You get a lot of stares when you buy bleach in bulk. Those stares are only amplified when your cart has gloves, sponges, and you look like you’ve been through hell and back.
To be fair, I need it. All of it.
And I have. And then some.
But this is my life. Has been for a while now. Always cleaning up another one of Jared’s messes.
“I’m so fucking proud of you, baller,” he says to me, as I start to correct him on how I hate that name but stop because he’s happy for the first time in months.
“It’s just an internship,” I tell him. “And Jared, it’s an unpaid internship.”
His smile doesn’t fade as he runs, literally runs, across the bar and picks me up, spilling the drink tray I’m holding.
I let out a shriek as the regulars in the bar start laughing and clapping. Jared holds me with one arm and somehow maneuvers the laptop to play our song. Or, more accurately, what he thinks is our song.
“Dance with me, Jules,” he exclaims. “We’re fucking celebrating!”
The drunks go wild. No one even notices that every time we play “our song” it’s a different one. This go around, it’s “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse, which makes absolutely no sense. But neither do we. And neither does love. And you know what? Jared’s right. We’re celebrating.
“This is my girlfriend! The fucking ad exec!”
The patrons cheer and raise their glasses, some of them empty and all over the floor behind the bar. I don’t have the heart to explain to them, as I would later explain, numerous times, to Jared. It’s just an internship. An unpaid one. Which meant we were going to be bringing in less money. Which meant we were going to be seeing less of each other. Which meant our decision not to move in together was going to be questioned yet again.
“You, like, a serial killer or something?” the cashier asks me.
I don’t answer. I just want to be anywhere but here. Well, that’s not true. I want to be anywhere but here or there, but we need our damage deposit back, so here is where I have to be right now and there is where I needed to be a few hours ago.
The cashier’s just staring at me. Like I’m a fucking serial killer.
Why won’t she hand me my receipt?
“Declined,” I hear her say.
“What?” I ask, increasingly aware of the line forming behind me.
“Your card,” she repeats. “It’s been declined.”
She hands it back. Of course it has been, I remember. It’s Jared’s card. There’s nothing left on the joint account. There’s nothing left on his account. I don’t have an account. I reach into my purse and dig again for my wallet. Thank God the tip jar has been kind to us since I started the internship and kept the bartending gig.
I tell her to keep the change. I get another look. I get the fuck out and head back to the mess that Jared has made of our lives.
“Let me do this for you, Jules,” he says, placing one hand on my shoulder and the other under my skirt. “I love you, baby.”
“Jare Bear,” I giggle. “Public, hon.”
He smiles. One of his eyes looks directly at me, the other one slightly above me. His lazy eye was one of the first things I noticed about him. One of the first things that made me fall for him, the goofy, romantic bastard.
“I’m serious,” he says. “I want to spend the rest of my life with you. And this is, like, a step along that fucking amazing journey.”
He’s brought up the lease on his apartment three or four times a day since I told him about the internship in the fall. He thinks that we should live together? Fine. We can do that. But he thinks it doesn’t really count unless my name is on lease, which is fucking weird and all sorts of Jared, so I’m about to cave.
After all, he’s right. We need the money. We need the security. And we are in love. But when he goes all Dark Jared, I just don’t know if I’m going to be able to deal if we’re working together, sleeping together, and living together. I know. It’s selfish. But I’m not above it. I need my space. I need my time. And I need my safety.
Jared would never hurt me, I know that. But his moods, when they’re not altered, are let’s say… unpredictable. Last time we fought and he wasn’t regulated, he beat the shit out of his best friend. They don’t talk anymore. The time before that, he hugged his cat so hard and so long that it scratched him and he threw it against the wall. It didn’t die, but it also didn’t ever forget. It’s my cat now.
He kisses me on the wrist. “M’lady, it would make me ever so happy if you would accompany me back to my abode and make me an honest man by signing away your credit score to my alcoholic landlord and joining me in an unholy union wherein we live in sin and copulate like rabbits until we die.”
This. Fucking. Guy.
The Uber driver is looking at us through the rearview mirror, smiling.
“Yes!” Jared yells. He is a child. But damn it, I love him.
When I get back to the apartment with my materials, I see that Farid, the landlord, has left a note on the door.
I understand and I am here if you need anything. Don’t worry about rent. Get it to me when you can. And don’t worry about the mess.
Again, so so sorry.
I take the note, put it into my pocket, and unlock the door to Jared’s apartment. Which I guess was technically our apartment. And now is just my apartment.
I turn on the kitchen light. I set down the bags. I open up the package with the gloves and put them on. I don’t even bother to change clothes because, as the bus driver pointed out on my way back from the store, I had some blood on my shirt.
I get to work.
“You fucking bitch, I will fucking kill you if you leave me!” Jared screams, not understanding that I really don’t have time to fight and I have even less energy. My shift at the bar started 30 minutes ago and I can’t afford to lose this job. Not since Jared lost his after throwing a full bottle at one of our regulars last week.
“I’m not leaving you, Jare Bear. I’m going to work. You know, the thing that we both need to do so we can fucking live here?”
I should have told him I loved him. I should have told him that everything was going to be okay. I should have lied to him.
He just looked at me, a moment of what I mistook as clarity. He didn’t say a word. One eye looked so sad. The other one was doing it’s own thing. I read his nonverbals as “Go,” when in reality, he was screaming everything but that in his muddled brain.
Jared didn’t leave a note. Jared didn’t try to call me at work. He simply went down to Farid’s brother’s shop, pawned my engagement ring, and bought a gun with what little cash we had saved in the Pokémon cookie jar on top of our refrigerator.
I found him in the kitchen. He knew I would find him. He knew it would hurt me. And he knew I’d have to clean it up because he knew I would need the damage deposit if I hoped to keep the internship and hope to graduate after I swallowed my pride and moved back into my parents’ basement. But that’s not what hurt me the most.
It’s the fact that when I found him, I didn’t think he was dead. I checked my phone to see if he had called me or texted me or left me a note about how this was just a big, awful, amazingly selfish joke. I simply held him and looked into his eyes, one looking into the future we would never share and the other missing because he had put a bullet through it. I didn’t call the police. I didn’t call a friend. I just sat there, holding him, until morning.
And now that he’s gone, now that his parents are planning the funeral, now that I’ve been given a week off from my internship, paid, and been offered the management position at the bar starting whenever I want to start, I’m here. Cleaning it all up. Bleaching the linoleum. Wiping down the counter. Salvaging the photos on our refrigerator of our lives together, our happy, crazy, fucked up lives…. And I’m just way too fucking pissed off to miss him right now. I’m too God damn sad to try and plan for a future without him. And I’m too busy to process.
Because, as I already told you, this is my life. Has been for a while now. Always cleaning up another one of Jared’s messes. But I’m going to take my time on this one. Because as I run through our lives together in my head like a movie, it dawns on me that this might finally be the last time.