Part Nine: Why Did You Decide to Move to Argentina?
Back in the apartment, what I remember is Jason’s giant television on the living room floor, cold, late fall air, open windows, chain smoking. The place is strewn with debris. A big mattress on the floor in the bedroom, a nest with clumps of blankets and clothes, two apartments’ worth of stuff jammed into shelves, boxes piled along the walls in an apartment too small for just my things.
I’m in the passenger seat of my own car on the way out to the prefab house where his dad lives out in the middle of nowhere, KY. Jason drives winding roads in the dark, and hits a small, black cat. Its head underneath the car makes a hollow thud and I demand that he turn around. “It’s too late for the cat,” he says. “It’s a gonner.”
I argue. “There’s a chance,” I say. He turns around and the headlights illuminate it writhing on the side of the road, whipping like a broken belt in a running machine, nerves discharging all at once in the last few seconds they have. “Run over it,” I say, and he does, turning the wheel in a slow arc into the grass. We can feel the bump the cat makes under the wheel as he stops it from moving ever again.
I wonder if it’s someone’s, and if they’ll find it and the deliberate tire tracks and wonder how someone could be so cruel.
Then the quiet ride in the dark to the house, the poverty of the colors inside, the ’70s browns, paneling, small yellow and orange flowers and dusty-rose accents. His dad wears a mustache and a mesh trucker cap, his sister is asleep on the couch. I don’t remember what we did there, but we didn’t stay.
We buy two phones in the kiosk in the grocery store, put them on the same plan in my name. I am surprised I am approved for anything.
David starts coming by again. He stays when he’s got nowhere else to go. He’s a friend from a previous forced vacation, a Texas transplant with a brother in prison, a scratchy voice, few boundaries. His new favorite story is his latest trip to the county jail. Freshly released, he tells us how he was drunk with an open warrant and called 911 from a payphone. “I’m calling to report a crime. Y’all better come and get me. I’m drunk.”
It stays funny through subsequent tellings even though it was a desperate, compulsive act. “Why’d I do that, Kate?” he asks as if I’d know. And I kind of do, but I can’t explain. I can imagine him under yellow lights on 4th and Oak, maybe a couple nearby hustlers, nothing left to do but call the police on himself. Nothing to do now but laugh.
I start drinking beer almost as soon as I’m released. I think I’m being funny, but I’m just being an asshole, loudly belching cheep beer next to the open windows and laughing.
Then Jason is gone overnight with my car and he doesn’t call. Things start to go bad quickly. I yell at him about not coming home and he yells at me about drinking and then it’s over. He throws the phone he didn’t call me with across the room and pieces splinter off, ricochet.
And then I’m alone and dazed. I know it isn’t loss I feel, but emptiness. There are no tears. His dad comes and helps him clear away all the things he brought over, they heft the unwatched television, still in the middle of the living room floor. He doesn’t speak to me and his dad thinks there’s more to talk about than there is, warns me about my drinking, excuses his son’s behavior. His sister sits in the truck, and when they’re gone, I know I’ll never see any of them again.