story-telling series: hardly strangers, part 2

PART TWO – PETER. This has got to be one of the worst days of my life.

“Jane. Don’t do this,” I said, exasperated.

“Peter, I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say,” she said. She didn’t sound nearly as heartbroken as I would’ve liked. Although at that moment, I don’t think anything she said could have sounded heartbroken enough, unless it was accompanied by wailing and gnashing of teeth.

“What did I do?” I asked desperately. “Just tell me what I did wrong, I’ll fix it. I’ll do anything, just —”

“Peter,” she interrupted. “For the hundredth time, you did nothing. This is all my fault,” she said. Her voice was perfectly gentle and calm, with just the right amount of sadness. It sounded calculated to me. Rehearsed. “It’s not you, Peter…it’s…oh God, I can’t believe I’m going to say this…it’s me.”

I went flying over the edge.

“Honestly, Jane? After three and a half years, you decide to break up with me, and that’s the best you can do?! ‘It’s not you, it’s me’? You couldn’t have thought of something more original?!” I was screaming now. This probably wasn’t helping my cause, but I couldn’t stop myself if I tried. I was mad; at her, at myself, at life and its injustice. Go figure. You finally manage to find a girl, you treat her right, you never make her cry once, and you give her every single thing she wants. Yet, after all that trouble, she winds up leaving you in the end anyway. Your relationship is reduced to a cliche. It didn’t make any sense.

My whole life, I wanted a girl like Jane. Beautiful, sweet, ambitious, funny. I couldn’t believe it when she agreed to go out with me the first time. I thought I was dreaming. So I went the whole nine yards. I took her to this fancy French restaurant, the kind where all the names sounded romantic, even though you were actually ordering fattened duck liver. I dressed up, got her flowers, cleaned my car. Only to find out four dates later that she actually preferred In-N-Out burgers to French cuisine, and that her idea of an awesome time included racquetball and Lakers games. In other words, Jane was awesome. And perfect.

And now, hanging me out to dry.

“Peter, please don’t make this any harder than it already is,” she said quietly. Her voice wavered. I couldn’t conceive how this could be hard for her, considering I was the one being gutted and left for dead. “Please trust me. This is what’s best for both of us.”

I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t have it in me to fight anymore.

“Goodbye, Peter.” The phone clicked, and she was gone.

It took me two whole hours before I could sit still. I paced back and forth frantically from the living room to my room and then to the kitchen, mindlessly opening and shutting cupboards. I remember opening the fridge to try and find something to eat, but then I ended up just staring blankly into it, eventually forgetting why I was there. Now I think I was just holding on to the handle to keep myself from jumping off the balcony.

I should’ve seen this coming, I thought. A girl like that, with a guy like me? It just doesn’t work out that way.

Except with Jane, it did work. It worked really well, for a long time, until today.

I moped for another hour or so. I lay on the couch, clutching the phone in my hand. My thumb played tic-tac-toe with the keypad while I contemplated calling her back, begging for forgiveness. I would’ve done it, too, except I had no idea what I had done for her to forgive. She herself said I didn’t do anything wrong. It wasn’t me, it was her.

There’s only one conclusion: something bad must have happened.

With renewed hope, I grabbed my car keys and raced down to my car. Something must have happened, I thought. She’s really independent; something just happened and she didn’t know how else to deal with it, so she thought it would be better to let me go so she can deal with it on her own. With every block that I passed, my reasoning made more and more sense in my head. She couldn’t have meant it. She didn’t mean it. I’m going to talk to her and make things right. I couldn’t get there fast enough; I had to get there, I had to fix this.

Out of nowhere, a strange voice was calling to me. “Sir? Sir, can you hear me?”

My eyes fluttered open and then quickly shut against the bright flashlight shining two inches away from my face. My skin burned as I rested my cheek against my airbag, but I couldn’t really hold my head up. I couldn’t remember how I got there, and why my car was parked in the middle of 12th and Willow. An empty blue coupe was wedged into the right side of my front bumper. A black hatchback sat three feet to my left, doors dented in and scratched with paint that looked strikingly similar to my own car color.

A man sat in the passenger seat, unconscious.

I take it back. This is definitely the worst day of my life.

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