Friday, February 1, 2013

Get Yourself Free

Get Yourself Free
By Bettyann Moore

You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don't need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You don't need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free*

The song ran a continuous loop through Porpoise McAllister’s head. He wasn’t even sure when he’d actually heard it last. A year ago? Five? It didn’t really matter. It was in his head now and, given the circumstances, appropriately so.

He swung his car, a 1977 red Gremlin (now mostly faded to pink), off the highway and onto a side street. He was in no hurry to get back to his apartment and to Jennifer. He needed time to think.

Jennifer is a great girl, he thought, really she is. Funny. Smart. Cute in an elfish sort of way. Kind. It’s the kindness part that made this so hard for him. She was so kind that she didn’t gag or anything when she’d first met his grandpa McAllister two years before and he’d blown his nose – one nostril at a time – onto the ground near her feet. Later, she’d only commented that his grandparents had some “quaint customs.” Porpoise thought that was the moment he fell in love with her.

Thing was, he was out of love with her now and didn’t know how to break it off. It had to be him. Something was wrong with him, not her. Hmmm, he thought, maybe that was the way to approach it: It’s not you, Jennifer, it’s me …

No, wasn’t there a whole disastrous episode of “Seinfeld” that revolved around that theme? Or maybe it was “Friends.” Whatever. It wouldn’t be kind of him to lie to such a kind person. Fifty ways to leave your lover and he couldn’t think of one!

Porpoise meandered through unfamiliar neighborhoods, drawing ever nearer to 104th St. His old car choked and wheezed, drawing more than a few glances, but he was oblivious. Maybe flowers and dinner out, he mused. A bottle of her favorite wine. He thought about his bank account and rejected the idea. Besides, wasn’t that mean, too? And what if she misinterpreted the gestures before he could finally draw up the courage? The girl was crazy about him, after all, and often hinted at marriage. No, that was out.

Just drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free. It was Porpoise’s apartment, a graduation gift from his grandparents; he couldn’t very well abandon it to her. Sure, he could think of better places to live than a third-floor walk-up above a fish shop on the first floor and a dry cleaners on the second (when the windows were closed during the winter, the smells and headaches came fast and furious), but it was rent-free and what could be better than that in the long run?

“Jennifer, we need to talk,” he said aloud, testing it out. No, nothing good ever came after those words. She’d get all uptight and do that thing she does with her nose when she gets nervous, flicking her forefinger rapidly up and down across the tip, looking all the world like someone with severe autism. Whenever she did that, he instinctively did whatever he could to make her stop. That would mean backing down. That was out.

No need to be coy, Roy. Maybe head-on was the way. “Jennifer, I’d like you to move out. I don’t love you anymore.”

Yikes, just thinking those words made his palms sweat. How did people do this? There would be tears for sure. And what if she got violent, started throwing things? She knew how much he treasured his vintage Star Wars action sets. What if she got even by destroying them? He envisioned Jennifer with a vengeful look on her face, laughing gleefully as she dangled Han Solo over a Bic lighter.

Porpoise shuddered and pulled the Gremlin to the curb. Mockingbird Lane and 99th St.; he was close to home, but no closer to figuring out how to do this. Maybe he could find a new girlfriend real fast and let Jennifer see them together … he banged his head down on the steering wheel; it was a totally classless idea.

He raised his head slowly and caught sight of a couple of teen boys pointing and laughing at him – or his car, he wasn’t sure which. He realized, finally, that there was no good way, that there would be hurt and recriminations and all sorts of un-fun things no matter how it was done. And, really, did he have to do it now? It wasn’t like they were fighting or anything … yeah, okay, Jennifer did get her knickers in a twist whenever he dressed up like Mr. Sulu and went to a Trek convention, but she always got over it. The fact that he flew all the way out to LA for the last one seemed to stick in her craw a little longer, though.

Porpoise pulled the car away from the curb, new thoughts coming fast and furious. Maybe he was darn lucky to have her. Didn’t she dust his collections for him? Make and serve Wookie Cookies to his friends last month during their Star Wars marathon? What the hell had he been thinking? Was he just taking her for granted? Maybe they just needed a little vacation, together. White sands, a beach, someplace romantic. The next Trek convention was in Miami … Porpoise pressed on the gas; now he couldn’t wait to get home.

He heaved a sigh of relief when he pulled up in front of the apartment. Jennifer’s car wasn’t in its usual place; he’d still made it home before she did. Good, Porpoise thought, I can surprise her with dinner. Fish sticks, she loves fish sticks. He’d make them special by melting cheese on top. He took the stairs two at a time, raring to get started.

Porpoise raced into the apartment and threw his backpack on the kitchen table. First, he’d change into his sweats … no, tonight was important, he’d leave on his chinos and button-down shirt and wear one of Jennifer’s aprons to protect them. Odd, though, that it wasn’t hanging on the back of the door like it usually was. He rummaged through the dish towel drawer … no, not there. Porpoise stopped and looked around. The place was eerily quiet. And empty. Where was Jennifer’s mother’s rocking chair? Her good pans that usually hung over the stove? Porpoise ran to the bedroom and flung open the closet. All of Jennifer’s clothes were missing. He checked the bathroom … her toothbrush and toiletries, gone.

“What the hell?” Porpoise wondered as he wandered through the apartment, his hand rubbing the top of his head. When he got to the display cabinet, he dropped to his knees in front of it, afraid to look. He moaned when he saw what she had done.

All of his pristine figures (Jennifer always called them “dolls” he recalled now), had been ripped from their packages – rendering them worthless – and dumped onto a shelf. Ewoks mingled with Tribbles. Solo was locked in a suggestive embrace with Captain Kirk. And, on top of them all, sat Princess Leia holding a sporting blaster.

Porpoise sat there for a long time, staring at the obvious. Soon, though, he started to smile. It wasn’t one of the “fifty ways,” but it was darn creative.

*50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Paul Simon

1 comment:

  1. Oh Porpoise, what did you do to Jennifer that angry at you?