my heart with teeth
"it's not really fair... y'know, to put this on me, then act this way."
the statement hangs in the air, in the dark blue air, so stagnant and even-temperatured. i say it over in my head, maybe to just fill the silence inside myself. i wish i could take out the pauses, maybe make it feel less passive. i know she would like that.
emilia lays with one leg up, and the other outstretched. it's the way she sleeps, and just a few minutes ago, it was the way she wanted to have sex. face pressed into a pillow; the skirt she wore specifically for the occasion pushed up. of course, she wears no underwear, when i walked by the room she bent over then looked back to catch me looking. i think at this point she hopes that it might happen by accident.
she says, like she's half asleep,
"be what way?"
i can't tell if she's teasing me or testing me. i can almost hear her inner dialogue.
he'll never cave, if you push him right. he'll always want to keep the peace; he'll never want to make an argument.
her fictional thoughts are right, and they're right because they're my own. again, i wonder if dating myself would make more sense. would i be good enough for me? would i... like me? or would i eventually get lonely, like i always do, with everyone.
i stare down on her, and she looks up at me from the corner of her eye. random strands of dark blue hair bar over her face, making it look like she's in prison.
"just like... nothings wrong."
the way she answered, i would expect her to sit up, maybe even stand, and look me dead in the face.
"how should i be acting? should i pretend that everything is going to sort itself out if i wait long enough? no i think that's what you're doing. just waiting for me to forget."
she shifts more into the position she's laying in, then says
"why are you so scared? have you never had to make a decision for yourself?"
i know my face shows confusion, when i want it to show annoyance, or something like that. but i just cock my head to her, squint my eyes. one of my many automatic responses.
"of course i have. what are you talking about?"
i stand up and look at her. she looks like a modern-day renaissance painting. skirt hiked up, with no shirt or bra on. she's in a column of blue light and her hair is tinted the same blue color, when usually it's dyed white. but most things in this light are dyed that color, including my cum on the cheek of her ass. i'm sure the cells are dead and cold as they run across her thigh.
i slip on a pair of underwear and a t-shirt, then i toss a t-shirt onto the bed next to her with the intention that she would use it to clean herself up. but instead she cranes her neck to look at it. then she takes her finger and scoops up my cum and sucks it off, like frosting left over on a plate.
"are you going to elaborate?"
but the words come out of my mouth hollow and stale. they feel like words being spoken into a long cold hallway and there's no one there to hear them. she continues with this action right on cue, because each time we have sex we end up getting into a fight, and half way through she zones out to clean herself up. i watch her do this like i do every time, stone faced, like she is. but i'm not so sure that she's in a trance the way i am. i think she's more like a machine working through the tasks it has to perform. this trance loses its grip on me slightly when a drop of my cum drips off of her finger, and onto her chest. but she notices it, and she scoops it up also and sucks it off her finger.
she consumes all of it. swallows it down to meet her stomach acid to destroy it further.
"i don't necessarily see the point, if you had, you wouldn't need to question it."
then she stands up from her column of light, and she comes over to me, and she takes my hand and guides me out of the room, and towards the basement. she flips the light on and starts her decent, and i watch her go from the top step. i don't want to be down in that basement. i never wanted to in the first place, even the fact that we have to keep him there is problem enough. a voice whispers into my ear, because it gave up yelling a long time ago. it sounds like the words a best friend would say.
you know this thing between you guys is dead. do i have to even tell you that? the second you get a smell of that basement, when you feel the warmth and the dampness, the shame will wash over you. isn't that enough? you have to learn to trust your gut.
i follow her into the basement. it is warm and it is damp, and it does make me feel shame. maybe it's my shame, and her something else that makes us not greet him. but i can't remember the last time we did.
she pulls over a chair, sits down and stares at him for a while. he stares right back at her, and not at me where i stand a few feet away from them. she leans forward in her chair and rests her elbows on her knees. her head hangs, with her hair falling between her thighs. then she pulls herself up and sits up right in the chair, with her arms folded, and her ankle meeting one of her knees. she unfolds her arms, pushes her hair back, and then folds them again, just under her breasts. she looks over at me and she's annoyed. a piece of dingy yellow hair, just like the light above her, falls into her face and she quickly pushes it aside. before i didn't know what to expect from her, but now i know. so i begin.
i know how i could end it. just one simple action and i could then climb the stairs and be back above ground. but i'll be back in a house that belongs to us. i would just be running away from the root of the problem, just postponing it. for how long? maybe just as long as it would take for her to climb the steps. i try to prepare myself to step up to him, but just before i can move she beats me to him. she gets up off the chair and almost moves into a jog as she charges towards him. she swings a fist at him, and it catches him in the side of his face.
he reels back and takes the blow. his eyes come open and they don't show surprise, or pain, or even anger. they're simply blank. the blankness usually triggers her, and tonight it does. she drills into him harder, more violent than usual, and i take the opportunity to find a way to rationalize it in my head. she pushes him up against the far wall, and when he loses his footing, she pounces on him with no mercy. when she's done with her fists, she starts in on him with her bare feet. she can only stomp on him a few times before she has to give up. i can't imagine how that feels, but i can. the heel will hurt too badly to continue before his skull caves in. she must know that if she doesn't stop, she'll be wincing when she walks into work tomorrow. she steps back, steps back, steps back. then she looks over at me, telling me that it's my turn. i'm not sure what my turn would consist of. what can be done to him that we haven't already done? i try to look passivity into her eyes. i want it to dissolve into her body and take control of the part of her that is so frustrated.
i wish it could just be a look, i wish i could convey everything i needed to say in that one, few second glance. maybe i did, maybe that's what sent her into a flurry. maybe she just wants me to be angry too, to show her something other than being passive. she starts in on him again.
if this is what i had to do, to dig in, in this way, i would. but my knuckles are scarred from punching, my knees ache, my feet hurt from kicking. my muscles feel sore, something in my forearm tells me to stop or it will break. i've thrown my back out taking him to the ground. i've broken my wrist trying to break his nose. when i watch her, i can see the pain this brings her. i can see her grimace with every blow and it makes me cringe because i know what that pain feels like. i know that right now she feels like she can't punch hard enough. like the feeling of being underwater, or in a dream. i know that frustration, and it must be what's driving her tonight.
"what do you do with the mad that you feel-"
she stops, with her bruised, bloody fist in a knot. it hovers just next to her head, cocked back and ready to deliver another punch.
"-when you feel so mad that you can bite? when the whole wide world seems oh so wrong, and nothing you do seems right?"
she slowly turns her head towards me.
"what do you do? do you punch a bag? do you pound some clay o-"
she stands as she yells
"is that mr. fucking rogers? are you kidding me?!"
she stares daggers through me as she walks towards the stairs. the door slams hard behind her, and the light coming from the hallway is suddenly cut off. i try to remember what mr. rogers would say in the intro to his show, but for some reason it doesn't come to me.
if you dropped into my childhood, on any given morning, you could hear the theme song to that program. with its cheery, soothing intro. it's hard to hear it now, looking at this bloody mess. but when i close my eyes to it, i can see it. i can see the old television that sat in one corner of our living room, which was mostly taken up by sewing equipment. it wouldn't be uncommon to find my mom there too, fixing a hole in a pair of clothing, or making a new article all together. she never looked happy doing it and i could never tell if it was detachment, or concentration, or something else. but if there was a way to take an average of her face, of her expressions, it would be that same one. the one stuck between something and something else. she had a face made to never move.
i always wished there was a way to talk to my mother as someone else completely. someone she trusted and wanted to open up to. i wish there was a way to start over, where i wasn't her kid, and we didn't already establish the awkward dynamic that we had. it was as if the two of us went through some kind of horrific accident, then we both forgot about it. later on in life i might wonder if i was an accident, if me coming into this world ruined something in her life. maybe that face she always made was just the face of resentment. but as a child i never quite understood it, even after the age where i questioned everything.
why do i feel so weird about this woman? why do i not... trust her?
this feeling was only amplified when i realized how different my parents were from my friend's parents. it must have been at some christmas party at a friend’s house. in reality it didn't exactly matter where it was, it was the first and last time my parents went to a social gathering. but only then, seeing my parents in a different setting, next to people closer to their own age, that i saw it. it was mostly in the way that the other parents flocked towards them, how they poked and prodded at them as if they were some kind of new species.
do they feel pain?
are they intelligent?
do they reproduce asexually?
do they shave?
as they discovered a new species, i did too. i saw their teeth and how white they were. their hair and how short it was and their clothes and how new they looked. i could smell them and see that they didn't smell like incents or essential oils, but instead colognes and perfumes. i realized that these people don't brush their teeth with coconut oil, they don't enjoy their own natural smell. they don't think about wasting water and they don't grow or raise their own food. they use plastic straws and throw out half used candles and have more than one television, and the televisions they had didn't have nobs instead of buttons.
i realized that my parents were the odd ones out, and not the other way around. i remember how quickly we left that party after my mom walked in on a friend and i playing mortal kombat. it was as if she walked in on us attempting to summon the devil. with a disemboweled goat sitting at out our feet, and our naked bodies caked in blood as we chanted in some language. i was never allowed back to that friend’s house for as long as my parents had control over me. i remember how they talked about them on the way home. how they tiptoed around the things they wanted to say. instead they settled on simple things, things that didn't make them seem angry.
her perfume was giving me a headache.
i'll never understand the need to cut down a tree and display it in a house.
spoiling children is just as bad as neglecting them.
this is one of the strongest memories i have of my dad. sitting in the back seat, feeling as if i was going to be punished when i got home. i didn't know exactly what that was going to be like or look like. would he not allow me to work with him in the garden? that would have been a treat, a reward saved for good grades. would he take the television away? then how would he watch his old foreign movies? as i think back, most of my memories of my dad were either reward or punishment. he was the polar opposites, while my mom was the grey middle ground. it was like my dad was the good cop and bad cop, while my mom was the handcuffs, the cold table, the white walls.
at my dad's funeral, i recalled something that he had told me years ago. maybe so long ago that it was around the time that we went to that christmas party.
he told me
"wouldn't it be great to leave this world exactly the way you found it? where anything you broke, you fixed. anything you used, you replenished. wouldn't it be neat if we all did that?"
i couldn't understand it at the time. i pictured old people tearing down the houses they bought as 20 year olds in preparation for their death. or running around planting seeds to grow trees for all the trees that had to be cut down to make their birth certificates, drivers licenses, social security cards. as i got older, i wondered if he followed that philosophy strictly, or just as a rule of thumb. i remember thinking if he was born into this world alone, should he also leave it that way? if he hurt someone coming into it, should he bring someone pleasure leaving it? what if he hurts more than one person as he leaves? will there be a cosmic imbalance that can never be corrected by him?
then i started wondering if everyone had a freebie. they can pick one thing to change before they go, one thing to alter. they could seal it in a ceramic jar next to their sarcophagus and take it with them to the after-life. i find that i ask myself this question often enough. what would be my freebie?
what would i want to imbalance?
<3 <3 <3
mom feels like the walk to the hospital through the humid parking garage. the grey, dense parking garage. she feels like the beige walls and the tan floors of the long hallways leading to her. she feels like the irritated nurses, the hand sanitizer dispensers, that hospital smell. it's as if the feeling i've had for her my entire life left my body and started inhabiting other things.
machines that rhythmically beep.
even the window that looks out into the wall of the building next door.
the feeling of opening the door to her room is always the same, and it always scares me. it's like opening the door to an autopsy room where they have the body lying in a bed all cut open. the nurse that sees me in closes the door behind me, and i remember that he's not the usual nurse. usually it's a woman in her mid-fifties that has a limp in her left leg. she talks quickly, and out of the side of her mouth. each time i talk to her i get the sense that she's just about to tell me a secret, but at the last minute decides that there are too many people around. this new nurse doesn't say anything to me, he simply shuts the door and quietly walks off.
i sit next to her, and for the first few minutes i don't say anything. i just look over her waxy skin. it's surprisingly unwrinkled. maybe it has something to do with the fact that she rarely moved her face. but where her face lacks wrinkles, it makes up for in sunspots. it reminds me that she spent a lot of time outside with my dad, kneeling in the garden, or tending to the animals.
like usual, i talk to her until i have nothing more to say. it's a payment i make to get out of my guilt, and only after i've paid am i allowed to leave. only then does my consciousness rest, even if it's for a short duration of time.
"emilia gave me an ultimatum. well... i don't know if it's exactly an ultimatum, but it sounded like one. i think it started with her wanting kids, and me not knowing if i did. that has to be where it started, because i think it was then that she saw how indecisive i was. i don't know how she didn't see it sooner. but i think, maybe, she liked it at first. i think she liked kinda taking control and letting me ride in the backseat. i think that's why we worked out so well, because that was kind of a perfect situation for me. but i guess it stopped being that way for her. so, she asked me to give her a kid. just one. i was able to dodge the question a few times. i would just tell her that i had to think about it. which is true- i just felt that if i had enough time to think... i could figure it all out in my head. it feels like it's right around the corner... y'know? if i could just wait until that decision made itself available to me... or maybe the ability to make decisions, then everything would be fine."
i remember seeing her frustrated face in every kind of light. she always looks at me the same way. caught right between disbelief and surprise. surprise at what? at this point i have no idea. those memories always sound like me, stuttering to an excuse.
"but, like always, i don't decide. i don't even bring it up to her and each passing day is more frustrating than the last... for her. and this is where the ultimatum comes in. just a few days ago she told me that if i can't make up my mind about kids, then were done. but she also said that if i can't change that part of me... that indecisive part, then this would never work, and that i would have to break up with her."
after that she shrugged, a genuine "i don't care" kind of shrug and said
"it's your turn to call the shots."
as i talk to my mom, i look out the window at the partially obstructed sky. the parking garage cuts out a triangle shape in the blue, and i stare at its border for a while.
"i still don't know... what to do. i- i don't know how to just change. to flip that switch. i don't want it to be like i'm acting. for one she'll sniff that out right away, and... what kind of life is that?"
i whisper the last part to myself, then look down at my feet.
i know it's the doctor before he opens the door. i can tell by the way he knocks. how he uses just one knuckle and taps lightly. sometimes i wonder if he knocks quietly on purpose. like if i didn't hear him, and didn't give him permission to come in, then he wouldn't have to come in and see me.
but i say
he walks quickly into the room, the way doctors walk everywhere, and lets the door swing shut behind him. his shoes squeak and tap on the floor as he walks.
he holds a hand out, and i shake it, then he goes about his routine checks on her. i watch him as he does and wonder if he's really checking anything, or just doing a cursory glance. i'm sure it could be a really easy check if i wasn't here. he could probably just open the door and yell her name, and when she didn't answer write on his clipboard
"still in a coma"
and move on.
after a few minutes of this he comes over to me.
"have you given more thought to what we talked about last week?"
i nod at the ground, then at him. i try to give him a face to reassure him that i actually had.
then, he says
"so, what have we decided?"
he readies his pen at his clipboard, ready to write. ready to take down a decision that i've been making for nearly a year now. his pen isn't clicked, and the point is still hidden away behind the spring.
"i'm not sure what i want to do yet."
i sigh to myself, unable to look up to meet his eyes.
"how do you make that call? how... do we know she won't wake up tomorrow? i mean- i know she won't if we take her off life support today... right?"
the doctor says
"i know it can be hard letting someone you love go. i have to tell families all the time that one of their loved ones has passed away, and i see the pain on their face. it's not easy. but... sometimes we have to look at things pragmatically. say she did come out of this coma, right now, more than likely she wouldn't even make a full recovery. it's... highly unlikely that someone at her age would come out of a coma in the first place. so, the best-case scenario is, she comes out of it today, but still we're looking at minimal brain function at best."
he looks at me, waiting for me to answer back with something. but the concrete sets in. it fills my mouth, my throat, my lungs.
then he says
"there are people who could use this room. young people that need this room to seek treatment. treatment that could give them a new, very long, life."
i think about what the doctor had said as i make my way back to the car. each time i recite his words in my head, i feel more and more stupid. i try to imagine the best-case scenario. she wakes up and is a vegetable, only now she knows that she is. how could i allow that to happen to her? to anyone? but then again, should it be my decision? how can i even start to decide on when to take someone out of this world? it dawns on me that taking someone out of this world, is just like bringing someone into this world. in this circumstance, each is without consent. but if i did both, wouldn't it balance everything out? one person goes out the back door as someone comes in the front? but in this case it's not as simple as that. they wouldn't be sauntering through the doors, but dragged, by me.
i torture myself with these questions for the rest of the day, and i only come back to earth as emilia's friends show us pictures of their recent vacation to japan on an ipad. we swipe through pictures of them eating food from chopsticks and standing in awkward poses in front of various landmarks. in one picture she holds up a squid just before eating it, in others his arms are spread open obnoxiously. it's the ideal pose to get across that he's an obnoxious loud american on vacation. they saw mount fuji, and they walked through kyoto, and saw osaka castle, and they prayed at the atsuta shrine. what they prayed to, i have no idea. i'm sure it was sacrilegious, or they just pretended for the picture.
while they're distracted emilia swipes quickly, trying to reach an end to the seemingly endless pictures. a waiter comes by and sets down plates of food, and by instinct emilia closes the ipad and hands it back to them.
with a smile he says
"you would not believe how many people stopped us on the street and wanted to talk to us. the... the culture is so different-
she cuts in.
"soooo different you guys... you wouldn't even believe it. the people are so nice and polite. i mean seriously they would stop us-"
she turns to him.
"-do you remember that guy? the one that thought you were like a basketball player or something?"
"oh my god, yeah. if you're taller than six feet they just assume you're an athlete or something. but we had so many people just stop us and want to talk with us. maybe they just wanted to practice their english or something, but they seemed curious."
she says, with food partially chewed up in her mouth,
"especially in hakone"-
she says "hakone" with some kind of accent.
-"i don't think they get as much tourism there, so seeing people from america is like... special to them, or something."
again, she looks to him for help.
"yeah probably. honestly i didn't like hakone, we only stopped there for a night on the way to mount fuji. which... oh my god."
she chimes in too.
"oh my god you guys. life changing."
"yeah... life changing."
"it's so beautiful. did you see the pictures i got of it? the tour guide was saying that usually the mountain is covered by clouds, and we were lucky that it wasn't that day. it was like totally clear and... perfect."
they eat quickly, then pull their chairs over and continue showing us pictures while commenting on them and laughing at inside jokes.
when were done eating emilia stretches and says
"wow it looks like you guys had a blast, but we should probably head out. i have to be up early tomorrow."
she looks over to me, waiting for me to back her up. but when i look up the three of them are looking at me. waiting for me to weigh in.
"oh... um, how many more pictures do you guys have?"
i look to emilia.
"i'm sure they'll need this table soon, but a few more can't hurt."
i give her a pained smile, and emilia draws in a breath, then stretches her lips into something like a smile. the couple doesn't skip a beat, and they keep slowly scrolling through pictures, giving painfully long backstory on each one.
the car ride home is quiet and full of tension. the air is full, and i don't want to look over towards her because i know she's looking at me from the corner of her eye. just waiting for the prompt to tell me that i screwed up.
when i don't look, she says
"listening to them drone on and on about their stupid vacation made me want to be dead."
i laugh to try and keep the peace.
"i know... me too."
her eyes are fully on me now, and suddenly i remember everything i learned in traffic school.
10 and 2.
eyes on the road.
if someone is driving towards you with their brights on, blink, look to the left, then blink again and look forward. this will prevent glare from the bright lights.
"did it though? you seemed pretty content with looking through their pictures... and going against what i wanted to do."
"i didn't t-"
"oh no i know... you didn't make a definitive decision. but in doing that you did. you made us stay there longer than we had to... longer than i wanted to."
the cars driving by make a whooshing noise, and with the passage of each one i'm more and more aware of how long it's been since she said that, and how i haven't said anything. the longer i wait the worse it will be. but what is there to say? i didn't want to be rude to her friends. she knew they just got back from a vacation; she knows how they are. if she knows how i am, then why did she ask me? should i say that? should i prolong this argument, or just let it die?
"next time i'll go alone, that way i can leave when i want to."
"i didn't want to hurt their feeling... i'm sorry."
she nods in the passenger seat.
"i wish you were on my team."
looking at the road as i say
"you wish i wasn't so passive."
"i wish you could make a decision."
she looks at me, but i don't look back.
i think about what she said as i drive back down the same stretch of road. it's been nearly an hour, but that phrase is just as alive. it feels like she's still sitting next to me, saying it over and over. i even start saying it to myself. did she mean would? or could? did she say would?
i'm surprised to see that she lives in a house and not an apartment, then i wonder if i'm stereotyping her already. i park on the street and turn my car off, and when my dome light clicks on i try to make it seem like i wasn't looking up at the house. i doubt she knows i'm here already, but if she was looking, i don't want to seem weird or sketchy. so i get out and as i walk up the drive way, a flood light clicks on.
i press the door bell, and as i do the light behind it goes off for a second. i can imagine the energy that powers the light traveling somewhere else in the house to loudly announce my presence. my heart beats faster, and i run through a hundred different hypotheticals, most of which involve me getting jumped and robbed. a few others involve me being tortured, then robbed. but to my surprise a girl that doesn't look like the pictures of teresa answers the door.
"hey... you're the... guy. for teresa right?"
i try to smile a normal smile, but my heart is beating into my head and i feel fuzzy.
"um yeah... this is the right house?"
she steps aside, and with a neutral tone and face, says
"yup, come on in."
the house is nicer than i was expecting it to be. a few candles are lit and some music video plays on a large flat screen television. under a low hanging light, sitting at a table is another girl around the same age. she sits behind a laptop and is too involved in what she's doing to notice me. then the girl who answered the door sits down across from her and starts working on something as well.
she turns her head towards some other part of the house, and yells
"teresa, there's a-"
she looks over to me.
"-what's your name?"
she yells again.
"teresa, calums here!"
then she goes back to her laptop, and the two of them sink into them. their eyes shift back and forth, and their fingers find the right keys without error. they sip coffee, and shuffle papers, and they don't talk or look at each other. if i had to guess, i would guess that the two of them were in their early twenties. probably working on college homework.
then teresa peeks around the corner. she feels less neutral than her friends, less robotic. she waves for me to follow her, and i do. down a hallway and up a flight of wooden stairs, and into what i imagine is the master bedroom.
"so, calum, what movie did you want to watch?"
teresa keeps up the playfully ignorant act that she used during the brief phone call we had. it feels like everything she says, should be said with a wink, and a nudge. i'm sure she's careful like this on purpose, to keep what she does from being illegal.
"you pick, i don't care."
"i have such a hard time paying attention to movies anyway."
more winking, more nudging. then she moves towards the closet.
"i'm gonna change into pajamas, why don't you get comfortable too? you can put your stuff on the nightstand."
it takes me a second, but i'm sure by stuff, she means the nine-hundred dollars that i brought with me. i pull the stack of hundred dollar bills out, and set it under my wallet, so it could easily be forgotten in the morning.
that's exactly how teresa would want it i'm sure. i could see her talking to a police officer.
oh no officer, calum is just a friend, and he just accidentally left nine-hundred dollars on the nightstand. i was planning on giving it back to him right away.
teresa comes out of the walk-in closet in a crop top, and a pair of velvet shorts. they ride up high, hardly covering her ass. she crawls onto the bed, then beckons me over.
"do you like my shorts? i just got them today."
she gets up onto her knees and strikes a few poses for me, then she pulls me onto the bed.
"they're really soft-"
she takes my hand and presses it between her legs.
she smiles, then bites the tip of her tongue in some kind of gesture i've never seen before. i want to applaud her, to go back to the bank and pull out more money, to tell her that i love her. not because she's beautiful, and charming. but because she's perfect. she makes this so much easier.
she waddles on her knees closer to me, at the same time she pushes my hand up harder.
right up against my face, with her nose practically touching mine, she whispers
"i go either way, but... are you more dominant, or like submissive?"
i don't want to think about it, so i don't.
"i'm more dominant."
she leans in a little closer, i can feel the peach fuzz from her face on mine, but still she doesn't touch me. she doesn't say anything, but gives me a look, like she's daring me to lean in the rest of the way. like she's daring me to meet the criteria for what i said i was.
in the shower, my ears still ring, and my brain still buzzes with her words.
"no, don't pull out. i want it inside of me."
the words are carved into my back by her nails, were bruised into my calves by her feet as they hooked me in. i read a label on a bottle of shampoo as i think about how i didn't pull out. how after i was done my cum dripped out of her, and how she used a hand to catch it as she pranced to the shower.
she comes over and runs a soapy hand down my chest, and she gives me a look.
"you want to go at it again, don't you?"
she puts her hands on the shower wall and pushes her ass towards me.
"you don't have to wait y'know? i'm yours for tonight. we could do it right here, right now."
i trace a finger up the back of her thigh, and goose bumps begin to form. i don't know what possesses me to make small talk at that point, but i do.
"why do you um... do this?"
she tilts her head back and lets the hot water run over her face, then she uses her hands to push her hair back. the water is too hot for me, so i stand on the other side of the shower watching her. it feels somehow taboo, as if i'm looking in on someone that i shouldn't be. like i'm looking through a peephole into the girl's locker room.
this time she actually winks.
it makes me laugh.
"i'm not like a cop or something. honestly this is my first time, and i don't know... probably last time doing this."
she flicks hot water at me.
"you didn't have any fun, huh?"
"no, no it's not that. i just... i h-"
she studies my face as i talk and she finds a good time to cut me off.
"we started doing it when we first got into college, the three of us i mean. pretty much it was either get part time jobs while we go to school, or each of us do this twice a month, and make the same amount of money. more actually."
she says the last part with a laugh.
"really? just twice a month, huh?"
i do quick math in my head and figure she almost makes as much as i do a month.
"it's good money, and most of the time it's kinda fun."
"yeah, kinda dangerous. but we set ground rules for each other. we always host, all three of us have to be home if we're gonna have someone over. stuff like that."
she rinses out the shampoo that she's been massaging into her scalp. the white foam runs over her body, conforming to her curves.
then as she wrings out her hair, she says
"why did you want to do this?"
i stare down at her as she sleeps for a few seconds. when her eyes open, i get the sense she wasn't asleep at all, but waiting for me to say something. we share this look for a while, then she stands and makes her way towards the basement. she walks through the house with conviction, and i wonder for just a second if she already knows. but i quickly realize that she doesn't, and that she walks this way everywhere. it's a quick sashay of a walk that shows off her body. i remember reading somewhere that people who have "swagger" in their shoulders as they walk are usually seen as more attractive. i only think about the way i'm walking when we reach the door to the basement. it doesn't stand a chance against her; she pulls it open and continues without stopping. i take the steps slowly, trying to gauge my emotions and understand exactly what i'm feeling. it's always been hard for me to understand how i feel at any given time.
is this happiness?
is this sadness? grief? despair?
should i remember this feeling for reference later?
it hardly makes me feel like a person, having to ask myself these questions. but in almost every situation i do. it's like i have a person on my back constantly asking for my state of mind.
"just a one-word answer please."
i take the last step and try to answer this imaginary person. i can't come up with a one-word response, for sure not just one word. but, like most emotions, i'll understand it later. she starts in on him with an intensity that's unusual, even for us. she takes the heel of her foot and kicks his knee in. it buckles with a snap and he falls to the ground emotionless. he stutters out something, and it only seems to make her more frustrated.
does she want him to be able to talk? to sit with us upstairs as an invited guest, and not some pariah locked away in the basement?
she takes a fist full of his hair, and with both hands picks his head up, then slams it into the concrete floor. once, twice, three times. each time stopping for just a moment. the thunking noise is rhythmic, it reminds me that she has a degree in music education. even in this setting it shows somehow.
"i cheated on you."
she has to release his hair, so she can use her hands to move her own hair. she tucks it behind her ears and stands from being doubled over. she makes a face i've never seen before, but we've never done this before, so i'm not sure what i was expecting. i walk over to the small work bench against the wall and take down a bone saw, and a pair of pvc cutters. when i turn back, she's still looking at me with the same face, but the confusion has drained away now. she looks down to see the tools in my hands, and then her resolve matches mine. it's surprised for a second, but it matches it completely.
we both sit down on the ground, her with her legs tucked under her, and me on my knees. i start on his feet, then i move up to his knee, and i look at her for confirmation. she just stares down at him, so i start. the first stroke from the saw gives me chills, but as i pull back and saw again, it vanishes. becomes normal. i understand that i'll do this until his leg comes off, then more.
as i perform this action, i say
"she was an escort named teresa. that's where i was last night, that's what i was doing."
the tendons under his knee make a wet popping noise as they finally snap, then i start in on the second knee, the knee that she broke.
"we had sex three times, and in between we did everything else we could think of. it was kind of cute actually. the two of us laying there, practically strangers, mulling over all the stuff we had done, and trying to find something neither of us had."
i laugh as i cut through the last stings of flesh connecting his legs. his blood has started to pool under us, and i wonder if i should collect it. but i'm laughing.
"i've never enjoyed sex as much as i did last night. it kind of felt like i was in high school again, like it was a brand new thing. like i was at a party and somehow got the attention of a beautiful girl, who just stood up and guided me to her room."
she takes the pvc cutters, and carefully takes off his fingers. then i use the saw to cut his arms off at the shoulder. they go quicker than the legs, and they're off and neatly placed off to the side of her. there's a quiet in the basement, besides the sawing and the bones of his fingers snapping. the silence creeps down from the house, where it usually lives. it drinks in its new environment with wide eyes, and furtive little movements, like a wild animal.
i reposition myself to be closer to his head, and i position the saw at his throat, when she says
"i want his head."
i meet her eyes, and i can tell that she won't budge on this. i try to think if i even want it, but i'm not sure that i do.
"that's fine, i want his eyes though."
i give her the same look back.
before i start on his throat, i notice that his breathing has stopped. his eyes stare blankly at the ceiling, and his mouth is partially open. as i cut through his neck, and through his spine, she carefully removes his eyes. she tries to pry them out with a finger, but after a few failed attempts, she stands to find a flat head screw driver.
i hand the head to her and she grabs his hair like a handle, then she picks up his fingers, and a leg. she looks back at me once before climbing back up the stairs. she looks back with a blank expression, similar to the expression on his face, as he stares at me through black holes. her shorts are covered in blood, and some of it has already dried on her legs and on her arms. then she turns, with blood crusted hair, and makes her way up to the surface.
i stack the fingerless arms, and the leg on top of the torso, and i take the eyes back upstairs with me. i'm not sure what i should do with them. if i should put them in a jar, or in a memorabilia box. or maybe just in a junk drawer in the kitchen. i have just enough time to see her walk through the front door, but the head is the last thing i see. it's hollow sockets still dripping blood.
the fact that she'll take that decapitated, eyeless head, and share it with someone else makes me feel weird. i can already see her lying in bed with someone, the head resting between them. gaping at the ceiling, drinking in the life of another through the black holes that it now has. it's not jealousy i feel, but... maybe it is? and i realize that this is how she must have felt. did she know that we shared a person too? that just before i left i looked back to see a fetus of a baby laying on teresa's bed, and as i turned my gaze away, that baby evaporated?
or maybe she knows that this is my freebie. this is my imbalance that i have chosen. that when i get to the after-life, whatever is there to meet me will ask,
"did you leave everything the way it was?"
and i would say
"good, and what was the one thing you imbalanced?"
and i would say
"i hurt someone, and i believe that i hurt them badly. the egotistical part of my brain wants to believe that the way i hurt them ran deep."
"did you do it to be sadistic?"
i would shake my head.
"no, it was like a dare... almost. or like... she wanted to see if i had it in me."
i would shrug, maybe still feeling guilty, still feeling weird about the entire thing.
"i think she was proud of me."