Elektra, the listener
I bumped into Elektra as I was moving the last of my things out of her duplex on Ashby Avenue. It was one of those rare muggy summer days in the East Bay and Elektra’s skin glistened with sweat like a photo shoot. She walked me to my VW rabbit with my final box of books, grimacing.
As we embraced for the last time, I inhaled deeply and said, “It hurts so bad already, doll. What am I gonna do?”
“I don’t know, Knox. I can’t be your therapist anymore.”
“Can I still call you? Just to talk. I don’t want you to give me advice. I just, I don’t know, I really like telling you things.”
“Sure. Knox. I’ll pick up the phone, Jew’s honor.”
She kissed me on the cheek, and sent me on my way. I moved in with a colleague of mine in the depths of East Oakland and tried to go about my life as numbly as possible. Going to work at the nonprofit, coming home, reading, running, eating and then going to sleep. One of my neighbors, a little thug named Gummy, hipped me to the mind-altering effects of sipping cough syrup, which, in retrospect, was not what I needed to be doing at that moment in my life.
I started calling Elektra once a week, faded off the syrup, slurring stories about past lovers, something I never delved into when we were still together.
“In comparison to Emily in Mexico City, you’ve been a breeze to get over, Lekky. A fucking breeze.”
“Which one was that, again?” Elektra asked.
“The one who I didn’t tell I was engaged to someone else. Well the first one I did that to. I guess that one hurt more than you, because it was kinda my fault.”
“Well, if it’s any consolation, you sound like you’re handling this one with the grace of a hobo.”
I laughed.”‘The grace of a hobo.’ I like that. Can I keep that one?”
“It’s already yours,” she said. I could feel her smiling over the phone and it warmed my whole being.
A few months later, when Elektra got an associate professor position in Reno she invited me over for a goodbye dinner. I think all my syrup-addled stories had changed her estimation of me. Instead of being just your standard beta-male with intimacy/mother issues, I was something else. It got her interested in a way she hadn’t been before. After a couple of bottles of wine, she took me to bed.
It felt really weird to be intimate with her again, in the bedroom we’d shared for almost nine months. I think she felt the same way, because, midway through, she asked me to stop.
“Knox, I’m sorry, I can’t do this.”
I was disappointed, but I understood. I put my clothes on and walked out the door, while she lay there silently in bed, watching me leave. When I got outside, I realized my keys were still on her nightstand, but I didn’t want to knock on her door. So I left my car and stumbled four miles home, with as much grace as I could possibly muster.
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