Avi looked around for a seat, settling for the one at the flimsy desk that every cheap motel room came equipped with. Clearing his throat, he began with, “First, I’m really sorry about what I did-”
But Mitch held his hand up. “No. Start explaining.”
Avi’s shoulders slumped in resignation. “Alright. So I didn’t tell you about the breakup because I’m still processing it. And when I got back from Everett, you were going through your own stuff. I didn’t want to add more weight to the cross that you carried. Anyway, Charlie and I weren’t happy together for a long time, a few years at least? It got fucking dark, man.”
“Oh, you don’t have to-” Mitch started, but Avi shook his head.
“No, I owe you a bit of honesty after everything. And I kind of want to talk about it, actually,” Avi chuckled bitterly. “Can’t give all the details, and I’m trying to figure out how to word this without…” He pursed his lips. “So she came back from an assignment in Gaza that went. Badly. I took a year off from wrestling to try to help her, but that wasn’t enough. She needed counseling, professional help, but her parents had her convinced that she didn’t need it. That’s just the kind of people they are. I tried to support her by myself, and then she started taking her issues out on me. It was like she’d get aggravated, and then a switch would flip and next thing I knew she’d start berating me, making comments about uh, my appearance. Sounding a lot like her dad.”
The implication hung heavy as Avi used the same tone from Krampusnacht when he explained what he endured during the first few years of his wrestling career. As he spoke, it was as if someone put Mitch’s heart into a vice.
Avi continued. “We were engaged for a while, actually. She broke it off, but we stayed together because I thought that enough elbow grease could repair this. Relationships are hard work, right? But then…” He squeezed his eyes shut. “She randomly decided to stop taking her birth control, and didn’t tell me. I don’t know what she was thinking, we both agreed a long time ago that we didn’t want kids, but all of a sudden she changed her mind. Maybe it was her idea of fixing what went wrong? Anyway, I freaked out after she casually detonated that nuke, and we got into a huge fight. Her reasoning was that I’d ‘step up as a man’ if I became a father. I didn’t…I didn’t think I was doing a bad job? I know I’m just one guy, but I really tried.”
“Holy shit,” Mitch uttered, practically having to pick his jaw up from off of the floor. Avi wiped his eyes and nodded.
“Yeah. And when I tried to break up with her, but a bunch of people intervened, including my mom. A whole barrage of guilt trips, it was great. We went to couples therapy for a while, I resumed wrestling because I needed to get away. Things seemed normal for a bit. Until the beginning of last year, when she brought up marriage, and. Dude, I couldn’t. I still didn’t trust her enough to make that sort of commitment. I tried to explain this as gently as possible, that I don’t think that’s in the cards. We get to May or June, and she hits me with ‘well if you don’t propose to me by the end of the year, we don’t have a future’. I tried to rip the bandage off, and my sister agreed that I should cut ties.”
“Well thank Christ someone in your family is sane.”
“Oh, you’d get along with Cat. She wants to meet you.” Avi smiled for the first time since he’d gotten there.
“I didn’t realize that she had a name,” Mitch teased.
“Cut me some slack, I’m new to the whole ‘opening up’ thing,” scoffed Avi. “But yeah, my mom begged me to reconsider, and my brother spewed some shit about being an adult and needing to settle down. I decided to stick it out, because I thought that maybe I’d change my mind, maybe it wasn’t all that bad. Except it was.” He rubbed his neck, appearing exhausted after his lengthy anecdote. Mitch resisted the urge to yet again assure that going to such depths wasn’t necessary; because despite relaying such harrowing accounts, the further Avi went, the more relaxed his body language became. How long had he kept this bottled up, Mitch wondered. “Charlie moving out here was supposed to be a compromise, and then we’d see where we were at after a while. Obviously, that didn’t take. And I should have gone through with the breakup years ago, but I wouldn’t have ended up in Monument if I did. So I don’t entirely regret it.”
“Wait, so. That’s why you came home early? Not because everyone was sick?”
“Right. I had a total breakdown and left. It’s also part of why I didn’t get on the plane at Thanksgiving.”
“Ah, your flight wasn’t canceled.” Mitch raised an eyebrow. “What’s the other part?”
“You,” Avi said softly. “Well it was everyone in Monument, but mostly you. I knew that I had feelings for you, and the idea of being away, willingly subjecting myself to being miserable instead of being where I knew where I was happy and accepted was…it was too much. I couldn’t do it.” He looked away, covering his eyes with his hands while the ghost of a smirk crept onto his face. “And also, when I heard Jodie mention Toby’s name, I may have gotten jealous and made some rash decisions at the last second.”
Mitch’s head whipped around. “Is this real life? Am I about to get Punk’d? There’s a camera crew in the bathroom, isn’t there?”
Avi cracked up.