I was hunching over three textbooks and a pile of notebooks, wrapped in my thickest blanket and wearing two pairs of socks, trying to figure out this like impossible homework problem. I’m about to pull my hair out when my phone buzzed and I get this text from Penelope: they wont find my body till spring.
I put my pencil down. What the fuck did that mean? There was a white-out blizzard through the frosted window of my dorm room. It was ten degrees outside.
I’d broken up with Penelope on Saturday, like five or six weeks after we started dating? I never had classes with her but we worked together at Safeway for a year and she used to come up behind me while I was at the checking counter, touch my wrist, and ask if I needed a break. I’d say no, and as she walked back to the pastry section I’d check out her butt cheeks flexing. I’m sorry, but a body like that—even in black pants and a uniform top—short circuits my brain. You know, the kind of round, tight ass that sticks out no matter what she wears? Anyways, after we made out at a house party I started calling her over to my dorm and I was very straight-forward and honest about what I wanted, like I said explicitly how I wanted things to be casual. Things happened fast and she was spending most nights at my place, fucking and watching shows on the computer and fucking again, and we’d shower together and go for breakfast, go for dinner, and we planned a ski trip for winter break. It was all right but she had this gross habit of biting her finger nails and she always had coffee breath. Which, like, how am I supposed to be in a relationship with you if I can hardly kiss you without gagging? And she wasn’t that fun or interesting to talk to and she had nothing to actually say most the time; it was all looking into my eyes and I’m like Hello, what’re you looking at; what do you want? I just had to break up with her. I took her to Patsie’s Pub for dinner and told her there’s no passion and it’s not going to work, then we ordered pints and pork sandwiches.
“I don’t get it,” Penelope says, starting a second pint, “you said you liked me and you thought I was different than the other girls.”
“You are different,” I said. “You’re attractive.” She gives me a look. Last week she said she was happy with us and I said I was happy too. I wasn’t lying but it’s not like I was going to tell her I was already looking for someone else.
We finished our food and she’s like, “Kendra, what happened? We were supposed to go to Pronghorn Mountain in a week; I bought tickets and everything. Is it because I said I missed you? When you’re in a casual relationship you don’t kiss each other on the cheek and say Have a good day at work. You don’t fall asleep cuddling watching TV. I’ve liked you for such a long time and I was falling for you and now we’re saying goodbye. It’s crazy.”
She drank more beer and said, “I feel like—I feel like I want to ask for a second chance. Like, did I do something wrong? You can tell me if I did. I’m sorry if I did something. I just don’t want this to be over. Please.”
I didn’t say anything. She bit her thumbnail.
I’ve never been in love and I’ve never missed someone so bad it hurts. I could see that’s what Penelope was going through. I almost liked her in the beginning; there was almost chemistry, but mostly I just wanted somebody to hold at night. Like, that was it. That’s all we had. So get over it already and find someone else. It’s not that hard. OK, she got me a bouquet of flowers, which was thoughtful; she made eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee for me on Saturday mornings; in bed she’d bite my collar bone and it made me feel like a subdued little kitten. That’s all I can think of.
I go to the window, rub off the condensation, and peer out. It was dark and there were a million clumpy snowflakes streaming to the ground at an angle. There was a shape near the street lamp swaying in the wind, and I knew it was her, I knew she was watching my window, and a lull in the snowfall let me see she’s in a bra and panties. She turned around and walked into the trees. I sat back down. It’s not your problem, I told myself. I can’t help her; she has to go through this herself. She’d probably go into the woods, lay naked on the ground, let a dusting of snow collect on her skin, then get up and go home and realize she’d fall in love with someone else someday. She wouldn’t actually go through with it. There were lots of other girls and it wasn’t my fault because it’s not like I mislead her or anything. I told her nothing serious. But she’d look at me as if she needed me, and she texted me every day, and one time she left a voicemail. I guess that means she liked me?
I searched the weather on my phone. Eight degrees outside. Shit. This was so stupid. I jam on a pair of leggings and snow boots and run outside to chase her footprints in the freezing cold. If I did nothing, what would people at the funeral be thinking, that I let her die for no reason? I’m not heartless, I’m just trying to live my fucking life. Is that so much to ask?