Breaking up is hard to do

Another Richard section from my novel, Impossible Monsters, for your reading pleasure.


The first of two conversations leading to us breaking up:

I’m at the botanical gardens killing time, it’s around two and it’s cold but I’m sitting on a bench outside anyway and watching my breath leave me, watching it go everywhere but back in me like it’s some sentient thing.  Wispy smoke plumes.  I’m sitting here with a notepad and a disposable fountain pen I purchased at this paper store in High Street called Pulp or something, I think, a pack of four pens—two black, one blue, and one purple, of all colors.  Sitting here thinking about lots of things for what’s already seemed like a long time, but it probably hasn’t been.  Been thinking about my dissertation, my family back home, where to go drinking tonight, the party, etcetera, how I’ll look in the sweater I borrowed from Toby when I finally wear it, then my cell rings, surprising me.  I stand and look at it and recognize Jen’s number which makes me smile.

“Hi, baby,” I say.

“Hi…Rich,” she says, somberly, slowly.

“God, I’m glad you called.  Had a pretty cool day today.”


“Wait, you okay?”

She sighs loud, dramatically, then silence.  I wander into one of the greenhouses at this point, one that was supposed to represent a tropical, rainforesty climate, the closest to me, and I’m met with such a gust of thick and damp humidity that it’s startling.

“Hello?” I say, finally.

“Yeah, I’m here.”

“Well, say something, please,” I say, heart racing.

“I want to talk to you, but for real.”

“As opposed to the not real conversations we have?” I say laughing, waiting, getting no response.  “I tried calling you last night…twice.”

“Yeah, I…went out.”

“Uh…oh.  Okay.”

“I told you I was going to,” she says, annoyed and probably flipping through a magazine or something I realize now.  Flippant.

“No, your exact words were ‘I might go out tonight, but I don’t feel like it.’  That’s what you said to me.”


“No, that’s what you said.”

“Oh,” she says yawning.

“Well?” I say, pissed.  “What did you…do?”

“Well, I was at Trevor’s.  We were all watching a movie.”

“Goddamnit, Jen.”


“You shouldn’t…it’s just, you shouldn’t go to his house,” I say, stammering.  “It’s…not fucking cool.”

“I’m not allowed to hang out with my friends?”

“He’s your exboyfriend.”


“You really don’t see a problem with this?”

“No, I don’t.”

“He wants to fuck you, and he’s going to try.”

“Jesus…no he’s not.”

“Yes, he will.  You don’t just…are you like the only person in the world that doesn’t realize ex-boyfriends still want to fuck?”

“So you want to fuck your ex-girlfriends?” she says cornering me.

“Well…no,” I say and see my reflection in a piece of dark glass and I look confused.

“Isn’t that hypocritical, Richard?”

“Not really, no.  I have closure with all my exes.”

“Of course you do.”

“I’m serious.  You guys broke up so suddenly, and you know he’s still in love with you.  You’ve told me that.”

“I never said that.”

“In so many words you did.  Anyway, you’re young.  You don’t realize guys don’t want to be friends.”

“I’m sure some do.”

“No, they don’t.  Guys want to fuck.  We have no reason to have girls as friends.  Especially when you’ve already fucked before.”

“It’s not a big deal, I’m not going to fuck him.”

“You could be fucking talking to him about the goddamn weather or Bush or something, he’s still going to want to fuck you.  You’re leading him on.  He thinks…he thinks he can just call you up whenever.  I’m very right about this, Jen.”

“Well, I don’t think you are.”

“Doesn’t it at least bother you that I’m upset?  Isn’t that good enough?”

“I’m not going to not see my friends because you don’t want me to.”

“I’m not saying don’t see him.  I’m saying don’t go over to his house, don’t fucking talk to him all the time.  He’s not that good of a friend.  Once, maybe, but not now.  He’s just…some guy who’s seen you naked.”

“Whatever,” she said.  “I have…class I have to get ready for.”


“I have psychology.  You know this, Richard,” she says with just the right tone that it shakes me and makes me, for whatever reason, forget myself.

“Look, I’m sorry, baby, I just…I hate this distance stuff, you know?  It just makes you so…everything, I mean, makes it all so much worse, you know?”


“You know I’m not a jealous guy, I just don’t like your ex, I think he still…wants you.  I really do think that.”

“Well, even if he does, you should trust me.”

“I know.  I do.”

“Well, anyway.”

“I love you, baby.  You know I do, right?  I mean, wouldn’t you be upset if I was hanging out with my ex?”

“But we both know you wouldn’t ever do that.”

“I know, I’m just saying.  Just think about it, okay?  I just…miss you.  I can’t wait to come home and see you.  Only a few more months until Christmas, right?”


“I love you.  Can I call you today, later…your time?”

“I have class all day and Lisa and I are doing some stuff tonight.”



“That’s fine.  Will you please use the calling card I got you…please?”

“Yeah, I’ll try.”

“I love you, baby.”

“Talk later, okay?”

“Just a few more months, baby.  Oh, and I did really good on that paper I wrote last week.”


“I really do hope you’re happy to see me.  Oh, and I know what I’m getting you for Christmas now.”

“Call me later.  I have to go.”

“It’s really good.  Okay.  I’m home all night tonight, so try to call me, okay?”

“Bye, Richard.”

“Love you.”

“You too,” she says, then silence.

I’m breathing hard and annoyed and paranoid and I think of stepping of the plane meeting her by the baggage claim and fucking her in the shower and kisses and holding hands and going up to the spa together up north, just being together, then suddenly I can’t stop thinking of her going down on some guy while some other guy watches and I just stand there, breathing in the humid air, just staring at the wall of green in front of me, the shapes of the different plants and choking vines then look at my hands which are still red and chapped from the cold outside and I feel nothing right now, not even the warmth from the heaters and misting machines working overtime in this glass box.  I’m standing next to a banana tree and I touch one of its long leaves and it feels waxy.  I feel nothing now except…waxy…and I feel just…waxy, coated, like the banana tree leaf.  I go over to a small iron bench in front of a flowerless bluegreen bush.  In front of me across the narrow brick path is a large, huge green closed flower pod atop a short, thick stalk base with leaves shooting from the bottom.  The pod, the unopened flower, is mostly green but has streaks of red and purple in it and I lean forward to look at the little brass placard shoved in the dark soil, the layman name of the plant rubbed off by age and the grease of fingerprints, no one bothering to redo it, and I see it’s in the genus Amorphophallus and per the description the flower, once bloomed, will emit an odor like rotting meat to attract flies and other insects in order to ensure pollination

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