October 1, 2009
“Hey, I’m home!” Jared called from the hall. The cacophony of crinkles from his plastic grocery bags followed him step by step with a massive finale when he tossed them down onto the counter. Looking down the dark hall, he saw the bedroom light on. “Sandy?”
“I’m in here!” she called abruptly.
Jared sighed and started to poke through the bags. It figured that she wouldn’t jump up to help him. Unless it was a matter of life or death, she probably could care less. Sorting through the bags, he found the perishables and took them out. He piled bags of frozen green beans and TV dinner boxes into his arms and went to the ice box to put them away.
“Are you okay?”
There was a long pause before she answered. “Yeah.”
The way she said it seemed odd to him. She sounded distracted; not “I’m cramming for a final” distracted, either. Her tone was a bit sharp and also kind of directly, as opposed to her normal, thick quality. Is something wrong? he wondered. He considered going in there and asking, but he didn’t have the slightest inkling what he’d be walking into. Maybe he should just wait; if she wanted to talk to him she’d say so… Right?
Now, he felt odd. One thing he hated more than anything else in the world was being separated from the only other person in the place and not knowing it she was thinking something bad about him. He continued to stack canned soup and beans in the cupboards, but he wasn’t actually conscious of where and what. This was going to bug him no matter how hard he tried not to think about it. This is ridiculous…has is really gotten so bad that we’re worried about fighting?
In Jay’s opinion, they had a good relationship. They’d been together for a year and a half and through the worst tragedy of Jared’s life. He’d always known that it made they’re bond stronger, but how long could they really keep it that way? These days, they stayed away from each other more, kept secrets, fought more. The differences between them started to wear down—if not on Jared then on Sandy. They weren’t exactly a stereotypical, perfect couple. Sandy had looks, style, vanity and a closed mind: all things that made a super model or celebrity. Jared was a smart, artistic guy with a lot of compassion and a goofy grin—a veritable outcast in the superficial college environment.
It seemed like the things they used to understand about each other were driving them insane. With a quiet grumble, he bunched up the plastic bags and stuffed them into the recycle bin.
When he entered the bed room, he saw Sandy lying on the bed with her lamp on, reading a book. She looked up for a moment, then back to Baby You’re the Best, by Norman Patrick.
“What took you so long?” she asked.
Midway through slinging his book bag over his shoulder and putting it down, Jared stopped and stared at her for a moment. “There was a long line at the supermarket,” he stated flatly.
He blinked a few times, a little confused. “‘Oh’ what?”
Now, her eyes slid up to him again, narrowed, and she closed her book in her lap. “I just said ‘oh’…like a quiet, thoughtful noise.”
“No, when you say it like that, you have your own ideas about ‘what took me so long.’ What?”
Raised eyebrows, cocked head, she was a little too nonchalant to be completely unknowing. Jared didn’t ever mean to pick a fight, but Sandy did. He could tell just by the set of her jaw that she was baiting him, provoking him to anger. Falling silent, he looked away just as she crossed her arms in front of his chest.
“Just figured you might have been having trouble finding the right shampoo.”
“Oh my—” Before he could shout at her, he covered his mouth and took five deep breaths. I’m too tired for this…too tired for this… Pulling off his jacket, he glared at her through the wardrobe mirror. “You’re still mad about that? I used your shampoo, that doesn’t make me Charles Manson.”
When she rolled her eyes, he felt a rush of frustration with her. “I didn’t say I was mad, it’s just…that’s woman’s shampoo. Why do you want to use it?”
His shirt came off over his head and he started to undo his pants. He needed to keep his hands busy so that they wouldn’t shake with his fatigue and irritation. “I told you,” he began calmly, “Jensen said he uses the same shampoo as you and his hair looks awesome. So I thought I’d try it.”
“Oh, because Jensen said so.”
“I didn’t say that.” And there it was. The argument was initiated with the assumption and putting words where they weren’t.
“That’s what you meant! Jay, do you have any idea why Jensen looks so good, so pretty? Because he’s gay. Faggots like him doll themselves up just like women so that they can attract men, it’s just—”
“Nope!” Jared turned on her now, a hand raised to request her silence before he snapped. “No, we are not going to talk about this. I don’t want to hear your self-righteous judgments on homosexuality, so just shut up before you start.”
Putting her book aside, Sandy stood and took a few steps around the bed. “Listen, Jared! Listen to me, I know what I’m talking about.”
“You do not! You have no idea. You think that just because a person has different tastes, he’s going to hell. And don’t you dare call him a faggot. Who the hell do you think you are?”
She was turning red in a short hesitation, her furious eyes glaring up at his face. Her head was tipped back so far that her hair was frilled in the back. “I am your girlfriend,” she snapped like the wife in a 1930’s black and white film. “Damn it, you said that you love me, so how does it make sense that you won’t trust me on something like this?”
“You’re being irrational…He’s my friend! And you just can’t—”“I didn’t say he wasn’t. I have nothing against Jensen, personally, but he’s a bad influence on you, I mean come on! You spend more time with him than you ever had with me in one sitting.” Her voice was going high-pitched—something she usually avoided happening at all costs. “Hell, we used to get along before you meant this freaking fairy!”
“Shut up!” He practically screamed at her. Shivering, his entire body was strung up like a bowstring. “FUCK! I’m so too tired for this.” Running a hand over his brow, he held it and pressed against his forehead, trying to alleviate his sudden migraine. Don’t scream, don’t scream…She has her opinions, she doesn’t deserve to be screamed at… “You know what? I’m sleeping on the couch.”