Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Chapter 10: What Would Stainer Do?


I have been looking forward to my date with Emily for days. The week seemed to last a month, but it's finally Friday.

Stainer keeps telling me to stop spying on Emily. He says it's "creepy". He says I worry too much about what Emily, and everybody else, thinks. He says I live my life based on what others want, because I'm afraid I'll disappoint them and they'll leave me. He says I am a big baby.

You probably think I'm a coward for letting Stainer talk to me that way. Well, you're wrong if you think that. I don't need Stainer for friendship. I need to learn from him, and as long as he keeps trying to teach me, I'll keep listening.

I was happy to hear that Emily didn't like Stainer's cologne technique. It reminded me that he doesn't know everything after all.

He told me to be late picking up Emily, so I said I'd be there at 6:00, then deliberately did not show up until 6:30. It will be close, but we should make it to the restaurant on time.

I knock, and all the air rushes from my body as Emily answers the door.

She's in dingy sweats, with her hair twisted into a sloppy bun and held in place by a pencil. "What are you doing here?" she asks, glancing at my tie.

"I'm picking you up for our date, Emily! Why aren't you ready?"

"I have a huge project to finish! I left you a message at work!"

"Why didn't you call my cell phone?!"

"It was during office hours! I don't have time to call a thousand different numbers, Eric!"

My phone had been ringing all day. I stopped answering around 3:30, because I wanted to get my work done and leave. So I could get ready for my date.

She's going to see him tonight. She never intended to see me at all. Or maybe she did, but changed her plans as soon as he decided he wanted to see her. The outfit, the story about work, they're all part of an elaborate plan to trick me, a plan she will probably be laughing about with Doug later.

"You could've--"

"Could've what?" she hisses. "I called you at work! You always check your messages! Why didn't you check them before you left? It's common sense!"

I'd be a bit less humiliated if she apologized. Why won't she do it? Why is she so determined to choke every last bit of life out of me? How can she be so hateful?

The anger starts in my stomach, a fiery ball that grows, eating everything in its path until it consumes me.

I walk through the door. My eyes turn to the glass-topped table against the far wall. A chipped, dusty green vase filled with artificial flowers sits upon it.

"Eric, I have a lot of work to do--"

The bouquet was a gift from an ex-boyfriend, Chad, whom she "almost married", according to her. He moved away and left her years ago, but she still smiles wistfully when talking about him. And of course, she refuses to part with that hideous bouquet. It's almost as if she keeps the flowers just to mock me, to remind me that I am nowhere near the kind of man she truly wants.

Maybe Stainer was right when he called her a bitch.

"You don't appreciate me!" I say, finally.

"Eric, you're not listening to me. I told you I had to work! What am I supposed to do--"

I walk forcefully back toward the door, my heavy footsteps shaking the glass on the dining room table. My hand clenches into a fist, and I watch in slow motion as it smashes violently into Chad's vase.

The vase explodes into tiny pieces, and water runs down my hand. But why would she put artificial flowers in water? And why is the water... red?

"Eric! You're bleeding!"

Blood throbs from an open flap of skin between my thumb and index finger. I watch as it coats my palm, dripping from my hand and forming little red dots on the beige carpet.

Suddenly, it becomes clear: I don't have to just sit back and accept it when someone disrespects me. I have the power to do something about it. The vase angered me, and I destroyed it. My mind ticks off a long list of things--and people--who deserve the same, and, though I didn't think it was possible, my rage grows bigger and stronger than before.

No. I couldn't hurt Emily. Could I?

"Eric, you're bleeding all over my carpet!"

I lunge at her, and I am outside my body again, watching myself as I scream at her nose to nose. "You did this, Emily! You see this?" I yell, holding my bloody hand up to her face. "This is your fault! It's your fault!" I barely recognize the sound of my own voice.

"I'm sorry! Eric, I am so sorry!" she sobs, as I turn and storm out the door.

Guess I got my apology after all.

Next... Chapter 11: The Saw Mill Road