I LOVED HER CRAZY (short story)



Timothy Herrick


Copyright 1998, held by author 

 I loved Ellen. I loved her crazy. I loved her like no man should. If she didn’t break up with me and we stayed together, we could have built a life on my love. We could have tried. It could have been beautiful. That life.

But not this one. In my first week at Rahway State Prison , I was told that I was sold to the Nation of Islam for two cartons of cigarettes. The Aryan Brotherhood blamed me for Tool’s death. I had to put on a long blonde wig and red lipstick and please seven black men who called me white bitch and knocked three of my teeth out while passing me around. Now, I’m just looking for a way to commit suicide

  But this didn’t start when I met Tool and asked him the favor. It started when Ellen and I  met. In High School. We were 17. Suburban New Jersey.

I never had many friends. See, I had gone to Catholic grammar school, but when my father left—he was angry all the time anyway, so I can’t say I missed him—my mother stopped going to church and made me go to public school. I was around kids who were long part of established cliques. They didn’t want to know me.

 My mother worked, but most of her salary went for the mortgage. The rest of the houses in the neighborhood had a top floor, larger yards, aluminum siding. Our single story shack hadn’t been painted in 20 years and the lawn was more weeds than grass.

My mother didn’t bother me about having people over. I  wasn’t popular, so it was rarely an issue. I tried not make trouble for her. I worked part time since I was 15, never asked her for a dime. She let me convert the basement into my bedroom, which except for occasional flooding and a musty odor, was like having my own apartment. 

 I lost my virginity in the basement, to Stasha, who carried condoms in her purse and loved to drink and became very loose when she drank. We drank beer and Southern Comfort, then we did it.  It wasn’t like we were boyfriend and girlfriend.

 Ellen, I fell in love with right away, on our first date, when we saw an action movie then drank beer in the park. She used to say, I made her laugh. She was an outsider too. She had moved from Essex county because her parents bought a house and went out with me because she was sick of football players. She was never clear about what happened, but some jock had taken advantage of her, a date rape kind of thing. I talked about everything to her, every thought I had I revealed, while she closed a lot of her past personal stuff out. I didn’t pry.

What I tried to do was not make any demands on her and always make her happy. Take her out, listen to her problems, her dreams for the future. I had a job, a car,  a girlfriend. I guess I had it all in High School. 

We had a such a good time at the prom. I had rented a bungalow in Seaside with my only buddy,  Kenny  and we double dated. After being chauffeured to and from the big dance—Ellen and I didn’t get any prizes, they were awarded to the head cheerleader and football team captain—but we danced and drank and then drove down the shore and by dawn—we were making love in a creaky old bed right by a large window as sunlight blossomed across the dark green New Jersey ocean.

 I got a full time job in a warehouse and took remedial courses at Bergen County Community College. Ellen was taking courses there too; in anatomy and biology. She wanted to be a healthcare worker of some kind, but wasn’t sure what kind. Since most everybody we knew had gone away to college and everybody else in town were either our parents age or 30-somethings with college degrees and white collar jobs and new babies and drove mini-vans, we grew closer. Ellen and I felt like outsiders, but at least we had each other.

When did I first know I loved her crazy? About 18 months after graduation, when I paid for our famous vacation, to the Bahamas. It was a resort, like Club Med. It was Underwear night. Everybody in the resort, which was mostly adults and young people—no parents or children—wore only their underwear to the resort disco. Everyone was all sweaty and inebriated, dancing real fast with the music loud and strobe lights flashing and mirror balls spinning, when after some deep kissing and not so discreet squeezing, Ellen and I went out to the beach. It was pitch black. The night is so much darker there. Ellen and I rolled around in the sand, then ripped our underwear off and we made fierce, loud, passionate love in the dense shadows between the beams of the chrome Caribbean moon.

It was like some romantic movie. Her legs hugged the sides of my waist. The warm water rippled in waves against us; her sounds, our bodies, the ocean, everything shared the rhythm. We heard some voices, maybe other lovers doing the same, maybe even inspired by us, as well as soft thumps of bare feet running  in distant white sand. And laughter and the echo of music from the disco. We didn’t care if anyone saw or heard. We knew only our own world. A world that could never last.

Afterwards, as we lay in each other’s arms, a cool breeze soothed our naked skin. We gazed at the configurations of constellations in a sky not tarnished by the lights of New Jersey and I told her: “I will love you forever. I love you so much, time doesn’t matter, this life doesn’t matter, even my own blood or my ability to breathe. Nothing matters to me but you. Your mind, your eyes, your body, your heart, that’s my world.  My whole world. That’s the only thing I care about. You You You.”

 A tear emerged from the duct and glistened near her eye, capturing light from the moon and making it its own, then slowly fell down her cheek, rolling like a pearl on silk. She was never more beautiful than that night. Nothing was ever more beautiful.

 “I know,” she said. “I know.”

She didn’t have to say anything more. We didn’t even have to kiss. We just watched the night and the moon.

 But after the Bahamas, things changed. I hadn’t done very well with the college classes, but she already finished up an associate’s degree and instead of trying to get a full time job right away, she got accepted to William Paterson College and wanted to get a BS in nursing science. I was still in the warehouse, and what I wanted to do was save money and buy her a ring and become engaged then married. She said we couldn’t afford to get married, and she began to complain about the mildew and dampness in my basement bedroom. When I suggested a nearby motel, she said no.

She didn’t even tell me she was looking for an apartment, didn’t even tell me she was moving until the day after. Her parents supported the move, gave her furniture, which gave her mother a reason to redecorate. I told Ellen that I was worried about her living alone, that it was dangerous. She laughed at the notion, saying this was Bergen County and those sort of crimes only happen in cities

But we were still boyfriend and girlfriend. She let me stay over. I always brought her flowers or wine. She made fun of my living at home, and she mostly talked about the hospital where she worked as a volunteer or her delight with finally going to a “real college”.

I  decided the thing to do was to take her on a spectacular date, show her an unforgettable evening and distract her from the stress of her career building. The only place worthy of consideration was The City. Manhattan! I made reservations at this expensive  restaurant, and got tickets to Cats, which cost one hundred dollars apiece. I even got her a corsage and rented a limo and a driver, just like at The Prom, except now we could legally drink the champagne on the way across the GWB and into Times Square. I even told her my plans to go to a vocational school, so I would have a skill and a well paying job. I didn’t want her to perceive me as someone whose life was going nowhere. I wanted Ellen to be as impressed with me as she used to be.

I was funny. I was interesting. I was understanding. Of course, after such an expensive night,  I expected great passion but, on the ride back to the Jersey side she slapped my hands away. “I’m sorry, but I can’t invite you over. I have class. I can’t stay up late.”

Alone in my bed, still in my new Sears suit, my hands made fists of anger. I initially thought of what a bitch she was. I had spent nearly five hundred dollars, just on a date, just to show her a good time. How could she say and do such things, treat my caring with such indifference.

 But then I reminded myself, I loved her. I had to accept it. I had to do anything for love, or else it wasn’t real.

 “Is that you, Jimmy,” My mother said from the darkness at the top of the stairs..

“Yeah.” Tears stung my face and eyes..

“I heard you come in.  I didn’t expect you. Did you have a good time on your date?”


 “Is everything all right?” Her slippers creaked on the steps. The same ratty nightgown she’d worn since I was a child shimmered in the shadows. I had to turn away.

 “Everything’s just fine. Fine!”  I hate it when my mother sees me cry. She said good night and turned around. Soon I was alone with my TV and smelly mattress and the all too apparent limitations of my life.

 Ellen was too busy to see me. When I called her just to talk, it wasn’t like in high school with the I miss you so much or her sighs when I said things like, time away from you is time wasted. Instead, she clucked her tongue against her teeth like she was listening to the most boring idiot in the world, or she said things like I heard this before, can I go now, what do you want from me and often, she hung up before she even said good bye.

Finally, when she did deem to see me, it was to break it off. End it. As if we were still in high school and going steady. We hadn’t seen each other for more than a week, and I was relieved when she agreed to go out with me, but not to do anything spectacular, just to talk. We went to the Route 17 diner. She had the salad bar and I ordered a cheeseburger.

 “We have to talk,” she said as she picked at her lettuce.  “I just don’t think it’s a good idea that we see each other anymore.”

 The ground beef and cheddar turned to lead in my mouth then slowly slid down my throat. I drank the rest of my coke so I wouldn’t choke. “What do you mean?”

 “What do you think I mean? It’s time to move on. Our lives are going in different directions.”

“I love you.”

 “I loved you too, and I’ll never forget you. But it’s over, okay.”

 “Can’t I still call you?”

“I don’t think it would be for the best.”

“This is what you meant when you said you wanted to talk? You wanted to just dump me.”

 “I’m sorry, Jimmy.” She cried a little, for less than a minute. Then she insisted that she had to go. I was in shock. I couldn’t move or say anything. She threw a five dollar bill on the orange table top and hurried out. I just sat and stared at the oval portrait of Abe Lincoln on the legal tender. My fingers and elbows trembled.  When I finally went outside, I threw up in the parking lot. Then I cried in my car.

I went to a liquor store, bought a quart of bourbon and a case of cheap beer. I got drunk in my back yard, called in sick the next day, and got drunk again. I wanted to kill myself. I imagined parking outside of her apartment and plunging a knife into my heart and pictured how she would explain my corpse to the cops. It never crossed my mind to stalk her, or to kill her. I don’t have a dark side like that. I am not violent. If only if I was more of a man, maybe nothing like what happened would have.

I called her up and said I was sorry. She hung up on me. I called her up again and accused her of sleeping with other men. She hung up again. I called her again and apologized again. She begged me to stop calling her, she said she would change her number. I went to a florist and sent her a dozen roses, with a card saying forgive me and that I loved her and some other sappy stuff. She called me. She said that nothing I would do could matter, that if I loved her I would let her go, and that she brought the roses to the hospital. She didn’t want them at her place. They made a dying AIDS patient very happy.

All I could do was drink. I lay on my bed, sucking on the bourbon. Then the ceiling started spinning and vibrating.  I puked in the general vicinity of the garbage pail. I knew things were bad. I knew I was going insane.

Kenny came back home from Rutgurs with the announcement that he hated college, and was joining the Navy. We went to Paddy’s. It was this dive in the next town over. Real grimy and dusty, pool table, dollar drafts and two dollar shots, mostly blue collar workers and assorted barflies and it was never crowded. The bartender was Joe, a bald, heavy set man who congratulated Kenny on doing something for America.

I was depressed. I couldn’t share Kenny’s enthusiasm for his big life choice.  I just kept thinking about Ellen and drinking shot after shot of sour mash, and draft after draft of domestic lager.

Kenny patted my back. “You got to get out of this slump, Jimbo. How long are you going to feel sorry for yourself?”

“I’m not feeling sorry for myself.”

“Are you kidding me? Get the over the bitch.”

 “Don’t say that. I loved her.”

He rolled his eyes with a world weary wisdom, as if two years in some dorm and signing a piece of paper in a recruitment office made him a real man of the world. “Look, get yourself some nice blonde. When she knows you are getting some some place else, forget about it. It’ll kill her! That’s what you do.”

“I don’t want anybody else.”

“Get yourself a fresh slice, and you will put this all into perspective. Look, remember Laura? I thought I loved her. She cheated on me all the time then dumped. You know what? She means nothing to me. I shed no tears for that slut.  Screw her. I got my life.  Jimbo, just get on with yours. That’s my advice. Think about that. Going somewhere. It will pass, dude.”

I wanted to believe him, I wished what he said was the case. But not for me. Love has to be absolute, as absolute as all that stuff the nuns said about the body and blood of Jesus being in that thin, round piece of bread the Priest used to hold up at mass. The communion part of the religion always made sense to me. The absolute thing. I wanted my love for Ellen to be better than this world.

 Kenny was my friend, but he was wrong. I didn’t want another girlfriend, but I thought about what he said about how a blonde would make her feel jealous. That was the key. She had to feel she needed me.

 I went back to work—unloading and loading trucks—packing up boxes, filling out forms—same routines,  day in and day out. The place was busy, running multiple shifts. I took as much work as they could give me and stopped going to class. I dropped out. I was failing anyway.  I was getting to work by 3 and working till mid-night. Then I went right to Paddy’s. I could drink until last call, which was at two, but Joe let me stay for another hour or so. I didn’t get up until after noon. Plenty of time to brood, and drink and brood and drink. I became very good at partying alone and letting nobody know what I was thinking.

 The night I  met Tool was one of those nights. He was at one end of the bar, and I was at another, and except for two parkway toll booth collectors more interested in their game of pool, and Joe, who was watching some football talk show on ESPN, Tool and I were the only ones in the place at one am on a Tuesday. I was in the staring mode, looking at my reflection frown in the mirror  behind the double rows of liquor bottles. I had to glance away. But I didn’t want to close my eyes. When I did, instead of darkness and bright dots I saw her face again, her body. Jesus, I hated myself.

  Tool, he was a big guy, muscular. He had this thick goatee and greasy long hair,  tied back in a pony tail. He looked like a biker. He wore a denim jacket, which was dark and stained from automobile grease. The sleeves had been cut off and the holes for his thick arms were frayed at the edges. He wore a tee-shirt, stretched tight by his powerful pectorals and biceps. The biceps seemed nearly as big as footballs with veins that looked like telephone cables. He had tattoos on each arm, in the same location as a sergeant’s stripes. On one arm was a rose tattoo, but it wasn’t a nice looking tattoo and the rose wasn’t red or anything, just a dark indigo black and it was juxtaposed on a very sloppily traced crucifix. So sloppy, it looked more like a lower case letter ‘t’ than the means by which Jesus was executed. On the other bicep, a spot exactly parallel to the other tattoo, were two rectangular S’s or Z’s, I couldn’t tell which.

 He must have noticed me looking at him or something; or maybe it was late and he was getting drunk and not everybody has the capacity for silence and inner thought that I possess. He seemed to just want to talk.

He said,  “Doing okay, bud.” His voice was raspy and reminiscent of Brooklyn.

“Yeah.” I slurred. The shot glass was empty but I didn’t remember exactly when I had polished off the last brown, intoxicating dose. I signaled Joe, who hesitated in an annoying parental way. I cleared my throat. “I’m fine, I’m fine.”

I quickly downed the fresh shot, followed by emptying the rest of my beer. The booze supplied a second wind. I insisted that Joe do the honors again. I was still thinking about her pretty hard because after I drank again, I exhaled, “bitch.”

 Then I noticed Tool watching me. “Looks like you got what in better days was referred to as the blues.”

“My girl friend broke up with me.” For a moment I had an incredible urge just to cry. But it passed in a second or two. “I guess I’m working it out.”

Tool moved to the stool next to mine. I noticed that under his left eye, near the corner, was a small bandage. “Women have no heart and no honor. Men, we may be physically stronger, but we can never be as mean as they are inside. It comes with the territory, that sweet wet thing that’s between their legs and feels so good around you. We need that cookie, and we’re all damned for it.”

The alcohol buzz blurred my brain and made my face all puffy and sweaty and numb. Tool seemed to make sense to me. He seemed to understand. I tapped my fingers against the bar, stared at the empty shot glass and wondered if I should go or not.  I heard him say, “did she have a nice one?”

I sniffled. “Yeah, she did. I miss it.”

He whistled to get Joe’s attention. It sounded like the shrill call of a bird of prey. “Yo gramps, I’ll have another and I’m buying one for my man here.”

I was beginning to feel very drunk, didn’t really want  any more. Joe was shaking his head but I could tell he didn’t want to refuse this guy. “I think your man has had enough.”

“Gramps, he’s fine. Aren’t you dude. What’s your name.”


“Jimmy’s fine, aren’t you Jimmy?”

“Yeah, I’m all right, Joe. I know when I’ve had enough. I’m just quiet tonight.”

Joe shrugged,  then poured. He didn’t seem to like Tool. . “You’re always quiet.”

I asked my new friend his name, and when he replied Tool, I repeated it with surprise.

“It’s some nickname I got when I was in metal shop in high school and it stuck. It’s cause I’m a jack of all trades. I can do a lot of things. I can do things other people are too weak to do or are afraid to do or just don’t want to do. A man’s got to make a living, you know.”

“Yeah I know.”

“Let me you tell you something, bud,” he said as we drank. “A man has got to be man. And that girl you think you love, and you probably do, don’t get me wrong, she’ll get hers.  The universe works on the revenge principle. What goes around, comes around. Know what I’m saying?”

“I hear that, but still…”

“It happens to us all. Seen it go down again and again.”

“Right.” I wanted to change the subject. “What happened to your cheek there, hurt yourself at work or something?” I was thinking that it was close to his eye, and I could continue the conversation with, good thing you didn’t poke your eye out.

“I’m sort of between jobs, Jimmy. The bandage is there because I had to get a tattoo removed. The bandage should be gone in a couple of days and it will look like nothing was ever there.”

“You had a  tattoo your face?”

He lowered his voice, almost muttered. “I had a tear.”


He squinted at me. “You never heard of guys getting a tattoo of a tear near their eye.”

I shook my head.

“It’s like a club,” He smiled at me. He was missing a tooth in the side of his mouth. “You do stupid things sometimes.”

I thought I knew exactly what he was talking about. “Like falling in love too deeply.”

Then he laughed real loud. It came from his belly and was amplified by his chest. It was a laugh filled with mirth but no joy.  “Something like that. Yeah, something like that..”

But nothing could distract me for very long from thinking about her. Seemed the more drunk I got, the more my thoughts turned to Ellen. I decided to go. I shook Tool’s hand. His grip made my palm ache. Things swerved as I walked outside. My vision went out of focus. The night air felt abnormally refreshing. As I came closer to my car, the moon seemed so bright in the clear sky a memory of the Bahamas vacation was triggered, and my sadness increased. I leaned against my car and removed the picture of her I kept in my pocket. It was one from the vacation. She wore a bikini and stood on the beach, leaning against a palm tree, the ocean behind her.  I smoothed the wrinkles and cracks; shifted my gaze from her image to the moon and back again. Tears streamed down my face.

I heard the door of the bar from across the lot. Tool stood with his fists on his waist; a tall V of dense muscle, like an ugly Stallone or Schwarznegger. He swaggered towards me with a smile. “Hey bud. Gramps asked me to go. Guess he wants to close early and go home.”

“Yeah. I got to go too.” I got off the car and as I tried to put the picture back in my pocket he grabbed my arm

“What do you got there?” He took the picture, whistled long and sharp. “Nice bitch, bud. I can see why you are hurting so much.”

I rubbed my eyes, snatched at his hand. “Just give it back please.”

For a moment I thought he might punch me. I shivered. But he gurgled his harsh laugh and handed me the picture. “She’ll get hers, don’t worry. Want to give me a ride.”

“A ride?”

“I walked here. I like to walk. I’m staying with my cousin at his apartment.”

I didn’t want to go home, so I figured why not. We didn’t talk much. I dropped him on main street. He was living in some place over the dry cleaners. It was less than a mile from Ellen’s place. I circled the neighborhood, forgetting about Tool as my tears again appeared. Seemed sometimes all I did when drunk was cry, and if I wasn’t at work, I was drunk. At night, I would have nightmares and she always made an appearance in these humiliating visions. I’d be reliving some stupid incident from childhood, like when my father yelled at me for wetting the bed, the whole scene outlined with fire and blood. Besides my father, there was always other scary stuff, like monsters and clowns. Then Ellen would float through like an apparition. My dreams never made sense. They just came. Irrevocable. Like the dawn or the sunset.

 I stopped in front of her apartment. She lived on the bottom floor of a two family house. She had her own separate entrance. The light was still on in the living room area. She was taking night classes and worked in the afternoon and I knew she liked watching infomercials and old re-runs that came on after Jay and Conan. 

 Maybe it was the booze, or meeting a real man like Tool or just being fed up with sorrow, or maybe it was just a combination of thoughts and feelings galvanized by the moon and the night, but I had this sensation of courage. I was emboldened, empowered. I had this insight that if there was a God, Ellen would realize how much not being together had hurt me and would feel so bad she would take me in her arms and heal me with her love. I did believe in God.

I felt suddenly sober as I marched towards her door. I rang the bell a few times. She turned the TV low. I knocked firmly but not too loud, not like a maniac or anything. I called her name in a loud whisper. I didn’t want to scare her.

“It’s late. What do you want.”

“I just wanted to see you. I just wanted to talk to you.”

She opened the door. She did not use the chain, I don’t even think it was locked. I could see her eyes and her chin and her neck and the long white night shirt I remembered slipping off her. “What do you want, Jimmy.”

  “I love you.”

 “Get over it. I did.”

 “I still need you.” My voice cracked. “I’m so lonely I want to kill my self.”

 “Well, maybe you should. I don’t need you. I want to grow up, I want to live like an adult and make something out of my life and I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t include you.”

I sobbed. She reacted with disgust. Before she closed the door, she said, “If you don’t go, if you don’t leave me alone, I’m calling the police.”

What else could I do? There was no more to say. I was helpless, emasculated. I had no hope and just staying there would mean arrests and more bad feelings and I was probably drunk enough to have my license taken away, which would mean not being able to get to work. Then what would my mother say?

I couldn’t sleep too well. I was all cried out. The inebriation faded, leaving just a headache and parched throat. I even tried to pleasure myself, and despite the magazines I had under my bed, I could only think of Ellen. I tried using my memories as a basis for sex fantasies. That just made me feel even more lonely. Trying to pretend, just reinforced the fact she was not there with me.

I worked at the warehouse. I  was like a zombie, thinking about nothing, just went through the motions. I jotted information on forms,  packed up the boxes, loaded and unloaded those trucks, performed all tasks necessary for shipping and receiving. I made small talk about sports with the other stinky losers enslaved by this nowhere job. Then I went home and tried to sleep until it all happened again. I spent a couple of days sober.  Eventually, I knew I had to do something. I couldn’t go on like this. I had to get Ellen to remember what I used to mean to her. I had to get her to need me like I needed her.

It was back to Paddy’s. It was another empty night. Seems people were only drinking on the weekends. With Kenny in boot camp, I had no one to hang out with. Except Tool.

“You feeling any better, bud,” Tool said,  when I sat down and ordered. His bandage was gone, replaced by a small, pale blemish. I then noticed a scar near his left ear, and the acne and pockmarks scattered on the skin between the sideburns and goatee,

“Yeah.” But just him saying that made me feel worse, made me reenact all the anguish I was trying to suppress. I shook off the tears. “It just seems to me that I could do something else, to make her want me again. I know she has feeling for me. It’s all wrapped up in what she thinks is her life and her responsibility. Career and adulthood crap.”

“Women change. They all want to be independent and self actualized and all that nonsense they say on Oprah. They want to be like Mary Tyler Moore or That Girl. But, what they really want is prince charming. That knight on the white horse. They want to be protected.”

“Why can’t she see that the white knight is me? I sent her flowers, I even went to see her the other night. But I was drunk and she told me to get lost.”

“You got to show her that you’re strong. You can’t be showing up and crying your eyes out. If you want to get her back, you need a better approach.”

I guess I was on my second drink. That’s what is good about taking a break from the booze. The alcohol’s stimulating effects come back. I had the beginnings of the idea. “If I could just be there to save her. “

“The white knight thing, like I was saying. Saving the damsel in distress.”

By now,  I had deluded myself into thinking that Tool was my best friend. When I had the idea, the words just came out. “Maybe you can help me out. You can scare her, then let me chase you away.”

“You want me to be the distress?”

“Right. You said you do things. That’s why you got the name Tool.”

“That’s true.”

“I could pay you.”

“For what?”

“You go to her apartment like you are going  to steal things. I know where she lives, and it’s so quiet that you would not get caught. I come by like I did the other night, but this time it’s different. I can be the white knight. I save her and she will be in my debt and all grateful and she’ll realize how much she needs me. Maybe she’ll want me to move in.”  Just thinking about it make me excited. I paid for the next round. What was that story the nuns used to tell? That saint who was struck by lightening and then he saw the light? St. Paul? I was St. Paul. I was on the road to Damascus and now I was seeing the light. “I’ll pay you, Tool. I know you can act scary. You look real big.  It’s not like I’m going to hurt you or anything. You scare her, I show up, and then you leave. I’ll give you a hundred bucks. Two hundred bucks. How much would it be worth to you.?”

He agreed to three hundred dollars, he said that he had to up the price because there was always a chance of getting caught, and that would be risk for him, since he’s had some recent trouble with the police and that would just make things worse. Foolishly, I thought that this would be better. He was used to doing things against the law. He would be more convincing.

I knew her schedule. I knew the best night. A light drizzle fell, which encouraged dog walkers and such to stay at home. Everywhere was deserted. No cop cars whatsoever. I had this feeling everything would be perfect. I was confident in the brilliance of my plan.

 We drove by her house a few times. He got out to check things out, to make sure she was alone as I went around the block again. He met me three blocks away. I gave him the money.

“Give me a half hour. I’ll leave the front door open.”

“Check.” He trotted off into the slender sheets of black rain and I looked at my watch. After 25 minutes passed I drove right up to her place and parked. Then I took a few deep breaths. I prepared to pretend to save her. I was nonchalant to begin with, strolling at an even pace through the rain to her door, ringing the door bell then knocking and then I called her name a few times. I opened the door—a good sign, it was unlocked like he said—and went inside. Tool was standing in front of the couch with his pants off. Ellen was sitting on the couch in front of him. Her head was below his waist and his hands covered her ears.

“Hey,” I screamed, still at this point sticking with the scenario. As I got closer I could see her mouth on him, the front of her night shirt ripped in two, and her arms tied behind her back. Her mouth let go of him. I noticed fear in her eyes and a large red welt on the side of her face.

“Go get help, Jimmy!” she screamed.

“Shut up,” Tool spat and slapped her. He was scaring her a hell of a lot more than we planned. We hadn’t discussed hurting her. I guess I assumed he wasn’t like that.

“Get out of here before I kill you,” I shouted real macho and loud. Then I faked punched his thick arm. This was the cue for him to turn and run and for a moment I even thought he was pausing to get his pants. I hit him much harder, arched my eyebrows to signal that it was time for him to act scared and leave. Instead, he laughed at me  and his fist jabbed my stomach.

I doubled over on the floor, gasping with pain and tasting bile.

“Sorry Jimmy,” he chortled. “I just wanted to party a little, figure to scare her more.”

“How do you know his name,” said Ellen. Then she understood, and commenced screaming.

“Either shut up or die,”  said Tool.

She closed her mouth, shaking and crying. He touched her all over, then forced her back on the couch and pushed her thighs apart..

“That is one nice cookie. It’s been so long since I had a cookie. Not as tight as the butt, but nice, real nice.”

He began to buck against her, faster and faster. I got to my feet and kicked him a few times and shouted and then he shoved me down on the couch and my forehead bumped against Ellen’s skull..

“Tool, we didn’t talk about this.”

Tool laughed as he heaved into her. She howled all this painful gibberish. Besides vulgarities, I recognized my name. I started screaming too. He grabbed the back of my neck between his thumb and forefinger and lifted me up. It was like a vise, pressing so hard I could feel the imprint of his fingers on my spinal column. Then he pushed my face into her face.

“Kiss her! Kiss her!” He moved my head so our lips were together. Our screams were muffled, but I could feel her terror and pain and the thuds from his body pounding into her’s. She bit my tongue and I tasted blood.

After he ejaculated,  he smacked my head a few times. I must have passed out because I don’t remember my hands and legs being tied. Ellen was next to me, crying uncontrollably.

He came out of her bed room with a pillow case filled with  jewelry. Then he went into the kitchen, I heard some glass smash and he came out chewing a sandwich and guzzling from a broken bottle of wine. He hadn’t bothered with a cork screw. He just cracked off the neck of the bottle. The wine drooled out his lips, soaking his goatee, dripping down his pockmarked neck.

He threw the bottle against the wall then played with himself, gurgling with that hideous laugh. “Now I want something tighter. Maybe it’s time for you boy. It was the only good thing about Rahway. Except punks thought they were tough. You’re not tough at all. Guess it’s only right, for her to watch what you watched.”

I was crying like a child. He gripped the back of my pants and ripped them from my body, instantly peeling the denim away from my skin. I defecated from fear. Disgusted, he cursed at me, then punched me in the kidneys so hard I vomited.

He picked up one of the end-table lamps, threw off the shade and crushed the light bulb into my rectum, then shoved the socket inside. A fierce electrical shock made my entire body spasm. The room went dark. The circuit breaker box had blown a fuse.

Then the last thing I saw before the police came was Tool pulling Ellen’s arms behind her head. I heard a bone break. Her mouth seemed frozen in a silent scream. Tool convulsed against her, a satanic grin accompanying his bestial grunts.

There were two cops and they had their flashlights and guns out. Some neighbor finally called 911. Tool wasn’t about to go easily. He was on parole, had just done five years on a manslaughter charge. It’s surprising how someone like that could be in the suburbs. Bergen County seems so nice and clean and safe. The cops put two bullets in him before he was subdued. Then the paramedics arrived.

I confessed. I had to, I mean, I wanted to. I was convicted of accessory and conspiracy charges, and because of the nature of the crime, I was sentenced to three years of hard time in Rahway state prison, even though it was my first arrest. Ellen was also filing civil charges against me. My lawyer advised my mother to cease all contact with me, in case they tried to sue her as well.

Tool, he didn’t want to go back to living in a jail cell. He would not wipe himself properly after going to the bathroom, and would poke the bullet holes with fecal covered fingers in order to infect the wounds and stay in the prison infirmary and out of the general population. A black orderly tried to stop this by keeping him bound in bed. Tool fought back. On the death certificate it said Tool died of a coronary, but the word is he was murdered by another black orderly who held a pillow over his face. Some kind of conflict between the Nation of Islam and the Aryan Brotherhood.

I’ve burned the picture of Ellen and tore up a letter from Kenny. I hadn’t even bothered to read it.All I want to do is die. And I will, as soon as I figure out how. I still think of Ellen, but it’s all hazy and distorted. I remember the feeling of love, but it isn’t connected to anything. I don’t see her face when I close my eyes. There’s only darkness and the sound of her screams.