After two and a half years of dating Charlotte, it was becoming difficult to give a shit about the things she found important.
We had been living together for about eighteen months. We kept different hours. I worked a nine-to-five job. She might roll out of bed at noon and do some freelance writing over a late breakfast. Then, she’d smoke some bud and watch the Oprah channel for the rest of the afternoon.
I’d often find her loafing around our apartment when I’d get home from work. We were still in love – at least, I loved her – but I enjoyed having the apartment to myself. The moments when I’d come home and discover she was out running errands or hanging out with friends were quiet delights. This particular day, I could tell she was home before I had even walked into our apartment. When I opened the door to our building, I was greeted by voices echoing through the stairwell. I didn’t hear the warm tone of a live conversation, but the hollow sound of our TV.
I found Charlotte huddled on our couch. She was wearing the turquoise terrycloth bathrobe my dad had given her for Christmas. She loved the robe; the cozy fabric kept her warm for days on end, but she failed to take proper care of it. Dark craters from cigarette burns speckled the sleeves. Her makeup left brown smears all over the collar. I realize that wear and tear on a bathrobe is inevitable. They say that robes lose 30 percent of their value the moment you take them off the showroom floor. Charlotte was particularly negligent in the upkeep of hers. We had in-unit laundry, for Christ’s sake! It would take little effort to throw her robe into the wash and wear mine for a few hours. She wouldn’t do this, though. The trappings of everyday life bored her. She loathed pedestrian tasks like doing laundry or taking care of her possessions.
Charlotte was gazing into the screen of her laptop, which was connected to our stereo. She was watching a documentary about metaphysics. I don’t remember the specific topic. I never found metaphysics interesting, but Charlotte had devoted herself to this New Age bullshit. She would burn sage in her office until the stench invaded every corner our apartment and made my clothes stink. God knows how much money she spent on crystals of various sizes, shapes, and colors. The sparkly rocks each had a different purpose in relation to her chakras. If you are not aware, chakras are invisible portals inside your body that allow you to time travel or some shit that.
She would read me passages from books about meditation, astral projection, and something called alchemy. I had no interest in any of this, and I was troubled by her newfound infatuation with the unexplained. It was as if a hippie alien was masquerading as my girlfriend, the ambitious writer with a sharp sense of wit. She was familiar, but only in a vague, unsettling way, like one of those rubber Halloween masks of an ex-president’s face. But this was the woman I loved.
When I walked in, the video must have just started, since it carried on for more than two hours. I went about my normal evening routine. I changed out of my work clothes, cleaned up the mess in the kitchen from her breakfast, and began cooking dinner. I made steak fajitas with the documentary blaring in the background. I don’t recall the name of the film, but it touched on many of the topics that Charlotte was fond of, including:
• Out-of-body experiences
• Inter-dimensional travel
• The Egyptians and how they were an alien reptilian race
• How it isn’t a conflict of interest to be both alien and reptilian
• The Mayan prophecy that the world was going to end in 2012
• Why we shouldn’t panic, despite the fact that it was mid-2011
I know that the narrator of the documentary didn’t grow louder as the evening progressed, but it felt like he did. By the time the video ended, I was trembling with frustration. But I put it aside. I was so thankful to be living with a pretty girl that I was terrified to say anything that might piss her off.
“Did you want tomatoes with your fajitas?” I asked as the credits rolled on her laptop screen, assuming the role of a good boyfriend. Cheerful. Loyal. Supportive. A fucking sucker.
In retrospect, I should have spoken up. I should have demanded that she put headphones on and stop polluting our apartment with preposterous ideas. I should have said that her interests were absurd distractions she loved because she hated when reality confronted her. I should have said that I missed the woman she used to be.
It would have felt good to get the frustration off my chest, but it would be a temporary relief. I now realize that saying something wouldn’t have changed anything. A few months later, she left me for her shaman, who was more than three decades older than her. He sold crystals.
bokeen grew up in the shadow of O’Hare airport. He was once an art student. Today he occupies his time cooking, riding his bike, combing his beard, and pushing pencils for a software company. He’s new to all of this. In time, he hopes to have some projects to boast about.