By Alex Guttman
You all knew me pretty well. I’m the one who had the bowl-cut and the clarinet. The one who got whiplash playing dodge ball. I was the one who couldn’t take home the class guinea pig because of my allergies. A real-life Chuckie Finster. An anomaly in both medical and social worlds. I’m sure there’s an occasional thought that passes your mind–“I wonder what that guy’s up to?” Cringing, doubtfully you think, “Hope he’s alright…”
And with that I’ll tell a story I promised never to tell—
I’m lying in bed, reliving and repeating the last conversation my newly ex-girlfriend and I had before she moved her last box from the hell-hole we called an apartment. Tossing and turning, I’m both moping and thanking God for her leaving. Until about four a.m., when I hear the porch door rattle—
My eyes burst open so fully my eyelids disappear into my head as I listen to a motor run in the alley and two voices on our (my) balcony whisper to one another. Immediately, I start cursing my ex-girlfriend’s name. She would never lock that (bleepity bleep) door, her last Christmas present, last efff-you. Sure enough the door creeps open and I watch slivers of moonlight break through the blinds from the bed in our upstairs loft. Two large-ish figures slip through the door. “Aw man, look how much is here!” One loudly whispers.
Immediately, I think–They don’t know I’m here! They think we moved out! Hell, she moved enough crap for eight people. Stiff as a frostbitten corpse, my eyes dart around the open space bedroom. NERF gun? No. God no. Star Trek PEZ dispensers? Wrong track, Alex, you’re not surprising a late-eighties 3rd grader. Bass guitar? Easily the most expensive thing you own. Oh! The nine iron you keep next to your bed in case of the zombie apocalypse. I can see the handle but literally cannot move, completely locked in fear. You’d fare well in the apocalypse, moron. I can hear them in the kitchen below me rooting through silverware. OK, Alex, lets focus and make a slow move…
Next thing I know I see the shadow of a figure already halfway up the stairs. I’m still lying there like some cowardly plank. Instantly, every pore on my body is filled with sweat and with each thunk of his footstep I silently gulp more air. The top of his head bops up and stops. He whisper-yells down the stairs. I can’t understand what he says or hear a response. My heart beats so loudly I’m nervous he can hear it. The top of his head spins back toward the bedroom and he walks up. And I just shut my eyes. Like I’m asleep, or dead or a mannequin-–I don’t know, so afraid all I could do was lay there.
He must’ve seen me right away, just lying there in the middle of the room, on the middle of the bed, because he darted back downstairs.
I shuttered. Oh, God, I just want to wet the bed.
Then he starts yelling–
“Did you call the police!?” He threatened up to me.
Definitely should’ve called the police. GODDAMMIT ALEX, YOU ARE SUCH AN IDIOT.
“N… No,” I was able to eek out after a try.
“Man, are you lying to me?!”
“NO!… No, didn’t call the police.” Because I’m the absolute worst.
“If you’re lying to me we’ll find you. Throw down your phone.”
I mechanically reach over to the bed-side table and yank the phone from the power cord. It lights up and I have one new message. From her. Like a man in a trance, I sit up and walk to the lofts edge. Right as the figure comes into view—
“Don’t fuckin’ look at me!”
I drop down as if avoiding a spray of bullets, take a deep breath and throw my phone grenade-style over the edge. I hear it hit the floor with a bang.
“Who is this message from?”
“My girlfriend,” I fire back.
“Where is she?”
“I mean, ex-girlfriend. She just moved out.”
And then I heard the other burglars voice, for the first time, faint and very deep, “Fool’s in denial.”
The Main Burglar then made that noise when you suck your teeth. The one you’d make if you lost a quarter in a sewer drain. As if to say, “That’s messed up.”
“We’re taking this phone. And a couple other things. You don’t tell anyone about this and we don’t hunt you down. “
“Don’t get outta that bed till the sun comes up. Understand?!”
With that they picked up and left. I listened to the engine drive away and laid in bed, eyes wide, staring blankly at the ceiling. Thinking about how everything had turned out. I didn’t have to break my bass guitar over their heads. Or jump out my window. Or get taken hostage. Or die. But mostly, thinking about one thing. “Fool’s in denial.”
Next thing I knew the heat of the morning sun was slicing across my face and my eyes fluttered open. Kind of confused, and only mostly positive that all wasn’t a nightmare, I jumped out of bed and hustled around the apartment. To find—nothing missing. Sure, some things were thrown around, but everything looked like a mess anyway from the move. I couldn’t really figure it out. Was I in such an emotional state my dreams were that intense? My crazy-train of thought is abruptly derailed by a knock at the door. I shake out of postulation and hurriedly open the door.
The postman, already ten paces away, holds up his hand.
At my feet is a package. I nervously nod and smile, like someone who has a body in their freezer. I snag the delivery and scramble inside. Floating on top of the packing peanuts is a letter,
“Merry Christmas! We know your old one was giving you some trouble, so enjoy! You are so awesome, you’re the coolest son we could ever ask for…”
It went on like that. For a bit.
“Love, Mom and Dad.”
I lifted away the packaging to find a new cell phone. Cell phone! If my phone isn’t here then it definitely happened.
As if I were being watched–like some auspicious voyeur was peeking through my window judging, “Does he really think he dreamt that?–I casually walk upstairs with the package. What can I say, years of embarrassment really affect a man.
Upstairs… And no phone.
I take out my new phone and with a couple of strokes have activated it. In floods spam email notifications, creepy strangers’ Snapchat blips and that one message I didn’t get to read. From her. I open it up.
“I forgot my box of jewelry on the kitchen counter. Let me know when you’re out and I’ll come by and grab it.”
I rush downstairs. It was like Christmas Morning. I slide into the kitchen to see–the box is indeed missing. A grin commandeers my face, no less wrinkle-filled than the classic Grinch.
I lock the balcony door and that’s when I realize. I am the king of my castle.