She stared out the window of her apartment, neatly tucked on 168th street, right above a small bodega that sold fresh fruit and porn magazines. The smoke from her cigarette curled towards the ceiling, only partially escaping out the window. Her auburn hair grazed against her shoulders; the grey spaghetti strap top she wore had its fair share of coffee stains and even a small hole from a time she dropped her cigarette. She wore it so often that it fell off her thin body. Her black cotton shorts rolled up on her thighs, leaving nothing to the imagination (two months into the relationship there wasn’t much left for me to have to imagine, anyway). Her knees were tucked up against her chest and she rested her head on them while she looked down at the city. She let out a content sigh. The floor was littered with various books- most she had yet to finish. Jimmie was notorious for starting a book, quickly became infatuated with it, only to be lured away by some new title; she would eventually pick up the book she left, though, but only when she grew bored of the new one or when it was convenient for her.
“What time is your call tonight?” I asked her, trying to speak over the familiar sound of Judy Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from her mother’s old record player. Years of being pinned under the needle made Judy’s voice scratchy and distressed. It was Jimmie’s favorite record- she played it almost every day. It became as routine as her morning coffee and cigarette.
She never responded to my question; I’m not sure if she didn’t hear me or if she was too lost in herself to hear me. I rolled to my side and grabbed my pack of cigarettes off the coffee table. Jimmie had stolen my lighter, again, and had tucked it into her pack of Parliament 100s. I never understood why she smoked them- I find them disgusting but she thought the recessed filter made her look more elegant. I prefer the smooth taste of Camel Blues, though. Yes, they are more expensive but I am more than happy to invest in the splurge.
“You know what I hope happens when I die?” she asked with her fluttery voice. I pushed myself up on my arms, cigarette hanging out of my mouth, to look at her. She still continued to look out the window and showed no signs of distress. It was like she had made a statement about the weather.
“Huh?” I mumbled, puzzled and concerned.
“Do you know what I hope happens when I die?”
“That’s morbid,” I responded coolly, lighting my cigarette. She turned her head to look at me and swung her legs off the ledge,
“No its not! It’s actually quite cheerful if you let me tell you!”
“Ok, shoot.” I leaned back on the couch.
“Well, I hope that I see a bright, white light.”
“Very original,” I replied, letting the smoke escape from my nose. She hopped off the window and pranced to my side. She knelt next to me and lightly hit my chest. Her eyebrows wrinkled,
“Will you stop doing that! Let me finish.” I yawned and tapped the ashes from my cigarette into my coffee mug,
“Ok, I’m sorry- there’s a white light,” She smiled and inched closer to me on her knees and continued gleefully,
“So there’s gonna be that big, bright light that everybody says, right? But instead of hearing, like, angels or something I wanna hear this.” She motioned to the record player.
“But I don’t want it to be perfect. I want it just like this. Nothing would make me happier.” I looked at her from the corner of my eye, unimpressed and unamused with her.
She smiled coyly as she looked down, once against becoming lost in herself.
“It would be as you die, ya know,” I corrected her, “Not when. You’re in the physical act of doing it.” She rolled her eyes at me,
“You know what I meant.”
“What made you think of that?” I asked her, half fearing the answer. She pushed her hair behind her ear and shrugged,
“Just a thought that popped up in my head.” She laughed lightly and leaned her face against my pillow. She lightly pressed her lips against mine. I didn’t return the effort.
“What song would you hear?”
“As you die, what song do you wanna hear?” I put my cigarette out. I rubbed my face and let out an exasperated moan; I was 25 years old at the time, I had just been promoted to a manager position for Vizio- I had no intention of planning my final moments just yet.
“I don’t know. What does it matter?”
“Come on, Seth just answer the question!” She laughed as she nudged me, somehow amused with the game she had just created. I sighed and covered my eyes with my arm,
“Ugh, I don’t know.”
“Just say something.”
“I don’t want to do this!” I yelled.
I lunged to my feet. Her green eyes became wild and bright. She slumped back down to her side. Her eyes fluttered. I pushed my hair back, trying to formulate an excuse for my outburst.
“I’m too much to handle, aren’t I?” she asked sincerely. I stuttered, trying to think of a way not to upset her. I rubbed my temples,
“I mean, I guess. Sometimes.” Her breath caught in her throat. She brought her knees back up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, becoming as small as she could.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. I loosened my shoulders,
“No, I, don’t apologize. It’s, it’s me. You’re perfect.” She didn’t respond. She was lost in herself again.
I walked to the record player and lifted the needle, causing the music to come to an abrupt stop. Horns honked from the street below. She looked straight ahead, refusing to look up at me as she asked,
“You’re breaking up with me. Aren’t you?” Her face was stoic.
“Don’t sugar coat it. Just tell me.” I swallowed hard, again trying to find the proper phrasing.
She didn’t blink at my blunt admission. She looked to her right, finding a book she had only gotten half-way through and picked it up. She flipped through the pages. She threw it as hard as she could against the wall. She put her head in her hands. I walked towards her, getting on my knees to be eye level with her. She quickly turned away when I approached her.
“Look at me,” I said gently, reaching out to touch her hand. She turned her body away from me even more but allowed my hand on her arm. She whimpered softly.
“Listen, please, just listen. You are perfect, ok? And I don’t want you to ever change but you’re expecting too much out of me. I am not the right guy for you. There is someone out there just as perfect as you are and they will come, ok? It’s just that- I can’t give you what you need right now. I can’t give anyone that right now. It’s not fair to you, ok? Please, look at me.” She brought her knees even closer to her chest. I reached out and touched her face, guiding her to look up at me,
“I want to hear you say, ‘I did nothing wrong.’ Say it for me.” Her eyes were watery and tears ran down her face. She sniffled and whispered,
“I did nothing wrong.” I sighed, content with hearing her voice.
“C’mon, give me a hug.” She threw herself into my arms and began to weep into my chest. I did not speak, only ran my fingers through her hair.
“I have to go to work now,” I said, afraid to peel myself away from her. Her crying had finally come to a lull after a few minutes. She nodded, wiping her face with her hand. I picked her up from her knees. I pushed her hair back as I looked into her eyes for the final time.
“You’re going to be alright,” I said, reassuring her.
“How do you know?” her voice cracked. I shrugged,
“I’ve been worse than you are now. I’ve been better.” She hugged me. I pulled her away from my chest,
“Break legs tonight.” I gently touched her nose, like I always did. She smiled up at me. I picked up my pack of cigarettes and left.
Jimmie’s fiance` and I made eye-contact with each other. We gave each other a knowing nod. I hope she heard “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as it happened, like she had said on that April day two years ago. I hope Jimmie will sing “Out There” to me as she leads me into that cliche` white light I once mocked.