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A Fool So Full of Sorrow

from The Reeducation of a Turd Peddler
by John Henry Peabody

ROUGH NIGHT. I awoke knowing something was wrong, dehydrated, thick and hurting, still in my clothes and shoes, under the covers.
  I went down the check list.
  Obviously I had drank too much, which is always stupid. But I do it.
Had I punched someone or wrecked the car?
  I rolled over. At the back of my head was a sharp rattle of broken pottery. My mouth was an arroyo, sinuses dry as sand. Ears buzzed.
  I kept going down the list, slow notch.
  There it was.
  I had fought with Janet.
  When I was a kid, I always wondered what two people who loved one another could fight about that was so important that they hurt each other. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that they fought like that because they do love each other. It all came down to the need to stake out territory.
  With Janet, it was never a fair fight—she was a lot tougher than me. Not that she didn’t feel: she could shoulder stuff for years until finally breaking like something you had never seen in your life—a river of tears flowing from her face turned red beneath the glow, and that look in her eyes of complete betrayal.
  Had I caused that?
  Or was it something that was always there, something that was her’s, like a virus, just waiting to come to the surface?
  You felt in your heart, so deep, that the world was made a poorer place by her being that way—now you wanted to know how to fix it, and every so pitiful often there was just no way to fix it.
  It started at the Rusty, I remember now. Serra’s heart had been missing a week. We had been talking about who might have taken it. I made a few jokes. Janet laughed at one but stopped laughing at the others.
  “You’re never gonna f’ing get it, are you, Hank?” she looked away, holding her forehead, then a sip of wine.
  “Should we order another round or move on to water?” I asked.
  There was silence between us, only the sound of others having a good time.
  “We should just move on,” she said.
  “Look,” in a whisper. “I just figured it was going to show up. I thought the whole thing with the heart was a put-on—a fraternity deal.”
  She stared straight ahead. “Not that,” she said.
  The bartender, Rick, came over. “Janet, can I get you something?”
  “Just water,” she smiled.
  You know you’re in trouble when they can manage a smile for everyone but you.
  “Water, too?” I asked.
  He wandered off. I continued to look for signs from Janet, but she was just so hurt.
  I cleared my eyes. Dolores had come in and was walking towards us.
  “Hi, Hank.”
  I sighed. She knew what was up and put her hand on Janet’s back.
  “You alright, Janet?”
  Janet reached a hand over her shoulder and lightly touched Lo’s. “I’m fine, sweetie. I’ll be alright.”
  Dolores looked at me like What Have You Done?
  “Are you coming back to the office, Hank?” she asked.
  “No. St. Patrick’s Day, 2012.” So non bullshit she was. She hesitated. “I’ll leave some stuff on your desk for you to look at.”
  Janet turned. “What are you doing tonight, girl?”
  “I have my yoga class and then . . . Not sure,” she said. “I thought I might hang out with you guys, but you look like you got stuff to talk about.”
  Lo turned and walked.
  Janet sat up, took the big heap of water the bartender had poured and straightened her shirt.
  “That girl loves you so much, Hank. If you just opened your eyes.”
  “I know that—I think.”
  “Do something about it.”
  “Janet . . ..” I sat back. “Don’t pawn me off,” under my breath, crumbling.
  “Hank . . . My friend, my brother. We have so much in common. Our lives have been near parallel—our mothers died together—but that doesn’t mean we are meant for one another . . .” Her eyes welled. “I don’t love you that way.”
  God, I thought, such certainty. Women have such certainty when they finally make the break.
  She was right. I had lived a fantasy, without knowing it. I had lived a life that contrived, ever so quietly—mainly to myself, but enough to her—that eventually she and I would be together.
  I believe the Latin is Such a fucking dumb shit am I.
  “You’re right. I have been an idiot. I have been an idiot and not even known it.”
  “Hank,” Janet let. “You’re not an idiot. You just . . .”
  “Just a fool,” I said, and when I said it I realized that the word fool had brand new meaning—I hadn’t known that a fool could be so full of sorrow. I thought a fool was too foolish for sorrow.
  Think again, fool.
  I got up, the bar stool falling behind me. Janet called. I headed to the door, into the parking lot, towards the historical society. I knew that my life—what turned out to be my life—was gone. I had finally fessed up. I needed to turn, like a needle, in a direction that didn’t include Janet as my north. I had to consider others in the place I wanted to call home. All I ever wanted in life was to go Home, to get there, and tonight I was just as far from it as ever.
  I walked up the front stairs of the historical society and looked in. Dark. Dolores had finished up and was gone. So I buttoned my jacket, wiped the tears from my face and headed back to the Rusty.
  Janet must have been gone because I don’t remember anything after that.

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Lenses, Hearts and Rockets


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