Heebie Jeebies – Lily Sanders


Jean and I were standing outside of the 7-Eleven, waiting for Hank and Robby to get out of work. They still had twenty-five minutes left on their shifts, and we were having a competition to see who could put a cigarette out with their big toe without getting burnt. As soon as they were done working, the weird kid from AP Gov was supposed to meet us behind the building, near the bathroom that all the crackheads smoked in, and sell us his Adderall. I’d burnt the top of my big toe on both feet—only Jean could do it. I put my flip-flops back on.
        I always waited in the car when the AP Gov kid came around, afraid that one day he’d realize that we bullied him, too, and shoot us all dead behind the store as revenge. If I was in the car, at least I could call the police and get his ass in jail. I watched the four of them talking to him, not even afraid at all. He gave his pills away to anyone who’d pay. We’d all just graduated, everyone but Hank, so they were asking him what he was going to do with the rest of his life. I leaned through the open car window to hear them better. 
        “I’m going to be a plumber’s apprentice,” he said. He spoke so quickly I could hardly understand him at all. “In a year or two, I’ll be able to get my license.”
        “It sounds real hard,” said Jean, turning to Robby and laughing. 
        Jean was, arguably, the meanest and richest person I’d ever met. She had an inground pool and we’d been friends since elementary school. Hank was a few years older than us and we’d met him as Robby’s manager; he was twenty-four and going to be working at 7-Eleven until he died, probably. Hank was a big man, much taller than me, and built like a farmhand—actually, when I thought about it, I was surprised that he wasn’t working for a farmer. His hair was the color of a really nice tan. Robby and I were both playing with the idea of going to college, but barely. We didn’t think we were special enough.
        Eventually, the plumber’s apprentice got back in his car and drove away. Jean was laughing so hard she could hardly stand.
        “A plumber!” she shrieked, stumbling toward the car. “Oh, god.”
        “I didn’t even know you needed a license to unclog toilets,” Robby said, sliding into the backseat next to Jean, who was laughing so hard she had tears streaming down her face. Hank got in the driver’s seat; I always got shotgun because I hardly ever left the car. We’d been swimming earlier in the day and my bikini was still wet under my clothes.
        “Emmylou, do you have something to crush these with?” Hank asked. I watched him flatten the bag of pills on the dashboard and instinctively grabbed a bottle of nail polish, OPI’s Cajun Shrimp. When I dropped it into his open hand, I wanted to tell him that the color was what all the coolest girls wore, and that I had stolen it from CVS. I wanted to tell him that I had what everyone wanted and I didn’t even have to pay for it.
        “This is a cool color,” Hank said. His brain was too fried from all the heroin he was shooting to understand that being popular in high school boiled down to pinky-orange nail polish. I rolled and unrolled a dollar bill while he cut lines on a CD of Dark Side of The Moon. It was so hot out. He let me have the first line. I was in love with him, really bad.
        “Can I borrow your nail polish?” asked Jean, throwing her head back and wiping her nose.
        “Yeah,” I said, lighting a cigarette. “Of course, Genie.”
        I could tell that Robby wanted to leave because he wanted to shoot up and couldn’t do it in front of Jean because it gave her the “heebie-jeebies,” watching the needle go in. She was leaning on him, her head on his shoulder as she painted her nails. He stared right through the windshield.
        “Can we go to the cemetery?” I asked, leaning onto the center console as Hank scraped the white powder off the CD with an Amex card. I loved the cemetery because Jayne Mansfield was buried there and she was very beautiful and decapitated. The car was starting to smell like nail polish.
        “We should,” said Jean. “It’ll be fun, I want to drink.” There was a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the trunk of Hank’s car, always.
        “Yeah,” he said. “Okay.”
        We were going ninety down a backroad and Jean was leaning out a window and screaming. It scared me at first. It was as if she was emptying her body of some sort of ferocious pain.
        “Shit,” Robby sighed, reaching over to try and pull her in. “One day, she’s going to fall out and fucking die doing this shit.” She fell back into the car and ripped Robby’s hand off her ankle.
        “Let go of me!” she shouted, louder than she probably meant. She sat for a minute, pulling her hair out of her mouth, and went back out. She screamed, punching her fists at the night sky. Part of me wanted to join her, badly. Hank turned the music up.
        We got to the cemetery, and almost immediately Robby left to find the dimly lit public bathroom all the way on the other end. I asked if he wanted someone to come with him and he said no. We were sitting with Jayne, in front of her heart-shaped headstone. I felt so similar to her. We were both blondes and I thought if she could see me, leaning against her cold marble headstone, she might be very proud of the life I was living. Hank came out of the trunk with an armful of beer cans and dumped them on the ground.
        “If you throw them too hard they’ll explode, man,” said Jean. She leaned forward to grab a can and I could see all the way down her shirt. I leaned over and got one, too. Hank, leaning against the side of the gravestone, lit a bowl. When we sat there, I felt like I could move through time. I was only six feet of dirt away from old Hollywood.
        “Can I get some of that?” I asked, reaching for Hank’s pipe. I realized that I was trembling.
        “No way,” he laughed, taking another hit. “It’s mine.”
        “Dude, I’m shaking.”
        “Go for a walk, then. It’s not my fucking problem.” 
        I looked over to Jean in some desolate hope that she would look over at the same time and that we could share a look; something that said, What an ass! But she didn’t look. She’d started talking to him about some 7-Eleven regular that they both knew and disliked. I stood up, finished my beer, took another from the pile, and started walking.

There were no other famous graves in the entire place, and even if there were, I doubt there would’ve been any half as cool as Jayne’s. On my fast-paced, Adderall-fueled walk, I saw nineteen with the last name Miller, six with a birth-death year starting with 18, thirteen for babies, and last but not least, Robby. He was walking out of the bathroom, still pulling his sleeves back down.
        “I got too jittery,” I said, when we were close enough to talk. “Hank made me go on a walk.”
        “You probably needed it,” he laughed. We turned and started back towards Jayne.
        I looked out at the sea of white gravestones that lined the path and couldn’t bring myself to face the realization that each of those people had lives just as complex as mine. 
        “I’m sorry you had to walk all the way out here.”
        “Oh,” he said, wiping some old sweat from his forehead with the back of his sleeve. “It would’ve been too dark up there anyway.”
        “You could’ve sat in the car. The lights in there are bright.”
        “It’s okay, Emmylou,” he said. “I don’t mind anymore.”
        I drank four more kind-of-disgusting beers before Jean started to fall asleep and we had to leave. The car ride back to Hank’s duplex apartment was silent. It was in the extra-rural part of town, in a development with two pools that were wrecked in some hurricane two years ago and never fixed. His apartment seemed to have been cheaply constructed in the seventies, I thought. Cream colored walls, plywood doors stained almost orange, dirty shag carpet.
        Hank asked if anyone wanted food, but no one was hungry. Jean and Robby claimed the futon in the extra room upstairs. Hank marched up the stairs. I stood in the kitchen for a minute, wondering if he had orange juice in his goddamn ugly apartment. I opened the fridge and, afer discovering that he didn’t have any, shut it again, filling a glass with tap water and drinking a little less than half. I poured the rest down the sink and followed his path upstairs.
        Hank was sitting on the side of his bed trying to tighten the stupid latex tourniquet with his teeth. His bedroom was ugly, too.
        “Can you fucking pull on this?” he asked, letting the latex out of his teeth with a grotesque snapping noise.
        “Yeah,” I said, so brusquely it was mostly just a noise in the back of my throat. I walked across the room, feeling like one of those stupid girls who become phlebotomists because the tuition is so cheap. The type who always tries to talk to you about something strange and unrelated so you don’t get squeamish and vomit on the clinic floor. I pulled both ends of the tourniquet tight.
        “Thanks,” he said. The syringe was sitting on his nightstand ready to be used. I wondered how he could be a junkie for so long and still not be able to tighten the tourniquet with one hand. Maybe he wanted me to do it. Maybe he wanted me to touch him. I sat on the bed, knees drawn to my chest, and watched him, blood springing into the syringe. I could hear Jean and Robby fucking in the other room, Jean, in time with the futon hitting the wall, going I love you, I love you, I love you.
        “It’s so cool, how you always let us drink your beer,” I said, after a minute. He untied the tourniquet and threw it into a drawer with the used syringe.
        “I usually just take it from work, it’s not a huge deal,” he said.
        “You’re so nice.” I let my chin come to rest on my knee. He sighed, turning to look at me.
        “Yeah?” he asked. I nodded. He wasn’t especially beautiful and I had no idea why I liked him so much.
        “I think you’re the best out of all of them,” I told him. It wasn’t a lie. Robby was taken and a POS.
        “You, too,” he said. I was wearing denim shorts that I’d had since middle school. They were from Abercrombie and were so worn out that I could’ve just wriggled out of them like a pervy little fish. “I’m just way too old for you, Em.”
        “I’m eighteen,” I said, trying desperately to hide my defensiveness with a heavy-handed lethargy.
        “Fucking barely.” He’d wished me a happy birthday back in May.
        He thought I was more drunk than I really was, I could tell. And once you’ve done something to make someone think you’re super drunk, there’s no going back. I could just lean over and kiss him if I thought I could stomach the possibility of mythic embarrassment. Guys love when girls are drunk.
        “You just don’t like me,” I said. My eyes were stinging, but I’d rather shoot myself than cry in front of him. My bikini top was digging into my neck.
        “You’d be better off with someone your own age,” he said, softly. It was one of those times where I found myself wondering if, in ten years, I’d look back and realize that he was right. But I thought it was just as likely that I’d only realize that he was my soulmate all along and that I’d wasted my life. It pissed me off that he was such a junkie and still pretending to give a fuck about age gaps. How can you give a fuck about age gaps when you don’t give a fuck about literally dying? 
        “Whatever,” I said. I’d meant it to be cool and indifferent, but it came out all crazed and watery. “If you think I’m ugly, I’d rather you just tell me.”
        The futon was still hitting the wall, Jean was still squealing. I laid down.
        “I don’t think you’re ugly, Emmylou,” he started. I couldn’t see him. I was studying the water stains on his ceiling, but I could feel the change on the bed when he laid down next to me. I think we both wound up looking at the water stains. 
        “I think you’re a very beautiful girl,” he laughed. I hated that he was laughing; I got so angry that I thought I was going to cry. My cheeks were so hot that there was no way they weren’t also super red, so then I got embarrassed that my cheeks were red, which probably made it worse.
        “I like you so much better than Jean, if that’s what you wanted to hear. I think you deserve someone better than I am.”
        “No, really,” he laughed—he was laughing again. “You have so much ahead of you, but I have nothing. You have no reason to drag yourself down by being with me.”
        “Well, no, actually,” I said, feeling a tear slip down the side of my head. “The reason is that I want to.”
        “You should go to college,” he said, wiping the tear away from my hairline. And then I laughed. “You’re the smartest person I know. Don’t laugh.”
        “I don’t even want to,” I said, shaking my head. “I wouldn’t know how.” I was still crying and I didn’t know how to stop. The sunburn on my cheeks was aching.
        “You could figure it out, if you wanted to,” he said. I rolled over, saw him, stupid and blonde, and kissed him. For a moment, everything was as I wanted it to be, he was kissing me back and I could see the future rolling out in front of me like an old carpet coming out of storage. Then he pushed me off and when I hit the mattress I could feel the impression of the springs against my skull.
        He stood up and looked down at me from the side of the bed. He wiped his face, my own tears shimmering on his cheeks.
        “I’m sorry,” I croaked.
        “Jesus Christ, Emmylou,” he said, walking from the room.

Jean shook me awake asking me if I knew where the towels were. It was morning and Hank was not in bed.
        “I don’t know,” I said, rolling onto my side. “Check the hall closet.”
        “I did already.”
        “Ask Hank, then.”
        “But he’s sleeping,” she said. “I’m so hungover.”
        “Well, shit, Jean,” I laughed, though it was more of a cough. “I was sleeping, too.”
        “I want to shower,” she replied, throwing herself down on the bed next to me. Humming, she wrapped both her arms around me and rested her chin on my shoulder. “We should get an apartment together.”
        “You don’t want to live with Robby?” I asked, closing my hand around one of her forearms.
        “I really don’t want to settle down too early,” she sighed. “I’d rather live with you and have fun for a few years first.” It was so hot, even inside, that my hand was already beginning to sweat on her arm.
        “Me too,” I said.
        All five of us were sitting at Hank’s little round table in the corner of his kitchen. It was nearly two in the afternoon and we were eating breakfast. 
        Jean was eerily silent, holding hands with me under the table. I thought she might still be a little drunk. Hank was sitting directly across the table from me, disheveled and laughing about having to sleep on the couch. I wanted the boiler to explode and for us to all die instantly. I wanted to go home.
        Robby was drinking a warm, open beer left out from last night. Hank had already made fun of him for it and tauntingly tried to make him eat something—a bruised and mushy apple from the kitchen counter, the only fruit in the house—but he refused.
        “Grow up,” he said. “Fucking stupid.”
        “C’mon, man,” I said, after everyone got quiet. Robby shook his head and I remembered Jean, in the car, howling. He sighed.
        “I’m leaving,” Robby said, passively rubbing his cheek. “I told Jean last night. I enlisted in the army a while ago, and I’m leaving for basic training on Tuesday.”
        I didn’t think it was right for him to loudly fuck Jean and then tell her that he was leaving. It felt like a betrayal. And I didn’t want him to go, either.
        “But it’s Sunday,” said Hank after a minute. I could not stop imagining Robby getting shot and rotting under the desert sun. Robby stepping on a landmine, Robby getting shot in the head or the chest or right in that big artery in your leg, Robby’s camouflaged Jeep exploding. 
        “I didn’t know what to tell you guys,” he said, gesturing with his beer can in his hand.
        “What if Al-Queda fucking gets you?” asked Hank. Robby only shrugged.
        “It’s brave,” said Jean, who was still squeezing my hand. “He’s doing the right thing.”
        I knew, then, that it was far too late to convince him not to go because Jean had already given up. And I wished I could’ve been in that room because I wanted to know what he’d said to her to make her believe that what he was going to do was right. If she cried about it, I didn’t hear. I might’ve already been asleep. I wished he hadn’t said it. I wanted my nail polish back.
        “I guess so,” I said.


“Bad conduct discharge,” said Jean, handing me the baby. There was spit-up on her shirt. “It’s not the same thing as dishonorable.”
        “I know,” I said, trying to see if the baby, who was almost asleep, looked more like Robby or Jean.
        “It is sort of nice, though, that he’s home to bond with Junior,” she continued, pulling on a new t-shirt and reaching for the baby. “I was always afraid that they wouldn’t be close.”
        “I think Robby will really enjoy being a father,” I told her.
        The baby was already a few months old, but fresh enough for Jean to still measure his age in weeks. I’d pretty much taken Robby’s place at the birth, holding her hand and shit, whispering to the nurses that her boyfriend was deployed in Iraq. It dashed any of my remaining dreams of motherhood: at my twenty-first birthday party, Jean could only drink Shirley Temples because she was seven months pregnant.
        “I hope so,” she said. 
        Jean, I thought, was very unhappy. She’d gotten pregnant on a week-long break between tours last year, during which Robby mostly just binge drank with Hank and bought heroin to bring back with him. I understood her concerns. He hadn’t even proposed.
        The baby was named Robert Jr. which, to me, made it seem like Jean expected Robby to die. But he didn’t die, so now the baby went back and forth between being called Bobby and being called Junior. I thought Junior was corny. I’d told her that.
      “You should go talk to him,” she said.
        Robby was camping out in the basement. Jean’s parents paid rent on the house—a cheap new build from the ‘90s—but I’d been staying in the guest room since the baby was born, and in the few days since Robby had been back, I’d only seen him leave the basement to eat or shower. We hadn’t yet spoken; in fact, Jean had cautioned me against it. His PTSD, the army doctors had told her over the phone, was pretty bad. I hadn’t seen him try to interact with the baby, but Jean had told me before bed one night that he’d already cried once, holding the baby in his lap. 
        I walked down the basement stairs loudly because I wanted him to know I was coming. When I got down there, he was sitting on the couch taking a huge bong rip. The basement was wood-paneled and dark. I sat down next to him as he exhaled a gargantuan cloud of smoke and set the bong on the floor.
        “Jean tells me you dropped out.”
        “College wasn’t for me,” I said, waving smoke out of my face.
        “You were our last hope. You were supposed to get a fancy job and make us all rich.”
        “In our next lives we will all be millionaires,” I said. He shrugged.
        “I’d prefer it for this one,” he said. “I had to forfeit my pay because of the drug charge.”
        I knew that was his way of letting me know that they were broke. It was no secret, at least to me, that Jean’s parents hated him for his absenteeism. And they hated Jean, too, for having a baby with an addict, unmarried. I imagined they were only paying because they felt an obligation to. They loved their grandson, but they probably would have experienced that same love by getting a puppy.
        “Have you seen Hank?” he asked.
        “A few times while Jean was pregnant, but not since,” I said. “I don’t go back to that 7-Eleven.”
        “I was writing him letters.”
        “I know.” 
        He paused.
        “Let’s get out of here,” he decided. I didn’t blame him; I would’ve wanted to leave that basement, too.

I didn’t tell Jean we were leaving, I just took her keys from the hook near the door. The music on the radio sucked and Robby was high as shit. He looked like he was going to melt into the car seat.
        “Take me to Hank’s place,” he said, leaning forward to sort through the stack of CDs in the glove compartment. 
        I did. There were no CDs he liked.
        Pulling into Hank’s driveway, I could hear the gravel spitting out from under the tires. Robby had scarcely spoken the entire ride over and was picking at his cuticles. He had a huge scar on the back of his arm and I was waiting for him to explain it. He wasn’t going to.
        We both got out of the car and I waited at the base of the front steps, turning the keys over in my hand. He pulled open the screen door and knocked.
        A girl answered the door. She was obviously a meth-head because she had that jaw thing going on a little bit.
        “Is Hank here?” Robby asked.
        “No,” she said.
        “Is he at work?”
        “I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe.” How could she be close enough to him to be, ostensibly, living together and not know whether or not he was at work?
        “Well can you at least tell him that Robby and Emmylou stopped by?” he asked. “Just tell him that we were here, please.”
        Hank and I barely spoke after Robby left. I didn’t see him for a year. There were times when I thought he might go for it, a handful of events spread over three years—a touch, or a seemingly meaningful glance. But seeing his new girlfriend made me glad it had never happened. I didn’t want to fuck someone who would also fuck her, meth pimples and all.
        “Sure,” she said. “I’ll let him know.”
        We drove to the 7-Eleven. Robby tried calling Hank from my hot pink Razr twice, but he didn’t pick up. It was eerie to me, seeing Robby at the store again. I’d been there more times than I could count since Robby had left, to buy giant cans of Budweiser, greasy food, or lottery tickets, but not in the way that I used to. I was not that much older than I was then. The horror was not that I was altogether a different person, but that my circumstances had changed.
        “Did you know that girl?” asked Robby, the headlights shining into the store. Hank wasn’t working the register.
        “No,” I said. “She freaked me out.”
        “Me, too,” he said. We went inside. It was so brightly lit that Robby laughed and said that we’d died and gone to heaven. The notion that either one of us could get into heaven was absurd. I wandered toward the drink cases.
        “Is Hank working tonight?” Robby asked the guy behind the counter.
        “I’m not supposed to tell you,” said the cashier. 
        I didn’t want anything. All of the supersaturated, multi-colored packaging was creeping me out.
        “He and I are friends,” he said.
        “Well, he’s not here, anyway,” the cashier said, as if we were wasting his time. We were the only people in the store. Robby bought a pack of Marlboro golds and a lighter with a pin-up girl on it. He opened his wallet to pay and I noticed a nude Polaroid of Jean tucked into the clear plastic pocket meant for your license. Her dark hair, combined with the shitty color grading of the Polaroid, made her skin look ghastly white. It was like a car wreck, I couldn’t look away. 
        I decided to wait outside and tried the door to the crackhead bathroom. I hadn’t looked in a mirror all day. It was locked. Inside, the toilet flushed, the sink water ran, and the door opened. Hank stood in the doorway, looking down at me. He didn’t seem particularly surprised to see me.
        “I can’t sell to Robby, okay?” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “I don’t want to see him. Is he inside?”
        “Please, he wants to see you,” I said. “You’re his best friend.”
        “Yeah,” said Hank, “and this is what he needs from me.”
        I wanted to press further, but I knew that Hank would not give me much. He was a private kind of guy.
        “What’s going on, man?” I asked him.
        “Ask Robby,” he said, going back inside. “It’s not my business.”
        I walked back to the front of the store. Robby was already waiting in the car.
        “Can we go to the cemetery?” I asked. We’d left the 7-Eleven and I was already driving toward it.
        “We should,” he answered, tearing the cellophane off his pack of cigarettes and throwing it onto the car floor. He called Hank five more times.
        “Are you trying to buy heroin from Hank?” I asked. He paused; it was as if I had suddenly become incredibly dumb. Hank was not a dealer. Robby had been buying from someone else before he left, some mechanic, but I guess he’d lost his number or something. I didn’t even know if Hank had enough of a supply to share.
        “Yeah, Emmylou,” he answered.
        While Jean was pregnant, Hank had been in the house almost as much as I was. And though he didn’t say it, it was pretty transparent that he was only there because Robby had asked him to be. He was his man on the inside, sending letters and photos back overseas, and now he was hiding and refusing to answer the phone. I didn’t know whether Robby had brought those photos back—carefully curated shots of Jean and I posing on the couch, self-timer photos of the three of us, ultrasounds with It’s a boy! printed in the static. Thinking of them, discarded in Iraq, made me want to scream.

I laid against the heart-shaped headstone. The car was dark, only a few feet away.
        “I wish I could take a photo of you,” said Robby, sitting. I didn’t tell him that my cell phone had a camera in it. He lit a cigarette. “You look just like her.”
        I didn’t look like her at all—he was only trying to flatter me. He offered me a cigarette and I took it. He lit it for me. I had not smoked in over a year because Jean was afraid of secondhand smoke; she said that it would give the baby a cleft lip. Half a cigarette passed in silence.
        “I’m going to propose to Jean,” he said, ashing his cigarette into the grass. I didn’t really know what to say.
        “That’s awesome,” I decided on. “Congratulations.”
        “I haven’t really thought about it a lot, but I know I want to,” he continued. “And I know I want it to be special.” He could’ve proposed to her in an Applebee’s parking lot after four rounds of five-dollar Springtime Sips and she would’ve thought it was special.
        “Are you going to go to rehab?” I asked. I knew he wasn’t asking for my blessing, but it felt like he was. He paused; he’d obviously expected me to be happier.
        “We can’t afford that,” he said. “Having a child is expensive, Emmylou. If you had one, you’d know that. And rehab doesn’t even work.”
        “Are you at least going to get clean?” I asked, taking a drag from the cigarette and putting it out on my shoe. I put the butt in my pocket because I didn’t want to litter in front of Jayne’s grave.
        “I’ll try,” he said. I shook my head. He blinked at me.
        “No,” I said. “You have to get sober.” I didn’t know if I was being completely fair, but I couldn’t let him ruin Jean’s life. Raising a child while also keeping a full-blown junkie alive would ruin her life. And we were so young.
        “I can’t do that,” he said. 
        I didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t taking it seriously, that much was clear.
        “Everyone thinks that I got caught with heroin in the barracks, but it’s not true. I fucking overdosed in my bunk and they had to give me a shot of Naloxone in front of everyone. That’s how I got the possession charge. If they’d only found my stash I would’ve blamed it on someone else. I told Hank, too, he knows.”
        I wondered who found him, I wondered how long his brain had gone without oxygen, I wondered if the needle had still been in his arm—if it had been so quick—or if he’d had the clarity to pull it out. At least I knew why Hank was hiding.
        “Are you alright?” I asked. I didn’t know how he could move on, and now that I knew it had happened once, I instantly became afraid it would happen again.
        “I’m fucking fine,” he said. He put his cigarette out and threw the butt, still smoking, over his shoulder. I realized, quickly, that he was incredibly embarrassed. He lit another. “If you tell Jean I’ll never forgive you.”
        He was supposed to want to tell her. They were supposed to work together and talk about the serious things quietly, so as to not wake the baby, and he was supposed to want to get clean, to not have anything between himself and watching his child grow up. He was supposed to go to a cheap rehab, one covered by state insurance, get medicated for clinical depression and PTSD, and make friends at NA. Or, we were supposed to be eighteen and it was supposed to be excusable.
        He was a different person than the one I had known. I couldn’t offer him any support.
        “You have to tell her,” I said. I felt as if I might cry. I didn’t know exactly why the information had affected me so deeply.
        “I can’t,” he said. He beckoned for my cell phone and I gave it to him. He called Hank, again, to no answer.
        We left.

When we got back to the house, Jean was on the couch and the baby was asleep on her chest. Some shitty reality TV show was on. I put the keys back on the hook and Robby disappeared down into the basement, again.
        “Did you guys have a good time?” Jean asked. I sat down next to her on the couch.
        “We went to the cemetery,” I said.
        “Oh,” she said. “That’s nice.”
        I watched the show for a few minutes. A bunch of women were fighting in a large house. It was awful. And then I watched the baby, still sleeping, breathe.
        “Jean,” I said, during a commercial break, “please don’t marry Robby.”
        I had an entire speech prepared—he wants to propose, but you have to say no, you’ll find someone so much better, someone who can show you love in ways you never thought possible—but I didn’t need it. Jean looked at me, nodding.
        “Okay,” she said.