It was all in boxes: The books, the tapes, notebooks, cosmetics, and unmentionables; the answering machine I bought her for Christmas when we still lived in Savannah. Every shred of physical evidence connecting Jody to me, sealed up and ready to be moved to their new home in the morning. I wouldn’t be there when her friends arrived to load the boxes. The idea of meeting the “friends” who would help her was too much.
Impermanence. Attachment. Suffering. Lovingkindness. Joel’s brief introduction to Buddhism was all that was holding me up.
“You need a lamp?” I asked.
“No,” Jody said.
“Need help with anything?”
“Want something to eat?”
“Look, you’re not my daddy,” Jody said.
“I just thought you might be hungry. Fuck.” I ordered a pizza anyway.
“You just can’t wait for me to fucking leave, can you?” Jody said.
“What are you talking about?”
“You never loved me,” Jody said. “You can’t wait. Fuck you, Jim.”
You know how every Samuel L. Jackson character has a cool speech that he delivers when he’s angry, his face contorted into a mask of murderous rage? That is not me. On the rare occasions that I am pushed beyond my limit and the adrenaline flows and my blood pressure soars, I lose all control. My face twists into a blend of kabuki mask and circus clown, eyes wide and mouth fixed in a maniacal rictus. My voice rises both in pitch and volume, and it trembles like I am on the verge of tears. I lose the ability to reason, so I scream in incoherent sentence fragments and non sequiturs. So I don’t know what I screamed that evening when the woman for whom I’d given up everything accused me of never loving her. I can’t even fabricate a facsimile of that dialogue.
I remember a lamp getting knocked over. I may have sent it flying across the apartment.
I remember the neighbors pounding on the thin walls of the Su Casa Apartments and feeling like I couldn’t stop if I wanted to, like a nuclear reaction tore at my insides: hot, vicious, and unstoppable.
I remember my mind detaching from my screaming, contorted face and wondering where I could get a gun. My body raged while I imagined the two of us sitting at the kitchen table, the gun between us, waiting for her to grab it and take me out. It would have been a mercy killing. I was already hollowed out, gutted like the bluegill that I used to catch in the pond near my childhood home. Would I ever see that place again? Did I even have a home anymore?
I didn’t. I was lost in America, thousands of miles from anyone or anything that anchored me to reality. Jody was the last thin string keeping me from floating away. I was adrift now, not even connected to the empty body trembling and screaming in a Hollywood apartment. The doorbell rang. I paid for the pizza, dropped the box onto the table, and sat there shaking, trying to guide a slice into my mouth. My heart pounded in my ears. I chewed but I couldn’t taste anything and my body refused to swallow, and then I reentered my body and the tears came.
This was it: four years and seven months reduced to a broken lamp and a shitty pizza. I cried and Jody was on me, hugging me, kissing my cheeks, crying, cooing. I love you, Jim. I’m so sorry. You’re such a good man. I’m sorry. You don’t deserve this. You’re good. I love you.
The next day she was gone. It was finally over.