When he returned to his apartment the place was gutted.
“You sure you weren’t robbed?”
“No,” Carl said, sitting on the carpet, on the phone. “It was her. I have a feeling it was her.”
“She just broke in and took everything?”
“She has a key,” Carl said. “And she took all her stuff, so I guess she had a lot more stuff than I realized.” He paused, looking out the window at nothing. “I think I’m going to call her.”
“That’s a bad idea,” Renny said. “That’s a really really bad idea.”
“Alright,” Carl said. “I won’t call then.”
Carl hung up the phone. He drank a beer in three gulps and then took a shower. The shower had a few bottles of conditioner and hibiscus soap that belonged to her. It had a pink loofah. It had the imprint of a finger-drawn heart on the glass door.
With his hair still wet, he called her.
“Hi,” Carl said. “I know you said not to call but I want to make sure nobody robbed our apartment.”
“It was me and my dad.”
“Your dad? Why was he here?”
“Because I needed help moving the couch.”
“Do you think it’s ironic that he came now but would never come for dinners when we invited him?”
“I’ve got to go, Carl.”
“Wait,” Carl said.
But he hadn’t thought further than that. There was nothing to say that made any sense. Nothing made sense. Then her voice saved him.
“Do you by any chance see one of Benji’s toys there? That squeaky firetruck? I can’t find it anywhere.”
“Let me look,” Carl said. The apartment was tiny, even when sparse. He glanced the entire thing in one sweep. There was no toy. “It’s right here,” Carl said.
“I’m holding it in my hand.”
“I know it’s a lot to ask, but would you mind mailing it? It’d mean a lot to me. And a lot to Benji, it’d mean a lot to him too.”
“How about I drop it off?” Carl said.
“You don’t need to do that.”
“It’s alright, no big deal at all. I’ll be in the area anyway.”
“A meeting,” Carl said. “Tomorrow. A job interview.”
“On a Saturday.”
“Yeah, why not?”
“It’s not a good idea, Carl. Just mail it. Or if you don’t want to do that leave it in your mailbox and I’ll pick it up sometime next week.”
“I’ll leave it in your mailbox, your new mailbox, tomorrow morning.”
“Alright.” Before they hung up, she said: “And Carl…it’s your apartment now.”
“You said our apartment. It’s your apartment, now. All yours. Don’t forget that. It’s yours again, and that’s a good thing.”
He drank another beer. He sat on the carpet cross-legged and watched television. A scientist was standing inside an enormous footprint, claiming that as early as a hundred thousand years ago twenty-foot tall giants roamed the earth.
Carl fell asleep with the beer can in his hand. He woke up at 7:00 a.m. and took another shower and brushed his teeth. He combed his hair. He sprayed cologne under his armpits and on his neck and two puffs on his balls. He smoked a joint, re-sprayed cologne, and then left the house.
He parked outside her house and stared at it, not thinking anything, just looking. It was her parents’ house. It was the house she grew up in. The driveway had three cars in it. The grass on the front lawn was dying.
Carl walked to the front door. He had with him a bouquet of roses, cheap roses. He knocked on the door. Her mom answered.
“Good morning,” Carl said.
The mother looked mortified.
“Is she home?” Carl said. “She should be expecting me.”
“Hold on,” the mother said.
Harsh whispers occurred inside the house. Benji was barking. Carl leaned in but he couldn’t see anything, just the kitchen entryway with no one in it.
The father returned a few moments later, taking the mother’s place at the door.
“What’re you doing here, Carl?”
“Good morning,” Carl said. “Just dropping something off.”
“You can drop it off with me,” the father said.
“I’d rather leave it with her.”
“She’d rather not see you.”
“That’s not true,” Carl said. “She invited me last night. Ask her. Call her over her right now, I swear. Ask her.”
“Leave it with me,” the father said. “Or you can just leave.”
“Okay,” Carl said. “I’ll leave.”
He backed away from the door. The father retreated inside the house, slamming the door.
Carl knew her window was on the side of the house. He’d had to climb up there once to help her sneak out. There was a trestle running up the wall. Carl climbed the trestle and opened her window and crawled through it into her unoccupied room.
It smelled like lotion in there. He sat on her bed, feeling with his hand her soft pink comforter. There was a picture of them on her nightstand. He picked it up and looked at it.
The door opened. She walked in wearing nothing but a towel, her hair wet. She closed to door, still having not seen him. Her back to the bed, she undid the towel and started drying herself.
“Don’t be scared,” Carl said.
She screamed. “Fuck you,” she said. “Fuck you fuck you, what the fuck are you doing here, Carl?”
“Shh,” Carl said. “Please,” he said, holding up his hands in innocence. “Shh. C’mon.”
“What’re you doing, Carl?” she said.
“I climbed through the window. Your dad wouldn’t let me in.”
“I told him not to,” she said. “I knew you’d try something like this. So fucking typical of you, so outrageous. Give it to me and leave.”
“The toy, Carl. Give me the toy and leave, before I call the cops.”
“You’d call the cops?”
They looked at each other. She realized she was still naked and quickly re-tied the towel around her torso.
“You’re sick,” she said.
“You’re beautiful,” Carl said. “You don’t have to cover yourself up. That’s weird, you know? We had sex like two nights ago.”
“Give me the toy, Carl,” she said, holding her hand out. She looked at him. It dawned on her. “Oh my god. You don’t have it.”
Carl put the flowers in her hand. She chucked them out the window.
“You don’t have it,” she said. “You don’t have it, you never found it, you ass, you asshole.”
“Will you just talk to me, for like ten minutes. Can we just talk?”
“About what?” she said. “How you’re the biggest dickhead in America? Sure we can talk about that.”
“Let’s try again.”
“Please. I’m begging you.” He got on his knees. “I’m begging.”
“What happened to your porker?”
“Jesus,” Carl said. “Jesus.”
“Why won’t you talk to her. She’ll listen. I’m through talking, I’ve heard thirteen years of you bullshit, I don’t need more.”
“It was an accident,” Carl said.
“Yeah you’ve said that before, Carl. Except in my estimation people don’t accidentally have sex, unless it’s rape. Was it rape?”
“So it wasn’t an accident. The only ‘accident’ thing about it you two got rid of, so I don’t see where the accident is.”
Carl felt suddenly lighter, like a part of him had broken off and drifted away. It was not pleasant, not helium. He felt like any moment now, at any sign of wind, his bones would change to dust.
“You know,” she said. “You know, for the record– it wasn’t that you fucked her. It wasn’t the baby. I’m always here for you. That’s what you texted her, do you remember?”
“I was drunk.”
“I don’t give a shit.”
“That’s not fair.”
“It’s not fair to me,” she said. “I gave you everything, absolutely all of me. I gave you so much I don’t think I have anything left to give anyone else. I’m empty, fucking depleted. You totaled me, Carl.”
“Fuck off and die,” she said.
Carl went to the open window. He put a leg up on the ledge. “I’ll jump,” he said.
“I don’t care,” she said.
“I’ll die and it’ll be on you. Or even worse, I’ll get paralyzed from the neck down and you’ll have to look after me.”
“I don’t care,” she said. “I’m calling the police.”
She picked up the phone and dialed three numbers. “Yes, I have a man in my–”
Carl was gone.
“Carl!” she screamed.
He fell so fast it looked like someone had him on a string and yanked him down.
She dropped the phone and ran to the window.
She peered over the edge.
Written at 10:44 at night, in my office, in Agoura Hills CA.