By Seth Kushner
S he wasn’t answering or returning my calls. She had made her decision and I was supposed to accept it, but I just couldn’t. It wasn’t what I wanted. I thought everything was great. How could she have felt otherwise?
I thought if she saw me—if she just heard me out—I’d be able to convince her she’d made a mistake and we could go back.
It was 6AM when I woke up. The new sun was shining its soft orange light between the houses on her block and through my windshield, causing me to squint. I must have fallen asleep during the previous night’s stakeout, waiting for her to come home.
I started my car and groggily drove back to my place, only five minutes away. I climbed the staircase to the apartment I shared with my old friend, Aman. I walked past the darkened living room, not noticing anyone there until he called out to me.
“Where you been, faggot?”
I turned and saw Aman sitting on the couch, shirtless and in the same torn, dirty sweatpants he wore every day. He had a cigar in his mouth and a cloud of smoke around him, lit by a shaft of light coming from between the dark, red velvet curtains he thought were so classy.
“I’ve been out,” I said.
“Yeah, you know me, I’m a busy guy.”
“I hope you weren’t waiting outside of her house.”
“Dude, I’m your friend for a long time, right?”
“You like a brother to me, you know that, right?”
“Stop acting like a faggot. She’s not worth it.”
“You don’t know her.”
“She was here all the time; I know her enough; she wasn’t anything special.”
“What do you know anyway?”
“Oh, does he? Then I guess it must be true.”
“Marcel is very smart. You should listen to his advice.”
I went to my room and closed the door behind me. I plopped down on my bed and stared up at the shadows being cast on my ceiling from the early morning light through the window. I was transfixed as my eyes traced every line, and I thought about her and the last time we were together in this bed and how everything felt right, and then I slept.
It was a large three-bedroom apartment in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, off the Q train. While Brighton is primarily known for its Russian population and “Odessa by the sea” vibe, I lived several blocks inland from the boardwalk, where the store signage turns from backward lettered Russian to squiggly Arabic and Spanish. On my walk home from the subway, I could easily have gotten a Pierogi to nosh, then picked up some Halal meat and Jarritto soda to bring home.
I had two roommates, Aman and Marcel. Aman was my old friend from junior high, and Marcel was a more recent acquaintance.
Though Aman was Muslim from Pakistan and me Jewish from Brooklyn, we became fast friends and shared our teen years together. We trolled the mall for girls in the 9th grade, cruised in his white Cadillac Eldorado in the 11th and moved in together during our late 20s.
Marcel, our unofficial third roommate didn’t speak to me directly, but through Aman, who informed me that Marcel was originally from a small town in Germany near the French border, was highly educated and well spoken, and had a particular way with the ladies. And, though he didn’t generally like Jews, he thought I was “okay.”
Marcel didn’t take up much room, never made a mess and I never saw him. If not for the anti-Semitism, he could be considered the perfect roommate.
I woke up and my window was dark. I slept from dawn till dusk and lost a day. I went into the kitchen, got a beer from the fridge and took it into the living room. I dropped onto the couch and took a long swig, my mind returning to her. I wanted desperately to call her, but I knew she wouldn’t pick up. It was Monday and she’d be returning from culinary school soon, so I considered getting back in my car to once again attempt to intercept her.
My mind was cloudy and numb and I couldn’t think straight enough to make a decision. It was as though the pain and anguish and depression had allowed a craziness or mania to possess me and I couldn’t make a move.
Aman walked in and sat down in the chair to my right. I didn’t look at him and we didn’t speak for some time. His copy of Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf sat on the coffee table, next to his tobacco and cigar box.
“You reading that again?” I asked, finally breaking the silence.
“Yeah, you know, just parts,” he said.
“Yeah, very good.”
“That your copy, or Marcel’s”
“Mine. Marcel knows it by heart.”
“Of course he does.”
“Marcel says you have to get over her and move on.”
“Aman, enough with this.”
“I told you Marcel’s very smart.He has many degrees.”
“Would you stop already—there’s no Marcel here!”
“Yeah there is.”
“Oh yeah, then where is he?”
“He’s sitting right over there,” he said standing up and pointing at the sofa across the room.
Aman stood frozen, his arm extended and his finger still pointing. I starred at the spot and saw just the sofa.
I quickly got dressed and put my coat on. Aman was a very warmhearted guy and was like family to me, but I was antsy and couldn’t continue talking with him about his imaginary friend. I loved Aman, but I used to lock my bedroom door every night, just in case.
On my way to the front door to confront her, Aman blocked my path.
“I know where you’re going, and you gotta stop this,” he told me. I ignored him and walked out, but out of the corner of my eye I thought I caught a glimpse of Marcel sitting on the sofa staring at me.