I wonder if our days are numbered.
I asked him a few times if he was adding up the prices of the food we were throwing in the shopping cart and he kept (reassuringly) answering “yes.” At the tightly spaced register, I piled up all the foods that were similar in kind, in weight, in fragility and stood patiently waiting for the sum total. Andrew quickly and quietly told me it was already up to $107.00 but we only brought $120.00 to spend. He then told the cashier to stop, waving his hand to cease her scanning. She asked him, “are you sure?” in Italian or maybe a clarifying nod- I wasn’t paying attention. When I realized what food was left over, my mind panicked- the hard salami, the yellow carton of eggs, the green ladyfinger grapes and the yummy rest- was not part of our final purchase.
“So we’re not getting this?” I asked Andrew in a calm yet worried manner.
“Yes, Vicky. We’re not getting this,” he replied a bit irritated.
“None of it?” and I wasn’t sure if I said anything else but a million things shot through my brain looking at the at least 20 items I was so sure and happy and excited we were buying. My eyes skimmed back over the hot dogs we had bought the last time and I thought about how much my eating endeavors would suck without having those tiny, little pink wieners to snack on.
Andrew was angry. On the way out, he sort of raised his voice at me.
“Because we don’t have enough money!” My hand rose to my unlipsticked mouth, embarrassed and shocked that he would practically yell at me in the supermarket with enough people standing around, enough to make myself cringe at the thought that they were close enough to hear what he was saying. Usually I’m the one that raises my voice unnecessarily but this time it was he and that added to my surprise.
After shoving the doubled plastic bags into the backseat of our black Nissan maxima, we drove hastily away beginning the argument that would almost end our relationship. I can’t remember exactly what words were exchanged. I was so furious that he was humiliated by my actions, I yelled immediately to his instigation. I knew he would bring it up again- and he did. I took the opportunity to really let my emotions out on him- I was so tired of the constant berating. I kept telling him that it wasn’t important and that it was ridiculous that he would get upset over such a stupid thing. He told me I had no tact, especially when it comes to money. This is an argument that I have heard before. I was beginning to wonder if he was right.
The “exchange” lasted. A bit. We continued to drive and we were on Ocean Avenue when he flatly said, “I hate you.”
“I hate you too.” And I did at the moment. He told me he wanted to break up with me. That I had a year to get out. That I should save up. That he would split the bills with me 50/50. That he didn’t really like me and didn’t want to be with someone he didn’t like. Neither did I.
I was angry- hot and bloated. The bad energy filled my head like a balloon ready to burst. I began to feel the overwhelming need to smoke a cigarette but there weren’t any around. Andrew had them in his pocket; he pulled one out and lit it with his Zippo lighter. A few seconds later, I looked inside the compartment between both of our seats and lit one too. I rolled down the window and the cold spring air blasted my face. Again, millions of things ran through my mind. Gradually the questions I asked myself began to let my boiling brain simmer down. How would I survive? I began to think… I could live with my parents. Yea, that would work. My mom always told me I could move back into the house if I needed to. I could still work in the city. I would just have to travel the way I used to- take the ferry or the train. I would have all this free time! What kinds of things would I do? Would I start clubbing again? Would I start doing drugs that I stopped doing? … No… I convinced myself- I wouldn’t. Well, if I were not paying rent, I would have most of my money to myself. Would anyone ever love me? No one would be like Andrew. What about all our furniture? Would he take it all? That would be unfair. Who would I hang out with? Steph would still be my friend. Fine! Then he can be a crack head all he wants without me bothering him. I guess he really doesn’t love me… how did it get to be this way?
Silence. Wrapped up in my paralyzing thoughts, I did not say a word for the rest of the ride home. Neither did he. We reached the municipal parking lot, put our bags in the cart and wheeled the food and ourselves upstairs. Once inside our apartment the treatment continued. We did our duty quietly. It spoke so much more than words. I did not know what he was thinking; I assumed he’d stay true to his words and that we were finished. We would live out the rest of our days like this, working silently side by side but worlds apart.
I lugged the bags out of the cart and into our white kitchen. Little by little the bags disappeared and the shelves of our refrigerator filled. I stacked the green vegetables on the bottom shelf, the breads in the center, the liquids in the door and the fish and chicken in the freezer. Dry goods were sat neatly in the cabinets above the counter and the oven. Then I brought all the weeks of dirty laundry down to the laundry room to be washed- all 8 loads of them.
My chores dragged on and of course, so did our non-verbal communication. I caught Andrew making sandwiches- one for him and one for me- and I thought that was nice. As long as I was cleaning his dirty underwear he should be making me something to eat.
I was finally begrudgingly going down to transfer wet clothes to the dryer and more dirty clothes into the washing machine when the dry spell broke. He asked me, “Do you need help?” Humph, he said something, I thought.
“If you want to help,” I replied, trying not to sound too accepting or enthusiastic about what I actually thought was a welcoming reintroduction to each other as communicable human beings.
I left before him, knowing that there were others in the building waiting for me to finish my enormous amounts of laundry and I kind of did not want to walk down stairs with him, side by side when I felt so tremendously separated from him. When he met me in the laundry room, minutes later, I was sitting in a white folding chair counting down the remaining minutes on the three dryers. I watched the clothes, the colored, the whites and the darks tumbling around and around, dancing amongst and within themselves in the hot, circular space.
“Vic,” he begged in a tone that told me he was sorry, so sorry that my eyes welled up with water, my face flushed, my chin trembled and my lips formed the frown that somehow felt more like a relieved smile.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. I love you….” and I stretched out my arms to hold his waist and he pulled himself closer into me, wrapping his arms around my head, caressing my freshly done, long black hair. “I’ll never leave you. We’ll get married. Let’s do it soon.” The sudden turn of events warmed my heart. Despite the seemingly opposite kind of situation we were having, so very different in mood and sound and kind than the one that tore my insides into endless, infinite knots, I was cautious of all I heard. He began to banter about how we should go to Vegas, have a rock and roll wedding and how it would change everything, and fix all our silly problems, which he proceeded to defend with monetary and legal justifications. I thought to myself despite the apparent complete 180, a woman can never be mad when her one true love discusses marriage, future plans and the completion of dreams in any way whatsoever. I took the bait, although this term would seem insufficient and reveled in the idea of consummation of everything I’ve been asking for. We continued to fold laundry, slowly putting together the broken pieces, remembering the feeling of making up and making up felt so good.
Later that night, Andrew and I drove to El Greco, a diner in Sheapshead Bay to have some late night snacks. When I entered the car, he had a bouquet of red and yellow and white roses and carnations, a perfect ending to my not so perfect day. I told him, “This will be a nice ending to my story that I’m writing upstairs.” It was and it is.