Jeremy Segrott CC
She and I
She was seventeen when she began dating Eric, a twenty-five year old guitarist in a Grateful Dead cover band. He would go to the diner where she worked on the weekends. She watched him rehearse. Afterwards, the band would get high in their studio. She would have a wine cooler. She never sat on their lumpy couches, she leaned in the doorway and listened to them talk.
Her mother said they should go to prom together. Eric said he would take her. The thought of her adult boyfriend at a high school dance made her sweat; her classmates and teachers looking at them. She said she wasn’t going to waste her money on a dress.
She ate dinner with Eric and his housemates. She slept in his bed. He drove her to high school in the mornings after her Chevy died. The hammering coming from the engine had gotten so loud she could barely drown it out with the radio. The car finally gave up in Cherry Hill while she was driving in search of the grandmother she had not seen in fourteen years, and who then refused to speak with her unless she agreed to start speaking with her father.
When she broke up with him, Eric insisted they would still be friends. He insisted on taking her to the used car dealership to price out a replacement. When they left, entering the heavy flow of traffic on the Rt. 9, Eric demanded to know why she had stopped loving him. She shrank against the seat as his shouting grew louder and louder, as he punched the steering wheel again and again before launching his fist into the windshield.
Eric was short and wiry, and it had never occurred to her to be afraid of him. When he punched the windshield it canted out, the glass splintering into a spider-web pattern across the entire driver’s side half.
She leaped from the car and ran through the traffic, up to the mall and into Toys R Us. She stood with the manager, watching Eric speed erratically around the parking lot before tearing off. She was shaking so badly the manager helped her dial the store phone to call home. No one answered. A friend from school came to pick her up.
Eric was parked in front of her mother’s house when they arrived. He rushed out the front door, hands jammed into the pockets of his cargo pants as he crossed the lawn in huge strides and drove away. He didn’t look at her.
She found her mother sitting calmly in the living room.
“Do you know what he did?” she asked. The words went up and down, crashing over each other so that she did not recognize her own voice.
“You know he’s sorry, but you really upset him,” her mother said, shaking her head as she walked out of the room.
She spent the night at her friend’s house.
A week later, without a word, her mother dropped a letter on her bed. When she looked at it, the crashing came again, this time in her stomach.
The letter was from Eric. He said that he had never been so angry. That no girl had ever made him so angry. That he had never wanted to hit a girl until he met her.
She remembered being four years old, wearing her red dress and standing by the windows in her grandmother’s kitchen. He said he was not coming, he said this was goodbye. She cried “Daddy! Daddy!” into the phone after he hung up.
She did not write back.
Gerri Mahn is a mom and a veteran with degrees in English Lit and Library Science. Her work has appeared in Den of Geek, Mulberry Literary and Maya Literary Magazine.
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