By Chris Miskiewicz
We stood in the middle of the street staring up at her bedroom light. There was a slight flicker, probably from the candles she kept beside the bed. It looked warm, inviting, comfortable. All the words that come to mind when you think about places that became your home for a little while.
“Do you think she’s home,” Veronica asked me.
“Yep. The whole lit candle thing.”
She shook her head.
“This is crazy.”
And by crazy, she was referring to the fact that we were basically stalking my ex-girlfriend by standing directly outside of her bedroom window. Well, stalking is a bit extreme. Let’s call it passing by compared to the other places I had hid over the last few weeks, which definitely had stalking potential.
The best one being when her new boyfriend, Taylor walked over to the dumpster I was hiding behind to throw away some boxes. That was stalking. It was also a sobering moment. Something about crouching behind garbage in the freezing cold to hide from your old girls new guy puts your actions in perspective.
But it was that very perspective that I was having a problem with. I couldn’t seem to let her go, and that had everything to do with the speed of our break up and the subsequent immediate beginning of her new relationship with Taylor, the photojournalist. And by immediate, I literally mean that she started dating him the next day after she dumped me.
It was that slap to the face teeth cracking speed that troubled me. It brought questions about truth, what we really were, about how much people really mean it when they say that they love. And that was the crux of it. The doubt that came after a good thing. The tiny fractures that suddenly seemed to appear all over what I used to think was a sturdy suit of armor.
“Shit! It’s her!” Veronica squeaked at seeing the shape of someone’s shadow move past the bedroom window into the living room. I kept my eyes steady waiting, only to see a second shape pass by a moment later.
“Yep. And him too.”
My heart sunk and the left side of my lip curled into a mix of a snarl and something that Elvis would do while singing. But I didn’t feel like singing. Even with how closely I looked to be having a John Cusack moment there wasn’t a lot inside of me that wanted to hold up a boom box. At least, that’s what I was telling myself, even though I knew I’d do it in a heartbeat if it gave me a chance again.
Taylor. I hated Taylor. I had run into the two of them a good dozen times in the four weeks since she had dumped me, and every time that I saw the guy I hated him a little bit more. He was taller than I was, thinner, he had this adventurous job where he’d go to the middle east and photograph soldiers in battle. With bullets flying over his head. His life hanging in the balance. Adrenaline rushing. All of that stuff. And she loved that he did this for a living. You could see it while she was walking beside him. She was proud of this man while all I was doing was driving a box truck full of props for sneaker commercials.
Still, I could see that he was lying. That he was going to cheat on her every second he could. That he didn’t understand the girl she was, what she needed. At least that’s what I told myself.
“Okay, we should do this. I don’t want the cops to bust us,” Veronica said.
“Okay. But the cops aren’t going to bust us for this.”
I reached deep into my messenger bag and handed her a few rolls of pennies. Then one by one we both began putting them along her car. My old car, or at least the car I always drove. A pale blue 1963 Corvair.
Veronica started giggling.
“This is crazy.”
“Maybe,” I said. You see, I used to leave a heads up penny on her doorstep to let her know I had come by. This was before the cell-phone. This was my first thought instead of walking to a pay phone to leave a message on her machine. It was direct. Easy. Cute. And it had a bit of poetry to it. So earlier tonight I had the idea to do one final annoyingly cute thing. Put 1000 pennies, all heads up along her car to find in the morning.
We were almost finished just as a patrol car pulled up beside us.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” Veronica said as I walked up to their window.
“What are you doing?” he asked, already with that dead eyed not that intelligent yell at you look that most NYC cops have.
“I’m putting 1000 pennies on my ex-girlfriends car. It’s a thing I used to do. Kind of like a surprise. She’s up there with her new guy. I’m just doing this as a goodbye type of thing for myself so that I could move on.”
They both stared at me without expressions trying to understand what crime this would fall under. What paperwork they’d have to file.
“I did something like that with chestnuts once,” the officer in the passenger seat said. “It didn’t do me no good. Good luck kid. Maybe you’ll do better. It’s still a waste of a good ten dollars.”
“Thanks,” I said as they slowly drove away.
“I have no idea how you get away with the things you get away with,” Veronica said while staring after them.
“I didn’t get away with anything. All I’m doing is saying goodbye.”
I turned around and kissed the last penny, then turned it over and placed it on the hood. The whole car shined with a pretty copper glow. Even if it was a worthless exercise it was pretty cool to look at.
“You think she’ll know it was you?” she asked.
“Yep. She’ll probably tell me I scratched the paint.”
“We should go,” Veronica said.
“Yeah,” I nodded. “Yeah we should.”
We walked down the block where I turned back once to look at it. I nodded. “Bye lady,” I whispered, and then I turned the corner.