On the bus ride home I open the pack of toothpicks and arrange them between my fingers so that when I close them into fists I look like a poxy Wolverine. I promise myself that Lyle will be the first to see this discovery. I bring up his message again. There’s a photo of him in my phone, hiding under my doona, head and arms sticking out one end, reading a book. Lyle understands seafood salad and poxy Wolverine fingers.
Happiness, for me, is not a warm dinner. When I get home, I throw my shopping bag in the fridge and go immediately in search of trakky-daks. Blouse and skirt sail expertly into their assigned pile on the bedroom floor and scungy Tastes of Thailand t-shirt envelopes me in post-work unembarrassed comfort. At the bathroom sink, I splash water on my face and untie my hair. I give myself a wink and a finger-click in the mirror. Looking sharp.
Despite the usual supermarket humiliation, I’m in a good mood. One day away from the weekend, an email waiting from the man I love and my favourite dinner cooling to optimum temperature not metres away. I flip on the TV and the habitual colours of The Simpsons greet me. If I could be bothered to click my heels, I would.
I pour myself a glass of wine and open my laptop, brushing off the mulch of junk-mail on top of it. My neighbour is evidently home, and so is his wireless network. I log on and fire up my email. Lyle Barnes is the name at the top of my inbox. I open the email.
My eyes flick down to the solid block of text below, and then something very bad begins to happen. My mind flashes back to childhood swimming lessons, where I couldn’t learn to tumble-turn, where my sadistic teacher kept somersaulting me underwater until my mouth tasted of sour snot and the world became hopelessly, irrefutably blue. Lyle’s emails, never more than a few lines, and never with such formality, don’t usually make me feel like this.
I don’t know quite how to do this…
Motherfucker. Motherfucking motherfucker. I drag myself through the next paragraph like it’s barbed wire.
It’s just never felt quite right. And I don’t want to hurt you. I care for you so much, Sadie, I want you to know this…
For a writer, I think to myself, he’s pretty godawful at getting the point across.
I’m just not ready for…
This was the man I was moving in with next year. Motherfucker. How long had he felt like this? Chickenshit motherfucker breaking up over email.. No, via SMS and email. Double-fucking-coward shitbreath cunt.
I read the email. Then I read it again. And again. I tear a hardware store catalogue into tiny pieces. And then I cry. Stupid, empty, hot tears. Lyle’s break-up email is 500 words of self-pitying, lame excuses. This is the sort of thing you’re supposed to see coming. This was Lyle writing this. My Lyle. Two years together is not worth 500 worthless fucking words.
I get my phone and call his mobile. It rings and rings and of course he’s not going to answer it. I jump back on my computer and start typing my reply. I write furiously, and my words are impassioned and true and pleading and … useless. He doesn’t deserve a reaction. The spineless texting coward can stew. When I close my laptop, the TV screams an ad at me about a couple who bought insurance when they were young and are now happy and old together, eating caramels by a lake. No emails, just fucking caramels.