Boom, Boom, Pow, or How Maggie Almost Got Hers
I have a friend. Let’s call her Maggie. (Hi Maggie!) When we were college roommates, I called her Mags, like the blond guy from Aha, if you remember him. Maggie is also blonde, but with an “e” because she’s female.
Maggie was madly in love with a girl we’ll call Bertha—Bert for short. They’re both ugly names.
Two years after gay marriage was made legal in the state of Massachusetts, Maggie and Bert tied the knot in their own home. For a gift, I bought them a picture frame made by poor Bangladeshi women and wrapped it in bright red paper. When Maggie saw me walk across her front lawn the day of the wedding, she rushed out to greet me, her eyes quickly glancing down at the red wrap, or my outfit, maybe. I was dressed better than her—her in white pants and a black tank top, me in fucking tan suit borrowed from my sister—and it pissed me off a little, but whatever. She hugged me and I held the frame out to the side, arm extended, like I was holding a flag, so the wrapping wouldn’t get torn or wrinkled. Then her hands were on my arms and she pulled away to look at me, or for me to look at her.
Before I saw her face, and I mean, really looked closely, I had wanted to say, “Mags, what are you doing?” meaning the marriage thing, this wedding. But when I looked into her stupid blue eyes, I didn’t. I had never seen Maggie so happy as I did that day. These moments weren’t plentiful, and not because she was an especially tortured person, but because she never seemed thrilled about anything. She blames this on her German bloodline.
So what I said instead was, “Dude, congratulations.”
Maggie said, “Thanks, dude!” and beamed.
But talk to anyone, any of our friends—Tyler, Taylor, Collin, or Cat—and they would have told you the same thing: Maggie shouldn’t have married Bert because Bert was straight. Everyone knew this but Maggie. I mean, we didn’t have proof, but it was a feeling. Maggie loved Bert and Bert loved Maggie, but just not in the same way exactly. And since I was the only one who had the guts to mention this to her, I did. And when I did, Maggie looked up, her brow furrowed a bit when she said, “But if Bert is straight, why is she with me?”
And this was a question no one could answer.
Then she said, “And like this is any of your fucking business,” although not necessarily in an unkind way.
This is why it was no surprise when I got a call at 11:30 at night on a Sunday just weeks before Christmas, two years after I had last seen Maggie at her wedding.
She said, “Ange.”
“Yeah?” I said, even though I had no idea who it was, but only people I knew called me Ange.
“I just did the most terrible thing.”
“I totally went into her e-mail.”
“She’s fucking this guy named Leonard. Like, totally fucking this guy.”
“Who, Bert? Maggie?” I had been asleep. That’s why all the questions, with me so discombobulated.
“Yes. Yes it’s me.”
This was my first experience as an adult with a friend who had her or his heart broken by infidelity, so I didn’t really know what to say. Sure, 10, 15 years ago, it would have been, “Oh, fuck that bitch!” But now this moment was heavy and awkward, with so much invested, with promises broken, with real estate and a dog and two names on everything. What do you, what can you say?
I chose, “Aw, fuck, dude. I’m sorry.”
Maggie said, “Yeah.” And then, rushed and whispered, “She’s coming. I’ve got to go.”
I called Maggie the next day, and then the next, and then the day after that. I called and I listened. I think it’s what she needed. I couldn’t possibly have told her anything different than what her mom, her sister and brothers told her, the other people in her life that were closer to her now than I was. On the phone, she sounded like someone had ripped out the Maggie I had known for years—her dry wit, her sarcasm, her really big vocabulary I was always impressed by—and left this lifeless being that still used her voice. I don’t think there’s a word for this. Maybe eviscerated. Maybe zombified.
And then on a Friday night, a couple days after New Year’s, she called me and said, “I need your help. I’m going to blow up Bert’s car.”
I, of course, said, “What?”
“And Leonard’s car, too. They drive the same make and model.”
“Cute!” I said.
“No,” Maggie said in a way that made me wish I hadn’t said anything about Bert and Leonard being cute in any way, shape, or form, having no idea how much that one word used to describe those two people hurt so much right now.
“As in yes, so you’re in?”
“First I’m going to bash in her windows with a baseball bat, and then I’m going to blow up her car. And his, maybe, too.”
“And I’m going to do this right where they work, right at the high school.”
“And I really need your help, because I think you’re the only who would.”
With no real time to take offense to this, I said, “But tell me why. Why is she worth potential lawsuits and jail time?” It is so difficult to sway a woman possessed.
Maggie said, “Because she wants both the dog and the house. She can’t fucking have both.”
She said, “Can you meet me at the school at 7:45 tomorrow? That’s when first period starts.”
It was then I learned that, as an adult, infidelity can seriously turn you into a fucking lunatic.
It was January 6, 2006, and the weather was finally seasonably cold. I parked my car at the cemetery across the street, next to the Peterson and Tevez families, and walked on campus just before 8:00 a.m. This way I wouldn’t technically be at the scene of the crime when the crime went down, but would be there to support Maggie and her knew-found fondness for destruction, to put her out if she was on fire, or to direct her away from the scene in a quick and timely fashion. She was a fine arts major, so it’s not like bomb making was something that would have come easy to her. But if Columbine taught us anything, it was that blah, blah, blah, Internet, Internet, Marilyn Manson, yes, it can happen.
The front of the school was reserved for bus dropoffs, a large, plowed out semi-circle, so I made my way toward the right and was instantly accosted by a man wearing a puffy Patriots jacket, a navy blue Red Sox ski hat.
“Are you looking for the office?” he asked.
I stopped, my feet scraping on the sanded pavement in a way that reminded me of the boys that played basketball outside my house when I was a kid. “Yes. Yes, sir,” I said, and wondered, with my heart racing, how I looked right then. In a pea coat and green visor beanie, like not much of a local sports fan.
Him? He looked bothered, like he asked the same question a hundred times a day to people who didn’t belong on a high school campus. “Well, you must have missed the sign out front,” he said accusingly, “but since you’re more than halfway around the building, take the first door on your left and follow those signs instead.” With every word spoken, gray clouds expelled from his mouth.
And this was good news because it meant there were no other gray clouds for him to attend to, like in the faculty parking lot, perhaps. It meant that Maggie hadn’t blown up anything, or at least not yet. Maybe she was waiting for me. Maybe she had changed her mind. Maybe, like the Columbine boys, her homemade whammies had only popped and fizzled. But when I rounded the building, she was nowhere to be found. In a sea of parked cars, their colors dulled by the gray in the sky, the barren trees, the snow battered by footprints, it was only me. Me and the cars and the birds on the wires that led toward the tennis courts and soccer fields.
But then Maggie’s head raised from between two black cars. Both Hyundais. Both Hatchbacks. I wanted to call her name, but who does this? Who uses first names at the scene of a crime, a soon-to-be crime? So I didn’t exactly yell, but said, let’s say, with force, “Hey!”
Maggie didn’t acknowledge this. She walked to the back of one of the cars, placed a baseball bat on the ugly, ornamental fin that sat just beneath its rear window, kept her hands on it. I noticed she was not wearing gloves. Or a coat. She was wearing a shirt with buttons and wide collar, black pants, like she was going to blow up town property and then go to work. I watched her lower and bend at the waist, press her face, her head, against the car’s glass.
And that’s when I heard another voice: “Hey! What are you doing! Maggie!” Bert ran from the first door on the left, the one that would have led me to the office, out toward her or Leonard’s car. She ran and almost slipped and fell on the ice, but caught herself with her arms out like an acrobat. Less graceful, though. More roller derby.
Maggie turned at the sound of Bert’s voice, and when I saw her face all pink and puffy, I wanted to believe it was from the cold, but knew different. She put her hands to her eyes, then her nose, and wiped, and that’s when I lowered my head and turned my back. I heard Bert speak, I heard Maggie’s silence. I retraced my steps to let her live this moment alone.