fistWatching the Apartment

by James Coffey

I’m watching the apartment where I used to live with Maria. Maria is in the apartment with Gary. Gary used to me my buddy at work. When we both applied for the manager vacancy we promised each other that nothing between us would change. After he got the promotion a certain inflection came into his voice when he asked me a question, as though he didn’t want an answer but an explanation. Or at the morning meeting he made it clear with these little smiles and furrowing of his forehead or raising his eyes to the ceiling or looking at the floor that he thought I was not up to it. I wish that I hadn’t done the things I did, like scratching his car, or letting down his tires, or fooling with his sandwiches in the fridge. I wish I hadn’t done those things. I wish I had done something cool and clever that he wouldn’t know straight away had been done by me.

They are in the kitchen and I watch Gary stand behind her and put his arms around her and kiss her neck and she turns and they embrace in full view of anybody who might be watching. I am experiencing this deep and angry and helplessly impotent rage. I want to be the person who is clever enough to come up with a plan that covers all of the angles and to redress all of the unfairness and then show them no mercy. I want to be that man rather than be the man who let down Gary’s tires or made heavy breathing phone calls to Maria who knew it was me straight away.

Gary emerges from the apartment block and comes towards me. He is pointing at me and saying, “If you don’t stop following us and watching us and making freaky phone calls and scratching my car I’m going to call the police. Do you hear me, Marty?”

He is breathing heavily and I can feel his anger. It feels as though what he would really like to do is to hit me as hard as he can. I think he would get a lot of satisfaction from that. I’m scared that he is going to do it and he senses my fear. Now he knows, on top of all of the other things that he knows about me, that I’m scared. No wonder Gary and Maria think I’m a sap. Gary’s face is taut and his lips are set tight and his eyes are fixed upon me and he puts his face only about an inch from mine. It’s an uncomfortable feeling and I have to back away. As soon as I take a step back I see Gary’s face relax slightly and his body loosen and I start to wonder if he was so confident after all. I give a kind of non-committal shrug off my shoulders and take another half step back and Gary says, “That’s right, Marty. You go on home and we’ll talk about this some other time.”

I make as though I’m going to turn around but pivot on my foot and clench my fist and throw a punch with as much momentum as I can muster. Gary collapses like a sack of potatoes. I wish I’d known I’m this powerful.

I crouch over him and find myself worrying that if he comes around now he’ll really be angry. But Gary doesn’t move, nothing moves , everything is still and everything is quiet except for the pounding in my head and the beating of my heart although there is a group of people gathered and somewhere from way beyond the frontier of silence I hear Maria’s cry and then she is bending over Gary and begging him to wake up and then she is beating me with her fists and she is screaming that I have killed Gary and that I had planned to do this, that I had been waiting to do this, and now I that have done this terrible thing am I satisfied? I mutter something about self-defense and not hitting him hard but she is not listening. Her face is twisted and tortured and her cavernous mouth is red and ugly and spittle runs from her lips. I cannot think why I shared my life with this woman or why I should have been so consumed by envy of Gary who is really just a wimp. Even as I get into the back of the police van she is screaming at me. She is telling me how much she hates me and that she will make sure I spend the rest of my life in prison. I feel completely unmoved by her tirade until later when I am able to ponder my situation and wonder how it is that I got myself in such deep trouble over Gary and Maria when really they mean nothing to me, nothing at all. 

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James Coffey is a civil servant in Warwickshire, England.
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