Dodging the bullet didn’t seem to have much of a lasting emotional effect on Jeff. He did slow it down, but he never quit.
I’d still find an occasional bottle stuffed under the computer desk. I’d find an empty chew container on a shelf. “Oh,” Jeff’d p’shaw. “Those are old.”
One time, he even blamed it on his father. “Oh, Dad must have left that behind,” he told me.
“Does your step-mom know your Dad chews?” I snipped. “Maybe I should call her and tell her so you can both detox together!” “No, no, don’t do that,” he pleaded. “It’s mine. Dad bought it for me…. but I haven’t had any for a real long time.”
“Did you tell your dad about the biopsies?” I asked. “Yeah, he knows,” Jeff mumbled.
“Then, why the hell would he buy it for you?” Jeff answered that question slowly. “Because… I asked him to…. I just wanted a little bit…”
He held out his hand to take it from me. I didn’t give it to him.
“I’ll get rid of it for you.” I told him. “Aw, don’t throw it away,” Jeff whined. “It’s almost new. I promise… it’ll be my last one. I won’t buy anymore.”
“It’s your last one,” I agreed. I walked out to the back porch and dumped the shredded contents behind the house.
“Aw, dang it.” I heard behind me. Jeff had followed me out.
He stopped me before I walked back in. “Let’s just sit out here for a bit,” he requested. “It’s a nice night. We haven’t done this in a while.” So, we sat, talking about non-important things: tightly holding hands until the sun went down – a settling, comfortable reminiscence of ourselves and who we were, together.
After a few more and more frequent “those are old” excuses, I embarrassingly became very belatedly suspicious.
The next tin I found, I kept to myself, having decided I would take it with me to Jeff’s regular Speedway station. I wanted to know if they were truly all old misplaced remnants or if he was truly lying to me. How was I planning to determine that? By expiration date.
The very next day, I dropped off my last van pool passenger and drove directly to the source. I stood in line feeling angry and sneaky, betrayed and betraying: wholly conflicted.
I didn’t want to catch Jeff lying, but I didn’t want him to make a fool of me, any longer, either. I also didn’t want to cause a scene in front of other customers. So, I took deep breaths, trying to make sure my voice would be calm.
When it was my turn, I pulled the recently found Skoal container from my purse and quietly asked, “Do you carry this brand?”
The clerk quickly turned away from the register and grabbed a matching green one from the dispenser behind the counter. “Anything else?” he asked.
“Oh, no. I don’t want to buy it…” I hurriedly explained. “I just want to know the expiration date.”
The clerk stared at me. “Seriously,” I prompted. “It’s important. I just need to know the expiration date.”
He picked it up, turned the little package over and around a few times. When he finally located it, he pointed to the dot matrix printed notation.
I nodded my thanks and left without a word. I had my answer.
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