a HoodieRipper short story by Chris Eng
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by Chris Eng, illustration by Cristy C. Road
“Okay, go ahead.”
Becky opened her eyes. What spread out in front of her was one of the cheesiest things she’d ever seen.
She was looking off the roof of the Adams Building toward the harbour. More than half of downtown was caught in her view and the twilight sky had begun to daub the surrounding landscape in swatches of orange and purple. Directly in front of her, a blanket was laid next to an ’80s boombox. Rev, clad in his least scungiest sweater and jeans, stood next to her holding a $12 bottle of shiraz. “Ta-da,” he said, straight-faced. “Sit down. I’ll take care of everything.”
Becky looked back and forth at Rev, the blanket, the skyline, the blanket, Rev, the skyline and Rev, trying hard to stifle the laughter building. Was he really doing this? Getting her giggles under control, she sat on a corner of the blanket.
Rev reached into the front pouch of his knapsack and produced two cassettes. “Lady’s choice,” he stated. “Sinatra or The Ramones?”
She pointed at the Frank Sinatra tape. If everything was going to be over-the-top, there was no point in doing it half-assed. Rev dropped the tape in the player and the strains of ‘Young at Heart’ began to play as he pulled two plastic Muppet Babies tumblers and a corkscrew out of the bag. He opened the bottle, filled the cups and passed one over.
Becky and Rev’s relationship over the previous six months had been a number of things. Unexpected was definitely one of them, but so were surprising, goofy and maybe even slightly miraculous. She wasn’t a pessimist or a cynic, but the realist in her had long since given up on the fairy tale. Most guys were after one thing so she’d set herself to finding one of them who was better at it than others and maybe had a couple of redeeming qualities beyond that. It was really just settling for the best of a bunch of options. Then Rev showed up.
Standing three inches taller than Becky (the right amount), Rev understood style (rare in the guys she knew) and hygeine (rarer), he liked the same bands that she did (practically unheard of) and constantly introduced her to bands she’d never heard of (exciting), he was handsome (she described him as Byronically dorky), and he was romantic.
In fact, the romantic gestures never seemed to stop. It was almost overwhelming, especially for a girl who considered herself mousy, or at least underwhelming. Her black hair was cut into a shaggy bob; a pair of Buddy holly glasses perched on her nose and she habitually wore boys’ clothes. Why he made an effort was beyond her – especially after he’d already won her over.
There was a night a few months back when she’d come home to find him sitting in one of her chairs patiently reading a book and the words “I LOVE YOU BECKY” spelled out in love hearts on her bedspread. She’d started to cry then. She didn’t even know why; she just turned away weeping and suddenly Rev was behind her, holding her, asking her what was wrong, telling her it was going to be all right.
And that night she decided to believe him. She’d spent so much of her life denying the fairy tale that she was initially ready to view Rev as anything other than what he was. He was just trying to get into her pants, she thought; he was fucking with her head; he’d get bored in a week and go screw someone else. But he never did. He didn’t do any of those things (except get into her pants, which he did often) – he was there simply because he loved her. And the night he ambushed her with the love hearts she conceded that the girls in elementary school who’d babbled about how they were waiting for their prince to show up might have actually had a point, because she didn’t know what Rev was if not her Prince Charming, and she didn’t know what she was living, if not a fairy tale.
Rev pulled a couple of Italian bistro candles out of the knapsack, lit them and set them on the tar-paper roof. Then, removing two Ziploc tubs of linguine in cream sauce, he passed one to Becky.
“It’s hot,” she exclaimed.
“Better be. It was practically molten when I put it in there.”
“You made it yourself?”
“With Sarah’s help, yeah.”
“When you weren’t looking.” He smiled and handed her a fork. Sitting down next to her, he tucked in. They ate in silence.
When they were done he stacked the containers one inside the other. Becky went to take a sip of wine and found her glass empty. “Top-up?” he asked.
“You know, we never toasted,” she said as he refilled their cups.
“Couldn’t think of a good one.” He touched his glass to hers, the thick clunk of the plastic substituting for a clink.
“To… to us,” she said.
“Yeah, to us.”
They drank their glasses down quietly and watched as the sun sank below the horizon, leaving them draped in purple and shadow.
“So, this is it,” she said. “This is all we get.”
“You don’t know that.”
“You’re leaving for Providence tomorrow. That’s on the other side of the continent. And you don’t know when, or if, you’re coming back.”
“Then this is all we get. I can’t wait for you, Rev.”
“But it doesn’t have to end like this.”
“It already has. I love you, but I’m not hanging out and hoping the fairy tale magically kicks in again someday. Especially not after the thing already wrapped up thirty pages back. You get me?”
“I get you.” They watched the cars drive by and listened to the murmur of people on the sidewalk below. “Will you dance with me?” he asked quietly.
“Yeah.” He switched tapes and the twangy strains of ‘Questioningly’ by The Ramones echoed across the rooftop. As they danced, the tears welled up in her again and her feet stopped moving and she wept. Rev wrapped his arms around her tightly and and kissed her and told her it was going to be all right.
And she tried so hard to believe him.