“Great idea,” I yelled back. “They can spray you both down for your crotch rot while they’re at it.”
“Real mature,” she sniped, edging toward the door.
“Someone has to be.”
Her green eyes narrowed into feline slits. “I’ll come back in two days, Dex. Noon. I expect you’ll not only be out of the apartment so I don’t have to see your dirty mug, but that it will be clean and all my stuff will be stacked by the door. If not, I really will call somebody about this.”
I didn’t know who she’d call aside from the SPCA, but I wasn’t going to risk it. I glared back at her as a way of conceding. I didn’t want to just do as she said—obviously—and that coal of pride was starting to flame. I’d show both of them.
I started by taking the longest shower of my life, followed by the longest jerk-off session of my life. I thought of Perry’s ample ass the entire time I was beating it, and I’m happy to say I didn’t shed a single tear. Of course, in my fantasy, none of this shit ever happened.
Then came the cleaning of the apartment, which I’m not sure how I handled. No wonder they were so disgusted—I’d seen better living conditions under the Pine I-5 overpass. Finally, I started answering my phone when it rang. I got one hell of a lashing from Rebecca once I told her what had happened between Perry and me.
She wasted no time in giving me that lashing in person.
Rebecca’s hand flew across my face the minute I opened the door. She didn’t even look, she just walked in and smack. It was almost scary, like she had some preternatural slapping ability. Maybe all Brits had that.
“You fucking wanker!” she yelled at me, throwing her purse on the kitchen counter. “You piece of shit, good for nothing, pathetic excuse for a man.”
I stroked my chin and looked her up and down. She looked like some ‘40s femme fatale with her smooth black hair, red lips, and sculpted dress. She seethed like one, too.
“You’re quite attractive when you’re indignant,” I commented.
Smack. Again. Man, she was fast.
My cheek stung as I rubbed at it. I shot her a wary glance and backed away. “Are you done now?”
“No,” she said, folding her arms and tapping her pumps. “No, I’m not done. I’m just getting started. How dare you?”
“I know,” I mumbled and dragged myself over to the couch. Fat Rabbit glared at me as I sat beside him, still mad over the neglect.
She stood where she was, which made things a little less frightening. “You slept with Perry and broke up with her right after. I can’t think of a more…selfish, cowardly thing to do. What’s wrong with you?!”
“Okay, well first of all, we weren’t going out so I didn’t break up with her.”
“Semantics, asshole. Semantics and excuses. You knew how she felt about you.”
I pointed my finger at her, suddenly defensive. “No! No, I did not. She lied to me; she told me she didn’t love me.”
“And you believed her?”
I threw my hands up. “Of course I believed her! She’s my best friend. She was. We trusted each other. I asked her if she loved me, and she said no. To my face. She lied. Why wouldn’t I have believed her?”
She let out a puff of air as her thoughts ran amok. “I don’t know. Because it was so obvious to everyone.”
“Everyone except me! Why would I think she loved me anyway? And why would I assume she lied? When Perry tells me something, I believe her. I hardly think that’s the most jackassery thing I could do.”
She lowered her chin. “She loved you, Dex.”
Another fucking blow to my motherfucking heart. I was surprised it hadn’t been pulverized to dust by now.
“Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t,” I said, not wanting to think about it. “I guess it doesn’t really matter now.”
She walked over to me, heels clicking on the floor, and elegantly sat beside me. I caught a whiff of flowers.
“Dex,” she said softly, placing her delicate hand on my shoulder until I was forced to meet her eyes. “Do you love Perry?”
The thing I could no longer ignore. There was no point in hiding it now.
“Yes,” I told her, looking her straight on, my heart banging in my chest. “I love her, more than anyone should love anything. The kind of love that either fills you up or eats away at you. I love her at my own risk. I love her…dangerously.”
We elapsed into silence for a few loaded moments before she gave my shoulder a squeeze. “I know you do.”
“Then why did you ask?”
“Because I wanted you to say it. It’s not real until you do.”
“Also,” I went on, ignoring her, “if you knew she loved me, and I loved her, why didn’t you say something to us?”
She shook her head, not willing to take the blame. “It wasn’t my part. This isn’t high school. You’re adults. If you’re meant to come together it will be through your actions, not someone else’s.”
“Oh, how philosophical.”
“It’s the truth. And it’s not over yet between you two.”
“Right.” I laughed sharply. “Every email I send, every phone call I make, goes unanswered. She doesn’t even have her voicemail anymore. She probably changed her number. She’s cut me off and cut me off forever.”
“Maybe for now,” she said. “And maybe she needs to. But forever is more fickle than you think.”
Forget fickle, forever was a bitch.
Two days later, just as she’d threatened, Jenn and Bradley returned. For everyone’s sake, I was gone, taking Fat Rabbit to a dive bar down the street that I knew wouldn’t bat an eye at the fact that it was noon, nor the fact that I had a dog with me. I’d been going there every day since I started wearing pants again, so I was good for business.
I smoked cigarette after cigarette (another thing they let me do when it wasn’t too busy) and drank JD after glass of JD. The bartender—a wiry fellow with ugly star tattoos on his neck—kept them coming until it was time for me to return home.
The minute I stepped back in the apartment, woozy on my feet, thanks to my shit eating habits, and wet from Seattle’s relentless December downpours, I was slammed with a sense of finality. Like, fuck—this was real. This was over. This was my life now.
The apartment looked stripped to the bones. Half the art was gone, half the furniture was gone. I was left with the couch, the IKEA chair plus the TV on the ground—she’d taken the coffee table, entertainment unit, even the shitty rug. Who the fuck takes back a rug?
I dropped Fat Rabbit’s leash and stumbled to the bedroom. Thank god the bed was there, though I didn’t see why she’d need the end tables. Of course she wouldn’t need them. Jenn took them out of spite. As if fucking around with dickass the whole time wasn’t enough for her. She got to walk away with the love—or fuck—of her life while I was left with nothing. Rebecca had been thrilled when I told her that Jenn and I finally broke up, but I just couldn’t share that sentiment. Not now. Not when I felt like I’d been robbed of the life I once had. Happy or not, I had made it that way. I had control. Now I had nothing.
I could feel it coming, swarming me from deep inside. That gnawing of your heart, like some little bug was devouring it before moving onto your lungs. You can’t breathe. You can’t do anything but sink as your chest caves in, and the despair, that fucking maddening sadness, eradicates every fiber of your being. I wasn’t Dex Foray. I was just this emotion that was crumbling to the floor, holding onto the doorway like it was the last thread of my humanity.
I don’t know how long I spent on the floor, crying tears that were too common to be embarrassed by, my heart continuously collapsing until I was nothing but that husk again. But when I did come to, I crawled to the kitchen, Fat Rabbit licking my face as if he had the power to make me smile, and grabbed a bottle of vodka out of the cupboard. It wasn’t what I wanted, but at the moment, it was what I needed. I drank half of it before the darkness settled in my bones and there was oblivion and relief.
Unfortunately, you need to keep drinking if you want to stay unconscious. I woke up at about eight at night, Fat Rabbit clawing at the balcony door, wanting to be let out. I wiped my face on my shirt, my breath stinking like stale cigarettes, and got off the floor to let him out. It was colder than a nun’s vagina outside, the low clouds glowing orange from the city lights and promising snow. The last time it snowed was when Perry left. I couldn’t help but see the exquisite pain on her face as she ripped off that anchor bracelet and escaped into the snowy night, to places I was too afraid to go.
“God, I’m fucked,” I said to the dog as he took a leak on the railing. He was judging my parenting skills again, I could tell. Well, let him. At the moment, he was eons more evolved than I was.
Call me a sap, or perhaps a dumb shit who loves torturing himself, but I needed to feel Perry’s presence, to wallow in the way things were, to pretend. I needed it like I needed air, as if I would drown if I couldn’t get it. Since stalking her was out of the question—I wasn’t that guy—the next best thing was to retreat to the den, to the last place where she’d been.
The den was always my office, my sanctuary, the place that belonged to me—my man cave, if you will. It’s funny, I had bought the apartment with my money (well, my mother’s inheritance), and Jenn hadn’t contributed a lick of anything, not even rent. Yet she’d wiped her skanky hands all over the place, as if it belonged more to her. But this room, no, this room had been mine, and for a very brief yet beautiful time, it had been Perry’s too.
I sat on the single bed, breathing in air that no longer carried her scent, picturing Perry in there. First, I imagined her asleep in that little concert tee of hers, the hem exposing her sexy stomach, her breasts rising and falling with each breath, so perfectly contoured and ready for smothering—okay, maybe I was that guy. Then I imagined her rushing in, eyes brimming with tears, while I sat out on the couch, trying to figure out what I was going to do now that I was in love with my best friend, someone that didn’t love me back. I saw her throwing her things in her bag, suffocating from my betrayal, my callousness, my cowardly fears.
I had to catch my breath again. The memory of it all pierced through me and pierced hard. My self-loathing ran as dangerously deep as my love for her. Perhaps the two were connected. I got up and flicked on my computer, setting my iTunes to shuffle. Depeche Mode’s “Mercy In You” played and I pretended it didn’t mean anything.
The video of our time in the mental asylum was still on my computer. After submitting it to Jimmy, I hadn’t talked to him. Rebecca had been acting as mediator, shuffling messages between us. He knew I was alive and partnerless, I knew he wanted to talk. None of it meant anything anymore. I couldn’t give a shit about Experiment in Terror. The experiment failed.
And then my eyes rested on the EVP recorder sitting beside the monitor, the earphones neatly folded underneath it. Perry had been the last person to listen to it.