This Never Happened
She’s had it up to here. Here is where she can’t take it anymore, where she’s had enough, where she is right now. Not now but now. She slams the door. “Get out,” she says but the door’s already closed and he can’t hear her because it’s made of especially thick wood or maybe metal and painted to look like wood, because it’s not the safest neighborhood and there’ve been incidents. Robberies have been reported. She opens the door again so he can hear her. He’s still there. “Leave,” she says and slams the door.
Now he’s knocking. “Go away!” she screams. He tries the door but she’s locked it. “Go away or I’ll call the police!” but he’s still knocking. She runs into the kitchen and finds a used envelope and a pen and writes on the back, “Go away or I’ll call the police!” and slips it under the front door. He stops knocking. She sees him bending down to pick up the used envelope and read it. He’s read it. Now he’s got a key in the lock and she remembers that oh fuck, he still has her key, so when he opens the door she holds out her hand and says, “Give me back my key or I’ll call the police.”
“I just wanted to give you back your key,” he says.
“Fine,” she says. “Give it back and go away already.”
“I’m trying,” he says, and she can see that, she can see he’s trying, but the key seems to be stuck on the outer loop of the key ring and he can’t get it off. He’s got it between his legs and he’s twisting and turning and finally he has it off and she says, “Fine, now give it back to me,” and he gives it back to her and she starts to close the door again but he says, “But wait. I have another key at home.”
Now this is just too much. Now she’s really had it up to here. Not now but now. “Bullshit,” she says. “I only gave you one key.”
“I made another key,” he says. “A copy. Just last week actually, though actually the copy I made last week wasn’t the first copy I made but the second or third because the one or two before that I lost, which is to say I couldn’t find, which is why I made the copies in the first place.”
“You’re a goddamn liar,” she says and tries to slam the door but he stops it with his foot.
“Of course if I had known last week that you were going to break up with me and demand or request very pleasantly your key back I wouldn’t have made it, the copy, but that’s just what I was trying to tell you earlier, because I thought everything was going so well and I even had them make you an extra copy of my key in case you ever happened to lose yours like I often do and I’ve been meaning to give it to you the last couple of days but I keep forgetting, which I guess is like you said about me, that I’m so easily distracted, like a child.
“But I suppose that’s all irrelevant now,” he goes on. “I’d like to give you the other key now because I don’t really want to go to jail for the night or even just a couple of hours if like what you said about calling the police was real, and neither would I really like it if they just came here and questioned me, even if they came to the conclusion that I was harmless which I am and let me go, but because of the neighborhood and everything I’m sure people would see the police and me and get the wrong idea, think the worst, and not that I just came here and stayed because I love you which would be the truth.”
“Your foot,” she says.
“But what’s with all the explanation, you’re probably asking, because you’ve had it up to here, like you already said and right now the only thing you probably want is your key back and for me to leave, and I’ll tell you where your key is, though to get it I’ll have to leave and then come back again since it’s at home, like I said, on a ring the exact duplicate of this key ring here, with all the same keys plus yours, hanging next to the door.”
“I don’t believe you,” she says. “You’re a goddamn liar. Why should I believe you now after everything else?”
“You can’t, of course,” he says, “and if you like I’ll just go home and get your key without making any other copies and bring it over and just slide it under the door if it’ll fit although I’m not sure it’ll fit because of how flush the door is, but anyway leave it in your mailbox or just under the mat and then you’ll see I wasn’t lying and also you’ll have the other key back. But what I’m saying is I’ll have to leave and then come back again which I take from what you’ve said you don’t especially want, but I don’t really see any other alternative other than just to keep the key which I also don’t think you want, or throw it in the trash or dispose of it in some way, but with keys you never know, you know? Sometimes you think you’ve gotten rid of a key and then years later it shows up and you don’t even remember what lock it goes to, which is pretty funny if you think about it to me at least, considering how often I also lose the keys to the locks I actually know of and need to open.”
“No,” she says. “You’re right. I don’t want you to come back. If you come back I think I really will call the police.”
“Well, fine. But what other option is there?”
She thinks a while and finally says, “I’ll come with you.” She nods and says it again, “I’ll come with you. To get the key if there really is a key and also to make sure after you get the key that you don’t go to the hardware store and make another copy so you’d be able to come back in a week or a month, after you think I’ve calmed down some and say, ’Oh look, I found another key I wanted to give back to you,’ and ’Maybe we could go get a drink or a bite to eat if you’re not doing anything,’ to which the answer’s no, by the way.”
He shrugs. “Suit yourself,” he says. “I had some errands to run after this but I suppose I can put them off until later. Should we go now then?”
“Yes,” she says. “Let me just get my coat because I heard on the radio it’s supposed to rain later today even though it doesn’t look like it right now, but you never know. Also let me feed the cat, although I suppose we, I mean I, won’t be gone very long, and she can wait. She’s getting fat anyway.” She gets her coat and holds it in her left hand while she locks the door with her own key and says, “All right. Let’s go,” and they go. They take the subway even though usually with her he takes a cab, but since they’re over, she’s said, made that pretty clear, there’s no real reason to try to impress her anymore.
“You remember the first time we met?” he says. They’re walking down the subway steps and he’s trying to slow her down. “In a bar, both awfully drunk, and maybe because of or despite that you took me home that first night. You were larger then. Heavy. Fat, really. We screwed so long and hard and you were so heavy we broke the bed. Didn’t even realize it until the morning after when I woke up, you snoring beside me like a baby, my face crushed against the headboard. I got up, went looking for my pants, finally found them at the bottom of a pile of clothes. My wallet was gone. ’Hey,’ I said. ’Give me back my wallet! You stole my goddamn wallet!’ I was screaming at you, calling you names. Bad things, I said. Finally I went home and there was a message from the bar. They’d found my wallet in the bathroom stall they said and I could come by anytime after three and pick it up.”
She pays her fare and doesn’t wait for him until they’re out on the platform on the other side from where a busker is playing “Moon River.” “None of that ever happened,” she says. “What are you trying to prove?”
He doesn’t know. Nothing, really. He’d tell her anything if he thought it’d make a difference but he doesn’t and it won’t, and then on the subway there’s two men making eyes at her, not especially threatening or attractive but making eyes despite the fact that he’s standing right next to her. They’re both standing across the aisle. She’s sitting and he’s standing next to her since when they came on there was only the one open seat and he let her have it, actually didn’t let her have it since she just took it, but would have if she’d given him half a chance. She drops something, a pen. She’s doing a crossword puzzle, word jumble, Sudoku, twirling the pen around her finger while she thinks, and then she drops it. She drops it again. The second time one of the men making eyes laughs when she stoops to pick it up, and seeing or maybe hearing him, she laughs too. They share eyes, and for whatever reason this infuriates him, he finds it infuriating, he’s filled with fury, and not because of her since she’s her own woman and done with him now anyway, but the presumption of the man, who saw them board together and sit together or sit and stand, sees them together now and still thinks he has the right to make eyes and make her laugh. The hubris! Chutzpah! What an ass!
“You know,” he says to the man, “I know you probably don’t realize this since you’ve been acting like a goddamn tomcat ever since we got on, but the woman you’ve been making eyes at here the whole goddamn trip just happens to be girlfriend, and I don’t know about whatever backwoods hole you come from but around here, making eyes like that’s liable to get your goddamn head caved in.” He can be very imposing when he puts his mind to it. The man doesn’t say anything. He’s not smiling anymore, only making eyes at the tops of his shoes. She gets up and punches him in the arm. “What?” he says, but she’s already getting off. It’s their stop. His stop. The stop nearest his apartment. They get off and the two men stay.
“Haven’t you been listening?” she says. “I’m not your girlfriend. You’re not my boyfriend. That poor guy. Did you hear anything I said at all?”
He grins, shrugs. “You know me, I always have trouble with my tenses. Is. Was. But what’s with this poor guy nonsense? Douche bag is more like it, making eyes at you like that. I’ll tell you, no one has any sense of boundaries on the subway anymore, but hey! Where are you going?” He runs to catch up to her, passes a Salvation Army soldier ringing a bell and it reminds him, reminds him of something. “Doesn’t that bring back memories,” he says. “Reminds me of when we met. Remember? I was temping for the post office over the holiday season schlepping a mailbag up and done the block, and my second day you came out and walked with me, talking about how lonely you were with your husband overseas and I said I’m lonely too, and offered if I could come by later that night so we could keep each other company and be a little less lonely.”
“Do you know what a fool you’re making of yourself?” she says. “That never happened either.”
“And then one day you got a letter from overseas, your husband, and I didn’t give it to you for whatever reason and a month later he came home and found us screwing on the kitchen table.”
But she’s given up trying to talk to him, walking a good ten feet ahead up the block until she comes to the front door of his apartment where she waits with her arms crossed for him to catch up and unlock the door with his key so he can give her her key and she can beat the hell out of there. He catches up. He unlocks the door. “Would you like something to drink?” he asks. “I have tea, three kinds, spearmint, Earl Grey, chamomile, also coffee although I’d have to wash out the coffee maker from this morning. Or maybe some wine since I think there’s still some from when we had dinner here last week.”
“Please just give me my goddamn key already,” she says.
“All right, okay, just a minute,” he says. “I thought I left it here by the door but I guess I misplaced it, but don’t worry, I’ll find it, but what I’m saying is while I look you might as well have a seat and something to drink or else maybe go through my books since I’m sure there’s some of yours in there, and if you don’t want to do either of those you might as well at least help me look.”
She doesn’t help him look. She’s still standing outside his front door exactly where he’d been standing outside her front door when he knocked and read her note and knocked some more. “I don’t have any books here,” she says. “And if I do, you can keep them.”
“Then at least come in and close the door. You’re going to let the cat out.”
She steps inside, closes the door, says, “You don’t have a cat.”
“Oh right, I forgot. Anyway I found it,” he says and he opens his hand to show her the spare set of keys. “But before I give it to you and you leave most likely forever and we never see each other again, I want to tell you that I take back what I said earlier when you said you were going to call the police, and if we were back at your apartment right now and I was knocking on your front door and you said you were going to call the police if I didn’t leave, I wouldn’t. Leave. I’d stay. Even when I heard the sirens if there were any or saw the police car pulling into the parking lot, I wouldn’t go anywhere. That’s just how much I care for you. So I’ll give you your key back now if you still want it, but I wanted to say that.”
“Okay,” she says. “Now give me back my key.”
“Fine,” he says. “I’m pretty sure it’s this one,” he says. “And now that I’m giving it back to you and there’s no ransom or article of exchange I might put it between us for your time or presence here and you are in a sense a free person I’d like to ask again, are you sure you wouldn’t like to stay and have a cup of tea or coffee or maybe a glass of wine and we can maybe sit and talk and figure out this thing between us?”
“No,” she says and takes the key and leaves, going home by the subway again though a different route from the one they took to get to his apartment, and there’s no two men making eyes and there’s plenty of seats available though she feels like standing now. She thinks she would have liked to say something more when she took the key, though right now she can’t imagine what else she could have said. “So long. Too late for jail.”
Back at her apartment she opens the door with her own key, the key she’s had since it was first given to her by the landlord or apartment manager when she first moved into the apartment with all her things and the U-Haul that he rented and also drove since she didn’t feel comfortable driving such a large truck. He’d put down a deposit in case he damaged the truck or lost the keys. When they returned it that night undamaged and with the keys he got his deposit back, which they used to celebrate her new apartment and also them, and he drank too much and swore at the waiter and then they went back to her apartment and made love.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED