Thursday, July 31, 2008


What would you do if I died?
Don’t be macabre.
Under the covers I rub your leg, long and lean, and pinch your calf. You probably wouldn’t even care.
Of course I’d care. You fold yourself out of bed and walk to the window. You pry open my blinds and peek outside.
Hey, I say, I didn’t mean to offend you.
You didn’t offend me.
I put your pillow over my face and sigh.

I’d be sad if you died.
Are we still on this?
I stare at the freckles littering your back. I draw an invisible line from freckle to freckle, a connect-the-dots of freckle constellations.
I just want you to know that I’d be sad.
I know you’d be sad. I hear the frustration in your voice, and with my finger outline my imaginary lines. Your back is cool to the touch.
You are a galaxy, far, far away.

That morning I make pancakes that you don’t eat.
I’m watching my cholesterol, you say as I stuff a syrup-laden spoonful into my mouth.
I wonder if this is a hint that I’m getting fat, and I try to ignore the little pudge of stomach that forms as I sit at the breakfast table.
You only live once, I offer with a wave of my fork, feigning lightness. You take a sip from your water bottle.
Did someone die that I don’t know about? You’re really starting to creep me out.
I shake my head. Rolling your eyes, you reach across the table and steal a bite of pancake.

After you leave, I write my obituary.
After you leave, I try to write my obituary.
After you leave, I think about writing my obituary.

I wrote my obituary,
I say when I pick you up from work a few days later.
Jesus Christ.
Well, not really, I amend. But I thought about what I’d say.
You say nothing, but instead roll down my car window and light a cigarette.
What do you think you’d say in my obituary? I ask as I make a right turn as the yellow light turns red and a car honks. You glance at me.
I don’t know, I don’t think about these things.
I wish you would.

That night as you take a shower, I lie in bed and think about my funeral.
I would have you scatter my ashes somewhere pretty, like a garden.
Or maybe at the beach.
My friends would go out for drinks afterwards and tell funny stories about the various ways I’ve touched their lives. Then they would cry big, gut-wracking tears and hug one another for comfort.
I wonder if you would cry at my funeral.
I listen as you turn off the shower. You start to hum a popular song with a forgettable name.
Still humming, you enter the bedroom. You shoot me a smile while you pull on plaid boxers.
I smile back and start to hum along.
Together in chorus we drown out the realization that no, you would not cry.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Train Story

Let’s take a trip.
Somewhere romantic, I say.
I’m low on funds, you reply.

The train! The train is romantic.
Is the train cheap?

I rent movies involving trains. Strangers on a Train. Murder on the Orient Express. The Darjeeling Limited. After each movie I take notes on proper train etiquette. Helping old ladies store their bags is a yes, snoring loudly is a no.

Where should we go? I ask over drinks at the end of a workday. You sip your beer and I sip my scotch. They drink scotch in the train movies.

East Coast? Midwest? I delve into my purse and take out the brochures from the Amtrak agent.

I thought you wanted somewhere romantic.

The train is romantic! I reach across the table to take your hand but you wave to the waitress and order another beer.

I forgot my ATM card, can you pick this up?

Of course, I say, fingering my pamphlets. I use them as a Chinese fan to cool myself.


We need to choose a date, I say after sex where you cover my eyes with your hands. You sit perched on the edge of the bed, an endangered eagle ready to fly.

I’m fine with whatever you want.

I turn over on my side and pull up a sheet to ward off the cold of your air conditioning.

Next month then. I think it’s just what we need. This trip will save us.

You get up to pee.


We leave in two weeks! I grin when I meet you at your office.

I spent the day buying new luggage for our romantic revival. Two pink leather suitcases that cost half my rent. I liked how my reflection looked in them: shiny and rose-tinted.

I can’t go. You put your briefcase down on marble floor. A woman walks by and sneezes.

Why? I think of the luggage in my trunk, price tags still stuck.

You touch my arm to lessen the verbal blow. If I leave now, I worry I’ll lose my job. The company isn’t doing too well.

But, I say. But you said anytime. I bought the tickets.

They are refundable.

That’s not the point. I blink back tears. That’s not the point.

Hey, you say. You kiss my neck for the first time since we met and had sex two years ago. I’m sorry. I really want to take this trip with you. We will go one day.

I shake my head and we get into my car. I drive us home but don’t remember the drive.

That night you sleep. You never dream. I do not sleep, but I dream. I dream of trains passing us by, trains with passengers who think when they see us what a sad, sad sight.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

265 Cloverfield

      After he fucks you he gets up to smoke a cigarette. You remain prone, your jeans strangling your calves in a reminder that you really need to get to the gym. Calmly, you pull your shirt back down over your stomach and adjust the bra. You’ve never been a fan of showing skin.
      You watch as he opens a window and lights up. It’s still early enough that the sun is gentle instead of harsh, an embrace with ambiance aided by the fact that you are on the coast where the sun does not rise but rather sets.
      He coughs, the bedside clock ticks. He does not look at you but briefly places a long, cool finger on the windowpane before scratching his neck. His fingerprint winks at you.
      You are unsure as to how to proceed. Is this your cue to get the heck out of dodge? You wonder where that particular phrase came from and you smile, enjoying the respite the absurdity of your post-coital thoughts affords you.
      He turns, nods at you, exhales. The smell of smoke, which reminds you of your high school boyfriends, fills the room. “What are you smiling at?”
      You shrug and put your smile away. You try to be mysterious. “Life.”
      “That’s specific.” He turns back to the window. You both watch as a sparrow circles around a tree once, twice, and glides out of view and into the tree’s dying leaves.
      The clock continues to tick in the offbeat of your pulse.
      “I wonder if he has a nest in there or something,” you offer, filling the silence. Then you sit up.
      It’s his turn to shrug. “Probably.”
      You grudgingly admire his chick-lit novel of an outline: tall, lanky, beautiful. He is beautiful, and you hate him for it. You do not hate him for the fact that he is smart, or for the fact that he knows—really knows, and loves—music, or books, or for all the other reasons that make him both so colloquially perfect yet so damnably unobtainable; no, you hate him for his beauty. It is some quality, some aura (if you believed in that crap), he emanates that makes people instantaneously like him without just cause.
      Last week he showed up at your friend’s swanky birthday party because you had promised him if he did he might—might—get lucky. Really, you just wanted to see him. Frankly, you were shocked he showed up at all. Of course he said all the right things to all the right people. You were so thankful for his popularity, so proud. It was show-and-tell in Mrs. Knudsen’s kindergarten class all over again. Only this time you didn’t bring in the wool scarf your aunt knit, no you showed up with a basketful of space rocks. His coolness made you cool. Over neon-colored martinis envious girls in tight dresses told you how great he was, how you two were so cute together, that couple-dome was right around the corner. Their business school boyfriends patted him on the back. You smiled and nodded and became drunk without taking a sip. And like many a drunkard before you, you fooled yourself into the belief that maybe, maybe finally the one man who refused to fall in love with you finally would.
      Still smoking, he walks away from the window and bends down to pick up his shirt. He’s been lifting weights, and you wonder if he’s noticed that you’ve stopped.
      With nowhere else to look you look up and notice a water leak, ugly and dark and awkward amidst the comfortable tan of his ceiling. It is not like him to leave his home so grossly stained. This is the man who alphabetizes his books in the bookshelf only after fastidiously wrapping their covers with construction paper using just three pieces of tape. The fact that his bookshelf is home to a sterile stripe of brown-backs instead of the hodge-podge collage of rainbow bricks found strewn about in your own library unnerves you. Sometimes you wonder what literature he is so ashamed of, or if the construction paper covers blank, meaningless pages instead of significant words.
      He claims he is fucked up, a metaphorical mess. So are you. You can be messy together, a whirlpool of chaos. Your pool could be one of the Wonders of the World, if he would just let it. People would visit from foreign lands with their travel groups and sunblock just to take your photograph and marvel at the symmetry, the controlled chaos, of your togetherness. Math books would be written about the genius of your equation. Together, you could defy science.
Instead, the void of your unsaid relationship will remain just that: a barren, empty waste of space. Display closed until further notice. Please redefine your mathematical proof. Evidence lacking.
      Finishing his cigarette he starts to dress, his black boxer briefs harsh against pale skinny legs. Maybe you don’t love this man.
      You consider asking for a towel to clean up, but that feels too vulnerable. Instead, you wipe yourself as best you can with a sheet. Though you have been in this bed for over an hour, for the first time you notice his sheets are Star Wars themed. You feel vaguely perverted as the Wookie cleans up your nether regions. Quickly, you pull up your pants.
      You do not know the proper etiquette for these situations. You do not usually have random, meaningless sex. You were raised to sell the cow, not give the milk away. For Christ’s sake, you were raised religious. Your mother would be so disappointed in you. Or worse, she would pity you; she would pity these desperate graspings of a drowning woman, begging for a breath of air.
      He drops his cigarette in a glass of water perched on the window ledge. You want it to be half full. He sits down upon a chair far across the room. He looks at you but doesn’t see. You shut your eyes for a long, cool moment. Then you open them, slowly. You hear the bird outside fly away; neither of you looks. Somewhere outside on the street a car horn honks. He blinks and the day begins.
      “I’ll put on my shoes,” you offer, after a moment.
      You hate him. He’s not going to get back in bed with you; he’s not going to pretend that this was about romance or, God forbid, love. He has never wanted to hold you after sex. You are angry with yourself for even being hurt. You knew this would happen; yet you willingly came over to “listen to music.” Ashamed, you stand up and walk briskly out the bedroom; he trails behind like the metaphorical lost puppy. You glance briefly at the framed photograph hanging on the wall of him, his ex-girlfriend, and his sister at the zoo. You hate that photo. You want him to take it down but refrain from saying so. Usually you comment on the fact that he has a photo of an ex still hanging up. You purposely make your tone casual, so he doesn’t read too much into it when you both know he should. But today you just don’t have the energy to fake not caring. Discouragement, like depression, causes fatigue. The kisses that you had naively hoped were sweet and not just sexual really were just sexual. There should be an anonymous club for masochists like you.
      Yet even drunk, you managed to keep some of your control.
      “I’m glad I could help you cum this time,” he murmurs, looking at you through slit eyes as he all too casually opens the apartment door for you to leave. He wants some validation of his manliness. You want some validation of your worth. Neither of you will get what you want.
      Your car looks lonely and bright by the grey curb. It is the freak of the dull neighborhood. A sparrow, perhaps the same one from before, flies by and lands on the sidewalk adjacent to your car. If you were a bird, you would never land on the ground. It seems too dangerous. A neighborhood cat could come out of nowhere and kill you instantly, leaving nothing behind but your marble-sized head on someone’s porch.
      You step over his neighbor’s Jack O’ Lantern as you escape from the porch. The pumpkin grins lasciviously at you; one triangle eye is exaggeratedly larger than the other. You feel its stare as you move to shoo the unsuspecting sparrow away. He stays framed by his doorway.
      “Yeah,” you say over flapping wings. “You were great. Thanks.”
      So you both speak lies. He pretends he could fall in love with you; you pretend you could ever trust him enough to let him give you an orgasm.
      He quickly glances around, his large brown eyes-- eyes that in moments of stupidity you describe as “puppy dog” and “loving”-- anxiously scan to make sure none of his neighbors heard. Not for the first time, you have the urge to slap him.
      You should have given him a hickey, not a love-bite but an honest hickey, violent and angry and small. A hickey would be something for him to worry about later, some primordial mark that signifies “mine.” Another lie.
      None of the other women you assume he meets and likely flirts with know you exist. His sister doesn’t even know your name and she lives down the street in the pink apartment complex with the garish spray paint of a palm tree slapped on its side. That apartment complex is more suited for the miserly seniors in Miami than the scenesters-cum-surfers of Santa Monica, an observation he brought up the first time he had you over years ago. You are the longest secret you’ve ever kept. The one time you accidentally met said sister during an uncomfortable late-night diner run-in (him with sister, you with friend) he referred to you as an “old-coworker.” Shame stopped you from saying anything, but your friend held your hand across the diner table as you did your best not to cry. You were only partly successful.
      His semen drips down your leg. You’re not sure what annoys you more: the fact that you will have to wash your jeans and they’ll then shrink and cause you to feel fat the next time you put them on, or the fact that his semen is dripping down your legs and he can’t fucking walk over and give you a hug.
      You look at him; he looks at something over your shoulder. You turn, but all you see is his neighborhood, stucco and suburban, suddenly darkened by the nearby sea’s fog. A palm tree leaf larger than your arm waifs by. You turn back to him, eyebrow expertly arched.
      “The bird,” he explains.
      You nod.
      “Well,” he says, shuffling his feet in acknowledgement of your sudden awkwardness. “Bye. Glad I could be of service.”
      Inwardly you cringe, all too aware that he makes this about pleasing you to absolve his own guilt. If you were a little less low, you would comment wryly on this. Instead you dramatically roll your eyes, causing him to laugh.
      You sit into the cocoon of your car and start the engine and the heater. It’s inappropriately cold for the beach environment. You watch in the rear view mirror as he turns into his apartment without looking back. Lost in your own sad thoughts you place the car into drive, and you barely recognize the thump below your feet as the sound of your car running over a bird.