Collapse : A poisoned love story

by lamech o'brien


Tilly manages to tell me twice that he just waxed his car before I even climb into it. Got up extra early to sparkle his pride and joy, his 63 Falcon Futura, coal black with leather interior.


"So, what do you think?"


He acts like this is something out of the ordinary, this wax job. I've know Tilly since day one on the job ten years ago and never have I seen his car with so much as grain of dirt on it. "Do you have anything on you to snack on. I didn't get a chance to finish my breakfast."


The disappointment swims in his voice. "Yeah. There's a breakfast bar in my lunch bag"


In the back seat a huge monster of stereo sits there like a welcomed passenger. This is how Tilly listens to music in his car. "No way am I going to tear up this classic dashboard for some lame stereo system. This is just as good." This guy, this best friend of mine, he's all about preserving the sanctity of what he calls, "Old school cool." Think Sinatra with the Rat Pack. Think martinis served to you by pretty young things in fishnets and bunnygirl outfits. Think three piece suits with matching Italian loafers that you could never afford unless you sold your soul.


This is Tilly. Today he is wearing grey slacks, a pressed shirt with vest, a pork pie hat and thick Buddy Holly glasses. He has 20/20 vision but according to him the outfit is nothing without the glasses. Tilly, he's barely in his mid-thirties but dresses like someone twenty years older.


Guess it's cool.


Me? I just wear whatever is clean.


I grabbed the lunch bag from it's resting place on top of the stereo. "Hey, can I have the apple instead?"


"Yeah."


The first bite is so rich that juice spills down my chin. I wipe my face on the back of my hand. Tilly is watching me and sighs again, "You look like hell, you know that?"


My shoulders shrug and I take another bite. "Who is this?"


"What?"


"This band, I've never heard them before." My head jerks back at the stereo. Another sloppy bite is taken. "They're good."


"They're called the Libertines. Look, did you and May have another fight again?"


I sink in my seat, "What are they? British? Is this new?" My eyes are glued on the apple that is in my hand. It was as if I was looking at fruit for the first time. "They sound new."


"Drew!"


Oh, yeah, that's my name. It's short for Andrew. But if you don't like that name you can call me anything you want. Bob. Mike. Sue. I don't care.


The car stops at a red light. My heart starts to sink deeper into my chest. Still I act like as if my world consists of nothing but the half eaten apple. This is my defense mechanism; stupidity. Tilly has come up against this wall many times before and backed down. Wish he would get a clue and do it again. I don't feel like talking. Didn't feel like telling him about May, the coffee and the six a.m. fight over God knows what. I just want to go to work, do my nine and half hour shift, drink a beer with him afterwards and go home to a hopefully sleeping May. See, if this was anyone else I would be telling a big whopper of lie. But one night after a summer party at Tilly's place a few years ago, I told him everything.


I was drunk, I couldn't help it.


Ever since then he's been trying to been trying to save me from May. Seems Tilly is the only one in the world who doesn't understand the rules of males. But then again, he might but just doesn't follow them. He even called the cops on her once when I came over to his house with a black eye and a split bloody lip. I just wanted some place to crash then. Should have stayed home because we had a fight over that. I remember sitting back on my couch with some cop who looked younger than me asking who did this to me. May was next to me crying. Her entire body was shaking in the way that made me forget about everything and want to hold her. Tilly was standing behind the cop and pointing at May. Pointing and swearing.


"That bitch did it to him. Say it, Drew, tell them she did this to you."


May with her small, baby doll body, May with her bony hands with the chipped nail polish that looked like little maps at the end of each finger, May with her softly lined face aging too quickly before her time, May in her pink nightgown, the silk one that I liked, she leaned over on me. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."


Everything melted away.


"Officer, it was an accident."


Didn't press charges even though Tilly swore that he would never speak to me again if I let May get away with this. That threat lasted me two long months until I came in to work with a broken arm. He took one look at me and said I was a moron. But after that we were friends again. Guess he figured the silent treatment wasn't going to make me give up May. So instead every day he asks me if I am okay. This is my morning ritual.


Not sure that I like it or not.


Well, maybe I do, sort of. Everyone likes to know that someone is looking out for them. That someone gives a damn whether or not you are taking in air. But then again, no one wants to be berated. Can never find that so called happy medium. Thing is if I ever did find it, could I have it?


The light turns green.


'Drew, come on. Talk to me."


My hands and the apple drop in my lap. "I found another white strand." I push my hair back to reveal my hairline, "Here. It seems May and I are in a race. Who can turn completely white before hitting thirty-five." I stick out my head out the window looking in the side mirror. Hair the color of faded wheat moves in the wind as if it were alive. "Look, see?" Fingers pluck a long silver one and show it to Tilly. "But it's a good thing that I am blonde. Doesn't show up as much. You should see May. Doesn't seem fair, though. My pop was completely ghost haired by the time he hit twenty-five. When that age came crawling around for me without so much as a stray strand I thought nature was being kind. The curse had skipped me. But now...maybe it would have been better if I had turned white earlier when I had expected it. Hope is a cruel trick when you learn that it's false."


Tilly does not even turn his head at my rant. He's still on his own track, running."Do you have any bruises today? Can you at least tell me that?" There is a slight sense of panic in his voice. As if he is worried that I had finally took one too many blows to the head and had cracked. I hate it when he takes that tone. I almost hate it as much May crying.


People, just smile, even if you don't mean it. This is how we should play our parts.


I let the white hair in my hand fly out of my hands and be carried off by the wind. I give up. One fight per morning is enough for me. "I'm fine, Tilly. May yelled at me, that's it. I don't know about what but really, that's all that has happened to me. And now I am just a little worn out."


"I hate that fucking woman, Drew."


"I know you do."


And this is how we end today's ritual.