playing the victim

“He left a voice mail,” I muttered, eyes locked on my cracked cell phone screen.

“He did what?” Izzie called, her head stuck inside the kitchen pantry. I waited until she re-emerged to respond.

“A voice mail. He left a voice mail on my phone. Last night.”

“Well,” she spun on her heels, thrusting a wooden spoon in my direction, “What did it say?”

My gaze shifted from her to the phone. “I . . . I don’t know,” I stammered.

“You don’t know?” she called back, her body returning toward the stove.

“Yeah,” I replied softly. “I don’t know. I haven’t listened to it.”

But Izzie was humming to herself now, reading the directions on the back of a box of whole wheat pasta, focused on the task at hand.

I sighed, turning my head from side to side, popping the tense muscles in my neck. It’s just a little voice mail. Fifty-eight seconds. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

Maybe he called to say he made a mistake. That he can’t stop thinking about me. That he was a fool to let me go. Maybe he called to confess how I haunt his dreams. How he wakes every morning in agony, groping the sheets in search of a trace of me, to find my bones buried among the wrinkled cotton. Maybe he called to say how he has to breathe in my scent one more time. That he needs to wrap my hair around his fingers. Feel my hips press into his.

Fifty-eight seconds. Surely, he must just miss me.

I rose from the couch and moved to my room. Sat down slowly on the end of the bed, surrounded by all the shirts I tried on this morning, but didn’t wear. With my heartbeat rising to heavy strum, I pressed the play button. And held my breath.

His shallow breathing panted in my ear. “Claire? . . . Claire, I need to tell you something . . . I made a mistake today . . . I stole a purse . . . That sounds crazy, right? . . . It was just some random woman on the street. I saw her go into a building – carrying this yellow purse, and then I waited for her outside. When she came out, I grabbed it and ran. She chased after me, but I got away . . . I know. I know how this sounds. But Claire. I had to do it . . . I needed to know what it felt like. To take something that didn’t belong to me. To have no remorse. To run from something with complete abandon and never wonder what disaster I left in my wake . . . Don’t you see, Claire? Don’t you get it? You’re nothing more than a petty thief . . . And this time, I guess you got away.”

I stared blankly at the phone. Did I cause this? Did I do this to him? To me? All this time I pulled away, isolated myself, ignored his phone calls and texts. Created space so we could have a clean break. Sabotaged the good. Severed ties before I was too far gone.

I stood up and looked in the mirror and saw something poking from underneath the bed.  Whipping around, I threw myself on the ground to grab it.

A yellow purse. Deflated and worn. Nothing left inside.

Through the clarity of retrospect, the obvious conclusion surfaced: things don’t always turn out as planned.

16 thoughts on “playing the victim

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