Crappy Story #3: Smile
“Crappy Stories” are a collection of bad short stories that deserve to see the light of day. To catch up on past stories go here
“So how was your 2008?”
“Mm. It was ok,” I said to him. “I graduated from school and got a real shitty job, then got fired like two weeks ago.”
“Why?” Malcolm asked.
“I don’t really wanna say.”
We were walking to Shaw’s to buy soda for the party for the kids. It was maybe 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and the streets were quiet, dead really. I kept my hands in my pocket and my face tucked into my scarf. What little part of me stuck out, suffered in the brutal winter air of New Jersey.
I’d been upstairs in the bedroom reading a book when Malcolm invited me to the store. I wasn’t really reading. Loud Latin music was playing in the living room below, and the bass rattled the walls and made picture frames slightly shake on the night table. The thing about Malcolm was that earlier I had introduced myself to him for like the third time but he had damn well remembered me. He had looked at me like I was a kid, which I was to most people.
I vaguely remembered that the other time I met him was on the train. I was with my mom and Malcolm was sitting next to a guy. She introduced Malcolm to me as a relative and they chitchatted ‘til we got off a couple off stops later. Malcolm had never introduced his friend, who kept his lips curved up in a smile for our two stops.
“So how was your 2008?” I asked him as we walked to the store.
“My boyfriend broke up with me on Christmas Eve. That’s how I’m starting my new year,” he said.
“God damn that sucks.”
“Why? What happened?”
“He didn’t say,” Malcolm said. He was looking down at the ground, maybe at the lines in the sidewalk. He looked so sad. “He was just like that’s it. It’s over. And left. We weren’t even living together so it’s not like he had shit to pack up. He grabbed a couple of things and that was it.”
“How long had you been with him?”
“Ten years. Ten fucking years.”
“Wow.” I didn’t know what else to say.
We walked up a small hill and turned to Shaw’s. The lights inside were on but the store was closed.
“Alright, let’s go to the 7-elevens down the block,” Malcolm said.
“You think it’s open?” I said, disheartened.
We walked back down the hill and down the block.
“Look,” I said. “If someone just up and leaves, doesn’t give any explanation or anything, then that person never loved you, never cared about you. He obviously doesn’t care about you.”
“It’s not easy baby. That’s the thing. It’s not easy to just stop loving someone all of a sudden.”
“But he did that.”
“I knew I shouldn’t have let him go,” Malcolm said to himself. “People were telling me ‘yeah, you should let him go. If he really loves you, he’ll stay faithful to you.’ But I knew I should have never let him go. I knew that was gonna happen. And me, listening to people, fucked myself over.”
“Wait, where did he go? What are you talking about?”
“Oh,” he said. “When he was going to college. He wanted to go abroad for a few years. And he asked me if he should stay here in New York and I was like ‘No, no. You know, pursue your dreams.’ But that shit was killing me inside. And now, when he came back from school, you know he was like that’s it. It’s over. He’s hard headed like me too, so there’s no talking to him. Fuck him. Fuck that,” he said, waving it away with his hand.
The 7-eleven was open so he bought the sodas. When we went back out, he stopped, put the soda bags down and put his gloves on. I got pretty tight ‘cause of that. I didn’t have any gloves to hold the bags in the cold.
“You want me to take them?” He asked.
“No, no. It’s fine. I’ll just pull my sleeves and try to hide my hands inside them.”
We walked in silence most of the way back. Occasionally the sound of a car passing us by made us look up. I hated how all the houses looked the same in the suburbs. Rows and rows of them exactly the same—a tree on the sidewalk every five yards, a garage, bricks, windows and grass.
Malcolm put his bags down. “Here,” he said. “Touch me right here by my heart. You feel?”
He pressed my hand against his chest. I didn’t say anything, looked at him in the eyes.
“And you,” he said. “When you came in and saw me, you smiled and had those bright eyes and reminded me of him so much. He used to look at me like how you looked at me. And you have his mouth and the mustache. You have the same lips as him.”
We came up to the house and then I felt bad. I didn’t tell him why I got fired, but he had told me all that.
“Don’t tell all that stuff to anybody in there ok?”
“Of course not. I would never say anything,” I said.
As we came up the walkway, he turned to me and said, “You don’t know. You don’t know how badly I just want to be home by myself crying. But I gotta be at this fucking party celebrating the New Year.”
He rang the doorbell and we both smiled at the person who opened the door.