He used love letters and mix tapes to sweep me off my feet and a car trip to beat me with the broom.

When we met I was 20 and we lived three hours apart, the fact that I was not super broken up with my boyfriend left him undaunted. After a mere one month of dating we readied for our first road trip together to his home town, where I would meet his parents.  It was ridiculous and too soon to meet his family,  but he was pushy about it so I simply assumed I was awesome and he wanted to show me off, wouldn’t you?

10 minutes down the road the silence covered me like syrup. My inquiries into his changing mood were met with shrugs that didn’t even try and reassure me anything was fine. It was early in the morning and my stomach growled loudly, he had insisted we skip breakfast and eat on the road.

“You know what’s good to do sometimes? Fast for a few days” he responded when I pointed to a restaurant. He spoke without turning his head, foot planted on the accelerating gas pedal, basking in his position as “The  Decider.”  An hour later, my head blazing from hunger, I told him to drop me on the side of the road where I was prepared to kill an animal with a spear and eat it raw. He had never acted like this before, I had never seen him anything but mellow and happy, but now he had a vacant, neutral expression that absorbed my words and made them noiseless. No matter what I said he gave no reaction and kept his eyes on the road.  Eventually, he pulled the car towards a generic eatery, magnanimously doing me a favor.

When our food arrived he shoveled it into his mouth with a fervor that allowed  me to rationalize his earlier behavior by blaming low blood sugar, but on my third french fry I looked up to see him sitting on the very edge of the leatherette booth seat, leaning out, perched like a grasshopper ready to spring. I hadn’t even picked my hamburger out of it’s red plastic wicker basket yet.  When I didn’t roll it up like a taco and slide the whole thing in my mouth in one bite he impatiently got up, paid the check at the cashier and walked out without a word.  I wondered what I would do if he left me there as I chewed alone at the table.  We were in rural country somewhere off the Thruway, the options for a ride were limited to who looked the least rape-y in the parking lot, but no way was I going to jump up and follow him. Not without finishing my basket burger anyway.

He was a totally different man when I walked out of the luncheonette and over to the car, smiling and listening to music as if he had an appointment to do that and was forced to leave our lunch abruptly.  We drove the rest of the way chatting happily, it seemed the morning was just a crazy dream.  Finally we pulled into his parents driveway in white picket fence suburbia.

The moment the tires rolled to a stop he pulled the key from the ignition and opened the door suddenly.  He briskly got out of the car and jogged toward the house and went inside. The front door slammed closed behind him and he disappeared into the darkness. I sat in the sudden silence of the car, my hands clutched together in my lap.

I thought about staying out on the driveway, but that seemed slightly weirder than going into the house alone.  I got out and walked nervously across the lawn, and knocked on the cold metal screen door. A girl I assumed was his sister answered the door wordlessly like Igor at Frankenstein’s castle, and I could see him sitting at the kitchen table with his mother, already impassively drinking a glass of juice. He didn’t look up when I walked into the room, and his mother and I stared at each other for an  awkward beat.  I could hear the flower shaped clock over the doorway tick in the endless, quiet seconds.

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