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Neanderthal Seeks Human

By´╝ÜPenny Reid

CHAPTER 1

I lost it in the bathroom.

Sitting on the toilet, I started to panic when I noticed the graveyard of empty toilet paper rolls. The brown cylinders had ostensibly been placed vertically to form a half oval on top of the flat shiny surface of the stainless steel toilet paper holder. It was like some sort of miniature recycled Stonehenge in the women’s bathroom, a monument to the bowel movements of days past.

It was sometime around 2:30pm that my day exited the realm of country-song-bad and entered the neighboring territory of Aunt-Ethel’s-annual-Christmas-letter-bad. Last year Aunt Ethel wrote, with steady stalwart sincerity, of Uncle Joe’s gout, her two-count them: one, two car accidents, the new sinkhole in their backyard, their impending eviction from the trailer park, and Cousin Serena’s divorce. To be fair, Cousin Serena got divorced every year so… that didn’t really count toward the calamitous computation of yearly catastrophes.

I sucked in a breath and reached inside the holder; my hand grasped for tissue and found only another empty roll. Leaning down at a remarkably awkward angle I tried to peer into the depths of the vessel, hoping for another yet unseen roll higher up and within. Much to my despair the holder was empty.

“Shit.” I half whispered, half groaned, then suddenly laughed at my unanticipated joke. How appropriate given my current predicament. A bitter smile lingered on my lips as I gritted my teeth and the same three words which were floating through my head all day resurfaced:

Worst. Day. Ever.

It was, no pun intended, an extremely shitty day.

Like all good country songs, it started with a cheat’n fool. The ‘cheatee’ in the song was obviously none other than me and the ‘cheater’ was my longtime boyfriend Jon. My realization of his philandering arrived via an empty condom wrapper tucked in the back pocket of his jeans as I, the dutifully dumb girlfriend, decided to help him out by throwing some of his laundry in with mine.

I reflected on the resulting debate, after found condom wrapper was smacked to his forehead by my palm, I couldn’t help but think Jon had a good point: was I was upset with him for having cheated on me or was I disappointed that he was such a dummy as to put the condom wrapper back in his pocket after taking out the condom. I tried to force myself to think about the discussion, to focus on my words from earlier that morning:

“I mean, really, who does that? Who thinks to themselves: ‘I’m going to cheat on my girlfriend but I’ve got too much of a social conscience to leave my condom wrapper on the floor- heaven forbid I litter.’”

I stared at the blue and white Formica door of my stall, tearing my bottom lip though my teeth, contemplating my options, and trying to decide if staying in the stall for the rest of the day were actually feasible. Hell, at this point, staying in the stall for the rest of my life seemed like a pretty good option particularly since I didn’t really have anywhere to go.

The apartment he and I shared belonged to Jon’s parents. I insisted on paying rent but my paltry $500 contribution plus half of the utilities likely didn’t cover 1/16th the cost of the mid-town two bedroom, two bath walk-up.

I think part of me always knew he was a cheater, too good to be true. He was all the things I always thought I wanted, still believed I wanted: smart, funny, sweet, nice to his family, good looking in an adorkable kind of way. We shared nearly identical political views, ideological views, values; we were even the same religion. He put up with my eccentricities, even said I was ‘cute’ when ‘weird’ was the word I was most used to hearing about myself. He made romantic gestures. He was a wooer in a time when wooing was dead. In college, he wrote me poetry before we started to date; and it was good poetry, topical, related to my interests and the current political climate. It gently warmed my heart but it didn’t make my sensibilities explode; then again, I wasn’t an exploding sensibilities type of girl.

However, he also came from money; lots and lots of money. This was a thorn in our relationship since the beginning. I carefully measured each expense and dutifully tallied my monthly budget. He bought whatever he wanted when he wanted it. As much as I loathed admitting, I suspected that I owed him a lot. I always suspected that he or his dad, who always wanted me to call him Jeff but I always felt more comfortable calling him Mr. Holesome, pulled the strings which landed me an interview for my job.

Even after our fight, for it was the closest we’d ever come to a fight, this morning he told me I could stay, that I should stay, that he wanted to work things out, he wanted to take care of me, that I needed him. I ground my teeth, setting my jaw, firming my resolve; there was no way I was going to stay with him.

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