirs three sugars into his coffee, then let my eyes wander to the long line of patrons waiting for lattes. I take a deep breath and tell him the whole story. I know he's going to rip into me for being such a loser, but it was a relief to tell someone how I was feeling.

He runs a finger across the rim of his cup as I talk. "You're spying on her with your computer?" he asks, finally.

"She's cheating, bro. Which one's worse?"

"If the bitch is cheating, dump her."

"She's not a bitch, Stainer!" I shout, and the elderly couple at the next table turns to look at me.

"Yeah, she is," he smiles, showing off his angular jaw and sparkling teeth. The girls at school always used to swoon over him.

"I'm not dumping her, dude," I say.

"Why'd you call me, then?" he asks, then searches my face for an answer.

He looks older than I remember him. The waistline of his blue Chinos has creased beneath his sagging belly, and I don't recall quite so many wrinkles across his forehead. But as he fixes his brown Latino eyes on me, his face commands attention and respect. I wonder what it's like to have that kind of control over people.

"I want to... make her sweat me. Isn't that what you do? Treat 'em like crap and make them chase after you?"

"Yeah, but..."

I look at him.

"I don't really do that anymore, Eric," he laughs. "I have a girlfriend now, and--"

"I'm not asking you to do it. I'm asking you to teach me."

"It's not like a home improvement project, Eric. I can't just teach you."

"Try. Please?"

He watches the steam rise off his coffee, then takes a noisy sip. "If you love her so much, then why do you want to treat her like shit?"

I knew this was coming, and I have an answer ready. "If it's between losing her and this, then I'll--"

"You don't want to be alone," he interrupts, smiling and nodding.

Maybe I don't. But what's so bad about wanting to be in a relationship with someone special? Who doesn't want that? Go to any bookstore, and the shelves will be lined with books about romance. How to find a relationship. How to improve a relationship. How to get more sex. How to get better sex. But how many books are there about friendship, or about being alone? Almost none, because those subjects are far less important to people. And what's so horrible about wanting to fix my relationship, about standing by the one I love?

"Do you like being alone?" I ask, careful to maintain eye contact.

"No, I don't. But you'd rather be miserable than alone."

I dislike Stainer's arrogance. He thinks he can figure me out over a cup of coffee, solve me as if I were a grade school crossword puzzle. He isn't even listening to me; he's just spitting out opinions, not considering for a single second that he might be wrong.

He annoyed me when we were in school. I remember now. I am a year older than him, and yet he talked down to me, the way you would to a nephew or grandson. Come to think of it, a lot of people speak to me that way. I'm tired of it.

The anger comes back. I can feel it as it descends on me, filling my body like an evil spirit.

I wonder what would happen if I snatched that bucket-sized cup out of his hand and tossed scalding coffee into his face. Would his skin blister and melt, like cheese on a grilled burger?

Unlike Doug, Stainer is here, right in front of me. I could actually do it this time. He probably doesn't think I'm capable. He isn't afraid of me. Well, maybe it's time for him to be.

Why couldn't I do it? Why couldn't I throw that coffee in his face, right this second? Yes, there would be consequences. But I guarantee you he'd respect me from now on.

"Eric? Eric!"


"You're not pissed at me, are you? You look pretty mad."

Then it hits me. Yes, Stainer is an arrogant son of a bitch. Yes, he annoys me. But evidently, he has something I lack. So does Doug.

I said before that I wanted to learn from Doug, to capture whatever it is that he's using to lure Emily away from me. But I've never met Doug, and probably never will, so Stainer is the next best thing. He's got something I need, so I will try to tolerate him.

I wonder how long I'll be able to.

Next... Chapter 9: Neither Hair nor There