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Ration Coupons

By Jamey Genna

I went in my ex-husband’s car to the funeral of the boy who shot himself. He committed suicide, which I know is redundant. Jake, my ex, still had his company car. He was supposed to get a new one every year, but he’d bought this one to keep for himself because it was a black Ford Taurus and he got a great deal on it. He had tinted the windows with a kit. It was supposed to be bubble-free, but my passenger side window had a tiny crimp in the dark film up at the top. I could imagine Jake installing it—his fussy perfectionism, using a squeegee. I wondered how he missed that crease. I pointed at it.

“I know,” he said. “You wouldn’t have wanted to be here.” Then he smiled and pretended it didn’t bother him. He tilted his head at me imploringly, asking me to let it go.

The boy Ryan who killed himself was actually eighteen. He worked with me at the gym. Jake and I had been apart for about two years now, but I kept running into him. He whacked me on the butt with his racquetball racquet in the parking lot one day, and that’s when I started hanging up on him. Besides, he only called when he heard I might be dating someone new. But it’d been months, and I was trying out no relationship, so I didn’t land the phone in the cradle right away.

He was asking me to go with him to the funeral.

“You’re being brave,” I said. I knew why he wanted me to go. Maybe his girlfriend didn’t know about his fears yet. Maybe he wasn’t having nightmares anymore where he pushed a ceiling of dirt with his hands. Maybe she had to work. Or maybe he wasn’t with her anymore.

None of us knew this kid Ryan very well. We all knew of him. Ryan’s parents had both died when he was in high school, one right after the other. First his mom of a brain aneurism, when he was sixteen, and then his dad of the same thing, a year later. He told me about it out of the blue one day while he was spotting me on the bench press in the weight room. He said, “The doctors told me it was a chance in a million that it’d happen to both parents. Lucky me.” I sat up and listened. He kept his hair too short, close to his head, like it was a punishment. Dark. It made him look ugly—like his head was a box. He was an only child. Recently his girlfriend had broken up with him. He went out with some of the guys from work on a Friday—Ace and Mike and some other guys. They were trying to cheer him up. He wasn’t that drunk. He just went home and shot himself. Nobody knew he was that depressed.

I had an inkling.

Everyone from the club was going to the funeral and my ex had to stop for gas at the Quick & Go and when he went inside, I lifted up the arm rest he had put down between us and there was the picture of his girlfriend in her bathing suit, sitting in my former back yard on a lawn chair. She had that perfect full black head of hair resting in a big nest around her face. I’d never seen her up close before. She didn’t seem to be chubby. Her thighs were larger than I thought, but it was probably just the camera. I decided to see just how close the two of them really were. In the glove box were a couple of lipsticks—red and mauve. Nobody keeps lipstick in the glove box. It melts.

At the funeral, we were all boxed in, in a separate room, and the service came over a loudspeaker. There was no viewing. Conversation between us was limited. Some things didn’t need to be said. I held Jake’s hand and he bent over me, dripping tears in my straight brown hair.

The way people held themselves and each other there—it reminded me of something I’d seen on TV in high school after church. On Sundays, my family would go to service and then we’d go to the grocery store and get candy and chips and Coke. Then we’d go home out to the farm and try to find something to watch. I used to buy these little coconut squares that had pastel and white colored stripes in them with my babysitting money. Pure heaven. Every Sunday there was this series on TV that had a churchy moral to it. What had happened was the world had pretty much basically destroyed itself. There was pollution and crime everywhere and there wasn’t any space. People just lived in big rooms together. They walked around in a mob, body pressed to body, jumbling around in a claustrophobic circle. Other people looked at them through a glass window. On another Sunday a guy had to chop his arm off to feed his family because he’d missed the day for the ration coupons.

I didn’t hear the service. I started crying, too. It was all too much. I needed an antidepressant.

After the service, we went for a drive in the country. We stopped at an inlet on a gravel road and looked at a long field full of hay grasses and round bales.

“My dad would be figuring out how much this is worth,” I told him.

He said, “What should I do about her?”

I said, “That’s a funny question to ask me. Stop putting your cock in her.” I wasn’t about to beg.

He didn’t get angry. He put his head on the steering wheel and cried harder.

There wasn’t any forgiveness anywhere.

 

Jamey Genna teaches writing in northern California and is a graduate from the masters in writing program at the University of San Francisco. She also work as a major projects advisor for USF. Her collection of short-short stories "I’ll Tell You That Story in a Minute" was a finalist in the 2007 Elixir Press Chapbook Awards and her collection of short stories "Nobody Has to Die for It to Tell You Something" was a finalist for the 2006 Ontario Prize.

Photo "Mary," courtesy of Gabor Kovacs, Budapest, Hungary.


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