"You said that just to hurt me."
John stared into the wall, trying to decide. He had known it would hurt, but he considered it an act of kindness and desperation. Better to hurt a little bit then to let things get worse ... to make the pain more acute had to be better than letting it fester. His eyes bored into the wall and he tried to decide how he could always be wrong. Because he was. She said it. She was usually right ...
"Now you're not even going to say anything?"
"I'm trying to think."
He could feel the tightness in his throat. Why don't asteroids ever fall on people when they should? Not her. Him. He wanted to kiss the asteroid. He'd gladly become the asteroid. Floating in some black void of nothingness. Goddamn, he wanted that fucking asteroid.
"You're mean. I can't believe you would do this."
He pressed his thumbs into his eyes and watched the light show, worms of neon sparkling in the black.
"What should I do?"
The tears were coming. John wondered why he placed so much more importance on her tears than his own. Wasn't he the one that was dying? Wasn't he the one grasping for straws? Reaching and always falling short. Trying to keep the anger from destroying them. Somehow it had all become his fault again. It was a neat trick and he didn't fault her for it. He respected it. A novel skill.
"You're probably right. I'm probably the asshole. This is why I didn't even want to talk about it."
"Don't give me that bullshit!"
"You can't have it both ways. Either I'm an asshole or I'm not. I just ..."
"You just what?"
"No, just fucking say it. You said it before. Is there someone else?"
"What?! No. No, there is no one else."
"You're a fucking liar."
"Believe what you want."
Silence elbowed its way back into the room. John sank back in his chair. He sat and listened to her cry. He picked at a cuticle and chewed the inside of his lip. Why was it always so goddamn complicated. How did it work? He needed help. He'd needed help for years. But instead of help he'd gotten angry tears, accusations, and then a sly return to the status quo.
"You're telling me that ..."
"I'm not telling you anything."
"You sure as hell ..."
"I told you what I had to say. You don't want to hear it. I'm not gonna say it again."
"Yeah, just like 7-11."
John stood slowly before he turned and began the trudge up the stairs.
"Now you're just going to walk away?"
"What else can I do?"
"Whatever, John. Walk away."
He hesitated for a moment and then continued his ascent of the stairs. Downstairs was thick with confused rage. Upstairs, his thoughts could unfold. Upstairs, there were books. A shotgun. A bottle of scotch someone had given him years ago. John didn't drink, but it sounded more appealing than the shotgun, and he was too tired to read.
He sat in his office chair and pulled the heavy bottle out of the drawer. It looked expensive. It probably was. He opened it and took a drink straight from the bottle. It made his mouth fall in on itself. It brought the mouth sweat, and he was convinced he would vomit, but he didn't.
John sat in his lonely office and sipped from the bottle. His thoughts were like a scared animal, skittish. He listened to the cabinets being slammed in the bathroom. He heard the water run, stop. He waited until he was sure she was asleep, and then he sighed.
He had not realized how drunk he was. Standing was difficult. But he was tired of standing. He had made his stand. And failed. Again. He lowered himself to the floor, feeling the scratch of the cheap carpet. The scotch had been the only thing they'd had that wasn't cheap. And now it was opened. Ruined. Half empty, half full, it didn't matter. It was a stupid fucking bottle, and he didn't need any wisdom from it.
He loved her. She didn't believe it, but it was true. He needed help. He was scared. But there was no one to talk to. No friends. He couldn't talk to her. He felt sudden nausea and turned his head, launching scotch flavored bile onto the cheap carpet. And then everything was black.
When he awoke, she was towering above him.
"So, I was up all night waiting for you to come to bed and you got drunk?"
"And I suppose you want me to clean this shit up?"
"Is that all you have to say?"
She left the office, slamming the door, which sent bright bolts of pain through John's head. Everything made sense in his head. He could think of the right words. They seemed reasonable. But when they were out in the world they squirmed and scuttled under furniture.
It would take a week or so, but things would return to "normal". Nothing would be resolved. Except for one thing. John had resolved himself to it. He would not try to argue anymore. It would get easier. Injustice was killing him, but he knew if he accepted it, stopped thinking about it ...
John rolled over on his side and wondered if these things happened in their neighbors' houses. He wondered if it was all his fault. He decided to assume it was. It would make things simpler. And he was halfway there. In a few more decades it wouldn't matter. He could nod and grin for a few decades. He'd done it before. It was like riding a bike. You never forget how to push your emotions down until they live in you like a cancer. You never forget the pain of self-inflicted guilt. You never forget the freedom of apathy.