Nadia, the end of the line
Nadia’s last email ended like this:
…A part of me wishes I could hurt you as much you’ve hurt me, but in the end, I know it won’t make me feel better. I think you’ll always be damaged goods. I’ve changed my phone number and email address and will be moving before the end of the week. Please don’t try to find me.
A younger version of myself might have booked the first flight back to the states, but I was old enough to realize Nadia was too far gone. My affair with the hand-model had been short-lived. I was alone in Melbourne. Completely alone.
I thought about people I could call, to make me feel better, but I realized they would all take Nadia’s side. Hell, I thought, my sister probably wouldn’t even speak to me. They all said Nadia was so good for me. That I should settle down with her.
“When are you going to settle down, Knox?” I asked myself, bitterly. I closed my laptop and left the café. Melbourne was a lovely city, but it wasn’t my town. I’d moved there on a year-long visa to help an old colleague run a research project, but the major underwriter had fallen out three months into it. Essentially, I’d left my country and destroyed my relationship to be a grant writer for a hack drinking buddy I hadn’t seen since grad school.
I needed a drink. Badly.
Four days later, I woke up on the couch of an unknown apartment. My clothes were stained with dirt and vomit. My breath was mustard gas. I noticed my laptop bag on floor. It was empty, save for my notebook. Great, I thought, there goes $2000 of the university’s money.
I heard someone in the kitchen, so I wandered in to find the secretary from the cultural studies department putting on the kettle. She was a cute, shy woman, maybe 25.
“Oh, you’re awake.” She said.
“I’m not entirely convinced,” I said. “Could I have a glass of vodka? Wait, no. Scratch that. I mean water.”
She nodded to a cupboard above the sink.
“You work in the office, right?”
“Yeah. I’m Georgia. I found you passed out on the front gates of the University last night, so me and my friend dragged you back here.”
“Hmm. Must have been trying to report to work.”
After a puking spell in front of the toilet and a cold, cold shower, I headed back to my place to sleep it off. Two days later, I showed up at the office with a bouquet of flowers for Georgia.
“You might have saved my life the other night,” I told her. “I’d like to take you out tonight.”
At dinner, I told Georgia the whole story. Falling in love with Nadia during our book club, chasing her for months, moving from Seattle to the northern coast of California to be with her, the dreams of spending the rest of our lives together, that goddamn, motherfucking hand model. I told her everything.
“So you break the woman’s heart and then get upset about it?” Georgia said to me, slightly incredulous.
“Yeah, I guess that’s kind of my style.”
“You know, before I picked you up out of the gutter, you seemed like a really nice guy.”
I laughed. “They’ll probably put that on my tombstone.”
That night, after dinner, I walked Georgia home and leaned in to kiss her, but she immediately stepped back. “What’s the matter with you, Knox? You think I really want to kiss you?”
“I mean, I sort of thought so. Didn’t we have a nice time?”
“Sure, but I still think you’re a jerk. Next time, you might withhold a few details.”
As I walked home, I realized that if I was ever going to be able to make it work with another woman, I could never be truthful with her. And fuck if that didn’t hurt the most.
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