Close Quarters Combat

In my head, I’m shouting. I’m saying all those things that scare me, that eat at me. I’m screaming at the top of my lungs for whitewashed freedom and something that breaks this tattered silence.

“I don’t want this life. I don’t want the mundane and the simple. I hate that couch and these walls and what they have done to both of us.”

But I haven’t spoken a word. Instead I’ve been mumbling silently to myself, my head filled with one-liners and quick hit emotional ammunition. We’re doing battle again, And my mind is so tired it can barely lift a shield.

She’s standing in front of me, her arms crossed and her gaze long and penetrating. She’s trying to figure out if I’m going to crack. If I’m going to break my resolve and give in to her crossed arms and her attempts at drawing me out.

She has no idea what she’s in for. To her, this silly fight, and my silly behavior are just that. A disguise that evokes her to react. A game of sorts, and one that she can easily win by throwing darts until she hits her mark. Eventually she will, she always does and to allow those darts to bounce of my slick, rubbery skin just means that she will be throwing harder.

I can barely lift my eyes to meet hers. As I do, I catch a small glint of sunlight reflecting off of the snow outside. To the layperson this would seem like a glimmer of hope, cast in a sea of uncertainty. To me it’s just light, a faint sparkle of her need for communication.

Inside my head, Harold and the Blue Notes is stuck in a record scratch groove and “If you don’t know me by now” repeats until the words lose their meaning and it’s pointless to try and figure out why. That song. That little piece of Soul Train history meant so much to me when I was younger. I remember singing it loudly with my mother as we drove around town in an old Dodge Dart.

That car was a death trap. I remember, it’s rear doors would fly open unannounced at times when she rounded a corner a bit to fast. My younger brother, an avid fan of GI Joe would use the back seat as a play table, kneeling in the rear floorboards, posing and fighting his heroic enterouge endlessly. We almost lost him once.

Immediately, I’m snapped back from my memories almost violently and she’s repeating the same phrase as I traipse from room to room.

“I’m serious. We need to talk about this.”

She weaves the words into a net and tries again to capture me. The lead weight sternness her only scathing assualt. Unphased, I keep moving. Keep preparing. Grabbing dirty clothes and books in an evasive manuever. The net falls to the floor with a shake and she blocks the front door, knowing that as my final destination. When I am this upset, I always run from the cause of my annoyance.

“If you don’t move out of my way, I will move you.” I offer in partial threat. She knows I’ll never hit her, hurt her, but I will pick her up and relocate her tiny body so that it no longer blocks my escape.

I’ve been thinking about this moment all night. What I will say, how she will slam the door when I finally have my way. How she will turn on her computer and write all these feelings down. How I will be portrayed as the immature one, the one who refuses to talk. How she will probably pick up the phone and call a close friend to come pick her up so that she can return the favor of my disappearing act. How she will wonder what I am doing, and who I am with. How her assumptions will lead to possible tears. How she will be wrong.

Her socks don’t match. They never do. It is one thing that I love about her. She doesn’t follow those perfectly prescribed rules of the game. Between dyed hair and a pair of polka-dotted Converse sneakers she exists to feel and do as her heart desires. She always has.

And now, her heart desires closeness. A last ditch attempt at shoveling kindness and concern on top of an elusive strategy to evade responsibility. She knows that if she can crack my hard-headed grunts and delicately crafted phrases then she can take her place somewhere inside my head, someplace where she can pull levers and press buttons and control the outcome of this situation.

My head flashes to a dirty hotel room. A bottle of Macallen’s, half empty on the bedside table. A black notebook in close reach. A pen, half empty from scribbling my secrets and my hatred for everything banal poised somewhere inbetween.

She concedes, and everything goes as I thought it would. I’m four steps down the flight to our apartment when I hear a loud slam from the light wooden door behind me. I’m holding a laundry basket full of clothes with every intention of being alone for the entire day.

She doesn’t understand my need for solitude. My desire to live adventurously. My need for close quarters intimate combat, and sex and cigarettes and whiskey and wanderlust.

And as I touch my toe to the last step, neither do I.

Close Quarters Combat

Matt H.

Joined December 2009

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