“You Can’t Do Anything Without Me” Fiction by Christiana Hoag

The bitch. The cold, evil bitch. After all I did for her, after all we went through, she left me? She thinks she’s going to find someone better than me, that she’s such a catch? She’ll see. She’s forty-five with a triple chin and Coke-bottle legs. She’ll fucking see who she gets. I’ll let her have her little life alone without me and she’ll come running back just like she did when she first moved out five months ago. She called me up, crying hysterically from her car in some parking garage in Midtown. I took her back, I should’nt have but I love her. I love her to death.

See, what Cath don’t understand is I know her better than she knows herself. When I met her in Jersey two years ago, she came across so sweet and innocent, all loyalty and integrity. I fell for it. She had a great act going. She should’ve won an Academy Award. All she wanted was a way to get to New York and there I was.

I rescued her from that dump in Jersey, you know. She was in a small town way down the Garden State Parkway. I met her when I went down the Shore for a weekend. She was set up there with a nice house and a good job running a beauty salon and everything. I went into the salon for a haircut and stared at her the whole time in the mirror. She was so cute. Big eyes and a tiny, freckled nose. I asked her out. She said it would be a conflict of interest to go out with a client. I pushed. She acted kind of annoyed and said she had a boyfriend.

“Are you in love with him?” I asked. She didn’t answer, just snipped. I knew I could reel her in.

I kept going down the Shore, dropping by the salon, bringing her flowers and chocolates. That always works with girls. I called her all the time when I went back to Manhattan. We talked for hours. She started telling me all her private stuff. I knew she liked me. I went down in the middle of the week once just to check up on her. You never know with women. They’re sneaky, secretive. That was Cath all right, but I didn’t find that out til later. Anyway, I waited around the corner from her salon and I saw this asshole pick her up. Well, she sure didn’t go for looks, I’ll say that much. Sure enough, two months later, she called. “Jimmy, you’ll be very happy to hear this. I ended it with that guy.” I was down the Shore that weekend.

From then on, every time I went back to New York, I was back down the Shore a couple days later. I couldn’t stand not knowing where she was, who she was with. I was so in love with her. She cleared out a couple drawers for me in her dresser and stocked the fridge with stuff I like, purple Vitamin Water and chocolate protein shakes. I cleaned the bathroom for her, paid for a maid, just once though, she was fucking expensive. Cath bought me a real nice suit. When she moved out, I was going to rip it up, but I like it too much.

Cath blames me now for ruining her life? She wasn’t doing shit in South Jersey. And she was a good hairdresser. She needed to get out of that dump and work at one of the salons on Fifth Avenue where she could make some real money. That’s what I told her, anyway. See, I’ll let you in on something. I wanted to get her away from all her friends. I had to get her to New York so I could have her to myself and she’d depend on me.

Lucky for me, Cath didn’t have a lot of friends and she wasn’t close to her family. She wasn’t one of these girls always on the phone telling her mother or friends everything. I told her I liked her kind of being a loner, so she’d make more of an effort to be like that. Like I always told her that people were jealous of her, so she had to keep a distance from them. Like her nosy neighbor.

She also had a younger friend who was always dating and going out on the town. I told Cath she should have friends more her own age. That girl was too young for her. “Hon, you got so much more going for you than all these people,” I’d say. “I’m the only one who sees your true worth.” She’d laugh it off, but I could tell it soaked in. I’m pretty good at figuring people out.

I knew I could convince her to move to New York if I pushed hard enough. Most people are afraid to push for what they want. I’m not. I laid it on one night when we were walking along the Boardwalk in Atlantic City.

“Cath, you’re forty-three. This is your last chance to make something of yourself. That salon is a shithole. You need to open your own salon in Manhattan. I can get you clients. I have a good real estate contact to find a locale. I’ll remodel the place.” I kept it up, too, kept hammering her. Like I said, some people you just have to push.

She didn’t believe me until I took her to New York and showed her around and introduced her to my contacts. I knew a lot of people through my contracting business, although I haven’t done too great for a couple years. I took her to fancy restaurants and clubs. I bought her clothes at Saks. She didn’t want me to, but I insisted. I wanted to dress her up and take her out and show her off. She had a great body for a broad her age.

That’s one thing I always liked about her. She never really realized what she had. I bought her a tan leather jacket that looks just like mine and a couple dresses, some short shorts. I never should’ve bought her clothes. She was probably going on dates in that form-fitting black dress I bought her. I should’ve taken a pair of scissors to that dress before she left, cut it up like I did with all her photos.

Cath wasn’t like other girls I went out with. She was hard to impress. I had to really work at it, but I know how to turn on the charm. Hell, I’m a charming guy. I’m a good catch. I know I am. I took her for a special weekend to Southampton. I took another girlfriend there before Cath so I knew it would work.

I massaged her feet and made her a special bath with salts and everything. “I’m the only one to see the real you, the only one who really appreciates you and who you are, hon. Everyone else passes you by, but I see you for you.”

“No one has ever made me feel like this, Jimmy,” she said. “I think you were sent to me from heaven. You’re my reward for doing the right thing my whole life.” I practically melted when she said that.

“I want to marry you,” I said. “I want to have a baby with you.”

I know I have a problem with truthfulness, but this really was true. Cath really was my dream girl. If I married her and got her pregnant, she’d never run away from me. That’s what’s happened with me my whole life. People saw the real me and ran away. But Cath was different, or so I thought. Now I see how she sucked me in big time. She brought me coffee and an English muffin in bed every morning. If I told her I wanted more butter, she’d make it with more butter, crispier, she’d make it crispier. She even cut my toenails. She was really into doing that.

I love those crazy little quirks of hers. Sometimes I’d make her do stuff for me just to test how far she’d go. She came home from work one day to help me look for my keys. I’m always losing stuff. She brought gas to me when I ran out on the highway. She drove me twenty-five miles to the hospital when I had to have tests, went back to work and then drove back to get me. No one took care of me like that, except my mother. She even has red hair like Ma. Cath is very kind, she really is.

I wish we could go back to that time, to the beginning. Why can’t it be like that again?

You know, that fucking bitch left me without a dime in my pocket. Man, she’s the cheapest broad I ever met. She uses coupons and buys gas at the Thrifty gas station. She has all this money in the bank from the sale of her house. The last time I checked her statement, it was more than $300,000. She’s selfish and ungrateful, just like all the rest. I admit I lost my temper a couple times about her being a tightwad, but it worked. She started paying for more stuff to prove to me she wasn’t cheap, that she wasn’t just like all the rest. Like I told you, I know people.

But I’m getting sidetracked. Where was I? Yeah, so I got her to quit her job and sell her house and move to Manhattan. She wanted to just take some time off work and just rent out her house, but I talked her out of that. Pretty amazing, huh? I mean my dick ain’t that big. She went and told my buddy George I manipulated her. She’s nothing but a fucking con artist herself.

Cath was shy, hardly said a word around other people. It was better that way because she would say the wrong thing unless I told her exactly what to say. I mean I was so happy I had a girlfriend I took her around to meet all my connections and introduced her as my fiancée so they’d know she was a real girlfriend, not some bimbo. We dropped in once on Sheldon Squirel. I retiled his bathroom. He’s a hasbeen, but he still acts, reality shows and stuff. He asked her where she lived. She said, “The Village.” I couldn’t believe it. When we got back in the car, I yelled at her.

“You should’ve said ‘with Jimmy, in the Village with Jimmy’. Now he’s going to think we’re not really together. You don’t realize that people are jealous, Cath. You just don’t have the life experience I have. People are always going to try to drive a wedge between a couple, so they look for any kind of hole.”

She started crying. That always made me feel bad, so I softened up. “We have to present a united front at all times, Cath. It’s for our own good. I got ten years on you. You don’t know people like I do.”

I know I get mad. I can’t help it. But she really knew how to push my buttons. She was always too nice to men. I don’t mean the things I say when I’m mad. I mean, the names I called her, it was just because I was mad. That’s all. She knows that. I feel so much better after I get mad. Like I need to get something out. But Cath made a big deal out of it. She was always a dramatic Annie, always exaggerating things.

Like when I grabbed her wrist and she fell against the bed. It was nothing, just a small push. So what? She made out like I threw her. She didn’t even get hurt. I was upset because she was packing her bags to leave me. That was soon after I brought her to New York. I would never hit a girl. My father taught me to respect women. I blocked the front door and grabbed her shoulders.

 “Do you want to throw away everything we have together?” I hugged her. “I love you. It won’t happen again. I promise.” She dropped her bags and hugged me back.

Another time she says I kicked the door in and smashed a lamp. I don’t remember doing that. She almost called some domestic violence hotline on me. Can you believe that shit? That would’ve ruined my reputation. Good thing I got friends in the police department. I made sure she knew that, too. She should’ve understood. She knows I have low self-esteem.

Yeah, I know I’m fucked up. Who isn’t? Cath? She’s unsteady, passive-aggressive shit from growing up with an alcoholic father. She just puts on a good front. I told her things I never told anyone before, you know, shit about my childhood. My father used to smack me around, take me out back and lay into me because he felt like it.

Then he’d take me to the emergency room when I couldn’t see good or got a headache that wouldn’t quit. I lied to the nuns at school about how I got the bruises. Told them I fell. I guess he got a little carried away, but them were different days. Everybody hit their kids back then. I woulda been a delinquent if he didn’t slap me around.

I never told anyone that shit, except Cath. I went deep with her. She was very caring. She knows a lot about me, too much. But I know a lot about her, too. I made sure I got all her secrets out of her right up front. Like her abortion, her affair with a married man. Secrets are good weapons in fights. I used them against her but so what. Cath knew they were just words. She knew how I was. I always made it up to her. I apologized. I promised to see a shrink.

“I can’t live without you, Cath,” I told her. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.” That’s true, it really is. I had a real home with her. I felt like one of the guys, you know, with their wives always calling, nagging when they were coming home for dinner. I miss her. I miss her a lot.

When she moved out, she hid in a hotel. She did that just to make me come after her. She liked drama. I went from hotel to hotel looking for her. She accused me of stalking her. Can you believe that? It was romantic, that’s what it was. Then she got her own place and a job, and we got back together again.

She needed me like I needed her. We were meant for each other. I know I made mistakes. She knew I wasn’t good at relationships. Then five months later, she broke up with me just when I was going to take her on a trip to the Bahamas. I had it all planned out, and I was paying for everything to make up to her for the Hawaii trip. We went to Hawaii and well, I made her use her airline miles and pay for stuff. She was too nice to this friend of mine and I got jealous. We had a big fight. So, I was making it up to her. Yeah, I still had to put a few things on her credit card, but I was going to pay her back.

Then all of a sudden, she didn’t want to go. She had no thought for the effort I put into planning for that trip. All the selfish bitch ever thought about was herself. “Jimmy, I told you I only wanted to go for five days, but you went ahead and booked it for ten. It’s always all about you.” That’s what she told me. But she didn’t want to go at all.

She goes, “You’ll go into a rage. You’ll get jealous because I’ll talk to the waiter or something and you’ll start raging. You’re not safe to be with.”

“So?” I says. “You can get on a plane and go home early.”

She goes, “So I have to have my vacation ruined at any time because of your rages.” Then she launched her grenade. “You know something, Jimmy. You’re never going to change. This is it, end of the road. I don’t want to do this anymore.” The bitch got in her car and drove off. She left me standing there in the middle of the street. And I knew she wasn’t going to come back to me this time. I knew it.

I tried to get her to see me, for coffee, anything, just as friends. I knew if I got her in front of me, I’d get her. She wouldn’t be able to resist. But she wouldn’t do it. She changed her phone number. Bitch. She thinks she can just push me away like that. Fucking asshole.   

She really changed. That wasn’t the girl I fell in love with. Maybe it was her new friends at work, the shrink she’d been seeing. People were putting things into her head. She must’ve had someone waiting in the wings already. Her boss. I saw him looking at her.   So, go ahead, Cath, go right ahead. You’ll never meet anyone like me again. You think you can make it on your own?  You’ll see. You’ll fucking see. You can’t do anything without me.

Christina Hoag is a former journalist and the author of novels “Girl on the Brink” and “Skin of Tattoos” In 2020, her fiction and nonfiction won awards in the International Human Rights Arts Festival and the Soul-Making Keats Writing Competition. www.christinahoag.com.

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