KELLY RILEY


When two people love each other, they come together
Ė WHAM! Ė
like two taxis on Broadway.
(from a line in Alfred Hitchcockís Rear Window)

          Weíre walking out of the Common with the rest of the Boston bohemians and
when we get to the corner of Boylston and Charles Street, Vinny stops to light a cigarette;
he always uses matches because he thinks its classic. He hands the Camel Light to me
and lights another for himself. After he shakes the match to put out the flame, he takes a
drag and through a thin stream of smoke he says, ďIt's just another Wednesday. The
calendar's full of 'em.Ē

          Heís quoting Rear Window, which weíve just finished seeing at the Loews
Theatre as part of their weeklong Hitchcock special. The quote is also a cloaked apology
for missing my birthday on Wednesday. I donít really care that he missed my birthday,
but he doesnít know that. Vinny thinks I hold grudges. He also thinks Iím a closet
damsel-in-distress.

          ďIím on to you,Ē he told me once. We were lying in bed. I had the sheet up under
my arms, suddenly shy, and there was an ash tray on the bed between us. For some
reason I kept missing it and ashing all over the sheets. ďYouíre a shit brick house by
day,Ē Vinny had said. ďBut there is no way you can keep that up all the time. I bet you
bottle it all up and then break down, donít you. I bet you cry yourself to sleep at night.Ē
That was back when we first met, before he moved in.

          Vinny liked to chat me up after sex. He would prop himself up on one arm and
smoke; sometimes heíd absent-mindedly play with locks of my hair that had fanned out
across the pillow. And he asked questions. What was my childhood like? What was I
currently reading? Did I speak another language? Would I say something to him in
French?

          I donít cry myself to sleep at night, and by now Vinny should know it, since
weíve been living together for just about six months. I donít remember the last time I
cried. Iím not saying I never cry. I just donít do it that often. It bothers him.
The light changes and as we cross the street, Vinny is still talking about Rear
Window.
ďSeriously, that movie is worth it just to see Grace Kelly in those phenomenal
clothes.Ē

          Vinny can say things like this because heís gay. Weíd been living together for
maybe a month when he told me. He was taking a shower. We have one of those small
cubicles with a glass door thatís all distorted so that you canít really seen anything risquť.
I was sitting on the edge of the sink with one leg hiked up so I could clip my toenails and
the other leg stretched out to the top of the toilet tank to help me keep my balance.

          ďWhat?Ē I had asked. Itís not that I thought Iíd heard him wrong. The words
ďMiranda, Iím gay,Ē are pretty clear.

          Miranda, could my name be any more Midwestern? My mom was born in
Chicago and weíve all been trying to forgive her for it ever since. Dad is something crazy
like a second-generation full Italian-American, his grandparents were off the boat, or
something. Heís lived here his whole life, obviously. He always said that you only really
lived in Boston if you knew a guy named Vinny, a guy named Frankie, and three
different guys named Tony. It just so happens that I do know a Frankie and three
different Tonys, and Vinnyís slept with them all.

          As our feet hit the curb Vinny says, ďThat black cocktail dress was fucking
gorgeous.Ē He looks at me, waiting.

          The dress was gorgeous. Maybe it was even fucking gorgeous, what do I know?
Vinny understands these things better than I do. But I have to say something, so I say,
ďOh, yeah. Beautiful,Ē and busy myself with my cigarette.

          All this raving about Grace Kelly and the dresses is for my benefit, I know that.
Vinny isnít usually this flamboyant, but every now and again heíll turn it on to convince
me that he really is gay. Vinny doesnít think that I believe him. I do, though. I mean, I
guess I do. It just took me awhile. The night he told me I had followed him out of the
bathroom, stunned.

          ďWhat, so youíre bi?Ē I had asked. No, Vinny was not bi, Vinny was gay. He
didnít believe in being bi. Bi was just a word for people who were greedy.

          It made absolutely no sense to me. I was sitting cross-legged on our bed while he
toweled himself off and got dressed. I had been so caught off-guard in the bathroom that I
hadnít finished clipping my toenails, and the hangnail on my baby toe kept getting
snagged on the sheet if I moved at all.

          ďBut weíre sleeping together,Ē I had said.

          ďRight,Ē said Vinny, as though this didnít pose a problem.

          And weíre still sleeping together. In fact, when we get to our apartment in three
blocks, weíll probably go upstairs, order Chinese, and get right into bed. I guess our bed
is pretty gross if you think about it. We smoke in bed, we eat in bed, we fuck in bed. I
wash the sheets pretty frequently, but itís not like I can afford to do it every day.

          Vinny links arms with me as we walk, and for a minute itís awkward because he
links up on the left side and thatís the hand Iím holding the cigarette in, so I have to
switch it to the right and I almost drop it. The wind picks up a little, and Vinny asks me if
Iím cold. Iím not cold, so I say so, and Vinny gives my arm a little squeeze.

          He asks if I liked the movie, even though he knows itís my favorite Hitchcock
film, and I indulge him. I tell him it was wonderful. He asks if I was surprised. I wasnít,
but I tell him that I was anyway, because he feels so badly about missing my birthday on
Wednesday. He beams.

          Vinny thinks Iím in love with him. This worries him a lot. Vinny has a guilt
complex. Heís afraid heís ruining my life. Iím not in love with him, but Vinny doesnít
listen.

          The night after Vinny told me he was gay we invited his friends over to the
apartment. We really have a very good apartment. Even when I lived alone, it was
unbelievably cheap for the Back Bay. We have all of these red and orange tapestries and
scarves draped over all the lights in the place. People think itís very edgy, very urban,
and maybe it is, but the truth is that I need dim lighting or else I get migraines.

          We had wine and I made shrimp scampi and we sat on cushions around the floor
because Vinny and I only have two chairs. Frankie was stocky and athletic and brought
tiramisu for dessert. I made up mental nicknames to separate the three Tonys. There was
Pigeon-Tony, who had grown up on the beach and had gotten thrown out of Revere High
once for carrying a knife. He told us that pigeons donít actually explode if they eat rice.
Heíd tried it. Then there was Gay-Tony. Yes, all of the men present happened to be gay,
but Gay-Tony was really gay. Every stereotype in the book, right down to inserting
Barbara Streisand quotes into the conversation. Finally, there was Jesus-Tony. Jesus-
Tony just really, really looked like Jesus.

          I had expected Vinny to be uncomfortable, which just proves how little I knew
about him back then. He was entirely at his ease, and played the host remarkably well.
Soon I was relaxed, myself, and I donít know if Frankie and the Tonys had ever been
uneasy, but by the time the glasses were refilled, they were all feeling fine. Vinny kept
everyone laughing and talking. He doted on each of us, and we adored him. I donít know
how he did it.

          We left all of the dishes until the morning, and after Frankie, Pigeon-Tony, Gay-
Tony, and Jesus-Tony had all departed, Vinny and I climbed, full and pleasantly drowsy,
into bed. He asked me if I liked his friends.

          ďI did,Ē I murmured. ďI really did.Ē

          ďGood.Ē

          Vinny wants a baby. I mean, he really wants a baby. We fight about it all the time.
I donít want one. Not right now. Iím only twenty-seven. What would I do with a baby?
The fights get pretty bad sometimes. Thatís the only thing we ever fight about, but we
fight about it a lot. Sometimes Vinny will storm out of the apartment and go to stay with
Frankie, or Jesus-Tony, or someone else, and this is supposed to punish me. But the truth
is that just because Vinnyís sleeping with me doesnít mean that heís not also sleeping
with other people, he made that clear. So itís not much of a punishment, really, but itís
supposed to make me jealous. Sometimes, when he comes back the next day, I act like
Iíve been up all night, unable to sleep for all the envy. It makes him feel better, and
besides, he always comes back.

          When we get back to the apartment I notice that Vinny doesnít take his coat off,
and I wonder if I should be worried. Then he calls me by my name and reaches out to
take my hands and I know I should be worried.

          Vinny is leaving and he isnít coming back. It takes him a long time to say it, and
he frames it with all kinds of other things that are supposed to make this easier, that Iím
too good for him, that we want different things, that Iíll be better off on my own, happier
in a more conventional relationship, but the gist of it is that heís leaving and never
coming back.

          Vinny is getting choked up. He keeps clearing his throat and looking at the wall
instead of looking at my face. He doesnít actually cry, though, until he apologizes once
more for missing my birthday. And then a tear rolls down his cheek and he swears and
blinks furiously to stop the rest from coming.

          Donít be sorry about my birthday, Vinny. I want to say it. I want to shout it, even.
Because if he leaves feeling guilty about my birthday Iíll never forgive myself. But I
canít say anything. So I donít say anything, I just go over to the edge of the bed and sit
down and stare at the floor.

          Vinny crouches down and kisses me, and thatís when I know heís really leaving,
he really means it. And still I donít say anything. After a couple of minutes of silence
thereís nothing to do really, so Vinny stands up and walks to the door and opens it.
His eyes are all red, and he looks back at me and I hate myself and he says, ďI
love you.Ē

          And now itís my turn to say something, but I canít think of anything to say,
except to quote Rear Window, so I do, and I say, ďOh, I love funny exit lines.Ē

          And Vinny stares at me, and Iím not crying, not at all, not a single tear. And I
know that as soon as that door closes behind him heíll hate me because I didnít cry.
And then the door does close and I am thoroughly alone. I flop back on to the bed
and I tell the ceiling that Iím sorry. My hands feel their way to my stomach and then I tell
my stomach that Iím sorry. My birthday was on Wednesday and thatís the day I went
down to the clinic and had the abortion and Vinny didnít even know that I was pregnant
in the first place. I lie there, quietly, and I tell everyone and everything that Iím sorry,
except Vinny, because I missed my one chance to apologize. So I take a deep breath and I
wait for the tears to come.

          And I am waiting.

Kelly Riley is a 23 year old graduate from Ithaca College, where she spent
4+ tumultuous years earning a B.A. in Writing and a minor in English.
Originally from the suburbs of Boston, she currently resides in Manhattan at
the mercy of many dear friends gracious enough lend her their couches for an
evening or a month. Come hell or high water, she continues to write.







© 2005 Underground Voices