Nobody knew why I'd done it, I didn’t know why I'd done it. God. Why was it so hard to walk away? It shouldn’t be a tough move. I knew he was a jerk, or worse. I knew that I was a bigger jerk when I was around him. It just seemed like it was easier not to do anything. Splitting up their stuff. Man. exhausting. It all just felt so overwhelming. But now it was hard not to do something. Now I was scaring myself. “Did you think that he was the one who had hurt Ellie?” asked Christy. I should have said yes. Being wrong was a lot easier to accept than being a monster. Why had I let his insecurities get to me? How had things gotten this bad, how had I gotten this bad? I tried hemming and hawing a response since I was too dumb to lie and too smart, to tell the truth.
“Hand me another trash bag, will you…?” I had found out about 100 parties ago that it's better to clean up when you're drunk and stupid than waiting until the next day. I looked around and saw about 4,000 cigarette butts littered around the basement. This crap always smelled worse the next day, especially hungover sooo… I tripped a little as I grabbed a few more empties to stick back in the case.
“Yeah, but then, what happened,” she asked again.
“I don’t know, drop it.” He could’ve been killed, she knew it, I knew it, everyone knew it. If not for luck, this could have been a very different night. “I just, I don’t know. Here...” I passed my sister some plastic cups that we could rewash to have for tomorrow. I was lucky, I guess. I had everything I could want, but I didn’t want this. I didn’t want to be like this anymore. It had been like this forever, or at least for as long as she could remember.
I had gotten pretty good at hiding it, but if I wasn't paying attention… well, one minute I was just cutting a string off my t-shirt and the next I was flinging a knife across the room at some poor jerk who had just happened to say something stupid about her where her boyfriend could overhear him. And when Scott heard that guy talking about what he’d like to do to me or with me, he had grumbled in her ear… “What the hell, Karla, why are you always so desperate to get attention. Even that guy’s talking about what he’d like… oh shit.” The knife I always carried with me for the late walks home was sticking out of the wall pinning the poor guy’s shirt to the wall. I worked to yank it out of the wall and saw that there was a touch of blood on it. Oh man, I went upstairs and outside to breathe. What the hell was wrong with me? Who does that? What if someone, what if Christy had just been walking through at that moment. I am so completely out of control. This just proved that I couldn’t be…
“You’re going to go, aren’t you?” Man, she could smell it on me. “I don’t blame you. Maybe it’s what you have to do. But I’m not going this time. I like it here. I like these people. They’re like family.” Family. Huh. I didn’t know how I was going to show my face to anyone else in this family again. I mean, there was messed up, and then there was… me. I didn’t respond, I mean, what could I say? “You know, that guy wasn’t hurt, not really. Just a bit freaked out. Everything will blow over, just give it time.”
“You always say that you’re not coming, but I can’t stay, not after tonight. I should have gone a while ago if we’re going to be honest, but you know I have a habit of staying too long.”
“We don’t have to, you know. You could just own it. Just tell me what happened, I can help.” For an instant I imagined it. Imagined telling her, imagined that everything would be okay. But how could anything be okay if I wasn’t ok? I have never been okay. I will never be okay. I am not okay, and if I really care about these people, the best I can do is to go. At least in somebody’s thoughts, I will be better than I am. Even if it isn’t true. I sighed. I didn’t understand myself. I should have walked away a long time ago, but if I wasn’t going to do that, why would I make it everybody else’s problem. Collateral damage, that’s what you got if you were around me.
“I don’t know.” I took another carton of empties up and put it in the driveway, by the garage. When I came back in, my sister was waiting for me. “You know you couldn’t tell me anything that would make me stop loving you.” and I did know that, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let her know that I was just like everybody else. Weak. Stupid. Jealous. Okay, not like everybody else. Wishing, but knowing, it wasn’t going to be even that good. “Scott left with Emma and her friends, didn’t he?”
“Yep. I wish he would just do something so repugnant that it would be easier to walk away from him. I’m pretty certain that he won’t try to follow me now. I mean, he’s got to know that I’m done. I just don’t get why it’s taking me this long.” Maybe it was just easier to blame him for my crappiness even though I had been crappy since long before he had come into my life. God he was beautiful, who could have imagined that we would be so trashy. That I would be so trashy. My god, I could be in a jail cell. I should be really, locked up like the freaking animal I am.
“What are you looking for?” Christy asked.
“I don’t know. The worst part is that I don’t even think that I would recognize it if I found it.” I started to cry. “How did everything get to be like… this? How did I get to be like this? I’m not a bad person, not really. Maybe we’re all good people who’ve just done some bad things.”
“What? I couldn’t understand you, come here, I just meant were you looking for your phone or what?” she said, turning the music down.
I wiped my eyes, “No, it’s ok. I’m ok. Let’s take these bags up and start on the kitchen.”
“You don’t have to do this you know, you could just, ya know, tell me.” Yeah, I could, or I could just try again with a whole new life. Maybe the next one would be a good one.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come with me one more time? I’m thinking about hitting the coast. Doesn’t South Carolina sound good or maybe somewhere crazy like, I don’t know, Costa Rica… Aloha, amiga!”
“That’s not even Spanish.”
“What? Wait, just imagine it. We could do this. We could just pack up and go. Like before, just you and me.”
“Ha, first we clean up the kitchen and then we clean up your life…”
“Exactly, come on, just think about it.” But they both knew that you couldn’t clean up a life, not really. Not by throwing it away. It has the tendency to follow you and the more that you try to run, the harder it is when you smack back into it again. You can keep trying to stuff it back, put more distance between you and all of your pasts and possible pasts, but that’s when you wake up screaming. It always catches you, always wins. It’s hands creeping around from behind you in an intimate embrace you want no part of, forcing you to remember that which you hoped would never resurface again. The past, if it could just stay there… "just one more time.”
But it was never just one more time and they both knew it. Christy didn’t want to go but she didn’t know how to explain it. She was about to try to accept that she was going to be just another person that let Karla down when there was a knock at the door. “Ma’am, are you Karla Reynolds?” her face dropped…
“No, that’s my sister.”
“Is she here? We’ve had a complaint and have some questions…”
Karla walked out, “Ya, I’m here.” She turned to Christy. The tears were falling on both of their faces now. And Karla knew that there was only one word for this.