Show her self-destruction. The two sides of the story share the following facts: It was late, 3 am late, and she was slightly drunk and I was brutally sober. They would also agree that it happened in a townhouse off Highland Avenue that I was renting from a slumlord named Michael Barry.
She’d wanted an argument all night so she bided her time. Picking her moment, waiting to strike, and smiling the whole time in public. The front door hadn’t been shut behind us for more than a minute. I think we’re alone now.
Berating each other turned into vicious screaming. And threats. And crying. Our relationship had been over for a really long time and we had NO business being alone. Not now, with her slightly drunk and me brutally sober. She was the best at bringing out my worst. And there’s just something about a door slamming in your face. I heard something in the back of my mind, I don’t want to say a voice for fear of sounding dumb, or worse yet, crazy. But there was something… and it said “let go”. The color in my eyes melted into shades of crimson. I felt everything go numb. I let go.
The last time I came close to letting go was in 1988. I was 15 and furious, shaking upset over a crisis too meaningless to repeat. I found my dad’s gun in his top drawer and slumped down against the living room wall. I called my mom and said goodbye. But I held on. I came close, but I held on.
I crashed through the slammed door, the wood splintering around me, scraping small tears in my arms, my neck. The look on her face wasn’t fear or surprise. The look asked “What took you so long?” More words. We were both juggernauts of misplaced anger, driven on emotion, and armed with the hatred of our situation. Nothing was going to stop us now. She found the knife on top of the dresser and slumped down against my bedroom wall. A Spyderco knife, black handle.
A year and a day earlier a friend of mine took the same model Spyderco and stabbed another friend of mine to death. The courtroom transcripts said he’d stabbed her over 50 times. The murder ruined fond memories of straightedge and Sharpsburg Manor. Bands driving all night to play Unity 1605, a dozen punks sleeping on my living room floor after a show.
She pressed the knife against her wrist, and then it really got… strange. I rushed across the room and yanked her hand away from the radial artery she’d aimed for. “Show her self-destruction”, something, not a voice, said in the back of my mind. Her hand around the knife and my hand clamped over hers I pressured the blade’s edge down on my left forearm, dragging the knife for about three inches. The skin tore open and blood poured. And poured. We both dropped the knife and I stood up, marveling at the damage. A calm sobering moment followed and we agreed that I probably needed medical attention. I was losing a lot of the red stuff. Amber, my roommate, came home minutes later to the carnage of broken furniture and blood-pooled hardwood floors. But I was already gone, en route to Montclair Hospital.
It’s funny to say now but I’m glad I bled so much because it stopped us, or more importantly it stopped me. My initial idea, when I’d charged across the room and took her hand, was to press the knife under one ear and drag it across my neck to the other.
I haven’t heard her story in a long time and I don’t remember how it goes. I’m sure there are people in her life that have heard it more than once, and I bet they have incredibly interesting opinions on George Cowgill. Hell, maybe they’re right.
And that’s ok. I’ll be the villain this time.