I thought there would be tears in Vicky’s eyes; the only thing that gleamed on her face was her red lipstick. I thought she’d bend to kiss Cleon’s cheek; she just stood over him and gave him a long look. I thought she’d say something; she smiled. And in the end the handful of dirt she threw at him was more like spitting on his face than saying goodbye. Then she found a quiet corner and smoked a cigarette.
Everyone we knew from school came to the funeral. Cleon had been so popular. Everyone had wanted to hang out with him. They were all shocked when they heard about the car accident. They drove here from all corners of the country to bid farewell to their classmate and companion. So did Vicky. But she didn’t seem to realize that we hadn’t lost only Cleon; a part of our youth had died. She didn’t speak too much with anyone, not even with me. I was the one who called to tell her about the accident. ‘I’ ll be there,’ she said and hung up before I could give her the details of what had happened.
Vicky had always been the silent type. There is something pretentious about silent types.
I went up to her as she was lighting another cigarette, her back turned to the graveyard, her gaze fixed on the hills.
‘Remember how we used to go up there and be crazy?’ I said.
She turned around slowly. Her eyes were still dry and her lipstick still juicy.
‘Sure,’ she said, and turned her gaze back to the hills.
‘And the parties we had?
‘Yes,’ she said.
‘We had so much fun. And Cleon… most of it we owed to him.’
‘Yes. Cleon always knew how to have fun,’ she said.
‘He was so full of life. Always up to something. And so gorgeous. He looked like an angel. Every girl was in love with him.’
‘Shows how clever they were,’ she said. She took a small mirror out of her purse and checked her lipstick. Then she checked the geometry of her bob and must have found it perfect, because she smiled.
‘I can’t believe I’ll never see him again… never hear his voice again–’
‘And I can’t believe he’s finally shut the fuck up,’ Vicky cut in. She tossed the mirror back in her purse and snapped it close, the sound of the clasp as dry as her eyes, her voice. Then, without another word or look at me, she turned away and left.
I stood there gaping after her, wondering since when is red lipstick appropriate for a funeral.
He was an angel alright: an angel of vengeance.
He and I had become lovers that roaring summer after school had ended and college was to come with autumn.
It would be pleasure without pressure: we had agreed on that.
I kept the deal. He didn’t.
One day, as we were rolling naked on the scorched grass of the hills, he said the words that were not to be said. He said ‘I love you.’
He couldn’t accept the fact that I didn’t love him back. He persisted. He pleaded, he begged, he promised.
When none of it worked, he finally spoke the truth. He said ‘I hate you.’
I thought that was the end of it.
I never got used to the sound of the phone ringing in the middle of the night. One does not easily get used to that sort of shrillness.
‘I know you still wear red lipstick. Who do you wear it for now? Do you suck him with that lipstick on? Like you sucked me?’
The voice was hoarse and whispering, but his.
Hanging up on him did not discourage him. Changing my phone number didn’t stop him. I don’t know how he did it, but he was always able to find me. Not only me. People I dated had received night calls. He had told them to leave me alone, or else. A couple of them had listened.
But then came a night when the phone rang and it wasn’t him. It was Alexia.
‘Can you believe it? So young, so young…’ she sobbed and sobbed, and loved it that she was the messenger of bad news.
‘I’ll be there,’ I said and hung up, saving myself from her chirping bird monologue.
I caught the sideways glances she gave me at the funeral. But then she was always giving me sideways glances, even while we spoke, as if she was trying to see a face behind a mask.
I didn’t care. I came here to see Cleon dead and buried. To throw dirt on his face. To flaunt my red lipstick at him and disappear into the sunset.
And that is what I did.
ⓒ Basilike Pappa 2017