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My Sacrifice

Part VII of “Pivoting Right: An Unrequited Love Story”

By Conrad IlesiaPublished about a year ago 21 min read

I. (The Middle)

It is after 2 a.m., a long night of drinking behind us.

We park outside, silent for a moment, engine running, bar noises ringing in my ears.

I tell her to be safe, a stupid thing to say because she is five steps from her front door. I hope she will tell me to text her when I get home. Instead, she just looks at me in the dark, opens the door, illuminating the cab. She gets out, grabs her purse and cell phone, which is vibrating. The light in the front seat dims automatically after a few seconds with the door open as she brings her torso back into the cab, ignoring her cell, and I involuntarily stare at her bosom. She is leaning over the front passenger seat. There is no street light in this part of town—no front porch light—as I watch her by moonlight, pointing her finger at me, admonishing.

“Stop being an asshole,” she says, her finger exiting the space between us and she slams the door of my vehicle, walking toward her front door. Safe, I assume.

As it turns out, I love Cecilia.

I would do anything for her, sacrifice it all.


A. (Before)

Cecilia Sanchez settled into the chair across from my desk as I observed the contours of her body. She stared at and then touched one of the business cards between us. I offered her one but she declined after a quick glance at it. I began the interview by explaining my practice when she casually got out of her chair, turned to her right and looked at my degrees pinned to the wall, rudely interrupting me.

"This helps get business," she asked, pointing at my diplomas, certificates and licenses. I didn’t know. I had never been asked that before.

"Of course," I replied.

She was woefully unqualified to assist me in my family law practice, no skills, no background. Rude.

She sat back down.

"Do you know anything at all about family law?"

"I have two kids, six sisters, four brothers, half of ‘em divorced in the last year and a half. My husband makes barely enough money to hit happy hour every night and cheat on me."

I believed that to be a "yes."

Without giving me time to respond to her qualifications : "What do you do for fun?"

"I like to drink.” Since we were being blunt. “There's--"

"A bar across the street. Saw it. That a perk?”

"Listen, I've got to finish these interviews and consider all the candidates and make a decision by the end of the week."

She pursed her lips and started to get up. "Cool."

"What do you like to drink," I asked, kind of not wanting her to leave. Refreshing—in her own way.

"White wine." Basic.

"I'll let you know, Ms. Sanchez."

She extended her hand. "It was a pleasure to meet you."

And, indeed, it was. Lovely, as it turned out.

B. (Forward)

Cecilia walked into my office, pushing the door open unannounced. Let’s exchange cars, she said, not wanting her car to be seen outside his house. I had wanted to challenge her. Scrutinize her logic. So your concern is that your husband may drive by his best friend's house and see your car parked outside? Legitimate concern. And your solution is to, instead, take your boss's Jeep, the only one in town that continues to proudly display a RON PAUL FOR PRESIDENT bumper sticker, the one that's been at your and your husband's house dozens of times, the one that your husband just changed the brakes on? Really? He's just going to keep on driving? We will all be on Investigation Discovery within the hour.

Cecilia, over the years, has become my closest friend—I support her. I’ve always been grateful of her company, her conversation, her business sense. She wants to believe the unbelievable: that things that were never meant to happen happen for a reason--it is supposed to be like this, meant to be. But sometimes those things that happen that were not meant to happen have unintended consequences. And those consequences affect innocent and sometimes not-so-innocent victims. But Cecilia can’t see it.

The exchange of the vehicles was made at the parking lot next to our office and I drove her car home.


I don’t know Jerome, not sure why she was surreptitiously sleeping with him. He seemed ordinary, much too ordinary for her and not that much different from her husband. What's the point of sleeping with the same person you're getting away from?

I would have preferred that she just finally abandon her ex-husband. That's what people do. The marriage ends and everyone moves on.

She didn't fall into a torrid romance; after years of denigration, she decided to cheat back and picked a partner calculated to cause maximum damage. This wasn't burning bridges—this was digging up the foundation, turning it upside down and fire-bombing the remains. It was fuck you ex-husband Herbert, writ large.

She tells me that Jerome really likes Denny and Dolores, especially Dolores. I guess average is OK. Average is just all right.

I have a crush on her. She’s intuitive. She likes tall guys. I am not a tall guy. Think Tom Cruise without looks, money or Scientology. She's an inch shorter than me bare-footed. Her body is attractive, naturally curvy, dark hair cut above her shoulders. She has big eyes, plump lips that pop with lipstick. She is smart, like me. But I'm intuitive, too. I see this ending badly. All of us. All of us ending badly.


It is two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon when I am released from court and I need to eat. I message Cecilia, ask if she wants to join. Duh, she responds, look at your messages. In fact, because I turn off my phone when I'm in court, there were several unread messages, one of which was "lunch plans?" I type in "see you in a few" and head toward Squeezers, our default afternoon meeting place.

Behind the bar, as I'm walking to my place at the corner of the bar, Marianne holds up a can of Love Street, modeling it like a model on The Price is Right and I nod my head yes. She takes a bartender tool from her back pocket, pushes the tab down and sets it in front of me with a flourish. "Hungry?," she asks, using her phone sex voice. I tell her yes but that I'm waiting for Cee Cee. She thumbs up and walks away to another customer.

I'm in the middle of trying to decide when Cecilia gets here whether I should discuss business, open with a joke or fake an interest in her day when I hear an animated one-sided conversation behind me. I see Marianne mouth whisper "white wine?” to her and note Cecilia starting to sit beside me. "Bye,” she exclaims, tossing the phone on the bar in front of us and sitting beside me. Marianne puts the white wine in front of Cecilia and Cecilia says, "Menu." Marianne mouths "what the fuck" to me and walks away.

"Boy trouble?," I ask in my best late-night FM deejay voice.

"Denny's sick at school and his fucking father won't go get him."

I furrow my brow. "You can--," I start.

"Shut up," she says.

I had wanted to tell her she could go take care of the kiddo and come back. I wasn't going anywhere.

After a few moments of silence, she says, "He'd be ok if he wasn't ... SUCH ... a dick." Her voice cracks on the word "such" and instead of saying the right thing, I am silent, staring down my beer. "You know," she asks me, the edge gone. I want to ask which guy is the dick but I fear her.

"Get over the divorce,” she continues. “It’s been six months.”

Oh, that one. Herbert.

“You have a girlfriend. She's not a total bitch." Pulls the glass to her lips. "Such a weasel."

Then, before I can think, "You're fucking his best friend."

Then Marianne is in front of us with Cee Cee's menu. Cecilia grabs Marianne’s hand from across the bar and says, "Babe, I'm sorry I was rude.”

Marianne shrugs, red hair and green eyes, says "you're all good," and walks off. Red halter top, black shorts. Great ass. I'm staring. Cecilia punches my left shoulder.

"You're a jerk, too. Every man in my fucking life.” She pauses, pats my shoulder where she had just hit me. I’m not a man in her life. I’m a boss, a suit, a shoulder, an ear. But, when she looks at me, not a man. Or not that man anyway.

“I don’t know who’s worse,” she says, lifting the glass, half filled with wine, to her full lips.

"You should do a 'T,'" I suggest.

"What's that?"

I explain that she draws a “T” on a sheet of paper, head one column with Jerome, the other side with Herbert. Reasons Jerome is better on one side; reasons Herbert is better on the other.

“You know,” I say, “you can’t keep doing this indefinitely. It’s unsustainable. Herbert is,” here I pause for the right word but I can’t find it so I say, “volatile.”

The scar on the inside of her right arm is evidence enough of that.

“Maybe you should stop fucking the volatile man,” I suggest.

“Well, Steve, it just,” she started, “it just makes things easier.” But it did not seem to me that that was so.

Again, I wanted to scrutinize her reasoning. Again, I let it go. The answer, I thought, is easy if you take it logically.

“I mean,” I said, “if you just want to keep both of them hanging on until—“

Marianne walked up.

“I’m sorry, guys, I’m getting ready to leave. Do you want to transfer or—“

“Get us another round, love,” Cecilia interrupted, “we’ll close out with you.”

“No,” Cecilia said, returning to our conversation, “I need to decide. Not just for me. The kids need me. You know, need me to be in a better place.”

“You said Jerome loves them.”

“He does,” Cecilia said.

Marianne brought our drinks and the tab. Cecilia picked up the piece of paper, perused the total and handed it to me. I handed Marianne my card.

“But he’s not their father,” Cecilia concluded.

“You should do a ‘T,’” I said, more to my Love Street than to her. But she heard. The sweating glass heard and Cecilia heard.

“Why don’t you do a fucking ‘T,’ Steve, if you want it so bad,” Cecilia said. Marianne did her magic at the register, then came back to us with my card and the final receipt. Marrianne offered me both items and as I was taking the items from her, Cecilia grabbed the receipt from Marianne. Marianne shot me a perplexed look. Cecilia added a generous tip, scribbled on the signature line, plopped the receipt down and tossed the pen on top of the receipt. I kept the card.

But we didn’t leave.

We ordered food from the new girl and did not stop drinking until last call.

I messaged Cecilia when I got home safe but she did not respond.

IV. Wednesday, Part One.

I did as she asked me.

I did a “T.”

I even assigned a score to each value: passion, love, parenthood, history, stability; scale of 0 - 20 on each value. Of course, it was guesswork. I did not show my work to Cecilia and we never really talked about It. I wanted to keep it secret.

To my surprise, Herbert The Ex won, 88 to 82. I mean it was close but a win is a win. It seems like the boyfriend has to go.


Cecilia is in a lot of pain. Going back and forth. She is confused and I love her and I know what she needs. She needs


I would do anything for her.

Mom and Dad and God and Jesus, I hope you understand.


The first time I staked out Jerome’s house, a cop came up behind me, lights blazing. I thought, fuck, Cecilia’s right, some things are meant to be—some are not. But the cop ran across the street to Jerome’s neighbor. A little domestic disturbance, one assumes. I continued watching the house. Day after day. I discovered a pattern, an early morning pattern. It went like this:

Jerome would open the garage door, take a step outside and light up a cigarette. After about three to five minutes, if it wasn’t a trash day, he would turn around, stare at the space between his truck and the side of the interior garage wall and then stretch, bringing his arms up to forty-five degrees, holding them that way for about ten seconds and then drop them, along with the used cigarette. He would step on it, next to a pile of other burn-outs. He always looked disappointed, his shoulders slumping, as if he had missed the rapture again.

On trash days, Tuesdays for garbage, Thursdays for recyclables, he would confuse me. His smoke break varied, ummm, let me look at my notes: the shortest, one minute (throwing away half of it); the longest, seven minutes. Sometimes he would stretch; sometimes he would skip it, pissed, it looked like, rushing back inside his house through the garage.

It had to be a weekday. Weekends brought unpredictable neighbor behavior. Nosy neighbors. And me with no alibi.

Dying on Friday is a rip-off. You’re looking forward to the weekend. Mondays already have a bad name. I don’t like Mondays and all that shit.

It had to be a Wednesday.

I already had the familiar ghosts, Macy’s missing child, Alicia’s beautiful teasing body, Amber’s mocking voice. The ghosts were more predictable than Jerome’s Tuesday / Thursday smoke habit. I didn’t need Cecilia’s disappointed face adding to the nightly menagerie. She needed freedom from this conundrum. I needed freedom. I needed to see her smile.

So it was decided over drinks at Haligan’s one Tuesday, during a long night of drinking, that I would murder Jerome on a Wednesday. I wanted to grab Cecilia’s thin tan leg, run my finger up her thigh, let her know everything was going to be fine, everything will be fine. But I never laid a hand on her.

I understood I had to do this. I just didn’t know how.

Cecilia took my hand off her knee, which surprised me because I did not realize I had placed it there, demanded the tab, and said, “Take me home.”

When I dropped her off at her house, she told me to stop being an asshole. It’s not cool to come on to your ex-wife’s sister, even if you don’t know you did.

At home, he was waiting, wanting to talk.


Jimmy Langford, see-through as always, was weepy and confessional. I really had wanted to see Amber’s heaving breasts on top of me but—tonight—Jimmy wanted to talk business and did not appear to be leaving. I took off my work clothes, exchanging them for lounge pants, stood over him, waiting for him to finish.

When he stopped sobbing (I could see my headboard through his skull.), he asked if I had made a decision. His body solidified and I could no longer see through him. This was serious.

He scooted out his reclined position, sat up on the edge of the bed, patted the space beside him and motioned for me to sit.

“I saw Cee Cee last night,” he said.

“Yea,” I asked, taking a seat next to him, putting my elbows on my knees—tired, intoxicated—and asked the question I always asked when he told this particular lie, “Did she see you?”

“No one ever does, Junior,” he said, patting my knee, “just you.”

“She’s in a lot of pain,” he said, “stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

“Yea,” I said, “she needs a drink and a quick decision.”

“Why don’t you help her,” he asked me. “You say you love her, that she’s your sine qua non, that you would do anything for her, make any sacrifice.” He paused. “Or did I get that wrong?”

I looked down. An hour passed. In and out of intoxication, Jimmy waiting for my answer

and / then

“No, you got that right. What am I supposed to do? She’s an adult, makes her own decisions.”

I turned to look at him in my darkened bedroom but he was gone. It was daylight.

But he did say to me, after he was gone, “Narrow her choices.”

Herbert won, after all—fair and square.


We had decided on a Wednesday but I still needed to chose my weapon.

I was not going to simply shoot him.

What about a knife? When he turned around after his morning cigarette break and stretched, he would give me just enough time to sprint across the street and slice the tendon just above his ankle. If I acted quickly enough, I could slice the back of his leg, too, just behind his knee, bringing the big man down, if I cut deep enough, grabbing the front of his leg for leverage as I sliced behind him. Couple of quick stabs to his lower spine, he falls to the ground. Turn him over, eight to ten thrusts to the chest, throw the weapon in the garage, dispose of the gloves, pray to God for a quick exit.

I could see him yelling, fighting, me missing the mark. Neighbors waking up. So many “if’s.” Too many “if’s.”

I needed something quiet, less bloody, more efficient. Quick. Untraceable.

And then it came: as I watched Jerome stretch his arms out at forty-five degree angles, I imagined a single arrow entering the center of his upper back, bringing out his heart through his chest in front a second later.

Imagined Cecilia’s relief.

Imagined Jimmy sitting on the side of my bed while I tell him to fuck off, I did it, bitch, and then the enjoyment of watching him disappear.

I could do it with the car engine running, let the window glide down, he stretches, I aim, release the arrow, then he drops to the ground, then I put the bow on the seat beside me, job done, and I drive away. I’ll order an Americano at Starbucks five minutes later, Cecilia’s dilemma resolved. I would wear some dark grey Lumenon pants, no underwear, light blue Chargers tee shirt, green baseball cap, Bombas socks, my purple Nikes. Rent a black Altima, leave the cell at the house. I was asleep at the time of the killing, officer.

IX. Training

I’m writing this close to noon on a Friday in a black journal my daughter bought me for my birthday. Well I’m actually writing this a few weeks later. But this is what I wrote then. Wait. Here—here it is:

“Cecilia and I got really drunk last night. My car is in the shop so she gave me a ride home at 2 a.m. Of course we talked about Herbert. Of course we talked about Jerome. She did not know she would soon be free. Free of her dilemma.

“Once home last night, no, this morning to be exact, I opened my top dresser drawer, grabbed a joint and exited my back bedroom door to the patio. I lit the joint and inhaled, texting Cecilia, ‘Thank you for the drive. Everything is going to fine.’ I could see half a moon. I took a few more puffs of the joint, went back inside and placed the remnant of the joint back into the dresser drawer, slurring to myself, ‘Drunk and high is no way to go through life, son.’

“I remember stripping off my clothes and lying down in bed, pulling a few sheets up to my mid-chest.

“After some time, I awoke to Amber’s heaving breasts near my face, her hand searching for my cock. She seemed confused. I demanded that Alexa play John Coltrane and I found it for her with my right hand. Her confused face lightened. She watched me. Before she left, I said, ‘I miss you,’ but she didn’t hear me.

“I dreamed of my father stirring black coffee in that old wood-frame house off Eisenhower Ave, saying, ‘Paul Simon was right,’ over and over again. This disturbed me so I sat on the side of the bed, my eyes still closed, the remnant of Amber’s visitation drying on my lower stomach.

“Before too long, I felt Jimmy Langford begin to sit beside me. He took my left hand, the clean one, and held it as we both looked at the far wall for a few minutes and then he dropped it back on the mattress, saying, ‘Everything will be fine.’

“After a few moments of silence, he asked me, ‘You gonna do this?’

“I nodded my head. I could not see his reaction.

“‘You really love her,’ he said.

“‘I do,’ I thought but did not say out loud.

“‘What’s your next step,’ he asked.

“‘I haven’t decided between a compound and a recurve.’

“‘When is this happening?’

“‘Next Wednesday.’

“I heard him snort. I turned to look at him but, in the darkness, I could not see him.

“‘What’s your problem,,’ I asked, irritated both by his response and my inability to see his expression. The room got suddenly colder and even darker.

“In my voice, Jimmy asked, ‘You ever shoot a bow before?’

“In my voice, I answered, ‘No.’

“‘You need to train, dumb ass. You’re looking at six months minimum. Unless you want to leave Jerome permanently disfigured while you’re taking cold showers one day a week at TDC.’

“I woke up, legs off the edge of the bed, my back on the mattress. Jimmy was gone. Dad was gone. Amber was gone. The sun was beginning to light the room through the thin blinds.”

I re- read the entry last night three or four times.

Six months. Fuck. How was Cecilia going to survive?


My sports watch started beeping. It does that when my RHR (resting heart rate) goes over my pre-set limit.

It was the first time I had ever held a recurve bow in my hands. We, the bow and I, were in the back of Bill’s Bows, a first date of sorts.

“She’s a beauty,” Bill (Junior, I assumed since he appeared young and the shop was “Est. 1952.”) said.

“It’s $499,” I said, feigning disinterest, moving the bow from in front of me, opening my left eye, bringing her to rest on my right hip.

“Aww,” Bill replied, “we can talk about that.”

We settled on $445 and six free lessons in the lot out back. I skipped the arrows. That would be the only item in the plan that would be traceable, left behind at the scene of the crime. I was told I could make my own and that seemed fair. Buy the materials from an outlet shop in San Marcos, cash.

The lessons went well. At the last lesson, Bill put me through a mock commando raid. It was fun but six weeks after I met her, I knew we weren’t ready to take a life. I bought practice arrows from Academy and went to a local outdoor archery for target practice. Three months in, I was better. But I wasn’t perfect. I needed to be perfect.

Cecilia was making no progress. Part of me wanted her or Jesus to resolve this for me. A bigger part did not.

Jimmy went silent.

Dad only came back once to say, “One and one half Mexicans wandering the streets of Sendera.”

Amber left me to my Coltrane.

My confidence—and my aim—improved, always imagining Jerome’s outstretched hands on either side of the target, the center of the target being the center of his back.

What if I don’t pull this off?

What if I do?

XI. Wednesday, Part Two.

I parked across the street from Jerome’s house an hour before he was scheduled to make an appearance, my bow on the passenger seat beside me, thinking my adrenaline (the reason I had not slept Tuesday night) would hold my wakefulness but I kept nodding off. I thought, this is stupid. “And risky,” Jimmy added. I’ll go home and take a fifteen minute nap, I thought. Which I did but then I extended my sleep for 45 minutes.

Fuck it all, I thought when I woke up and noticed the time.

XII. Wednesday, Part Three.

I parked across the street ten minutes before he was scheduled to make an appearance, turning down “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi. I reached over and moved the passenger seat back as far as it would go and then, coming back into position, I lowered my window. There was a light mist covering the goings-on inside my rented black Nissan Armada. (No way could I have fit this rig into an Altima.) Ten minutes was too long; I should have made it five. Fucking nerves. I switched places with the bow and arrow, one arrow, do or die, no backup plan. They are in the driver’s seat; I am in the passenger seat. I lowered the passenger side window and moved the driver side seat back as far as it would go. I took off the black latex gloves I had on when I started driving, placing them in my left pants pocket, and pulled out one of two fresh sets of gloves I had in my right pocket until they were snug against my fingers, palms and wrists. I contorted my body, put the bow in position.

The length of the bow extended from, at bottom, just over the left of the console a half-inch above the driver’s seat, to, at top, less than an inch below the roof of the Armada. We were kind of cramped but a soft wind from the East cooled us and I could feel the mist moistening the back of my hoodie as it blew. I placed the nock of the arrow against the string and pulled back, held it, one, two, three, then slowly reduced the tension until we were back to neutral. I exhaled. It felt good, natural, like we were went to be, like this moment was all I had been living for.

Four minutes to go.

I felt like throwing up. Fucking nerves. I waited for Jerome to come outside, smoke his little cigarette, turn around, stare at the space between the left wall of his garage and the left side of his truck. Stretch.

You know what, Jerome, cigarettes can kill you.

Bon Jovi faded out and the music switched to “Don’t Take Me Alive” by Steely Dan and—right on schedule—my quarry arrived.

I knew I had three minutes but I put myself back into position, pulling back on the string with the arrow. I had spray-painted the fletching black just in case there was sun; I didn’t want any reflection or flash of color to catch anyone’s attention. But there was no sun, just the orange glow of Jerome’s lit cigarette. He was agitated. Didn’t Cecelia tell me last night they broke up again? That didn’t mean anything. They break up 55 times a year. But, hell, he was almost pacing. I held the tension tight, eyes wide open, watching. Waiting.

He quit smoking and turned to go back inside, a slightly slower pace than usual.

Then he was there, my heart and head thumping out an unsteady, uncomfortable beat.

Staring at the space between the left side of his truck and the left side of his garage.

And my fingers went off plan.

Before he had a chance to spread out those short fat arms, I released.

I couldn’t hear anything, not the air surrendering to the arrow, not whatever came next on Majic 105, not the reaction of Jerome’s body to sudden fatal trauma—not even my own “fuck, yea” when I saw his body fall. It was all just silence.

As I had countless times rehearsed, I then got into the back seat, dragged the bow from the front seat to the back, then to the cargo area behind, then the blanket over her. Then I got myself back into the front seat. I push buttoned the passenger window up and, off plan again, dammit, Steve,

I looked out the driver side window,

and push buttoned up the driver’s window.

I cursed myself repeatedly for looking out the window but didn’t Van Gogh—before he offed himself—ever look with admiration at his own work?

Thirty miles an hour on Jerome’s street, forty on the crosstown, back to thirty in my own neighborhood.

I transferred the murder weapon from the rental to my own car.

I still had two hours before the Armada was due back. I fixed myself some coffee and started reading the Sendera Advocate, now delivered Monday-Wednesday-Friday only, before going back to Avis and returning the car, handing the keys to the clerk as cool as watermelon on my grandfather’s porch on a summer day in South Austin.

I will do anything for you, Cecilia.



Maybe the song playing on Majic 105 that morning was “Nothing Ever Goes as Planned” by Styx.

I imagined an instant, painless death for Jerome, the arrow clean through his heart, not the shaft stuck for 20 grueling minutes near his left ventricle, the front broken off near his face, his mouth bleeding and drooling on the garage floor as he slowly, clinging to shadows of consciousness, bled out, trying to crawl—somewhere?

Sorry, buddy, but I’m a utilitarian.

All for the greater good.


Cecilia is ungrateful.


About the Creator

Conrad Ilesia

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