My eyes settled on the sunk-in curve of his shoulders, evading the piercing, dull vibrancy of his blue eyes. Those eyes that had bore witness to far too much disrepair and had caused all of it. Every relationship he ever forgot to protect crumbled into meaningless, dejected therapy sessions. Not his own of course.
I spoke. “Rough night?”
He said nothing. The kind of no reaction he gave to those daring enough to sit and bask, apparently just me. Still, if I passed a waiting line of victims on my way out I would not blink. He had a way. His breathing seemed even, more so than my own certainly. I wondered if he felt caged. Mad even? Was he battling a new round of detox today or simply waiting to project the inner turmoil and scrutiny that he used instead of blood to pump his heart. He was stunning, strong, and unpredictable enough that he could turn on you for moving or because you chose not to move.
At this our first meeting in about five years, I chose not to move. Forcing my lips to engage was terrifying enough without compelling my other body parts to participate. We never really spoke to one another before anyway. Not in the way people speak when they feel so completely intoxicated as I once… did.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
He looked up at me like a little boy who had disappointed a most beloved mother? Older sister? It was a look I never wanted. I contemplated what to say, what he would allow me before becoming defensive and withdrawn. I’d never get it right anyway. Sometimes people are not as dumb as they seem; I was one of these people.
“You look like complete hell,” I offered.
“You look nice,” he smiled.
I blushed, shook it out of me and added, “You were more attractive when you were about thirty pounds heavier.” I reached for his hand. Shit, I hadn’t meant to do that.
“No touching,” he smirked.
“I see you’ve found the thirty pounds that I’ve lost then.” He said the words coldly and straight as if I had no reason to take offense.
“Twenty pounds anyway,” I conceded. “I’m about sixteen weeks along.”
“Pregnant? I thought your yoga pants were chosen to highlight your ass.” Still, I don’t think you can blame your barely-there fetus for a weight gain of twenty pounds. What’s he weigh, a quart?”
“I wasn’t trying to. I just wanted you to know.”
“To know you are pregnant? So?”
“Listen, don’t work out too much in here, at least not weights. You are too hard on yourself and you are much too thin. People aren’t supposed to be triangular-shaped.”
“Seeing as how I’ve been in here for only three days, I’m pretty sure my punishment is yet to come and somehow I don’t think the jury will sentence me to a series of lifting weights.”
“Well, that’s because there is nothing left of you. If you’d have left that door open, came in here a good three-hundred pounds maybe they’d have seen weight-loss to be your struggle, but now… Well that option doesn’t exist.”
He looked through me pretending to be unimpressed and annoyed at my bantering on. His crooked grin was welcoming and debilitating all at once. It caused me to shift awkwardly in my metal chair.
“Is the baby mine?”
“How in the hell could it be yours? It’s been five years.”
“Four. Four years, three months. Excuse me I mean, Four years, twelve weeks, of course.”
I was becoming more annoyed at his indifference.
“So then obviously it is not yours.”
“Well you never know. Why are you here?” He threw the words at me. I did my best to avoid the direct hit this time.
“Had the day off. Never been to prison.”
“Neither has your baby, I presume.” His intense stare penetrated my outside layers and I crossed my arms around my waist. “Who is the father? Are you with him?”
“Are you okay?” I asked, redirecting the focus back to the attempted murder charge at hand.
“Great, what the hell does that mean?
“Last time we saw each other, I told you I’d never make it past twenty-five. Here I am, surpassing goals. A credit to society you might say.”
“You’ve always had such high expectations for yourself.”
“Well, I’ve always had expectations of getting high, so that’s close. That’s almost the same,” he beamed.
“Are you really going to play this out with arrogance. I don’t think the men will find you as charming.”
“You find me charming?”
I was quicker this time, “I think you think you are charming. That’s almost the same, right?”
“No, you definitely think I’m charming.”
“No one is going to think guns are charming though, and you’re a fucking idiot. What are you going to do?”
“Hang. Would be my guess.” He shrugged. “I could try sleeping with a guard. There’s one female. She’s pretty terrible looking. I think I have a shot.”
“What really scares me is that now because you’ve said that option out loud, I think you’ll actually consider it. Could you stop and use your brain. Do you have a lawyer?”
“For court for crying out loud.”
“Do you have a plan of defense?”
“They caught me over the body with a gun in my hand. Get working on my script. Let me know what you come up with. Why are you coming around anyway? It’s been years. What the hell, Chelsea.”
“I couldn’t let you do this alone.”
“You think I’m innocent? Come to save me?”
“No. Are you innocent?”
He looked right in my eyes and uttered, “Guy was a dick.”
“Okay, well… Did you speak to the cops when they arrested you?”
I pulled out my pen hoping to jot down some sort of defense.
“I don’t talk to cops. Go home. I’m fine.”
“You’ve never been fine. You push me away any time I get close to seeing the real mess you’ve gotten yourself into. I may have been lucky enough to not know the details but I know what a mess you are,” I stammered.
“Then go.” He whispered it, but it didn’t feel soft.
I shot back, “Did you ever love me?”
“What is this shit? I’m trapped so you thought you’d force a confession from the heart. You come in here pregnant, had time to put on lipstick, to think about what to say after four years and ambush me with all your crap? I don’t need this. Guard?”
“Ok. I’ll go. Do you need anything before I leave.”
“I bet you are.”
“The guy you shot, did he… Has there been any update?”
“Still breathing, but just barely.”
“Why did you shoot him?”
“Because he didn’t deserve to be not shot.”
“I told you you should have never bought that gun.”
“Actually I remember it more as an ultimatum. What was the wording? If you buy a gun, you’ll never see me again.
“And yet here you are. Gun bought, loaded, and used. Just like you I see—bought, loaded and used.” He gestured to my stomach again. “Funny. I never saw you as the pathetic, beat me but don’t leave me type.”
“I know what you are doing.”
“Well what am I doing?”
“Trying to chase me off because you don’t think you deserve me on your side. You are very right about that. You don’t deserve me. You can take your judgment though and you can shove it. I’m done. Guard?”
The guard began to walk towards us and I nodded in his direction to signify that I was really ready this time.
As I turned he kissed me. It felt desperate and I understood. Between his cupped hands dangled silver cuffs.
“He’s a lucky guy. I’m sorry.”
“No touching. Break it up. That’s enough.”
“Can you get me a lawyer?” he called as I was escorted to the door.
“I’ll see what I can do. Any preference?”
“Jude Law,” he bellowed. “And a cig?” he yelled.
“I’ll see you soon,” he added. Not cocky this time, but instead more pleading. A little boy realizing he’d made a mistake—that guns are not toys and bullets are not batteries.
Every psychology course at Union State I implored myself to take in the duty of advancing my understanding of myself told me that when I walked out that door I was not to walk back in. So, I did something quite unheard of. I listened.
My parting gifts for him, a lawyer and a poem. For myself, motherhood, priorities… life.
Embellished lies on broken words of glass, you cut through me
Through naïve and youthful days you and your words just slipped away
You left me. But our pain will not be my story. And I’m sorry.