TUESDAY: Mirabella


Copyright is held by the author.

WHAT’S WRONG with me? Looking at the pictures of her displayed around the living room, one featuring her at the beach in a bikini, another in a short satin dress and heels, I was having the most obscene thoughts. And I had only had one drink. Who knew what would happen once I’d had more? At any rate, I shouldn’t be thinking these things at all when the house was full of her aunties and cousins. Some of her old classmates were there too, as well as a few people from work. By the fireplace, two of the aunties were consoling each other, one dabbing her eyes, the other rubbing the crying one’s arm. The living room was too small for this many rotund relatives. I sat down near the window and turned to watch the cars going by, but that only made me feel stranger.

The clinking of a spoon on glass quieted the room and an oldish woman with a black cap on her white hair and a face of falcon-like resolution, got everyone’s attention.

“We are here to remember Mirabella, who died tragically last week at such a young age. As Father Martinelli said, ‘All virgins go straight to heaven,’ and so shall our lovely Mirabella.”

In church, while the priest waved the canister of incense over her body, I had no idea what he was saying. My eyes wandered down to her fingernails, fake ones glued on and painted so perfectly as they never were when she was alive. She was the worst nail biter I’ve ever met. The hard sound of her teeth splitting through a nail used to irk me so much that sometimes when we were lying in bed together I would grab her hand from her mouth, thrust it under my ass, and refuse to budge, no matter how much she wriggled it.

“And here with us today we have her good friend Shelley.” The sound of my name pulled me out of my thoughts. “Shelley was with her the night she died. Shelley, even though we just met, we consider you part of the family. You’ll always be welcome here whenever you like.”

Everyone was looking at me. I felt awkward in my blazer, which was two sizes too big. I smiled uneasily at an elderly uncle who had fixed me with a fish-like stare, but the smile felt inappropriate, so I looked down at my lap.

This was exactly what I didn’t want. The night she died, we had been arguing because I didn’t want to meet her family.

“You’re not even out to them,” I told her. “Why would they want to meet your ‘friend’?” Her brow furrowed.

“Because we are friends. Why wouldn’t I want them to meet my friend?”

“I mean, you don’t bring a friend to dinner with your entire extended family.” We had gone for dinner in Little India and now we were strolling home in the warm summer air.

“But we all bring friends sometimes. Michael brings friends. Bianca brings friends all the time. It’s not that big a deal, it’s just that Nonna always makes so much food and it’s nice to share it with someone. Frank brought his friend Bruce last time.”

“Are they secretly fucking too?” I had stopped to light a joint and she only just realized she was several steps ahead of me. She turned around, taken aback.

Now, suddenly, she was dead, and I was here, drinking red wine in the family home of a girl I had casually fucked a few times. The predictability of the universe’s games never ceases to shock me.

Next to the auntie who was giving the speech, Mirabella’s parents, a squat woman and a long-faced man in suspenders, were weeping. “Dead at the tender age of 24, Mirabella never got to find a good husband and bear children. We must believe that God has a plan for all of us, but sometimes it is simply impossible to understand what that plan is. So now we commend her soul to the sacred place where God holds all the faithful departed. Our dear Mirabella, may you rest in peace.”

Once the applause died down, everyone started to mingle around the living room and kitchen. I stood up and hovered near the fireplace, wondering how long I should stay for the sake of politeness. Or maybe I should just bolt now. I didn’t want to linger and chat with her relatives. I didn’t want to be consoled. I wasn’t sure why I was there at all.

Two of Mirabella’s younger cousins came up to me and hugged me before I could stop them. They asked me to tell them how it happened. Now I was really annoyed. This was so typical of her, to drag me into something theatrical that I never wanted to be a part of. I hesitated.

“I’m not sure you would want to know.”

As we kept walking, she kept trying to catch my eye, which I avoided by looking ahead.

“Are you serious about me?” she asked finally.

“I–what do you mean?” Suddenly feeling frantic for some reason, I started digging in my bag for my lighter, even though the joint was still burning.

“I mean, are you serious about this relationship?”

“Relationship? I told you I didn’t want a relationship.”

“Yeah, but you said that before we got together. And it was right after the whole thing with Joey.”

“I wasn’t aware that we were in a relationship.” I could feel her eyes narrowing at me, but still I avoided looking at her.

“The other night you told me you loved me.”

“Yeah, but I meant that as a friend. Just platonically, nothing more.” Now I regained my composure and glanced at her.

“But we have sex.”

“Yes, and you can have sex with someone and not have feelings for them.” I waved my hand holding the joint to indicate that I was feeling totally casual. “People do it all the time.”

“So you only love me platonically. But we fuck almost every single night. And we spend all our time together. But you only like me as a friend.”

“Look, it’s just–it’s not that serious, okay? I’m not taking it that seriously. I like you, and everything, but just–don’t think about it so much.”

“That’s so harsh.”

“I’m not trying to be harsh,” I said impatiently. We had stopped on the sidewalk and she faced me with her hands on her hips. Sometimes she went out of her way to live up to stereotypes of Italian women. “I’m just the type of person who needs everything to be really clear.”

Now she dropped her arms and her eyes filled with tears. “You used me.”

“That’s a little dramatic.” I paused to relight the joint but she strode ahead of me into the street. “Wait, hang on.”

She looked over her shoulder and stopped for a second. Eye makeup was smeared across the entire right side of her face. She stood there just long enough to scream, “How could you do this to me?” and for a car to speed around the corner and send her flying like a bowling pin.

In slow motion, one of her shoes flew off her foot and sailed onto someone’s lawn a few houses down. As she landed on the concrete, her legs bent backwards at the knees and bounced a few times. Her skull smashed into the pavement and started oozing. The driver of the car, neither of whose license plate, colour, or make I registered, backed up, turned onto the cross street, and sped away.

People flocked into the intersection. Someone had already dialled 9-1-1. I dropped my joint in the gutter and went to her side, hoping for a second that this whole thing was just an excessively vivid intrusive thought and I would snap out of it any moment but rapidly losing hope. For some reason, I felt like I was the one who had been sent flying, and I felt a pain in my own temple in the same place where her skull was cracked.

But I left out most of the story for the cousins. All I told them was that a rogue driver hit her out of nowhere. “So it was pretty much instant. She didn’t feel any pain.” As I was saying all this, my throat started to swell. I tried to keep talking, but the swelling was persistent, like an allergic reaction. Then I felt the tears splashing down my face and I realized I was crying. How ironic. The universe really wants to make me look like the good guy. I don’t deserve it.

Tearing up too, the cousins nodded and moved away. I turned to look at the picture of her in her bikini again, tears flooding from my eyes. She had the most perfect tits I’ve ever seen. Maybe I should ask for a copy of this photo. Plus some of the less sexy ones, so it wouldn’t seem weird. Aroused, my nose clotted, a hole in my heart, the tears seemed endless now. I never wanted to feel this. Mirabella, how could you do this to me?

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