A Free Man

    I took a deep breath, and pushed the first autodial button on my phone.  I closed my eyes as the phone on the other end connected and began ringing.  There was no way this conversation was going to be pretty.  In fact, if I had to tack a physical description to it, the phrase “ass-ugly” would fit pretty well.

     Tiffany had caller ID, so she knew it was me, and greeted me appropriately, “Hi, baby, what’s up?”
 I took another deep breath and answered my soon to be ex-girlfriend, “Hi, Tiff, listen, we need to talk.  Well, I need to talk.  You just need to listen.”  My voice dripped with impending doom.  Most any idiot on the street would have picked it up and known from the get-go that something was wrong.  Unfortunately, Tiff wasn’t just any idiot.  One of the myriad reasons I was ending this sham of a relationship.
    “Sure, baby, what’s up?” came the saccharine-chipper voice from the other end.

     “Umm, look, this isn’t working out for me I…”
    “What isn’t?  Talking on the phone?  I know you don’t like talking on the phone.  Why don’t you come over?”  I was thrown off course, and my mind tried to follow the course Tiff’s must have to arrive at her conclusion.  It got lost on the convoluted path and returned home.

     “No, Tiffany, the phone’s fine.  I wouldn’t have called if-dammit, no I don’t want to come over.  I don’t think I’ll be coming over at all anymore, Tiff.  I meant us.  You and I.  It isn’t working.”
    “Oh, it’s working fine!  I’m perfectly happy!”

     “I’m not happy at all.”
    “Why?  Did something happen?”

     “You could say that.  Guess what I found out about?”  I pretty much expected her not to guess correctly.  I was right.

     “You heard?  Isn’t it great?  I’ve been waiting for Ted and Laura to get together for ages, They’re so cute as a couple and…”  She made a girlish, excited squealing noise.

     “No, dammit, I don’t care about Ted and Steph.  I found out what you did, Tiffany, that’s why I’m not happy.”  That should have clued her in, I thought, but it was wishful thinking.  I knew I’d have to nail her with it head on, but I was reluctant to speak it out loud.

     “Oh.  Look, I know I said I quit, but one cigarette in a month isn’t starting again and…”
    “Jesus Christ.  I don’t care about your smoking; I fucking smoke.  I’m talking about you screwing Mike.  And Larry.  At least.  I found out, Tiffany, and I don’t see any other option than to end this now.”

     She was silent, for once in her life.  Obviously, she never expected me to find out about her wild sexual escapades in my absence.  I hoped she felt really crummy about it.  I wanted to hear her grovel.

     “But you were gone, and…”
    “So?  Big fucking deal!  We were still together!  Tiffany, you screwed two guys!”

     “Not at once!”
    “What?  I know that!  Listen, for Christ’s sake, the point is that you cheated on me.”

     “Oh, I’m so sorry!  I feel really bad.  I understand if you’re upset.  Why don’t you come over and we’ll forget all about it?”

     It’s a shame she couldn’t see the face I made as I stammered, “W-what?  No, don’t you get it?  I can’t let this drop!  There’s nothing you can do to make me change my mind about this.”

    She must have thought I was challenging her, because she offered, “I’ll blow you till you can’t see if ya come over right now, and everything will be fine!”  Rack up another reason I was breaking up with her.  Her little games.  She thought she could use sex to bend me around her little airheaded whims.  For a while, at the beginning it worked.  She would always tell me she’d make it worthwhile for me to do this, or skip work or class to come see her.  Of course, she never did.  We’d have sex occasionally, but she never followed through on her promises of wild and forbidden acts of life-draining passion.  Whenever I tried to spice things up, she wouldn’t cooperate. On the occasions when she did decide she wanted to be frisky, it was always before I had to leave for work or school.  Either she had the worst timing in the history of civilization, or she liked toying with me.  What baffled me was that she held out on me for six months, and then suddenly her sex drive kicked in the second I left the state on vacation for a month.

    “You’ve said that on a million occasions before this, and you haven’t done it once, Tiffany.  Half the time, I’m lucky if you touch me at all.”

    “I swear I will this time, I’ll make it really special.”

    “God knows you’ve had the practice.  Thanks, but no thanks.  I’m not bending this time, Tiffany.  It’s over.  I’m breaking up with you.”  A pause.

    “What?  But I’m sorry.”

    “That doesn’t make a damn bit of difference!  This is it.  Hell, Tiff, I wasn’t happy before I found out you fucked half the town.  We aren’t compatible.  We’re too different anyway, and this is really just the last straw.  I can’t forgive you.”

    “Three guys isn’t half the town!  What are you talking about, we aren’t compatible?  I love you so much!  Besides, I apologized.  It won’t ever happen again. It wa a mistake and…”

    “Three?  Three?  There was a third guy?  God damn it all to hell, Tiffany, what the hell were you thinking?”

    “You weren’t here when I needed you.  It was, like, a moment of weakness, and I’m so sorry!”

    Moment of weakness?  Suddenly, I was glad I was doing this.  All the anguish I’d built up dissipated.

    “Moment of weakness my ass!” I shouted.    “How in the name of God do you think I’ll ever be able to trust you again?  It’s over.  Now.  This is it.  No more you and me.  You treat me like I’m not there when we’re together, you’re a neurotic mess, evidently you’re like the queen slut of the galaxy, and to be perfectly honest you’re an airhead.”  I slammed the phone down.  Her voice continued to pour out of the receiver, hurt and muffled by little sobs.  I remembered the phone was a cordless and pushed the button.  It wasn’t as satisfying as a good slam into the base.  I wanted to throw it across the room, but the still-rational part of my mind made me stop- it was an expensive phone- and I threw my alarm clock instead.  It shattered into pieces noisily against the wall, leaving a big black mark.  I didn’t care, and stomped on the remaining pieces.  I punched the mirror hanging on the inside of my closet door, and began bleeding profusely from my knuckles. In my anger, I enjoyed the pain.  I cleaned the wound and dressed it lightly.  The gauze soaked through fairly quickly.  I didn’t care.

    Since my parents wouldn’t be home for another three or four hours, I dug my bottle of Jack Daniels out of its hiding place in the closet, and went outside on the deck and lit up a cigarette.  Shakily, I inhaled the first calming puff, followed it with a healthy shot of alcohol.  The burn of it flowing down my throat focused my thoughts.  I reveled in my seething anger, and felt a distinct sense of pleasure about the whole thing.  I had finally, after months of being an absolutely whipped weenie, stood up for myself.  She hadn’t manipulated her way out of this one.  Yes, sir, I had laid it out, put my foot down with terrible, manly force.  I smiled into the setting sun, took a deep drag from my cigarette, and poured another shot as trickles of blood slipped down my hand.  I was a free man.  Free men didn’t take no shit from nobody. 

    Certainly not some dumb whore of a girlfriend.

    Ex-girlfriend, I corrected myself, happy with the sound of that.  Ex.  No more. Former.  Behind me.


    She had come up the stairs of the deck silently.  I hadn’t heard her.  She was holding a box.

    “I brought your stuff back.”  Her face was red and splotchy.  Her eyes were big and wet.

    I was fairly surprised.  No, that’s not it.  I was outright shocked into immobility.  I dropped the shot glass and it spilled on the deck.  The whiskey dribbled between the floor boards.

    “I can’t believe you’d show your face to me after this.”

    Silently, she bent over and picked up the shot glass.  She took the bottle from the railing and poured another one, downed it.  She moved toward me.  I couldn’t believe this.  Persistant little bitch.  I shoved her away, dropping my cigarette.  Tiffany crushed it out with her foot and pulled two more from the pack, put both in her mouth, and lit them. She came forward again and put one in my mouth, which was hanging open in disbelief at what was transpiring before my eyes.  She shoved me into a chair, and straddled my lap. I turned my head away, puffing violently on the cigarette.  I was not going to let her get away with this.  I was a Free Man, dammit!  Free men don’t take no shit!  Free men don’t…

    Her head rested on my shoulder, and her arms wrapped around my neck.

    “I’m sorry.”

    “Don’t give me that crap.  What you did was inexcuseable.  Get off me and get out of my sight.  Now.”

    She didn’t respond, at least not with words.  She did get off my lap, though.  But she didn’t leave.  Instead, she knelt in front of me, and unbuckled my pants.  Crap.  Shit and crap and…her hand disappeared in my pants.  She rose up to eye level with me.

    “I love you.”  She kissed me.  I didn’t resist.  God alone knows why.  I found myself kissing her back, and all the anger began draining away with the last rays of sun on the horizon behind me.  As big an airhead as she was, she knew what she was doing.

    Maybe she’s not really all that dumb, I thought to myself.  No, she really isn’t…just a bit ditzy sometimes.  And God was she cute.  The tension bled away, following the anger and the sun into oblivion.  She pulled away, locked her gaze with mine for a moment, and lowered.

    The cigarette dropped from between my fingers, and after awhile, I couldn’t see anymore.