Saturday, September 10, 2011

chapter sixteen

This is the second longest night of my life.   

After I busted Tyler with another girl, punched him, tossed his computer out the window and had a general meltdown, there was about an hour window when I felt strangely fine.   It was probably shock.  While he was running to cancel the car alarm I’d set off my breaking his sunroof, I swiped his credit card and walked out the door.  Then I checked into the first fancy hotel I saw and bolted the door.  At that time I didn’t appreciate it, but at least I’d gotten to do something, say something to him.  It wasn’t coherent and didn’t even begin to express the hurt, but it was something.

I lay in bed staring at the ceiling in the darkness.  The offending phone is against the far wall, probably broken after I hit it like a line drive.  I swear I hear the seconds tick by slowly on my digital clock.

At first I wanted it to be fake somehow; something from the first time they were together.  I imagine scenarios straight out of Burn Notice: she works at AT&T and got my cell number, she hacked into the DMV computers.  Maybe she figured out where to find my mom, played long lost friend and got it that way.  But the truth was so simple it defied my attempts to lie to myself.

She sent the message from Patrick’s phone.

I’m too embarrassed to cry.  Not the kind of embarrassed I was when Tyler cheated, but a whole new kind of humiliated.  I should have known better.  I did know better, I talked myself into this. I let a known bad boy into my life and now I’m surprised when he fucks it up.

I did this, and now I hate myself.

Of course, I hate him too.  I hate him with the first of a thousand suns.  He holds out for five days, acting like some kind of martyred saint and then fucks a different girl right after our first time?  The same God damned day?  And it had to be that girl.  Looks like he remembered her enough to rub my face in it.

The red haze of violence flares in my body and I flip over quickly, stuff my face in the pillow and scream.  Then the tears come.

I dream that I’m stranded on an iceberg.  It has a flat top and if I stand still in the middle it doesn’t wobble.  But the surface begins to melt beneath my feet and I slip in the puddle, two steps to the right.  The ground tilts violently in that direction, trying to dump me off.  I scramble back to center. It’s like something out of an Indiana Jones movie.  The puddle rises, licking at my ankles as I fight for balance.  This time I slip left, three steps and when the tilt comes I lose the surface entirely.  My face hits the hard slick with a slap as I bomb down the incline and race for the edge.

I wake with a gasp, sit bolt upright.  Instantly I regret it.  My entire body heaves so hard I’m practically thrown from the bed.  Nothing registers but the motion of my legs, the thud of my knees on tile and the ceramic tap of the toilet seat hitting the tank as I throw it open.  

My stomach turns itself inside out.  I vomit until I expect to see blood, then dry heave another ten times.  Tears stream down my face until finally I can let go of the bowl.  It’s then that I realize I don’t know where I am.

The bathroom is blue and white striped, narrow and old.  There’s one toothbrush and a basket of makeup on top of some drawers.  My first thought is Kristen.

Then I remember that I didn’t see her last night.  I went out with the guys: dinner, drinks, lounge...

I’m on my feet, fingers white in a death grip on the sink.  I force myself to swill two handfuls of water because whatever is outside this door will likely make me puke again.

The room is dark and the clock at the bedside says quarter to six.  The heap of my suit is a black on black smudge against the rug.  I’ve still got my shorts on.

In the bed is a white down comforter and one girl’s arm.  Just by the shape I know it isn’t her.  Hair across the pillow is too light and too short.  Even the way she’s laying is wrong.  Fighting for steadiness, I tiptoe around to the side I was on.

Oh fuck.

It’s the girl from the park.  Allison?  The one with the completely forgettable face who I completely forgot.  Well not quite.  How the fuck did I get here?

She’s passed out, breathing evenly.  I retreat toward my pants, find my shirt balled up. My wallet is in one pocket but shit, where is my phone?  I lift the articles of clothing from the floor - hers, I guess - but don’t find it.  It’s not on the desk or dresser.  I cannot turn on the light but I cannot leave without it.  At my side of the bed, I gently lift the covers and try to pretend she’s not naked.  

Her arm is across my pillow.  I tug it down gently, checking underneath, and her hand slips off.  My phone drops from her fingers.  I snatch it up, grab my coat and haul ass.  Instinct leads me out the door, fight or flight, and into the hallway.  I don’t stop moving until I’m on the street.

Taxis are empty, looking for early-morning commuters and airport runs.  Again I’m still lost, so I flag one and give him my address.  He stares straight ahead - probably thinks I’m fleeing the scene of a crime.

Once we’re rolling away from that place, I put my head back and take a deep breath.  My body aches.  My head pounds.  I’ve bought myself an hour’s clarity at most by vomiting up anything left in my system.  But the damage is already done and the pain yet to arrive.


I dry heave again, into the crook of my elbow.

What the fuck happened last night? I yank out my phone, fully intending to wake Seabrook’s ass up and read him the riot act.

My text messages are open.  And at 2:43 AM I sent Kristen one with an attachment.  I click it.

Oh God.

“Pull over!”

Thirty seconds later I’m alone on another random street, holding onto a lamppost while I throw up the last shred of my self-respect.

I wait for morning to come, but don’t know why.  I can’t go to work.  I can’t risk this overcoming me in front of everyone.  They have seen enough of that.  And I can’t bear for them to know that Patrick turned out to be as advertised - a womanizing piece of shit.  Or that I’m another in a long line of girls who fell for it.

It’s six on the dot when my phone rings.  It’s on the floor somewhere; I don’t move except to blink.  Ten seconds later it rings again.  To voicemail.  On the third time, I swing my feet down to the carpet out of sheer curiosity.


My hand clenches like the Fist of Fury, hitting the END button like it knew I wasn’t going to answer.  He calls back immediately.  Hang up.  Thirty seconds later, I have a text.

Patrick: I’m outside.

I stare at the screen like it’s in another language.

Patrick: Please.

I am not a confrontational person, save that single outburst with Tyler.  But I am often possessed by the need to know what happens next, especially if my current situation is painful.  The next one may be better or worse, but at least it will be different.  I have spent the last four hours in this frozen moment of shame and shock.  I want it to be over.

I pull on sweatpants and a hoodie over my sleep shots and tank top.  I do not pick up a weapon.  Instead I made one short phone call, then I go downstairs.

She does not reply to my text.  I’m thinking about sending another when the front door opens and there’s Kristen, looking incredibly sexy even in sweats.  She leans her back against the door, staying as far away as possible.  Even from here I can see she’s been crying.  Her shoulders are hunched up near her ears and she crosses her arms over her chest.  I don’t see a knife.

“Kristen, I’m so sorry.”

She says nothing.  Dusk is lifting but it’s too dark to see her eyes from where I lean against my truck.  I take a step forward and she shifts against the door, trying to back away.

“I got really drunk and I... fuck.  Kristen, I don’t remember.  I don’t remember going home with her or anything.  I passed out - this morning I was still half-dressed.”

Another step, she flinches.

“Babe, nothing happened.”

Her eyes flash - I can see them now, irises black as ink against the whites.  Toews would be proud.  

“That depends on your definition of nothing.”

She hisses the words and they strike me, breaking skin and seeping poison into my veins.  I deserve the pain, I want it.  I want to take it from her, what I’ve caused, and carry it all for what I’ve done.  I close the gap another two strides.

‘We didn’t have sex.”

Her shoulders roll against the door.  “So it’s sex or nothing for you?  If you didn’t do it, nothing happened?  Because something was happening here, Patrick, over the last five days.  Or at least I thought so.”

“It was.  God, it was!  Kristen I am so....”  I am mere feet from her now, looking into her eyes.

“But it was all just to get to the sex, so you could call that nothing too.”

“It wasn’t, not with you.  It was so different with you.”  Somewhere in the distance, a police siren wails.

Kristen moves from the door to the balls of her feet.  For a split second I think she’s coming toward me, closing the gap, but all she does is stand tall and glare.  Jesus she is angry, I feel it pouring off her in waves.  

“Turns out you’re no different at all,” she spits.  “Now leave.  I called the cops, told them I saw a suspicious guy around.  Unless you want to be on TV for this?  I know how much you love the limelight.”

I look over my shoulder like I’d see the squad cars before hearing them.  I cannot be involved with the police in any way.  That would be front page new  I cannot risk it, not even for her.  And she knows.

“Kristen, I....”

But she cuts me off.  “If you’re still within three blocks, I’ll tell them you’re driving drunk.  I bet Coach Q would love a DUI to start the season.”

The siren sounds again, closer.  Too close.  I back toward the car.  She gives me a shoo-ing motion and tilts her head.  With venom dripping from her voice, she speaks again.

“Better hurry.”

The second Patrick is gone, I barrel back into my apartment.  But I’m too slow and only make it to the sink.  Holding my hair back with one hand and the other trembling to keep my face from the metal, I get sick after sick after sick right the kitchen-slash-bedroom-slash-living room of my sad little studio.  The only room I don’t throw up in is the bathroom.  Tears come back, as if puking isn’t enough, and I squeeze my eyes shut as my stomach riots and heaves.  I’m choking on tears and can barely breathe.

Fuck me.

I was still so excited about Patrick.  That heart-racing, first blush new guy feeling, when the person is still surprising and everything is anticipation.  Even when I saw him now, standing dejected on the street in the too-early morning looking like he’d been chewed up and spit out.  My body lit up like a pinball machine to see him - just a day ago, he was reminding every nerve in body how good things could be.  My ovaries had yet to get the message that we hated him now.

I don’t want to move.  I don’t want to do anything.  Maybe it’s a blessing that my living room is three feet from the kitchen.  I rinse the bile from my sink and mouth, drag my feet two steps and collapse onto the rug.

Nearly two hours pass on the clock.  It’s a minute or a month in my mind - I’m almost catatonic, rising only to leave Teresa a message that I’m sick and working from home.  If anyone asks me about Patrick today I might have to kill them.  Same goes for Miranda, Eric, Jane and Tommy - they may have to die for this too.  And then I’d have no friends left.    

Tears pool on my corner of the carpet as I wonder how I got so messed up over a guy in five days.  Two years is an acceptable amount of time to be destroyed by.  But this should be minor, it should be easy to overcome.  Right?

Patrick Kane lasted less time that my period.

Deep down, I had a lot riding on this.  Too much.  Things I used to do all the time - trust, laugh, interact - started to feel normal and even good again.  I made Patrick the thing that was going to save me.  

Still, he could have at least been a good person.

Every time I close my eyes, I see the smug look on that girl’s face.  Told you so, she’s saying.  I feel perversely better knowing she didn’t get any.  Knowing that Patrick passed out before she could seal whatever deal she was making with the devil.  Though it would have served him right if he’d knocked her up and paid for this the rest of his life.

I pull over a few blocks from Kristen’s house to calm down.  People like me cannot have shouting matches on sidewalks.  I couldn’t hold her up against that door and make her believe that I am sorry, I didn’t meant it, I want her.

And she called the cops.  Fuck if I don’t love her for that.

Back at my condo, I force myself to shower off that skanky bitch’s touch and sheets.  I forbid my mind to imagine anything else that may have happened and ban it from ever remembering.  Then I swallow three Extra-Strength Tylenol and climb into my bed, feeling like I went three rounds with Colton Orr.  It takes a long time to stop reliving the same moment - the second Kristen came outside.  That brief flash of hope.  Right then I knew I want only her.  I was aware of the fact before, but this is all new to me.  Like a plate of food being cleared when you’ve only eaten half;  I was counting on the rest of that feeding me for a long time.  Now I’ve scraped it into the trash to rot like everything else.

Liquor and shame are strong sedatives and sleep comes mercifully soon.  There are no dreams - anything I could conjure would be too horrible.  Instead my body holds perfectly still and tries to repair at least the physical parts of this damage.

When I wake it’s nearly lunchtime.  My stomach has settled enough to know it’s more than empty.  Something greasy always helps a hangover.  As I’m brushing my teeth for the third time, my phone rings.  I pounce on it, heart racing, but it’s only Toews.

“Hey Kaner.  You never called me back last night.”

“I, uh....”

“I’m here early, got in today.  Wanna have lunch?”

Jon is going to throttle me when he finds out what I did.  I want him to.  And I really should tell him that the defense will be a little thin after I kill Seabrook and Keith.


But when I get to the restaurant, it’s not just Jon.  Brent and Duncan are laughing and smiling like they have no idea they’re on Death Row.  I whip out a chair and slam myself down into it.

“Hey Kaner, good to...,” Jon tries.

“What the fuck happened last night?” I say through gritted teeth.  They look at each other in surprise.

“What do you mean?  You got wasted and went home with some chick,” Duncan says, like he’s telling me the same thing that happens every night.  Which he sort of is.

“Why’d you let me get so drunk?”

Brent leans forward onto his elbows.  “You usually drink a lot more than that, actually, but last night you were face.  What’s up with that?”
“I haven’t really been drinking this month.”  

“How the fuck am I supposed to know that?” he shrugs.  “You were making up for it.”

Jon is quiet, just staring at me with that creepy bottomless look that raises the hair on my neck.  He could have been a drill sergeant.  Already he knows this has something to do with more than a night of debauchery.

“Who was the girl?” I ask.

Duncan asks.  “She seemed to know you.”  

I bet she did, I say to myself.  “What did she look like?”

“Uh, like she wanted to fuck you?“

“Damn it!” I say, way too loud.  Jon leans forward like he’s going to deck me if I do that again.  

Brent looks confused.  “Kaner, who cares what she looked like?  You obviously don’t remember.  You never cared before as long as she had tits and a mouth.”

I settle low into my chair and tip my head back.  The sun sears into my retinas - plain, good pain.  I need pain.  The blackness of what I did, how it happened that I ruined something so promising and new, is killing me.

“What did you wake up with a beast this morning?  Or the girl and her mom?” Duncan jokes.

“No,” I say.  My voice is hollow and it takes all my strength to look at them.  “I woke up with a girl who wasn’t my girlfriend.”

Three mouths drop open in unions.  I couldn’t have surprised them more if I said I asked for a trade to Detroit.  A prolong silence holds as they visually check with each other to confirm that no one knew.  And that this is completely fucking crazy.

“Girlfriend?” Brent whispers, like it’s a codeword.

“Well, sort of.  Mostly.  Not anymore obviously.”

Jon’s shoulders slump the way they always do when I screw up on an Earth-shattering level.  He still hasn’t said a word.

“Don’t tell her,” Duncan suggests, and not in a mean way.  He means to cover up a mistake, not make a habit of it.  There’s a sad look in his eyes now.

“I... she knows.  The girl sent her a picture of us in bed, I was passed out.”

Jon actually puts his forehead to the table and stays there.

“She knew you,” Duncan repeats.  “I thought it seemed like she knew you.”

“And she met Kris... the girl.  Kristen.  So she knew what name to find in my phone.”

There’s a collective hiss, like they’d just watched someone take a big hit to the boards.

“The girl you banged sent your girlfriend a picture of you, asleep in bed, from your own phone?  Fuck Kaner, you pick up some psycho chicks man.”

The waitress arrives and the guys order.  I get the same thing as Jn because I haven’t opened the menu.  And I won’t taste it anyway.  

“How long were you seeing her?” Seabrook asks.

“It was pretty new.”  I don’t want to tell them how new because it’s crazy.  There’s no call for getting this wrapped up in someone over just five days.  Six if you count our first morning together... which I can’t, because that night I ruined it all.

“So, move on.  Someone else can be pretty new pretty soon...,” he continues, but Jon’s hand comes up between them.  Brent stops talking in mid-sentence.  It’s like the Pope hushing a crowd of faithful.

“The girl from the baseball game? From the zoo and the picture in the paper?”  Jon clarifies.  I nod.  

“You put this girl out in public.  You made sure everyone knows she’s dating you - her friends, her co-workers, everyone.  Then you fuck some slut in a bar and make a complete fool of her?  Wow, Kaner.  That’s a dick move.  Even for you.”

I hang my head.  It hurts more when Jon says it because he always thinks first, he always considers other people and the consequences and makes the right decision.  He got all that and I got none.  Or I thought I had some.  It’s gone now.

“Is she gonna tell?  Kristen?  She gonna be on the radio tomorrow morning crying about how Patrick Kane, Superstar broke her heart?” our captain asks, always looking out for the team.

“No,” I shake my head.  “She’s not like that.  She’s... she’s good.”

The silence keeps time again for a moment as we all consider what I’ve lost.  Without even knowing her, the guys know she was too good for me.  I wish I hadn’t proven them right.  Then Brent, ever the Devil’s advocate and stirrer of shit, asks a new question.

“What about the girl you nailed?  She got a copy of that picture?”


  1. Oh this was heartbreakingly good. You've perfectly captured a girl's reaction. I love that she called the cops on him too--filing away for future (hopefully unneeded) use. Please please please update again soon--this is a terrific story.

  2. Damyam. Puke Kane. Glad his friends (esp Tazer) bitch slapped him. I think Puke Kane has more trouble ahead of him!

    Poor Kristen. She needs a big tub of ice cream and some french fries as a chaser.

    Can't wait for the next chapter!