I keep coming back to my time in Rock Hill when I’ve done some of these recent writing prompts. It was barely a year of my life that ended ten years ago, but apparently, I have a lot of material (or perhaps issues) coming from that time. Anyway, when I saw the topic of a theft, I immediately thought about the time my suitcase was stolen out of my car in the parking lot of my apartment – all because of R.
It was the weekend of the spring horse race in Camden, which is an hour and a half from Rock Hill and 45 minutes from R’s house. I drove to his house on that Friday night, and then we got up the next morning, met my college roommate and proceeded to the racetrack. Our spot was beside the grandstand, but a lot of R’s buddies had spots in the infield, where you can stay all day and not even see a horse. After the first race, R went to visit his friends, and I didn’t see him for the rest of the afternoon.
When the whole event was over, he still had not come back. Someone went looking for him while my best friend, Tiffany, and I went back to her parents’ house. Once there, we got the idea to play a joke on him and make him think I had left, which is actually what I should have done. He fell for the joke – probably because he was completely smashed – not long after this, we headed back to his house.
I was driving, of course, which was a good thing because he passed out in the passenger seat. I was furious. I had come to spend the day with him, not a drunk, and now I was supposed to take him home and tuck his smashed ass into bed? Oh, I didn’t think so. We weren’t even halfway there when I knew that I was dumping him off and going back to my apartment.
I had to shake him and yell his name a couple of times to rouse him up. He stumbled out of the car and up the front porch steps, and once in the door, he headed straight for the bathroom. I breezed past his brother in the kitchen who asked what was going on. “Nothing,” I said, but it was obvious. At times, I can mask sadness or anger, but most of the time, I’m a walking emotional billboard.
“He showed his ass?” R’s brother asked.
“He’s drunk off it is more like it,” I said. R’s brother stood outside the bathroom door, and I could tell from the groan that he heard R throwing up.
“What are you going to do?” he asked.
“I’m going back to my apartment.”
“Yo, man,” he called out to R. “She’s going home. She ain’t putting up with your ass.”
I was in the guest bedroom, throwing clothes in my soon-to-be stolen suitcase when R came in and tried to hug me. I would be having none of that. I shoved him off, zipped up my suitcase and made my way out the front door. I threw the suitcase in the back seat, remembering that R’s cooler was in the trunk. Not wanting to step back in that house to let R talk me into staying, I left it in the front yard.
I fumed all the way back to Rock Hill. When I got back to my apartment, I was still so mad that I forgot about the suitcase and left it in my car. Normally, this wouldn’t have been a big deal, because at any other time, all my doors would have been locked. However, in his drunken stupor, R had not locked the passenger door, and in my pissed-off pandemonium, I had not noticed that the door was unlocked. So during the night, someone got into my car through that door and stole the suitcase.
They got a cheap 35-mm camera, some clothes, my driver’s license and the ten bucks I had stuffed in my camera case. R took a lot more.
At first, things seemed to be okay. He called the next day, and we talked. He apologized. I might have apologized for leaving the way I did; I don’t remember for sure. I thought we had put it behind us. Four days later, he called, and I knew something wasn’t right. When I pressed him about what was wrong, he wouldn’t say anything.
While I needed only a couple of seconds to realize what was going on, it seemed like an eternity passed. The realization started as this sickening feeling in my stomach. Then it was fear clutching at my throat, and then it was sadness springing from my eyes. He still wouldn’t talk, but by God, I was going to make him.
“Just say it,” I told him. He stalled for a second. “Say it,” I repeated.
“This just isn’t going to work out.”
In his opinion, we were too different. According to him, he had been contemplating breaking up for a couple of months and had discussed it with his buddies – the same buddies that send their women into the kitchen to fix their mixed drinks on New Year’s Eve. I could only imagine what their advice was. He was also embarrassed about my leaving his cooler in the middle of the front yard, and somehow, although not by me, word had gotten around town that he got drunk and his big-city, college-educated girlfriend dumped him off at his house. That’s what happens when you live in a small town.
I’m not saying he was wrong about us. He wanted a girl who would dote on him, and I definitely wasn’t that girl. Still, to this day, I just feel like I was duped. I was so ready to fall in love, but I wasn’t sure when I first met R that I should get involved. Then, I could see that he was enamored with me, and I thought I’d be safe.
When I think about that stolen suitcase, I think about how R stole innocence from me – and not just physical. He took that unspoken, undeniable, undefinable desire for true love, and once it was gone, cynicism took its place. Even though I’ve been happily married for five and a half years, I still hate the fact that R was the one I chose to fall for.
So the moral of the story is that if you want to protect something, you’re responsible for making sure all the doors are locked.