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Jul/Aug 2014 Fiction

Monsters Aren't Polite

by Ali Al Saeed

Image credit: Darryl Leja, NHGRI, Digital Media Database, www.genome.gov

Image credit: Darryl Leja, NHGRI, Digital Media Database, www.genome.gov


She looks at me with those pleading eyes. I am driving, so I keep my eyes fixated ahead as we shoot past the Seef flyover we've crossed a thousand times before.

I don't know where I'm heading, but I know how this will play out.

She says, "You don't have anything to say to that?"

I had stopped listening at some point. Something was said about love and marriage and life and family and the many years we'd been together.

She looks at me and waits for an answer. I stay silent and keep on driving. My mind is struggling to come up with a coherent response, and all I want right now is for us to shut up and have sex in the back of the car.

"Say something!" she snaps, now her voice quivering.

What I should've done is reach out my hand across and hold hers.

Instead, I shrug.

She asks, "Do you love me?"

I hesitate. Do I?

What I should say: Yes, I love you. But I love you in the same sense that I love a puppy. I love you enough to care about your well being, but not to the point I'm going to bother giving you a proper answer. I love you enough to not fucking drive off this stupid flyover just so this conversation ends, something I have seriously considered on numerous occasions.

What I should say is, Yes, I love you, but I'm not in love with you.

Instead I say, "I don't know."

This irks her, and I'm starting to feel her fume. Something is bubbling inside of her. She is going through the emotional transitions I've seen her go through the god-know-how-many-times we've done this.

I don't like the song playing on my iPod, and I'm itching to skip it but don't want to seem impolite. It will seem like I care more about whatever music is playing rather than this conversation. Which is true.

She asks, "Is there someone else?"

Now, I know the answer to that one. I know there isn't. Still, I remain silent.

She decides to take that as an affirmation of her concern. She already believes I am going to marry this Someone Else whom I've never even met yet.

"You are cruel," she whispers. Now she looks away, out the window. There is nothing to see out there, just a stretch of hideous sand and dead Palm tree stumps and night.

I should say, I don't mean to hurt you baby. I do care about you. Please look at me. Don't cry. I'm here for you.

I should say, I will change. Things will get better. I'm not the same man I used to be. I have things I have to sort out, things I got to deal with.

I should say, We will be all right.

Instead, I say "This has to end."

Now she cries. I can tell without looking. And it breaks my heart, hearing her silently cry right next to me in the car, and I can't do anything to make it all better. Well, I can. But I'm not.

My mind feels like it's been clamped, and it fails to process anything positive. My insides are rattling, vibrating. I feel physically ill. And I hate myself and I hate my life and I hate this car and I hate this street and I hate this country and I hate this woman and how she makes me feel and how I make her feel and I wasn't lying when I said I need this to end.

But it doesn't.

"I just wish," she starts again, "That you would talk to me."

That drives me over the edge. I step harder on the gas, and I sense her tensing up and sitting up straight in her seat, looking straight ahead.

I should say, I don't want to talk. I find it pointless. I find words meaningless the more you say them. I don't have much to say because my mind can't decide if it wants to actually bother with saying it or not. I don't talk because I find it much easier to be quiet, to stay silent.

I should say, I don't want to fucking talk!

I should say, It's nothing personal.

But it is.

At least she's not crying anymore. She's frightened.

I hit a red light and slam the brakes.

The streets are slow and empty. No invading drunkards from the other side of the bridge. No ravers hitting the lame-ass clubs downtown. No stupid checkpoints in the middle of the highways.

She turns to look at me, and I finally look back at her.

Her eyes are red and wet and sad.

Mine, I imagine, are angry and confused and cold.

I know this is not me. I'm not a monster. She knows this is not me. But how and why this is happening, we both no longer know. The cause has almost become irrelevant, and all we have now is this desperate act of forced reconnection.

I don't flinch. I stare her right in the eye, like a Mexican stand-off. Eventually she looks away, shaking her head.

She says, "Take me home."

I should say, Don't give up on us baby, not yet. Let's go to one of our favorite spots. We'll sit down, just the two of us, like we used to do, and have a drink and we'll talk it over. We've been there before and we'll get through it.

I should say, This is not us. We're good together.

Instead I say, "Okay."

As the light turns green, I take a violent and illegal U-turn at the crossroad and head back towards the District. We were supposed to have a nice evening, a date, fancy dinner and all that. But somehow here we are. Ending.

Not that it hasn't been coming for a while. We both knew it. But we were going through the motions, kind of like what we are doing now. This "argument" is no more than another stamp of confirmation on the final page of our relationship.

She says, "I deserve an answer, after all this time. I deserve to know."

She is right, of course. She does deserve an answer of some sort, an acknowledgment of a kind. Something.

I should say, We weren't heading anywhere. We've not been heading anywhere for a long time. Not knowing where we are going is destroying me. And we are falling more and more into an abyss of normality. Every day, every conversation, every lovemaking, is a slightly different version of a previous one we've had. And we are stuck in this hellhole with no exit plan.

I should say, We needed to make a decision together, but that was never on the table.

I should say, I can no longer fool myself.

I should say, I need more.

Instead, I say "I have nothing to say."

Which, of course, is another lie.

I'm now taking the exit off the main highway. The night looks pale black, and the moon is ominously small and orange. The street to her apartment building is narrow and decorated with lines of green trees. They might be the nicest looking green trees on this island.

I've been through this street too many times. Picking her up, dropping her off. Driving past the building just to see if her bedroom light is on late at night when we've had one of our many breakups.

We've had quite a few of those.

But unlike those previous times, this one seems more final. It seems more final because I am the one doing the ending and not her.

I can sense she's getting angry. I know she told me to take her home to prompt a reaction from me, maybe hoping I'd do the opposite instead, like I've done before.

But now she knows I mean it.

I pull up at the driveway of her apartment building,and she sits and waits, and I wait.

She reaches for the door handle, but before pulling it, she turns and looks at me.

She looks at me with those pleading eyes.

She tells me, "I wish I had never met you." And with that she departs.

I don't even watch her as she walks up to the door like I normally would.

I just drive off.

As I get back onto the highway, heading north towards town, I reach for the iPod to finally change the music. But my eyes catch something else on the passenger seat.

A white stick I pick up as if it were a bomb.

The stick has a blue circle on it.

I should say, Fuck!

Instead I close my eyes and say, "Fuck!"

 

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