Lovin’ You Ain’t Easy

I didn’t want to take another bite of Nicky’s homemade pasta, so I don’t. I pushed the noodles around the plate to make it look like I made progress, then reached in to my pocket and withdrew a cherry Jolly Rancher. I unwrapped it with as much stealth as I could manage and popped it into my mouth.

“I mean, this is a great space, Cyrus. You can do a lot with it.” Nicky gestured to the open living room.

I hate the way she says my name. Cy-risss. I hate most things about the girl named Nicky who told me she was my girlfriend. Really, I hate anyone who tells me what to do and how things are.

“Do you see what I’m saying, though? Like, a couch here would be great and a big TV. You even have room for like, a nice coffee table or something.”

I met Nicky while I was teaching Russian at a community center in town. She hung around after class, talking to me about anything she felt like. She was a pretty girl. My age. Some would’ve considered her attractive, but I doubted she could hold her own in a fight or run a mile without becoming breathless.

The first time she asked me on a date I declined. She persisted, week after week, and finally I said yes. Better to have it over with sooner rather than later. I couldn’t quit the job. I needed the money. Besides, I became curious. I’d never had a girlfriend. I’d never had interest in the opposite sex–or any sex for that matter–and wondered how relationships functioned. I often suspected I was declined from jobs after the interview because people didn’t like my disposition. I didn’t know how to act normal, and figured I’d learn something from being around her.

“So, hey. Why won’t you go to that party? Are you intimidated by my ex? He’s going to be there, you know.” Nicky leaned over the table, her chest near my face.

I honed my manipulation skills while being with her, that’s for sure. Nicky, being so manipulative herself, proved a good model and test subject for my own wit.

“I don’t know, Nicky, I guess I just feel like he still likes you and you might have something for him, too.”

Play in to her narcissism. Appear weak, the inferior being in the relationship. Allow her to reassure me, be submissive to her will.

“Aww, baby, you know that isn’t true.”

“I know,” I say. I take a bite of the pasta. Let her feel like I need her, I can’t function without her.

“You’re so sensitive, Cyrus.”

“I know,” I say, my voice softer this time. Pout bottom lip just slightly, look down at plate.

“Well, we don’t have to go if you don’t want. We can have a night in, but we’re definitely going to my place.”

I try to keep the smirk off my face by masking it with a sheepish smile. “Really? That sounds a lot better.”

“Cool. So anyway, I was thinking maybe my couch and coffee table would look nice in here.”

I swirl more pasta around my fork, then set it down once I realized what she said. “Why would you bring that stuff here?”

Nicky’s face darkened. She shoved away from the table. “Ugh, obviously because I think we should move in together! We’ve been dating for four months and two weeks!”

Things had gone from mildly interolerable to homicide-inducing in a split second. I needed to break myself from the weird daze of a life I’d been in since dating her and forget learning normalcy. If I couldn’t get a job like a regular person or feign normal social relationships, so be it.

Now, how are you supposed to say it? “Nicky, I’m breaking up with you.”

“You–what?”

Nicky’s body shook with rage. Her fists were clenched so hard I wondered if her nails drew blood.

“I said, I’m breaking up with you. I’m not interested in doing this anymore.”

“Doing THIS? What the fuck does that mean? We love each other, Cyrus! You don’t just stop being interested in that!”

This wasn’t going as well as I hoped. It seemed obvious. I no longer wanted to be a part of the relationship. I stated it. She should be walking out of my apartment and life.

Things rarely go the way I want them to. I hoped it wouldn’t become a trend.

Her first strike hit me in the temple with surprising force. I tipped sideways in my chair. In attempt to stabilize my hand flew to the table but landed in the pasta. My whole body went down as she kicked the chair and toppled me over. My face burned as it dragged against the short carpet. I began to stand but Nicky came around the table to kick me. I warded the attack. She lost her balance and fell onto the floor.

There was no way she could’ve hurt herself by tumbling onto the carpet, but she started screaming that I broke her arm, then her leg, that she had internal bleeding. The slew of insults and promises to put me in jail were too numerous to remember. I sat on the ground and watched her pace back and forth and yell, unsure of what to do.

Eventually she called her friend who picked her up. I didn’t dare see her out mostly because I worried it would provoke her and she’d call the cops.

I watched her drive away then went to the kitchen, washing the cold pasta sauce off my hand and cleared the dining room table.

At least I knew relationships weren’t going to work for me. I retrieved a handful of candy from my pocket.

Maybe I’d get a pet some day? Sounded much easier.

In The Undead Situation you might remember Cyrus referencing his one and only girlfriend, Nicky. I’ve always had some details of their relationship mapped out in my mind, so I thought it would be fun to share one of those moments. Cyrus was very young at this point and hadn’t become the man we know in TUS.

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About Eloise J. Knapp

Eloise J. Knapp is an author and designer living in the Pacific Northwest.
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