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May 20, 2004

Inconvenient Accidents: Pt. I

Life was difficult enough the way it had always been. I saw Hailey the other day when I was on my way to the Omnimax Cinema, and I never could have anticipated the depth of how strange it was to see her. I was meeting J, who’s been my most esteemed cohort for going on ten years; and it just so happened that he worked at the theater. I had been at Norman’s Dungeon, the local hobby/gaming store, for hours aimlessly perusing the various crap that fills the shelves, hangs from floor to ceiling, and stairs at your crotch through the display case waiting for the slightest glimpse of attention. When I realized I had been eying the miniature dollhouse furniture for far too long, I left. I was growing quite fond of a tiny wooden armchair with navy blue corduroy upholstery. J was getting off work fifteen minutes early to go play some Super Nintendo, he was that kind of guy. So I strolled down the sidewalk towards the aging movie house I had frequented from early childhood and worked at on alternating summers for the better part of my employable life. I was rifling through the various art supplies I had picked up when, unexpectedly, the door to the Chinese Buffet Wok swung wildly open in front of my doomed path. The world was very strange for the next three minutes my mind took to gather what remained of my consciousness. I blacked out. The string of neon bulbs that were chain linked together for the length of the strip mall stared at me like a cosmic centipede crawling across a cheap aluminum floor. The triangular sign under the awning above me declared that ”, YOU CAN EAT ALL YOU CAN!

I replied slowly “, Gooooood”.

“What? Are you all right?” apparently a person had appeared before my failing vision. I couldn’t be certain they were there to help me, or if they were anywhere for that matter. All I knew was they smelled of lilac and soy sauce, and I also noticed as my eyes began to focus that I knew this person. Her hair draped around her smooth pale face and gently brushed my cheek with the movement of her lips. My god, she was beautiful.

“Huh, Hailey?”

“I, oh shit you’re bleeding.”

“I think I’m okay now. My nose hurts.”

“Yeah, it’s bleeding pretty steadily there.” I hadn’t seen Hailey in over a year at this point. She moved to Iowa mere days after an argument we had concerning the finer details of our untimely split. We had talked after the move, of course, but only on the phone and as friends…well, friends making a weak attempt to stay in touch; and we never once talked about anything regarding the nature of or reasons for our separation. I thought she had broken my nose.

I looked in the black tinted restaurant window to attempt some sort of self-damage inspection. There was a dark stream about an inch thick coming from my left nostril. God damnit, I thought hundreds of times at once. My head began to throb. She helped me up and fished a packet of Kleenex out of her purse. I wiped my upper lip off as well as I could manage, considering the bloody mess I had become. Hailey waited for me to say something patiently.

“ Hmm…I wish there was some way to make this moment any less disastrous, but I think I owe it to myself and you to just say thank you and be on my merry way,” my voice game out gravely and was muffled by the crimson tissue I clasped to my nostril. The only thing I could do to avoid further humiliation was to escape.

“ Todd, it’s okay. I’ll just walk you wherever you were going and leave. I’m visiting my sister tonight, and then I’m headed back home. Sorry about laying your ass out like that,” Hailey said without missing a beat. I laughed and spewed blood out of my nose. I’m pretty sure a little got on her arm, but she acted like nothing happened.

“ So did you come up for the weekend or…”

“Naw, I got here this morning. I tried to track you down but you must have been working.”

“ Oh, you did? I mean, damn, I wish I had known.”

“ Yeah, your roommate’s an asshole by the way. He told me you had died in your sleep last night and told me to stop calling your fucking house.”

“Oh right, he’s like that. You get used to it.”

“ He also said you came back as a gay zombie and went to work to eat some man-flesh, weirdo.”

“ That prick, I’ll have to kill him when he passes out on the couch tonight.”

Around this time we had reached the theater, despite the fact that we walked barely fast enough to not be considered just standing around. It looked like I was going to get out of this without talking about anything remotely personal.

“ This was nice, and only slightly horribly embarrassing. I’m glad I ran into you. I hope your trip home is okay.”

“ It was nice. I’m sorry I haven’t talked to you in forever. I guess it would have been awkward to call. I could never figure out quite what to say to you after I left.”

“ Talking to you has rarely been awkward, and listen, Hailey I’m sorry for acting like a terrible asshole, I just couldn’t handle you leaving like you did. I hope there aren’t any sour feelings left over,” I had to say this for fear of a sharp gnawing ache in my throat. At this point I was running over a thousand different excuses to do something, anything with her tonight.

“ I’ll see you around, kay,” she said, her face flashed a grave and painful look. Then she kissed me. Her mouth pressed against mine with such staggering force, I thought my jaw would collapse. As she walked away, I stood there watching her cross the short distance out to her car in front of the Chinese eatery. Her breath slowly escaped my lungs as I watched her drive off, waving as she passed me, frozen to the sidewalk.


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