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Fiction Contemporary

* CONTAINS LANGUAGE

“What the…,” I muttered as I walked into my apartment, scanning the space. I had just returned from my usual Saturday brunch and shopping date with my sister and saw immediately that something wasn’t right. I walked around noting the missing items; the toaster and coffee maker from the kitchen, the table and chairs from the dining area, a chair, two end tables, and a framed Van Gogh print from the living room, and the TV from the bedroom. Not to mention half the contents of the bedroom closet and dresser, as well as his personal items from the bathroom.

“What the actual fuck.”

I was in a state of shock. I kept turning in circles and walking back through rooms to see if I was imagining things. But eventually, I realized that my mind was not playing tricks on me. He was gone.

I thought back through the morning. Did he seem off? Last night, he seemed distant, but he said he was tired. I know we’d been in a relationship rut the previous month or two, but did he ever mention wanting to move out? Get space? Or worse, break up? I sat down suddenly, feeling light-headed from this sucker punch to the gut. How did I miss this? How did I not see this coming?

I went back into the bathroom to splash some cold water on my face. As I stared back at my reflection, I noticed the t-shirt I had thrown on haphazardly earlier that morning. It was his favorite. His take on irony; a concert t-shirt for a concert he never attended.

He found it when we first started dating a year and a half ago. We were thrift store shopping for what he referred to as “authentically vintage” clothing. He refused to fall prey to the latest trends, wanting to stand out as an individual, a fashion rebel. I’m not sure whether this particular t-shirt was actually vintage or merely a Target knockoff, but he insisted it was indeed the real deal and therefore, as he said, “had to have it.”

As I stood there looking at the shirt, thinking of him and what he had just done, my blood began to boil. Who the hell did he think he was? Packing up all his stuff and leaving like a coward while I was out. I wanted to tear that t-shirt off and rip it to shreds. I’m surprised he left without his most precious item of clothing. I chuckled, thinking of me holding it hostage, using it as ransom. ‘Bring back the living room chair and coffee maker, and I’ll release the shirt back to you unharmed.’ I laughed again, but just for a moment, the laughter quickly turning to tears. “How could he just leave me?” I sobbed.

Knowing I would not be okay until I had vented, cried, raged, I called my sister and asked her to come over. She could sense something was wrong and asked if I was all right. I took a deep breath and then let it out in a huge sigh. “He left me.”

“I’ll be right there,” she stated and hung up. I lay on the couch waiting for her to arrive, crying and cursing him and his stupid t-shirt.

She arrived less than an hour later, overnight bag hanging from her shoulder and grocery bags in her hands. Before closing the door behind her, she dropped the bags and walked two giant steps toward me, giving me her pity face with the pouty bottom lip. She wrapped her arms tightly around me, giving me a proper “I’ve got you” hug. After a minute of swaying, smoothing my hair, and rubbing my back, trying to calm my latest crying spell, she broke from me, hands now gripping my upper arms. She shook me a bit, looking fierce like she was getting ready to go to battle for me. I nodded my head in understanding, no words between us necessary, and she released me. She retrieved the discarded baggage from the door, pushed the door closed with her foot, and headed to the kitchen.

Being the good sister she is, she stopped on the way over to pick up essential break-up provisions; wine – and lots of it, a container of bite-sized brownies, and a break-up venting session favorite of ours from high school, pizza rolls.

Before I knew it, she had popped a brownie in her mouth and dumped the pizza rolls onto a baking sheet. She placed them in the oven, poured two glasses of wine, handed one to me, and said, “Okay, tell me what happened.”

I explained to her that I didn’t really know. When I left to meet her for brunch, he was at the apartment, and when I got home, he wasn’t. No note, no text, no voicemail, nothing. She asked if there had been any signs that this was coming, and I told her I couldn’t think of anything.

I felt sad, angry, and humiliated all at the same time. I felt out of control, and I didn’t like it. I drained that first glass of wine and poured a second while chewing the brownie I’d just stuffed in my mouth.

She took a big swig of her wine and shouted, “What an ass! I can’t believe that he didn’t have the decency to at least tell you to your face.” She then proclaimed that he was a “dirty little weasel,” “a fucking prick,” and told me that “she never liked him anyway.”

Those dramatic statements from her made me laugh and cry simultaneously. My nose started to run again, and as I stood to find where I had abandoned the box of tissues, I realized that the wine might have hit faster than I’d expected. Giving up on the search, I stumbled to the bathroom and grabbed a roll of toilet paper from under the sink; I had a feeling I’d need the whole thing. Leaning against the sink, I blew my nose and gazed at my tear-stained face in the mirror. Then my eyes shifted to the t-shirt, his t-shirt, that I still had on.

As quickly as I could, I moved back to the living room and exclaimed to my sister, “This is his favorite t-shirt!” I tugged at it to make sure she knew exactly what I was talking about.

“So?”

“So? What do you mean, so? So, it’s his fave - or - ite! And I have it! Let’s…” I shook my head and gesticulated wildly, trying to come up with something brilliant. “…cut it up into itty bitty pieces!” While it sounded clever at the time in my drunken state, I may have fallen slightly short and landed somewhere closer to a catty 15-year-old girl. But my sister was all in.

“Yeesss!” she dragged out, “Oh my God, awesome idea! Where are your scissors? Bastard better not have taken them.”

As she rummaged through kitchen drawers looking for a pair of scissors, I pulled the t-shirt over my head, crumpled it into a ball with gritted teeth, threw it on the floor, and stomped on it a few times for good measure.

“A-ha! Found ‘em!” Then, being the neat freak my sister is, she reached under the kitchen sink for a trash bag, shook it open, and brought it and the scissors to me in the living room. “Start cutting!”

I picked up the shirt in one hand and the scissors in the other, and just as I leaned in to take the first snip, I felt a little niggle of guilt.

“What are you waiting for? Cut!” she demanded.

I looked at her, feeling the uncertainty written all over my face.

“Oh no,” she said. “You aren’t backing out of this. What he did to you was mean and disrespectful. You will not feel bad. You will not blame yourself.”

She knew me too well. She topped off my wineglass and held it out to me, eager for me to take it and drink it down to regain the fervor I had lost. I drank it all in a few loud gulps. “That’s my girl. Now, cut,” she commanded.

I tried to shake off the apprehension. I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths. She was right. What he did was pretty shitty, and I deserved better than that. Screw him and screw his stupid shirt.

I picked up the scissors again, and my sister held the trash bag open wide so that I wouldn’t make a mess. Snip, the first cut was made. Snip, a second cut dropped a piece into the bag. Snip, snip, snip. I was on a roll now, and it felt so good; what a release. I started to smile and cut even faster, and before I knew it, I had dropped the last small piece into the bag.

“Yes, girl, that's how it’s done! I’m so proud of you! Do you feel a little better?”

“I feel amazing! I wish he left more of his stuff to destroy.” We both laughed, refilled our wine glasses, and went into the kitchen to grab some food. We ate and drank and talked into the wee hours of the morning, carrying the conversation to my bedroom like we did when we were kids.

I woke the following day to my sister yelling and shaking me. “What the hell! Wake up, wake up! What the hell is going on?”

I looked at her through one squinty eye and asked what her problem was.

“Look at your shirt!”

I struggled to sit up, the room was bright, and my head was aching, but her face was alive with urgency. I looked down, pulling at the shirt for a better view, and there it was. His damn t-shirt!

“What the…,” I puzzled. I tugged it over my head, and she grabbed it from me, throwing it to the floor. “Didn’t I cut that up last night? Or was that a dream? How much did I drink last night?” I rubbed my eyes and squeezed my head to make it stop pounding. I was desperately trying to make sense of all of this.

My sister jumped up, ran into the living room, and returned to the bedroom with an open trash bag. She turned it upside down and shook it. Nothing fell out. She righted it, looking inside, then stuck her arm in, pulling it inside out. Empty.

My sister looked panicked, eyes wide and unblinking, mouth agape. “I don’t get it. You totally snipped that shirt into confetti. What are we going to do?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I guess we could cut it up again?” I shrugged.

“Well, that obviously didn’t work. Maybe you should burn it,” she suggested.

“Burn it? Burn it,” I repeated, pondering the thought, “that could work.”

I got out of bed and pulled a new shirt from the dresser, slipping it over my head while discussing how we would accomplish the shirt’s demise. Again.

I grabbed the small metal wastebasket from the bathroom and brought it to the kitchen, dumping the contents into the trash bin. My sister found matches and grabbed a pair of tongs going back to the bedroom to get the shirt we left lying in a heap on the floor. She reentered the kitchen with her arm outstretched, the t-shirt held by tongs she said I could never use again because they touched the cursed shirt. We both laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation, then busied ourselves with the task at hand.

“Let’s go out to the balcony, so we don’t set off the smoke alarm,” I said.

“Good idea,” she said, dropping the t-shirt into the wastebasket and promptly tossing the tongs in the trash.

I grabbed the box of matches and opened the balcony door, my sister following me out. She set the wastebasket between us and looked at me expectantly. “Okay. Here we go.”

I lit a match and dropped it on top of the shirt. We both watched as it made a small burn hole and then went out. My sister and I looked at each other, disappointment evident on our faces.

“Maybe we should try two matches,” she offered.

I nodded, lit one, and released it, quickly striking a second match and adding that to the burn pile. When it looked like that might not do the trick, I lit a third and fourth match, thinking surely that should be enough. In the end, it took eight matches to turn that damn t-shirt into a pile of ash.

“Now what?” I looked at my sister, hoping she would tell me what to do next. At this point, I was so drained, head still throbbing, that I didn’t want to think anymore. All I knew was that I didn’t want to throw the ashes into my kitchen trash bin as the idea of the shirt being cursed seemed highly possible.

“Um…,” she paused, and I could see that she was thinking through multiple scenarios. “Why don’t we just throw the whole wastebasket, ashes and all, in a dumpster.”

I replied with a simple “okay.” She went into the house, got a trash bag, presumably the same one we used when we cut up the shirt, and brought it out to the balcony. She put the bag over the top of the wastebasket, careful not to touch it in case the cursed t-shirt passed its jinx onto it, and scooped it up, quickly tying a knot in the bag. “Let’s go.”

We slipped on shoes, grabbed our purses and the trash bag, and headed out, locking the apartment door behind us. We drove through the apartment complex to the community trash and recycle area and tossed the bag into one of the dumpsters. A sense of relief came over me. I took a deep, cleansing breath and realized how hungry I was and how desperately I needed coffee.

I looked at my sister, “Want to grab some breakfast? We need to go out for coffee anyway since the ass took the coffee maker.”

She giggled, and we drove on to one of the nearby bakeries. We each got a chocolate croissant and hazelnut latte and chose a table by the window to chat and reclaim our day. We talked about how I would replace the items that the ass took and if I would need a roommate to help make rent. She asked if I would bother to confront him for leaving without a word and effectively ending our 18-month relationship with no explanation. After a while, we switched the conversation to lighter topics; upcoming holiday plans, her work, and ideas for how we could spend our evening together. Feeling ready to take on the day with a renewed spirit, we headed back to the apartment.

When we got to my door, there was a package waiting outside. I couldn’t think of anything that I was waiting for. “I wonder if this is something he ordered,” I puzzled.

“Let’s find out!” My sister had a devilish look on her face. I smiled and nodded, fully understanding the implication behind her statement.

I picked up the package, and we went inside. I ripped the box open, not knowing what to expect. What I found was undoubtedly the last thing I could have imagined. There in my hands was the t-shirt. That damn t-shirt.

“What the…”

May 14, 2022 00:05

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