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
and began ringing. There was no way this conversation was going
be pretty. In fact, if I had to tack a physical description to
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
“Hi, Tiff, listen, we need to talk. Well, I need to talk.
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
“Sure, baby, what’s up?” came the saccharine-chipper
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
to arrive at her conclusion. It got lost on the convoluted path
“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
over at all anymore, Tiff. I meant us. You and I. It
“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
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
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
“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
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
I hoped she felt really crummy about it. I wanted to hear her
“But you were gone, and…”
“So? Big fucking deal! We were still
Tiffany, you screwed two guys!”
“Not at once!”
“What? I know that! Listen, for Christ’s
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
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
be fine!” Rack up another reason I was breaking up with
Her little games. She thought she could use sex to bend me around
her little airheaded whims. For a while, at the beginning it
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
We’d have sex occasionally, but she never followed through on her
of wild and forbidden acts of life-draining passion. Whenever I
to spice things up, she wouldn’t cooperate. On the occasions when she
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
she held out on me for six months, and then suddenly her sex drive
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
“I swear I will this time, I’ll make it really
“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
We aren’t compatible. We’re too different anyway, and this is
just the last straw. I can’t forgive you.”
“Three guys isn’t half the town! What are you
we aren’t compatible? I love you so much! Besides, I
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
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?
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
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
continued to pour out of the receiver, hurt and muffled by little
I remembered the phone was a cordless and pushed the button. It
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-
was an expensive phone- and I threw my alarm clock instead. It
into pieces noisily against the wall, leaving a big black mark. I
didn’t care, and stomped on the remaining pieces. I punched the
hanging on the inside of my closet door, and began bleeding profusely
my knuckles. In my anger, I enjoyed the pain. I cleaned the wound
and dressed it lightly. The gauze soaked through fairly
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
the first calming puff, followed it with a healthy shot of
The burn of it flowing down my throat focused my thoughts. I
in my seething anger, and felt a distinct sense of pleasure about the
thing. I had finally, after months of being an absolutely whipped
weenie, stood up for myself. She hadn’t manipulated her way out
this one. Yes, sir, I had laid it out, put my foot down with
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
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
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
Silently, she bent over and picked up the shot
glass. She took
the bottle from the railing and poured another one, downed it.
moved toward me. I couldn’t believe this. Persistant little
bitch. I shoved her away, dropping my cigarette. Tiffany
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,
was hanging open in disbelief at what was transpiring before my
She shoved me into a chair, and straddled my lap. I turned my head
puffing violently on the cigarette. I was not going to let her
away with this. I was a Free Man, dammit! Free men don’t
no shit! Free men don’t…
Her head rested on my shoulder, and her arms wrapped
around my neck.
“Don’t give me that crap. What you did was
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
hand disappeared in my pants. She rose up to eye level with me.
“I love you.” She kissed me. I didn’t
alone knows why. I found myself kissing her back, and all the
began draining away with the last rays of sun on the horizon behind
As big an airhead as she was, she knew what she was doing.
Maybe she’s not really all that dumb, I thought to
she really isn’t…just a bit ditzy sometimes. And God was she
The tension bled away, following the anger and the sun into
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.