“She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen the stars. That’s what she told me.”
I don’t think Renee knows how well her voice carries through the window, about my trick of standing in the kitchen corner by the toaster. I found it by accident one night, listening to her argue on the phone about her nephew’s new earring and whether it means he’s a faggot. Her mom’s word, not mine.
I even have an excuse for standing here tonight, while my girlfriend talks to Jack on the fire escape. They’re smoking out there, and I’m packing for Renee’s big move. New job, new apartment. I’m excited for her. I’m excited for us.
But I want a minute alone here, because this apartment isn’t where I met Renee. It’s where I met Ken, a year ago. Ken, the man of my dreams wasn’t it cute, Ken and Barbi, our names fit together so neatly. I met him at the Mink, and I fell in love with him somewhere between there and here, in his 67 Mustang with the top down because it was still summer, hot and humid. He calls that car his other girlfriend.
“Well, that was something I could fix, y’know? I know a place. It’s far enough outside the city that the lights don’t get in the way too much. And Georgette was itching for a long drive.”
I wanted to be with him forever, in that summer that was a ‘50’s song. I wanted to meet his family and I wanted to meet his friends, and was that really so bad?
“I didn’t want to go, but Mikey’d been trying to pin us down for weeks, and Barbi wanted to meet more of my friends. I knew it was a fucking mistake.”
Knew, but never said anything. I wrap the toaster in bubble wrap and shove it into a box. Never told me it was a bad idea. Never explained what was wrong. Just dragged me out, all machismo and lies, and let me find out for myself.
“‘Hey, Renée, so nice to see you out and about. Who’s the new girl?’”
She really does sound exactly like Jaclyn did, standing over our table with a knowing smirk. And I feel exactly as stupid as I felt then, looking back and forth between the two of them as it slowly dawned on me that “Renee” meant Ken, meant the man I’d been falling for so hard.
I remember thinking I could outrun that. I could outrun the lie, I could outrun all the could-be’s and the might-have-beens that I’d staked my heart on. It felt more like falling than running, though.
I don’t know how I ended up at the Mink. All I remember is the feel of the keys in my hand, the wind on my face. And then Holly shaking me, asking if I was okay. Broken glass in my hair. Blood on my face, but just a scalp wound.
Holly understood. She’s like me. We’ve got plans for the future. She confided to me one night over way too many cosmos, when Ken was in the bathroom, she wants two kids too. A place in the suburbs. I need all that and financial independence, cause this life coaching thing doesn’t pay any more than Ken’s security guard thing did. I love my parents, but I don’t want to be their little girl forever, living in a place they pay for. Where they make the rules. If they even knew I was bringing Ken home at night, they’d be so disappointed. I don’t know what they’ll say about Renee.
I mean, my friends dig her. I love her, she loves me. The sex is fantastic. As long as I don’t think too hard about it.
Holly said, that night, “just love who you love.” And I do. I told Renee so that night and it’s still true. “If you’re lucky enough to love someone who loves you back… love her hard.” But sometimes, it’s so hard, loving her.
She told the new job she wants her badge to say Ken on it.
I fold Renee’s clothing carefully, in tissue, and pack it next to Ken’s. If she wants it, it’ll be there. I don’t know if she wants it. I don’t know if I want her to.