The Movie’s End. Part 1
Mike sat on the edge of the bed, smoking a cigarette, staring at the mirror that was attached to the back of Tracy’s dresser. Even though his clothes were in it too, he wouldn’t call it “their” dresser. No, Tracy had made it clear a long time ago, when they first moved in together, that she abided by the old philosophy: “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine.” A lot of people wondered why Mike had bothered taking their relationship to this step if he knew she was like that, but the answer was…he didn’t know until they became domestic partners.
Mike equated it to switching jobs. You might go from being an office worker to a truck driver (like Mike had), but you don’t know you hate it until you are out on the road, away from your friends and loved ones, away from everything you know, sleeping in a cramped position, getting yelled at by the people that you make deliveries to, and so on.
He got home after having made a particularly grueling haul up to Canada. His manager had sent the load to Mike at the last possible second, just as he was about to lay down for some rest. It was a long trek, and Mike knew he and Tracy couldn’t afford for him to pass on that much mileage.
So Mike did what came naturally to him: he sucked it up, ignoring his own discomfort and fatigue, and accepted the haul. It took him several days to get up because he’d been in California at the time, but he pulled it off. He got it delivered on time and without breaking any Department of Transportation rules.
Once he was done, a rare thing happened: Mike’s driver manager told him to go home and take a break. This was unheard of but, rather than give Mike a raise, this was the company’s way of saying “thank you,” so he headed home.
And this was how karma decided to repay him? It just didn’t seem fair.
The first thing Mike saw when he walked in was Tracy. She was barefoot, her heels resting on the edge of the couch while her toenails dried. She was watching Maury, or Jerry, or one of those obnoxious daily talk shows that claimed to be reality, but even an uneducated man like Mike could see through the façade. Mike had been to a lot of places and met a lot of people, but he’d never met anyone who was as over-the-top trashy as the “guests” on these shows, and man oh man did it piss him off that Tracy was drawn to these programs. Just because they lived in a trailer park didn’t mean they had to live up to the stereotype, but Tracy didn’t agree with him on that one. In fact, Mike had never met a person whose philosophy on life was further from his. This became even more apparent once they lived together.
He remembered going to a video store one time and coming home with a movie that was not only black and white but was also silent. The movie was called Metropolis, and Mike rented it because the cover art (a picture of a shapely female robot) caught his eye. When he read the description on the back, he was even more intrigued.
Mike brought it home and popping the movie into the DVD player. (Friday night was always movie night for him and Tracy. They would take turns: one Friday she would pick a movie, and Mike got next week.) Once it got past the credits, Mike noticed Tracy was sitting there with her mouth agape, a puzzled look on her face.
“Where’s the sound?” she asked.
“There isn’t any,” Mike answered.
Tracy released a sound that was full of contempt. “So not only is it in black and white, but it’s a silent movie?”
Mike felt the defensive walls getting raised in his mind. “What’s wrong with that?”
“Silent movies are old and lame, Mike,” Tracy said. “Jesus, I can’t believe you. No one else in this trailer park would watch this movie.”
Mike arched his eyebrows at this comment. What the hell did he care what anyone else in the park would watch? It was absurd, and he couldn’t contain the sarcastic comment that exploded from his mouth.
“I’ll try to live with that, Tracy,” he said, laughing. “I really will.”
Tracy shot a dirty look at him. Then she got up and went in their bedroom. Mike sat there watching the movie for about ten minutes before she returned, wearing one of her “LOOK AT ME” outfits and dolled up to the eyeballs in makeup.
“I’m going out with the girls,” Tracy said.
“But it’s movie night,” Mike replied.
“I know. Enjoy,” she said as she walked out the door.
Mike watched the movie for a minute or two before shutting it off and going to bed. He never saw the end of it, and they never had movie night again.
His mind rushed through this memory as he stood in the middle of the living room, watching the melodrama unfold on the screen. Tracy didn’t say a word to him, not even “hello.” Mike would have never expected to hear her say something like, “Hi, honey;” those terms of endearment had vanished long ago. That was why, when she did speak, he was amazed that she had addressed him at all.
“You just gonna stand there all day?” Tracy asked.
He looked at her, intending to meet her with a stony gaze, but she wasn’t even looking at him. Not surprising. She rarely did anymore. And even if her eyes did swing his way, it felt like she was looking right through him.
“I don’t know,” Mike said. “I don’t have anything better to do.”
“Yeah,” she said. “There’s a lot of things you don’t know.”
Mike furrowed his brow. “What does that mean?”
With a sigh, Tracy picked up the remote and muted the television. She scooted forward on the couch, putting her feet on the hardwood floor but curling her toes to avoid messing up the nail polish.
“Well, there’s no point in beating around the bush,” Tracy said. “I’m leaving you, Mike. I found someone else.”
It took a moment for what she said to hit home. When it did, he realized what it meant: while he had been out busting his ass, risking his life driving while fatigued, she was back here cheating on him. How was that for payback? Meanwhile, Mike knew women whose boyfriend’s beat them black and blue, and they were the most loyal girlfriends a guy could hope for.
The unfairness of it all should have stirred up a rage that had no equal inside him, but he felt nothing. He stared blankly at her curled toes.
“When are you leaving?” he asked.
“After my toenails dry,” she said.
Without making sure the conversation was over, Tracy unmuted the television. Mike found himself wondering when she had applied the nail polish. If he knew that, then he’d know when it would dry, and when she would be leaving. It occurred to him he could ask her, but he didn’t want to talk anymore.
That was when he walked into the bedroom, dug a pack of Marlboros out of his breast pocket, and started smoking. And this was where he had been ever since. The only sound in the house was the endless chants of “Jer-ry, Jer-ry, Jer-ry” from the living room, or the wind making tree branches brush against the side of the trailer. Every now and then the wind would pick up, causing the branches to pound against the walls, making them sound more urgent, as if they were trying to say, “Do something, fool!”
But what was there to do? She cheated, and now she was leaving. All he had to do was wait. And that was what he did. He sat there at the foot of the bed, staring at himself in the mirror, watching the tendrils of cigarette smoke curl like fingers as they drifted upward before they got shattered by the motion of the ceiling fan. Then it dawned on Mike that he was looking at his reflection in the same way that Tracy looked at him.
He was looking through himself.
Was that how insignificant he had become? His existence reduced so close to nothing that he couldn’t even see himself?
Again, he was struck by how unfair it was. Except this time when the feeling hit, he was determined to figure out what could be done about it.
Steve Grogan is a writer and musician who pays absolutely no attention to genre. His literary influences include Phillip K. Dick and Thomas Pynchon. He is also inspired by the Smashing Pumpkins. Lastly, Steve enjoys the “pop culture Cuisinart” filmmaking style of Quentin Tarantino. You can find more of his writing on his Amazon Author Page.
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