Vincent is breaking up with Jack.
He sits in the car, staring at the green doors of his high school. Jack will be done with track practice at 6:30 PM, and Vincent will drive him home. Jack will blabber on about Demi Lovato supposedly quitting music while Vincent bites his cuticles and steers with his left hand. He will pull up in front of Jack’s house, and Jack will try to kiss him. Vincent will not reciprocate, and then he will end their relationship.
Because it’s that easy.
Vincent and Jack grew up going to school together. When they were in eighth grade, Jack asked Vincent to be his date at the winter formal. Jack wore an ice blue tie with a white button down shirt and navy suit. Vincent wore a red suit and black button down because why not? They shared their first dance and their first kiss. They went to Waffle House with some friends after the formal, and then they made out in Vincent’s car until curfew at 12am.
Jack’s father was some big shot at a steel plant, and he’d hire Jack to work during the summers. He would take Vincent up to the rooftop of one of the abandoned warehouses, and they’d drink root beer and eat beef jerky. That’s where Jack said, “I love you,” for the first time, and Vincent said it back even though they were only sixteen years old. You gotta fall for somebody sometime, right?
Jack opens the passenger door and sits down, his hair wet from a locker room shower. Vincent half expects a peck on the cheek, but it doesn’t come. They pull out onto the highway as the sun starts to set. Vincent asks if Jack would like to get something to eat, but he declines. The silence is palpable; Vincent’s heart pulses a little faster because he feels like Jack knows he’s going to break up with him.
“Vince, I think we need to talk,” Jack says.
Vincent forces his eyes not to widen as he asks, “What about?”
Jesus, he does know, Vincent thinks.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about what our future looks like,” Jack begins. “We’re juniors now, and senior year is gonna be so busy with college applications and SATs and all that.”
He’s going to do this for me, Vincent thinks with George Costanza charm. He nods, furrowing his brow to show he’s hurt, but understands.
“I just think — Vince, stop. STOP!”
A skunk is walking across the road, taking its time in the dark. The beams from the headlights reflect off the white stripe down its back before Vincent runs over it. They feel the skunk collide with the bottom of the car, and then the odor pours in through the vents. Vincent does not slow down.
The silence and stench held onto each other for what felt like hours.
“That was horrible,” Jack says.
“Ugh, yeah, that smell?” Vincent replies.
“No, Vince. That you killed it. You fucking killed it when you could’ve stopped.”
Vincent stares ahead, unsure of how to respond. He’s thinking about the blood that might be on the car, and if the smell if going to go away anytime soon.
“I thought the car was higher. I wasn’t trying to kill it.”
Jack scoffs, folding his arms over his chest and shaking his head. “You thought the car was higher.”
“Whatever. God, I’m sorry.”
Vincent turns into Jack’s subdivision, driving past the neighborhood pool and clubhouse. There’s an older couple out for an evening walk with their golden retriever. He pulls up to Jack’s house and puts the car in park. Jack doesn’t say anything, and he doesn’t move.
Vincent has been spending time alone, pouring over news and Wikipedia articles about guerilla warfare. It’s hard being seventeen and feeling like the only way you can change the world is through violence. Vincent was breaking up with Jack because tomorrow he will detonate the bombs he planted beneath the stage in the gymnasium of their high school. Republican vice presidential nominee Governor Sarah Spoke will be there, and her death will be a great victory for the LGBQT community. How could he ever forget the leaked audio recording of her hatred for “fags and their ilk?” His classmates and teachers will be a necessary sacrifice.
“Hey, I really am sorry for hitting that skunk. I didn’t mean to, I swear,” Vincent says.
“Vince, we need to break up. It’s not just because we’re going to be busy next year. It’s because you’ve been really weird. I mean, I know you’ve been at the school in the middle of the night. What the hell are you doing?”
Vincent feels his heart pounding in his throat. His palms are slick with sweat and he presses them against his thighs, staring at the clock of his dashboard.
“Why were you spying on me?”
“Spying?” Jack asks. “Why the fuck would you share your location with me if you didn’t want me to know where you were?”
Vincent had completely forgotten that they had toggled their phones to share their locations. After months of preparation, he never once thought about Jack wondering what he was doing.
“Forget it. You’re right, Jack. We probably don’t need to see each other anymore.”
“Are you even going to tell me what you’ve been doing at school at fucking four o’clock in the morning for the past two weeks?”
“I’ve been hooking up with Sam Guest,” Vincent blurted out.
Another immeasurable silence before Jack says, “I see. Well, no use crying over your backstabbing ass.”
Jack gets out of the car and shuts the door, stuffing his hands into his pockets as he walks up the driveway to his house.
Vincent thinks about Jack’s dad’s plan to surprise him tomorrow with a trip to the mountains, and how they’ll be three hours up the interstate when the bombs go off and make Vincent a hero in the war against intolerance.
Originally published at www.oneforonethousand.com on October 12, 2016.