One tail of his shirt lay outside his pants, which I noted as he spun to face me. His tie hung loose. His right fist hovered like a hammer before its fall.
“You have no idea!” he yelled.
But I did. He pelted me with his breath, beer-sour, as dank as bars he and I knew, ones created to serve desperation.
“You don’t know her!”
Even closer. So that, had I less control we might bump and, from there, tangle. I resolved to go limp if our skin met, but my skin buzzed of its own accord.
“Listen…” I said
Some hopelessness swallows expression. You reach the end of air before really speaking. The silence of dread follows.
“Shut the hell up…”
As boys out on the lake we’d worked as halves, reacting to the least shift in wind with the proper measure of canvas and rope. We’d never needed voices, even the time we’d capsized and clung to the hull. Then I’d only heard him chuckle from the other side.
The first blow hit my temple and slid off as I turned my head, but the second, in my stomach, departed before I knew he’d launched it. I’m not sure how I landed on all fours, but when he kicked my side, I arched like a cat, the keen taste of bile in my mouth. The rest was lost in scraping along the asphalt parking lot ahead of his pursuit, all elbows and knees, forehead, shoulder, hip. I may have fought back but can’t remember.
When I opened my eyes, I was between two cars. He’d left me the strange stillness of dusk. Only the sky remained bright. The rest bathed in gray, and no one stood near. I was afraid he would be close before realizing I didn’t care, that I might prefer it.
“I’m sorry,” I said. I crawled two more steps and lifted myself up by the car’s sides.
When I kissed her the first time, I pictured this. I peeked to see her eyes closed, the hint of a smile daring fate and abandon.