I hold myself in the plank position. The little dog sits on the rug watching. It’s a very expensive rug. She’s not supposed to be here. He’s up on the purple couch and I do not know what he is thinking. I’m drunk off dirty martinis. I just was crying but I don’t know why. He offers to play me a song he wrote he doesn’t remember the words to but can’t find his guitar. I feel awful. I feel eleven years old. I stay in my plank. It’s okay, I tell the dog. This is what we do sometimes. I want him to hear me saying this and think I’m interesting. Maybe he senses my dread. This dread is new, only a day or two old and uniquely isolated in my center. It’s lavender colored, cool and dense. As my core contracts the cold drains from my skin.I breathe and sweat. I hope I’ll stain the rug. He sits above me sipping his Chardonnay. I disdain white wine. He looks disheveled tonight, almost bad. Still, I like to look at him. He’s got this face like a pretty bull. It accuses. His jaw slopes and bends like a southern highway overpass, like I35 at night. His stubble is subtle, dirty blonde, and lazy looking. His lips are bitchy. He knows how to suck dick. All in all, he’s threatening. But his thick form is elegant- leaned back, long legs crossed in slacks and undershirt. Good design. His cool gray eyes settle down towards me. They are vacant, or maybe too full. I can’t decide. God, I might be in love with him. He stands.
Do forty five degrees. Move your hands.
He kneels down, pulls my arms forward and presses my ass towards the ground. I crumble under his touch. I want to cry again but instead I roll over, like the dog.
It was too hard.
He didn’t like my poem. That pissed me off and I started some vain attempts to appeal to my masters degree, to my period pain and some sort of unique feminine suffering as a source of my genius. He hated this and I knew it but maybe he’d see it as a joke or something I don’t know. I don’t know him very well.
You aren’t saying anything.
That night at dinner, he had started repeating himself.
I enjoy cringe content on the internet.
What do you mean by cringe? I ask what I’ve asked before.
Oh you know.
I don’t. Repetition is a bad sign.
He looks at the menu. Do you wanna go all out? I assume he’s paying. I’m just along for the ride. I relinquish my agency. He flirts with the bad waitress. He orders a bottle of Merlot. She brings the wrong red. He offers to help her open it which is an asshole move. We order a whole chicken, calamari, pasta and its all too much. He then insists on ordering pistachio gelato. I like its sweet green color but hate the taste. He seems bored so I begin saying dumb shit. I want to go back to school. I hate women. I believe in truth. He’s annoyed. This is almost hot. I hate my outfit. The dress is completely sheer, skin toned. It feels incorrect for the occasion. I am, in actuality, entirely opaque. We split the bill.
The next morning I wake up three hours before him and stretch by the front windows. The apartment is hybrid, first built as a shop with windows meant for a store front- extraordinarily large, front thrusting. He sets chairs and lamps he sells in their empty space. He drapes long curtains for privacy, closes them tightly when he fucks in the back of the shop space on a lowset bed. I prefer the front of the apartment to the back. I imagine myself to be an object on display. As I stretch my bent silhouette looks lovely. I am lean, almost prepubescent and like a precocious child I like playing house with him. I’ve practically lived here these last two weeks. I think he may wake up, look over, and say how glad he is I’m here. He does not. He sleeps late and I’m restless. I wash my face, peruse his bookshelves, then lay still beside him. He snores lightly, smells neutral. The dog watches me from the crate. I can’t help you, I say. She whimpers. Beside the crate stands this giant whisk wire sculpture. It’s also very expensive. By 11 he’s up and in the shower listening to a podcast. I make the bed. I make sure to look meek when he emerges- dripping, ivory, and hard.
Do you want to have sex? He asks.
We go back into the shower where everything is ok. He holds my neck gently.
Good boy I sigh. I find myself feeling impregnated. I know this to be false, however the thought overcomes my dread as well as his sexual shortcomings. I grasp at the wet tile and scream. He melts into me.
The dog sits outside the bathroom door.
When I tell my mom his Irish surname she laughs: another one. I had slept with five in a row which was an admittedly bad habit, although romantic in theory. I tell her he took me out to breakfast. I tell her we ordered crab.
It seems like he likes you, my mother says. Oh yeah, sure.
Forty minutes later we go get groceries at a small Amish market two blocks away. At the light at Augusta and Western Ave, he tells me he’s been hit by a car six times which seems unbelievable and true. In the store the staff speaks Ukrainian. He asks the lady in the back behind the half loaves of bread if they have any brewed coffee. She looks confused. He makes his purchase with a debit card despite the sign that requests the use of cash. We walk outside. He kisses me on the curb with his peanut butter flavored spit.
He walks away. I arrive home at 1:30 pm.
My mother calls at 2. She tells me my father is dead. My expectant dread gives birth. I’m emptied.
When we end things the next week on the curb on Campbell Ave he holds me but I assure him twice: I’m not crying about you. We run into his friend with a newborn who strongly recommends procreation. My stomach feels empty, coated in coal dust. He and I just smile as we walk on. When I cross Augusta Ave away from him I yell to him to give the little dog my regards. I then call my mom from my front porch steps saying, I think I made a mistake. My mother says sometimes we don’t know what we need. Sometimes we don’t know what we are doing but we do what is right. That’s a comfort. Clarity wears camouflage, like a white trash slut.
I tell this story to the woman tattooing my thigh in November. I sit on a stool in her dining room in a sweatshirt and thong. Her husband makes tea in the kitchen. I don’t remember his name. After I finish my story she says, I’m so sorry. I shrug. I don’t know how to respond to this yet. I tell her he’s moving back to Indiana with a busted ACL. I tell her he made me break into his basement to pick up the perfume that I left on his kitchen table by the basket of oranges and pears. I tell her I drunk called him sitting on a camo hunting cooler sipping whiskey on the back porch of the family townhouse the night after my father’s visitation when I was the last to leave the room.
Can we talk?
I don’t want to talk.
This sits in direct contradiction to what he said a week before. I’ll always want to talk.
On my 24th birthday the week before the death, he had taken me to breakfast. On the way we wave at the neighbor in a lawn chair who asks where we are going. The neighbor says we look so good. I’m in a baby blue oversized blazer. He is in a geometric camo button down unbuttoned with a wife beater and black slacks.
We’re going to get married. he says as he pulls me close. The neighbor wishes us well.
At the cafe on California I order a quiche.
Aren’t you allergic to eggs? he asks.
I’m fine. I say.
I feel murderous, he says.
We eat in a corner booth where he talks about a childhood pet pig and divorce. When the pig was slaughtered each parent in turn snuck the meat into the children’s meals. Eventually after much protest his mother buried the cooler with the remaining meat inside. I asked if this helped him trust.
It was closure.
He often counts in twos to calm himself and I say rectangles make me nervous when they have certain ratios. We purchase bodega sparkling water and drive around in his giant white van he uses to transport post-modern furniture. I put my legs up on the dashboard, brazenly. At home we put on music and play with the little dog then we begin to fuck on the purple couch but he says he wants to tie me up on the bed. He knows knots. He made it all the way to Eagle Scouts.
Later the neighbor asks if we got married.
We changed our mind, I yell.
That was the last day I spoke with my father on the phone.
I so enjoyed watching his hands as he tied knots ‘round my wrists. Like the caged dog I was content to lie there and almost be cared for- to watch his fingers twist and turn. Everything he did was so cool and vacant. He was death itself, a moment of lack. His dick was average. His texts were cordial. I try to purchase furniture from him at the discount he promised. He replies quickly but fails to finalize plans. I tell him I’m no longer interested in his postmodern aesthetic.
I tell my mom I imagine him to be the cause of the hidden heart condition. She understands.
I enjoy cringe content.
What do you mean by cringe?
A waste of time, black slacks and a wife beater in the sun on the side of the building with nothing more to offer. Gray eyes that settled heavy on me, an intruder and an expense. An affected tone of voice as we lay mid afternoon and he assured me men have it just as hard.
We need to talk.
We split the bill.
I hate the mildness of midwestern men, how easy it is to sit and have lunch with them.
I don’t remember anything else, really. I do, however, remember the dread: the feeling that my father was about to die.
I’ll walk by that apartment once a month in my mourning all of the upcoming year. I’m looking for the dog. The meaning of all this remains vague though coherent.