COLLAPSE

(A poisoned love story)



"You're an escaped abortion!"


May is screaming at me again.


Question is, what set her off this time? Is it the new coffee? Tilly suggested to give this brand a try. Puerto Rican coffee. Said it was stronger and full bodied. Maybe it was the coffee. May doesn't like changes.


A mug flies past my right ear and smashes brilliantly behind me on the kitchen wall. Don't need to turn to figure out that right now the white paint job behind me is stained brown with dripping liquid. How exactly do you get coffee stains out of white walls? Vinegar? Club Soda? Can it even be done? What would Miss Housekeeping due in this situation?


"Are you even listening to me? You are a waste skin, you know that?! Well, do you?!!"


Miss Housekeeping would have probably told me to deal with the problem in front of me. Rub the stain out.


Can't do that.


May is in my face or at least she is trying to be. The girl barely comes midway up my chest. I can see the few strands of dead ghost colored hair that are trying to hide in the mess of brown curls. She usually pulls them out. Twirls them around her fingers and gives them a good yank. Silvers be gone. I want to smile at the thought but I don't. May would probably hit me. Lately she's been switching between yelling at me and hitting me.


I just take it and make up excuses for whoever asks.


To the acne covered bag girl I say, Oh, this black eye? Football accident in the park.


She believes me.


To my coworker who tells the racist jokes but swears that he isn't racist I say, These cuts on my arms? Damn neighbor's cat.


He believes me.


To the bum who asks me for change when ever I pass him, I say, This bruise on my cheek? Faulty shelving and a ton of books.


He believes me.


After a while you become so good at lying, you can even look at them in the eyes without feeling the need to look away. It becomes a game. How far can you throw out the lie before someone calls bullshit. This broken finger? Snow plow accident. This scratch across my chest? Training helper monkeys. This cracked rib? A crossgender Tahitian hooker.


So far no one has called on me.


They just raise their eyebrows and mutter the cliched, "Oh, I'm sorry."


I don't think it's because they lack any sort of compassion. There's just an unspoken rule that when a man is bruised you don't ask for more information than he is willing to give up. And if he gives you a lie, you take it. With a woman it's different. People are pulled aside. Brows are furrowed. There are coffee chat interventions about the clear abuse that is going on. And we are not going to let this go on.


Machismo will get you killed.


A finger pokes in my chest, a string of swear words thrown at my face follows.


My body doesn't flinch anymore..


"May," I sigh, "I'm sorry." I just want to finish my coffee and go to work in a shirt that doesn't have any bloodstains in it.


How did this get to be my American dream?


May's head is down and I am looking at white hairs again. Hot moisture of her breath goes through my work shirt. Her hands are at her side. "You don't even know what you did, do you?"


I am not going to finish my coffee this time. I rarely do.


Then a car horn honks outside.


Tilly and his amazing car pool.


May's hand grabs at mine. "Don't go." She is still looking down. There's no doubt in my mind that she is starting to cry.


A sniffle confirms this.


"Please, don't go."


Oh, if you only knew how routine this is. In fact, this is the part where I go, "You know I can't. Look, I'll see you tonight." I give her a kiss on top of her head. She lets go. One last swig of coffee is taken. Still not finished. I manage to take a peak at the stain on the wall. It's worse than I thought. "May," I say and pat her on top of the head, "Find a way to clean that up."


And out the door I leave.