When distracted she has the annoying habit of rapping her fingers against a hard surface and blinking her eyes faster and faster. I sometimes imagine stabbing her in the eyes with a dull fork. She's leaving me in three weeks but until then she needs to sleep on my couch. Toni tells me that she plans to live it up, read a few novels, and carelessly flaunt herself in my apartment. She’s already seeing some other dude; he goes to my school. His name is Marco and he has a goatee and metal in his tongue.
Toni met Marco when I brought him home to study for our upcoming English Lit test. We were being tested on Rimbaud, Pynchon, and DeLillo. Somehow in the cloud of these study sessions, Marcos and Toni formed some cosmic bond that sparked realization in her skull that I was not her true life-partner. At first, they simply giggled after everything the other said. If Marco said something, even if it was not remotely humorous, Toni would laugh like he he was Steve Martin incarnate. Then she began to place her hands on his shoulder when she's talk to him and he would casually reach up and rub her hand with his.
She is sitting on the couch watching HGTV. Someone is giving their patio a total makeover. I approach her and stand in front of the tube.
“You shouldn’t have taken my Tom Jones album,” I said to her.
“That album has my favorite song on it.”
“I don’t have the Tom Jones album. I’ve already looked.”
“The cover has him on his haunches, tight pants, emerald cravat, wild hair. The spotlights are blue and yellow. He is holding a microphone in his right hand.”
“You are a freak, Ed.”
“I really need that album back. I have a presentation in class and I was going to use that song he sings about the cat. Is it in your car? It could be in your trunk in a box,” I said.
“I don’t have the album. I never had the album.”
“I have trouble with your tone.”
“I have trouble with you,” she said.
Toni got up from the couch and grabbed a box of her clothes from the corber. She walked to the door and towards her car, chocked full of boxes, clothes, pots and pans, window cleaner. I do not like arguing in the public domain of my surroundings, preferring to yell and scream confined between familiar walls. Home field advantage, if you will. She finished placing the last item in her car and she breezed past me, bounding angrily up the stairs, slamming my door. I follow sheepishly, looking around to make sure we are not being observed.
Inside, she is looking through drawers, pulling my things out and throwing them on the table. Toni likes the dramatics of it all. I’m sure on the first date she was already looking forward to this day, when she could rummage through odds and ends, separating out what was hers. Finally, she was satisfied with her tear through the apartment and plopped down on the couch. The television was already on and she turned the channel from HGTV to the Food Network. The mood was one of tense regret. Perhaps we should have yelled at each other once and for all, spouting generalizations into the air, retracting our hurtful statements, getting to the last words. We would eventually come to that. For now, though, she wanted to ignore the situation and acquire cooking skills from the television. Thirteen minutes later, she turned to me, and then looked away.
“This is really stupid,” Toni said. “I am really fed up with staying here.”
“You could leave. You don’t have to stay.”
“Where am I supposed to go? Who do I know in this town?”
“I don’t know. You could go and stay with Marco. I’m sure he’d love to have you.”
“Marco lives with is parents.”
“Isn’t he thirty?” I said, scraping the pile of junk on the table back into its designated drawer.
“Whatever makes you feel better,” she said.
“It would make me feel better is if we stopped acting like thirteen year olds and talk this out.”
Toni was almost twenty-five, and she lamented the fact that she was halfway to fifty. She was a part-time fashion model and knowing the shelf-life of those in her field, the older she was placed her that much farther from her career. I told her once that she looked younger than her age. Now she looks like she is fifty, smoking a cigarette and wearing Marcos’ old t-shirt.
But she was never happy with the way she looked, always examining her features in a microscopic way. I’d catch her standing only inches from the mirror, making faces, stretching her skin, plucking and picking. I would walk up behind her, grabbing her by the waist, and tell her how perfect she was. That was part of the boyfriend responsibility. Now, as she sat across the room, her features seemed harsh, her face to angular, her lips to thin, thighs to thick, breasts too small. I wonder what I ever was attracted to. Outside, a car alarm went off letting us know that someone was breaking into a car or that they had accidentally touched it. The rest of the evening we yelled in silence.
- What's New Pussycat?