TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
Cal Harries liked all of his things in one place.
I was one of them.
He was a dick, Harries, a real sucker for a good heartbreak. The more lives he could ruin, the better. It wasn’t like I didn’t know that the day I got involved with him. I just never thought it would happen to me.
Now, before you start assuming anything, Cal Harries did not break my heart. He did not, like many others, leave me. In fact, Cal Harries fell unrequitedly in love with me.
I fail to put into so few words why this was so devastating at the time, but if you choose to trust me, then you must believe it was. You’ve asked me to write about it, and so, as a desperate attempt at redemption, I will.
The first and absolute most important thing you must know is as follows: Harries was batshit crazy. Absolutely unhinged. No, I mean it. He was insane. Really.
It started in college, as most things that involve alcohol, sex and youth usually do. Back then, Harries was hot shit. A real good looking dude. I’m telling you. He had girls falling for him left and right. Chiseled chin, killer cheekbones, eyes like sea glass, and long golden hair that fell furtively above it all.
He used to be a frat star too. You know, those boys who wear neon wife beaters and perpetually carry around beer cans to shotgun at any given moment. Yeah, I got involved with one of those. To tell you the truth, I got involved with a lot of those, but we don’t talk about the other ones. Harries wouldn’t like that.
I met him at a party. In my extensive experience, I’ve found parties to be the best places to meet one night stands, and, on most nights, that was exactly what I was looking for. He came out of nowhere, like a tequila-toting hyena, and said something along the lines of, “Hi beautiful, how you doin’?” And I think I said something like, “Good. You’re hot,” but I was belligerently drunk - because there is obviously no other state in which one can tolerate a frat party for extended periods of time - so don’t quote me on that.
I don’t think there was much talking involved beyond that point. We exchanged ideas in other ways. Better ways, in my opinion. Here’s the thing about hot boys though: they are not that good at sex. Really. They don’t have to try as hard. So we - read he - were done in about fifteen minutes.
“Is that all?” I asked him, tone dripping in disappointment. I watched as he put on the boxers he had casually chucked onto the antlers of a stuffed deer. Cal Harries, apparently, dabbled with taxidermy.
“Sorry, I’m getting pancakes with my dad tomorrow,” he said, though what that had to do with his sexual ineptitude, I’ll never know. I shrugged, put on the ridiculous unicorn ensemble I was wearing that night, and headed out with nothing more than an, “Ok, bye.”
It would be about two months before I saw him again. He was dating some halfwit blonde at the time and hooking up with about three more. A month later, she would find out and attempt to run him over with her red Prius. At the time, however, she was blissfully oblivious.
“I have him wrapped around my fingers,” she said, twirling her left pointer finger around her right. He stood next to her and smiled. An hour later, he left her passed out on a puke-stained couch and approached me.
“I really want to fuck you,” he said.
I cocked my head at him in confusion. “But we already did.” I left without another word. He didn’t follow me. That came later.
The year my mom died, I met a guy named Cricket. Nobody knew his real name. Everyone just called him Cricket. I don’t know why.
Cricket was the only guy I ever loved. He was perfect in every single way that didn’t matter. I was 15 and heartbroken though, so I didn’t really care. Cricket could play soccer. Cricket was student council president. Cricket had a gorgeous head of dark brown hair, and eyes that reminded me of hot chocolate on a rainy day. Cricket was a rapist.
But, at the time, I didn’t know that.
I think Cal Harries fell in love with me the day I ran over his hamster. He told me I killed it, but I knew he was lying because it was dead before I got there. It was sitting there motionless, and he kept staring at the damned thing like he couldn’t believe it was gone.
You know how I said Cal always wanted his things in one place? That day, that place was the sidewalk in front of his house. The poor hamster deserved a better funeral, but Cal loved that hamster, so he left it on the ground with his four-year-old pack of Marlboros, a rolled-up poster of his mom, and me.
His text message to me had been urgent - though he hadn’t mentioned the hamster - so I gathered my things, hopped on my bike, and pedaled to the weathered green home he shared with his friends. In my haste, I nearly crashed into him, sending the contents of my basket flying.
He stared up at me with horror-filled eyes. “You ran over Lilah Jr.”
I looked down at the tiny body that had lodged itself between my bicycle and the sidewalk. “Oh, sorry,” I said, inching my bike backwards.
He paused, assessing the damage. “It’s ok,” he said, gently placing her mangled body back into the shoebox that had just fallen from my basket. “I think I can fix her for you.”
“Great,” I said, taking care not to show too much emotion. This was important around Cal. You never knew when the voices would take offense at something you said.
He reached for my hand as gingerly as he had cupped the hamster, and stared at me for a minute, trying to put me together like a puzzle.
Eventually, he sighed. “I want to fuck you.”
I thought only of the dead hamster. “Ok.”
That day, he did.
Cricket’s entire wardrobe consisted of white shirts and leather jackets speckled with imperceptible holes. Before I got to know him, I thought he just couldn’t afford anything better. Turns out, he was a chronic chain smoker. He moved on to heavier drugs later on, and I heard he got in trouble for it a few years back, but, at the time, Cricket simply reveled in the tarnishing of his lungs.
That was how I met him, smoking, in the back wooded alley of the high school. I was surprised to see him there, this older senior boy so adored by the masses engaging in something so clearly wrong. He looked up at me, momentarily confused by my sudden presence, and went back to smoking his cigarette.
“Hello,” he said, smoke tumbling out of his mouth like a whisper.
“Hi,” I responded.
He pointed the cigarette in my direction. “Watson,” he said. “You were that actress’s kid.”
I nodded, unsure of whether his duties as student council president included knowing the entire student body. Sometimes, I liked to think he knew just me.
“Sorry for your loss,” he offered. I said nothing. Just stared. “Want one?” he asked, waving the box of cigarettes.
I shook my head. “I don’t smoke.”
He smiled. “Pity.” He took out a pen and wrote something on the back of the box. Then, he leaned down and set it on the ground. “If you ever change your mind,” he nodded towards the box, “call me.”
He winked, stepped on the torched nub of his cigarette, and walked away. That day, he gave a presentation on the negative effects of drugs. I’m pretty sure he smiled at me.
One time, Cal Harries took me ice skating on the beach. That’s a thing you can do in San Diego, you know. He was from there. He took me to meet his family. His brother Jeremy, he’d said, was the best fucker I’d ever meet.
Here’s the thing though: his brother was Cricket. He wasn’t brunette or anything, but it was Cricket. I knew it was because he was holding a pack of cigarettes and he had a white shirt, and sometimes he would look at me and smile, and I just knew it was Cricket. I knew it.
So I told Cal. I told him his brother wasn’t the best fucker I’d ever meet, and that I’d already met him and that we used to be in love. Cal was upset, of course, because, like I said, he was insane and I was his thing, so later on, he let go of my hand and fell and "accidentally" impaled Jeremy in the leg with his ice skate. Jeremy couldn’t walk for three weeks, but he didn’t blame Cal. He really believed it was an accident. Bastard.
His mom - who didn’t look anything like Cal’s poster, to be honest - was a bit bummed out about the whole fiasco. I heard her asking him about getting someone “checked out” but he said no and stormed off, and I don’t think they ever talked about it again.
A few months later, I saw a picture of Jeremy in a blue shirt at a dinner table, and I don’t think he was Cricket.
But I didn’t tell Cal that.
I lost my virginity to Cricket at his best friend’s house on a sheet-less mattress at three in the morning. He looked serene, like he’d just finished smoking a pack of Marlboros. I told him I loved him.
“My real name is Edmund,” he said.
“I don’t see why it matters,” I told him.
“You love Cricket,” he tried to explain. “But you don’t love Edmund. Nobody loves Edmund.”
I told him he was ridiculous. Of course I loved Edmund. “Cricket and Edmund are the same person,” I said.
He shook his head. “Cricket is the only version I want people to see.”
When he raped me, I told myself Edmund did it. I didn’t think it was the version of himself he wanted me to see. That version, I knew, was dead. I loved Cricket, but Edmund scared me. He still does.
By the time I graduated college, I’d been seeing Cal Harries for three years. Not exclusively, of course - I thought it best not to try, given my trail of dead relationships - but we saw each other nonetheless. I applied for a job in Nashville. I got the job. I left LA.
Cal was not happy. Like I said, he wanted all of his things in one place. I thought breaking things off with him would solve this problem. It didn’t. A month later, he packed up his seven-year-old Marlboros, his mother’s poster and his hamster’s stuffed carcass, and headed out to Nashville. He had nowhere to go, so I let him stay with me. This, of course, did nothing but make me want to see him less.
“You need to leave,” I told him one night when I had enough wine in my system to bear it. “Go back to LA or something.”
“I’m not leaving,” he said.
I pointed to the array of taxidermied animals by our windowsill. “Leave before you regret it.”
“You’re not scaring me away,” he said. “You need help.”
“I need peace and quiet and someone who isn’t you.”
He shook his head. “You need me. I can help you. Let me help you.”
“I don’t need anyone, Edmund.” He looked confused. Upset. But that was Edmund, wasn’t it? It was dark and the wine was strong, but his hair was unmistakably brown. It might have been gold. I don’t remember.
“Get in the car with me, Lilah,” he said. He grabbed my wrist. I shook him off.
“I am not just a goddamn hamster you can fix up, Cal!” It was Cal. Cal called me Lilah.
Edmund called me Bitch.
“You are not a hamster,” he repeated, sadly. “Please get in the car.” I stared at him. “It’s me.”
“Ok,” I said, and I did.
That night he drove me to this place and had me committed. I think he did it to keep me locked up somewhere I could never leave. Sometimes, when he comes to visit, he brings Lilah Jr. and my doodled on Marlboros and the poster of his mom who I think looks a little bit like Mama did before I watched the stroke take her.
I’ve been here for eight months.
Edmund tells me I’m not crazy.
He still scares me though.
I wish you wouldn’t let him visit so often.