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**PRINT: FRIENDS FROM CINCINNATI: Installment 24 features this part coming-of-age short by Chicago's Patrick Somerville, author of the Trouble collection of shorts out in 2006. | PAST BROADSHEETS |

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Holly Day

When he comes home, I will be gone.

We run into each other a few months after the break-up. I have cut my hair to just above my collar and bleached it blonde. My new boyfriend rides a Harley and we both have matching leather jackets. My new boyfriend is a few years older than me and wears scuffed-up blue jeans and insists on carrying me around in his arms, cradled like a small child.

We run into each other at one of our old haunts, the coffeehouse in front of the university. We saw a year's worth of local poets and musicians from the table right in front. He is sitting at our table, alone, when my new boyfriend carries me in through the front door and sets me down gently on a bar stool.

No, he is sitting at our table with a skinny dark girl that looks about sixteen when me and my new boyfriend walk into the coffeehouse together, holding hands. We have our matching leather jackets on, his hair an ominous black slick covering his skull, contrasting with his extremely friendly smile, mine a bleached white Marilyn Monroe nest of curls. I am wearing bright red lipstick. Everyone is staring at us as we find a table and sit. I have taken up smoking again -- I light a cigarette for both of us and lean close to my new boyfriend, practically sitting in his lap.

We run into each other a year later. I have taken a turn for the worse -- I have starting using heroin with a couple of my new friends. He comments on how much weight I have lost -- he doesn't know about the heroin yet -- and he asks if I've been eating, genuine concern in his eyes. I smile bravely and tell him everything's okay, how is he doing, what's been going on his life. He tells me about his new girlfriend, she sounds like a bimbo, but he's happy. A million snide comments run through my head, but I bite them back and congratulate him on his new-found happiness. We plan to meet for lunch later that week and he turns to go.

My junky boyfriend shows up in his black low-rider convertible -- his car looks a lot like the Batmobile -- and hollers for me to jump in. I hurriedly get my things and hobble over to the car in my ridiculous high heels. I wave good-bye and he has a horrified look on his face, like everything that's happened to me over the past year since we broke up has come to him in a crashing revelation. He acts like he's about to say something, but right then my new boyfriend slams his foot down on the accelerator and we peel out down the street.

I watch him disappear slowly from the rear-view mirror, standing in the middle of the street, hands in his pockets. I wonder, briefly, how long he just stands there, staring after the car, before he goes home to his new girlfriend, fiancee', whatever he has without me. I light cigarettes for both me and the man sitting next to me, careful not to get any lipstick on his cigarette.

We run into each other at the zoo at few months later. I somehow landed a job as a gorilla trainer, and have spent the last four weeks buried in my work. I am sitting in the main primate exhibit talking in sign language to Bob, my favorite mountain gorilla, when I look up at see him through the glass partition separating the visitors from the exhibits.

He raises his hand in a half-wave when he sees me, a flustered look on his face. A brunette eating cotton candy is standing beside him, a sour expression on her face. He has told her about me -- gloated, I'd guess, by the look of hate she flashes me before smiling and waving as well.

I wave back and smile brightly myself. Bob mimics me, much to the delight of the other visitors to the zoo. I throw my arms around the gorilla and hug him much more enthusiastically than usual, inhaling his sweet grassy scent, and wonder if I am finally happy.

I spend the evening writing farewell letters, Dear John letters, scary almost-suicide letters. I have no idea where to go, if I should stay with a friend or just pick a hotel at random to stay at. I think of Doctor Doolittle, how when he picked his destinations by opening an atlas and going wherever the book fell open to. We don't have an atlas.

I wonder how my parents would react if I just showed up on their doorstep with a suitcase, and immediately scratch that idea. They would love to hear how they were right about him, about how wrong we were for each other -- later, my mother would coax me into telling her about all his strange habits, how he was in bed, our various incompatibilities.

The clock hands sweep past another hour. He still hasn't come home, still hasn't called to explain where he is, to make up another lie about staying late at work. I wrap the remains of dinner in aluminum foil and put them in the refrigerator, right in front where he will see them.

When he comes home, I will be gone.