By Matthew Wallenstein
We were young, R and me. She was always talking about philosophers. I liked to skateboard and get in fights. I liked to walk around at night when I couldn’t sleep, which was most nights. She would stay up, never sleep at night, crash hard sometimes midday. One night we went to the park by her house. It was the third day in a row I hadn’t slept. The cops came but we hid. I brought her home in the morning and went back to the park to draw the squirrels.
She said she was a lesbian when I met her but not long after that we were seeing each other.
I never thought she was beautiful, I never even really thought she was pretty, but she had these moments when she could be pretty, this sort of dead rabbit pretty. There were a lot of attempts at gallantry in those days. I was looking for something to save, she was looking for something to save her. It got me into some bad situations where I did some bad things for her. I didn’t love her, though I tried telling myself I did.
I didn’t like that she cheated on me. I didn’t like a lot of things. But I was misguided, when it came to her and when it came to anything.
We drove over to the other side of the state. My bones hurt, I was tired. I was always tired. R’s ex was pregnant and we were going to check on her. She had a dark blue station wagon. We left it in the lot near the wall with the mural on it and walked across the bridge. I looked down through the metal grate at the water and the boats, the fog floating in dusty clumps. It was raining but not hard, just that coast rain that always seemed to be there. Not far from the bridge there was a house off to the left. I followed her up the steps on the side of it. There was a door on the second floor. She knocked. We waited. There was some bumping and rustling and the door opened. F looked out at us from the apartment. We went inside.
It was dark. There was light coming in from the windows but not much. The apartment was small. R pulled a chair out from the table and sat down, I leaned against the counter, F leaned against the door frame. Everyone always used to say how beautiful she was. That was before all that drink had got to her. She was in her thirties but looked fifty. A hard fifty.
R asked how she was, how she’d been. F was not happy to see her, or me for that matter. She was showing. R asked how far along she was and she told us.
There was a mini fridge sitting in the corner. R opened it absently. There were five or six beers inside. F told us they were for the father of the child when he came around. A few minutes later she told us they were her emergency beers, for when she really needed one. A few minutes later she asked us to go so she could have some and not feel judged.
We walked around town for a little while, went into some stores, tossed rocks into the water, stole some CD’s from the record store, walked the along the brick. We went back and got into the car, pulled out of the spot, and turned onto the street.
“That’s the place I used to work right over there, the restaurant.”
“I used to drink at a bar over there down that way.”
“One down there. Over that way.”
“Weren’t you like 15 or something?”
“Yeah, but it didn’t matter, they knew me because I was always picking up F there, they knew I was dating her.”
“One night I went to pick her up, they called me to come get her, and I went. I tried over and over but she wouldn’t leave. Finally I left, it was raining, like really hard and it was really cold. These guys followed me and I told them to leave me alone but they wouldn’t. And they gang raped me, over down that way. They all beat me up and then raped me. Then M—, F’s ex, he just happened to be walking by there and fought them off. Maybe he was on his way back from trying to get F home from the bar. I don’t know. A few days later I went to the spot and spray painted a circle on the ground and wrote ‘I was raped here’.”
Out the windshield it was dark. There were all those miles of night in front of us and we drove.