February 11, 2008


Twenty minutes later, just as Robert was easing back into his own neighborhood, Litta'Bit was sitting up in the dark, sniffling into a Kleenex with her childhood blanket balled up against her stomach. She had heard Robert’s last whispered ultimatum, had felt his hand touch her head in love and pity and worse, and now that he was gone his words and touch remained.

She hadn’t been asleep; in fact, she’d never been asleep, she’d only been pretending from the beginning because she wanted him to leave and it was the easiest way. She let out a low moan and one gasped sob at the memory. She was so terrible to him, and all he did was love her back stronger each time…it wasn’t fair to him. (It wasn’t fair to her.)

Why couldn’t she love him back? Why couldn’t she at least have kissed him and held him and sent him home flushed and warm? Litta'Bit wiped her nose. She could come up with a thousand reasons, but she knew what the main one was, no matter how much she would never admit it out loud: he bored her. She wanted to believe that she wasn’t really the attention-deficient party girl she pretended to be for a laugh, but it was a role that, once taken on, had infected her life.

What had Alexander told her and David once? The worst crime one person can commit against another is boredom. Ever since then Litta'Bit had lived as though this was true, even though she knew that it wasn’t. In fact, off the top of her head, she could think of four or five worse things you could do to another person.

Like lead them on. Like ignore them. Like take their love and give them neglect and contempt in return, and watch how it made them only love you more. Litta'Bit pulled the hood of her sweatshirt up over her head and then over her face and sobbed into the cotton and the darkness.

It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t fair. Nobody knew what it was like for her. David could stay in bed for three weeks, but she had to hide it all behind a dumb smile and bright blinking eyes. And she couldn’t tell anyone.

She sat up enough to fumble on the nightstand for her phone. The pink lamp swayed but didn’t fall. Opening the phone, she squinted at the bright display and slowly tapped in the first six of Alexander Budd’s seven digits. She didn’t dial the seventh one just yet, and she waited so long that her phone, assuming she’d hit the numbers by mistake, cleared them out for her. She knew she wouldn’t dial them again. Who else would be awake? David, but he’d never understand. Maybe Andre. She closed her phone and, still holding it, pulled her little baby blanket up to her chest and held it tight.

Robert had said that he wasn’t strong enough to do it himself. If she loved him, if she cared about him at all, she’d have to do it on her own. It was for the best. To treat him right she’d have to hurt him one more time.

It would have to be tonight, with her shaking chest and the damp tissue still in her palm. Litta'Bit knew that tomorrow she wouldn’t remember how she felt right now. She’d convince herself that it was just the hour or stress or PMS. And Robert would call in a couple of days with an offer of dinner or a movie and, disgusted with reruns, she’d say yes and the cycle would continue.

Tonight. She’d have to be strong for the both of them and end it tonight. She couldn’t be easy on him or give him any hope of a future. She’d been a bitch to him so often before and she’d have to do it one last time. She had to be strong enough to hurt him, to help him.

She opened her phone and called him. Before the phone rang, though, she hung up. She couldn’t talk to him…he had a way of arguing that she couldn’t resist. She’d have to disappear.

Litta'Bit remembered what Robert had said just before he left: “I need you to break up with me.” She opened her phone again and sent him a text message instead:

Consider it done.

She closed the phone and curled around it. He’d be calling her soon, asking her why and how and what he could do to change her mind. But she prepared herself, put on her fierciest mask, and waited for his call. She’d be strong for both of them.

She woke up ten hours later with the phone still in her hand.