My new companion, Rod, and I were on our way back to Waterloo to see my ex-girlfriend, whom I strongly believed tied me up and tried to drown me in Waterloo Park earlier that day. Having already questioned my mortal enemy, Jin, and my former best friend, Lawrence (whose mom I had banged), I knew in my gut that it had to be her. The thought of seeing her again terrified me, but if I didn’t confront her I knew I would be living in fear for the rest of my life.
I directed Rod to drive us to the King Street Trio; a quaint little open concept restaurant in an old, what some may call historic, building located on, funnily enough, King Street. When we arrived, the sun had completely set and it had started to drizzle. Great, I thought as I felt the rain sprinkling my face. Now I’m all damp again.
I saw her as soon as we got through the front door. Long blond hair flowed gently down her back. Her curves were highlighted by the little black dress she was wearing. The red, open-toed heels she wore added three inches to her already tall frame. Her blue eyes and bright smile flirted with a couple male patrons who were in the process of paying their bill. She looked beautiful and happy.
Then she turned and saw me.
She immediately charged at me, much faster than I would have expected someone wearing those shoes could. As she got to me, I tried to put on a brave face by acting normal. “Hey Laura, how are things?” I said.
Then she punched me in the face.
The next thing I knew I was looking up at the wood paneling and industrial piping that covered the restaurant’s ceiling. I rubbed my jaw as I got back to my feet. “You call that a punch?” I asked, trying not to sound like an 18-wheeler just hit me in the face. I noticed that Laura wasn’t in the immediate vicinity anymore. “Laura?”
“You’ve been out for 20 minutes,” a voice from behind me said. It was Rod, who was now sitting at a table. “People have literally stepped over you to get seated.”
“What?” I asked, still rubbing my jaw. “I’ve been unconscious for 20 minutes and you didn’t do anything?”
Rod smiled his warm, comforting smile. “Of course I did. I had a salad,” he said as he motioned to the empty plate in front of him. I was not particularly pleased with my new friend, especially since I was starving and he didn’t bother to save me any of his food. But at least he saved me the trouble of calling Laura back over. “He’s up now, Laura.”
Laura returned, looking a little less furious than she did right before she knocked me the fuck out, but still pissed enough that I thought she might slug me again. I could hear the venom in each word she spit out at me. “What are you doing here, Chris?”
I was certainly afraid of getting my bell rung, or worse, but I had to know. “I want to know why you tried to kill me.”
“Please,” Laura snarled. “You’re a big boy. You can handle a little punch to the face.”
“No, not that,” I shot back. “I want to know why you tried to drown me in the park. I know things didn’t turn out well, but surely trying to kill me was a little, well, overkill.”
Laura looked at me like I was speaking another language. “What the hell are you talking about? I didn’t try to kill you. What, you think I’m some lost little girl who can’t live without you? And that if I can’t have you, no one else can either? Is that what you think of me!?”
I had to consider my answer to this carefully. It could be a trap of some kind. I had to tread lightly. “Um. Yes?”
And then I was on my back, looking at the ceiling again.
Rod leaned over into my line of sight. “You got knocked out. Again.
“How long?” I asked, still lying on the crusty restaurant floor.
“Not long,” he replied, his warm eyes trying to comfort me. “You took it much better this time.”
I rubbed my head as I sat up. When I made it to my feet I noticed that Laura was now sitting at a nearby table. I slumped myself into a chair to join her. My new friend did the same. Laura began speaking to Rod at once. “So, new guy who is for some reason wearing a tuxedo and is by default a better man than Chris, I’m guessing he told you that we used to date. Did he tell you how he ended it?”
“No,” Rod replied.
Here it comes, I thought. The thing I dreaded most about coming here. “Laura-”
“So,” she said to Rod, “Chris sends me an email saying he wants to get together one night. Not just any night mind you, it was my birthday. Says he’s got a big surprise for me. Now, I think, being the naive person that I am, that maybe he’s going to bring me dinner from my favourite restaurant, or maybe he got a little present for me, or some flowers. But more importantly, what I really want, and what I genuinely believe at that point in time is that, after almost a year of dating, he is finally going to tell me that he loves me. That’s all I really wanted. I loved him, but I didn’t have the courage to say it out loud. I thought that if he said it first, it would be easier for me to say. So there I was, in my apartment, anxiously waiting for him to come over, and what happens when he does? He smiles, takes my hand, brings me over to the couch, sits me down, locks eyes with me and says, ‘I don’t know how to do this, so I’m just going to come out and say it. Laura, I-”
“-want to bone your sister,” I finished for her, sheepishly.
There was an awkward pause for a moment before Rod looked at me. “That’s a joke, right?”
I looked away and sighed, giving away that it was certainly not meant as a jest. If it wasn’t obvious, Laura hammered the point home. “It’s my goddamn birthday and he tells me he has a surprise for me, and then this asshole blurts out that he wants to hook up with my sister? I mean can you believe that shit?”
In typical me fashion, I tried to break up the tension with a little joke. “I don’t know why you’re so upset. I mean, you technically were surprised, right?”
I raised my hands up in anticipation of another right cross, but it turned out my defensive posture was unnecessary. Laura just sat there with her perfect hair, her perfect face and her perfect smile. And she cried.
My heart broke a little. “Laura, I am so sorry. That night, I was trying to use humour to diffuse what I expected to be a difficult conversation. I… I should have chosen my words better.”
“I don’t care about the words, you idiot,” she managed to get out through her tears. “I care about the fact that at a time when I loved you with all my heart, all my soul, you were thinking about how great it would be to be with my sister. My sister for Christ’s sake! It still bothers me. Even after all this time.”
I really didn’t know what to say to that, but my impulse to say something led me to spurting out something asinine. “If it makes you feel any better, I never did try to pursue anything with your sister.”
“Oh wonderful,” she said, the hate returning to her speech. “What a great person you are. All is forgiven. Please leave.”
Her right hand sat on the table. I reached out to take it. “Laura-”
She pulled away and yelled in my face, “I said! Fuck! Off!”
I glanced around and noticed that everyone in the restaurant was now looking at us. Even Rod started judging me. “You know, I don’t use this type of language much, but I think it may be appropriate in this case. You’re a real dick, Chris, you know that?”
I did know that. “Yeah. Yeah, I know. C’mon, let’s go. I’ve done enough damage here for one day. Good bye, Laura.”
“Eat shit and die,” she spat.
I turned back towards Laura as we exited the building. It was obvious that she was still upset, but she was doing her best to pull herself together and get back to work. Watching her in that moment broke my heart just a little bit more.
“That was bad,” Rod offered as we made our way back to his car, which was now slick from the rain.
“Yes, it really was,” I replied. “I should have let myself drown.”
“Why do you say that?” Rod asked.
“Are you serious?” I said in disbelief. “Did you see what just happened in there? Did you hear what I did? And were you paying attention to the other people we confronted today? Jin is a good guy and I treat him like garbage. Lawrence was my best friend and I chewed him out because he was passionate about something, never mind the fact that I slept with his mother. Let’s face it. I am the world’s biggest asshole and I shit all over everyone I meet. I don’t deserve to live.”
Rod gave me a faint, pitiful grin that bordered on a grimace. “Get in the car, Chris. I’ll take you home.”
We drove in silence while we made our way towards my apartment. I was too busy watching the rain streak across the passenger window and feeling sorry for myself to notice ahead of time when we were coming up to my street. “Oh, hey man,” I said to Rod. “We just passed my place.”
“I know,” he replied.
“I want to show you something,” he said, his face lacking expression.
I got more and more nervous with each street we passed. My stomach tied itself into a giant knot when I realized he was taking me back to the spot by the lake where he picked me up earlier that day. “What are we doing here?” I asked.
“Get out of the car,” instructed Rod, his voice completely devoid of emotion. We both exited the vehicle and my companion started walking down towards the lake. I followed, but not because I wanted to. No, what I really wanted to do was run like hell the other way. I followed because I felt an overwhelming urge to do so. Like I was a dog on a leash and my owner was dragging me behind him.
When I arrived at the shore, the rain had stopped and Rod was facing the water. I finally got my nerve up to say something as I approached him. “What is this?”
“Ah. There it is,” he replied, not bothering to turn and face me. “It took an entire day of me driving you around place to place, but I finally got it.”
I was confused. “Got what?”
“Your attention,” he said as he turned towards me, his calm blue eyes now lost in the darkness. “You have been so focused on yourself you have barely even noticed me. You haven’t noticed what I am.”
“And what are you?” I asked, trying not to sound afraid.
“Do you think it’s a coincidence that I was here the moment you pulled yourself out of the water? Do you think that I am just a good Samaritan who happened upon a man in need of assistance? No, Chris. I found you because I was already here.”
“What are you saying?” I asked, not able to keep my voice from wavering.
Rod moved towards me. When he was close enough I could see that his eyes had been replaced with empty black holes. “What I’m saying, Chris, is that I’m the one who tried to kill you. And it’s time to finish what I started.”
To be continued.