Avi adjusted the rearview mirror and cleared his throat. “Hey, so,” he started in a fragile tone, the type that Mitch absolutely loathed, words made out of delicate crystal that were on the verge of crackling. But then the cadence kicked up as he continued. “For what it’s worth -and it’s probably not much- but I think this is one of the most…” He grasped at the empty air, as though he was seeking to pull words from the ether itself. “This blows. I don’t know the details, but I can tell that it’s miserable. And you’re doing something that’s either really courageous or really stupid, and I don’t envy what you’re going through even a little bit.”
Mitch chewed on the inside of his cheek and glanced over at the clock. He forced out a shaky, “thanks”, but nothing else. Dread left him paralyzed, so his reactions were limited.
“Of course.” There was a smile on Avi’s face, but its deference almost caused Mitch to sob.
For the remainder of the trip, the words exchanged were non-committal, a far cry from the conversations that they held earlier. As soon as signs for Greenwich sprung up, Mitch’s leg bounced without restraint. He knew he’d have to address his concerns, and after some consideration, he unceremoniously blurted out, “Don’t come up to the loft with me. Stay in the car.”
“Aren’t you going to need help getting everything downstairs?”
“I’m not paying you to help me move stuff, just the gas for the ride,” Mitch responded distantly, but his bottom lip quivered despite his attempt to remain frigid.
“OK, so…” started Avi. “That’s all well and good. You have a bad shoulder, though. And I promise these aren’t just TV muscles? I can handle a few boxes.”
“I don’t-” Mitch’s voice escalated, as if he was bracing for a fight. But Avi just looked confused, and this wasn’t a confrontation that merited hostility. Sagging in the seat, he could feel the protective varnish stripped away due to the three hours they’d been enclosed together, and now he was raw and vulnerable. “I don’t want you to meet him. Or…or see me around him, alright?” He admitted, and squeezed his eyes shut. “I don’t want him to have more ammunition, I just. I need to get in and out of there as quick as I can.”
“Dude, hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you can’t do this part on your own. Unless you’re gonna try to get him to help you get stuff into the car, and in which case, uh…we’re meeting regardless. Sorry.”
“Fuck me,” Mitch choked out, unable to hide the anguish any longer.
“Another person being there could make things awkward?” offered Avi. “I don’t mind falling on that grenade.”
While Avi strategized, Mitch thought about yanking the steering wheel to get him to turn around. Forget having closure, he could become a ghost and never interact with Calvin again. His ego was practically non-existent on a regular day, but the last two weeks had left him half-dead. The idea of having someone see the final blow be delivered live and in living color, and then the vultures pick at his corpse’s entrails, was a step too far, too much.
But he was also too exhausted to protest, and they were now blocks away from his former home. So put an end to this, throw his body into the Hudson River. Who cared? What did it matter anymore? He responded with a meek “OK” and clung to his own shirtsleeve, nearly ripping the fabric from the tension.