I crack open the encrusted seal on my dehydrated eyes. Even without my glasses I can tell; I fucked up. The woman on top of me isn’t my wife. She’s my best friend and business partner’s. She sinks down onto my morning wood as I sink into a sea of questions: How did we get here? Why did I let this happen? What was I… oh God. Look at those eyes, those cheekbones, those tits, ah yeah, that’s how we got here.
A part of me is desperate to believe in fate. It’s as close as I can get to an excuse. How can you help it? After you’ve drowned decency in champagne, you’re left with his Xanaxed, gym-rat of a trophy wife, close enough to smell, and she has that look in her eye looking at you. It feeds a famished ego. I always envied my friend. He bought into the advertised dream and it worked for him. I don’t think he realized the pillars holding him up were cracking. His wife; at war with aging and me; busting hump to bring in clients. We were buckling under the weight of the dream.
She grinds him out of my mind. I pull her in close to fill my nose full of her heady scent, but this is morning after sex, not morning sex or the night before. The perfume has worn off and now the smell is a blend of stale sweat and languishing musk. She’s not as wet. I’m not as hard, and even the feelings are faded. It’s like a sequel that’s been left out in the sun. I try to pound the thoughts into nothingness, but they’re like hamsters clamoring onto a squeaky wheel keeping time with the bedsprings that sounds like my wife pleading with me to just talk to her. My wife, her whole life could be summed up in two words: She settled. She settled for me. We settled down. We settled into the routine of her anxiety eating her alive while I worked and drank too much. Same old arguments, same long silences, same quiet sobbing, night after night.
Last night it was all passionate pawing and clumsy kisses. Somehow the wrongness of it all made it even more real. The guilt making our hearts beat harder. You knew you were alive because it was the opposite of perfect. Living as a ne’er-do-well, hand-to-mouth wasn’t always easy, but I was alive; not buried under all of the boring shit that’s ground my life into mindless routines and endless to-dos. It was a world worth destroying or at least it seemed like it when those massive green eyes were looking up at me.
Today, though, the wine is gone, the bed’s a gooey, tangled mess, and the checkout time is crawling up the back of my skull. Outside the door, with the emergency escape plan on it, Armageddon is about to happen. The wreckage is waiting to unfold in waves. Every last fragment of anything decent I had ever managed to do is going to collapse. Even her tight hourglass figure reminds me that this is going to be the first of many endings, all of them bad.
She climbs off and starts snatching up her clothes as if she could undo everything by collecting each piece of evidence. “Why did I do this? You weren’t even that good.” She ends with, “It wasn’t worth it.” As she runs into the bathroom, ribbons of clothing clutched next to her chest streaming around her — the remnants of her dignity. I can hear sobbing through the closed door. Eventually I hear the shower turn on. That’s not going to help. You can’t clean a conscience.
A part of me wants to protest that her words were too harsh, but no, they were perfect. I wallow in the hurt. Savoring the way it adds a bitterness to the proceedings. They were that last hefty shovel full of shit that completely smothers me. Burying me in who I am, who I’ve always been. I don’t know that pigs are happy like this, but there is a sodden comfort to a suffering soul.
Some part of me knows I don’t deserve what I have; my dream job, my best friend, his wife, my wife, they’re all too good for me. I’m just trying to clue them in, melt away all of their good will in the crucible of my glowing personality and show them who they actually befriended.
She emerges from the bathroom almost looking put back together except for the bloodshot, puffy eyes and narrow, reddish, sniffling, freckled nostrils. She flattens out her pencil skirt and grabs my suit jacket from the back of the desk chair. “Do you mind? It’s cold out.” I wave it off as nothing.
She puts it over her shoulders and scoops up her clutch off the desk and turns towards the door. She releases the latch with a click and pauses, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean what I said earlier.”
“Doesn’t matter.” I sit up in the bed and slide my back up against the headboard. “It’s not me you’re really hating on.”
She drops her head and takes a shaky breath. Her head snaps back up, “You might want to update your resume, asshole.” She pushes the door open and steps through. She does a half turn as she’s about to shut it. “And don’t expect a letter of recommendation either.” Her voice cracks at the end. She slams the door. I can hear her stilettos make quick staccato beats down the hall.
I sat there. Caving into the cold silence. Letting the layers of realization pound on my chest. I let all the thoughts I had keep at bay flood in.
She left with my favorite Armani jacket.
I don’t care.
I’ve got my misery back.
Eric Funk lives in California and is currently working on their first novel.