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More Stories by Paige Chomet:
© 2004 Paige Chomet
fuck him, i think, saying it a hundred different ways. to myself. to the door. i exhale it, smiling like a tease. fuck him. maybe it would be fun. just this once, then finally a good night's sleep.
a fantasy intrigue, inhaled through wetted teeth. fuck him. i imagine a perfect body (hidden beneath those stupid clothes of his) and me (skin golden, airbrushed) kneeling on the bed. my tongue taps against the roof of my mouth.
i love the feeling of my skin with one eyebrow raised. taut. i tilt my head as if a girlfriend were in snickering distance, an ally. you got to be kidding, she says, rolling her eyes. i go deadpan
fuck him and get it over with. like doing dishes, a daily drudgery, while the guy watches t.v. i swallow, downing a shot of saliva. dry and scratchy. just fuck him.
cuz i have no where else to stay.
i throw my purse, bag lady heavy, into the corner clutter. instant camouflage among all the ignored male mess. his weight flops on the couch and i have instant sympathy for the worn springs.
i better take a pee first.
through another door, my eyes close. just long enough. then i can open them again. i give his bathroom a five. maybe a four. or four and a half. ok, four and a half.
its something i do, rate bathrooms. pretend im writing an article on it, for TimeOut maybe. every fast-food joint, every friend of a friend's house, every too-small apartment, they all get my secret rating. this one, with its tub stains, cracked mirror, curled up world war one linoleum (christ, did they even have linoleum that far back?), this ones definitely a four and a half. i couldve stuck with five if the smell had been better. still, not as bad as some.
i can't get a good look at myself. the mirror is all spider webbed, like a flattened diamond. somebody couldnt find what they were looking for once, i suspect, and slammed the thing a little too hard. i look like a last-century version of what used to be modern art, all pieces and no whole. the grimy overhead light bulb only makes it worse. my skin looks like dried yogurt with big spoonfuls gone where there should be eyes.
"fuck him." my broken mouth speaks, out of sync with itself. now
it's a demand: you're gonna have to fuck him sometime, it says.
i think of him, doughy and pale and sweat-glazed, waiting. in the next room. i should've brought my purse with me. nothing in this stupid medicine cabinet worth the effort. well, maybe a few things. i sit on the toilet seat, off center, and swallow. twice. then moan, softly, so he doesn't hear.
i love moaning when i pee. i love how holding it in makes me ache, gives me this pain between my ribs, sends feelings down my legs. that shake and thrill, right before i go, makes me lift my head and moan without even thinking about it, like my body doesnt really need me anymore. then the pee gushes out and i become this singing geyser deluge. everything washing out, all the breathing ive held in for so long, all the stuff i cant let out, and then this perfect moan. better than any words. i let the sound settle like silk around my ankles. then close my lips, feel them touch each other heavy and sagging. forming a perfect pout.
shit, i think, i left my lipstick in my purse. i hate being near a mirror without my lipstick.
"okay. fuck him." the broken mouth speaks. cuz, after all, what else is there to do. who gives a shit, anyway? i look at my feet as they walk back through another doorway, simple as that.
the living room smells different. i think how not having a place anymore is like constant vertigo. makes my elbows jumpy. no place to lean and consider things. i glance in the corner and can't pick out my purse from the jumble. i'm about to ask him what he's done with it, cuz all my shit is in there and it'd be just like this kind of guy to lift it and think i wouldn't notice or care or something, but he's gone, the width of his body still imprinted on the rotting couch.
"hey, you still here?" i hear myself say. i wish i could remember his name. it didn't matter before, but seems knowing his name now would somehow help make him appear, if only i could pronounce it out loud.
i listen for something, anything. the ceiling fan. traffic. somebody with heels walking across the floor above me. a car alarm finally shuts off. i look toward the single bedroom door, nearly closed, and wonder if he's changing or something.
desperate, i start pawing through the shit in the corner and finally find my bag. a happy moment of recognition. i love the crinkle of the shiny plastic, the sound of the zipper. a recollection of when i found it on the clearance table, one lone prize among the clutter. then i feel jumpy again and hunt for the little purple case with the zipper, like the kind i used to carry pencils in in elementary school. but i almost know without having to look. its gone. he's got it. and he took my cigarettes too.
"well fuck him. fuck him, fuck him, fuck him."
i kick open the bedroom door, seeing myself as if in some movie, ready to utter a really clever line, chin set and chiseled like a starlet. but the room's empty. which is alright, cuz i haven't really thought of anything clever to say anyway.
i climb onto the mussed up mattress knees first. i never knelt on a bed alone. it's one of those positions that makes me think, and i hate thinking. i start whacking the twisted sheets with my bag, beating it like it might apologize if i just hit it enough times. apologize for wrecking everything. for being so fucking messy. for taking my stash. for making me invite myself up to this stupid place. for leaving me alone without anything to do. for making no fucking sense.
for making me feel like an idiot.
the chalk plaster wall isnt as cold as youd imagine. i lean, wishing i had the guts to just scream. why can't i ever just scream? i look around the room for something to break, something to leave broken. something that isn't broken yet but will be, just you wait. something that could be my own mark on the world, like a calling card. i wonder if maybe i should just sleep. i wish i could just sleep.
then i notice it. sitting on the dresser, poking out from under shredded envelopes and scattered papers. i lean forward, open-mouthed, then purse my lips tightly as my arm stretches sharply towards it. i know it wants to touch me. my hand opens and beckons a moment, but i can't. i curl up into myself, crawl to the far corner of the bed and stare, my chin perched on my knees. the room is too empty and still. i'm sure moving is not allowed. i hear more walking in the apartment above me and wonder why they don't know the rules. rules that say know one else is supposed to hear you. i stare. inhale. and stare. inhale. hold my breathe. reach. touch.
it's his hand. i'm certain it's his hand. his arm. it has to be his arm, doesn't it? i'm touching it, it must be. but i don't know, maybe there's a factory, maybe they make thousands that are just the same and i wouldn't be able to tell his arm, his hand from a thousand, a million, of other strangers who got their fakes from the same place.
how could it not be his hand? i've touched it so often, let it touch me so often, taken it off his body and put it to sleep and kissed it to make him laugh like it was a little pet or precious toy. it has to be his, doesn't it? i put it to my lips, smell it, let myself think. in one exhale i feel like i've just fainted and revived and everything makes sense again like it does in dreams.
then i think about what ifs. i think about whats-his-name sweaty man wearing an arm just like his. how it would change this holy artifact into something less than human. i think about another girl taking care of an arm just like his, cradling it just like this, and think i might cry. my jaw bones twist, holding it all in. sweating a little from the effort, maybe from a sudden fear, i wonder if it is his, his arm, his hand. then why is it here? how could it be? i move the fingers and place my own hand in its grasp and wonder.
and i wonder why i can't go back. why the whole of me feels like one giant prosthetic body. how, next to me, even this fake arm seems more alive. less hollow. possessing a greater range of movement and possibility. greater than me.
i take the arm through the doorway, back into the living room, keeping the walls as far away as possible. i set the arm on the couch, along the back, as if it is waiting for me to sit next to it, waiting to embrace me. sweaty man's imprint fills in the illusion of shoulders, torso, butt. i take off my shoes and place them where his would be, tilting them slightly inward, propping one up just a bit, as if in mid tap. he was always tapping his foot to some internal song only he could hear.
on the floor, i look into the space that would be his head, and say, "okay. it's okay. everything's okay." the stuff i swallowed in the bathroom starts making me feel like the room has become some huge fish bowl, or television set, and i'm in the middle of a real life special, cameras are all around. i fix my hair.
"i love you more than anything," i say, ever. and i wonder if the words cross over. if the words can make it out of this pretend fish bowl and into the real place where he lives and breathes. if they can travel past the boundary of me into somewhere else, into a place of actual meaningfulness.
what was i supposed to do? christ, i'm just this stupid kid. pretending to be grown up. i didn't care that you were older, married, or used to be married, had a life. all i new was that you made me feel real for the first time in my life. then all i could think of was your stuff, your bigger-than-mine life. and when you said i'd saved you from all that, it just kind of made me feel...wrong. not at all a hero. like you had this huge realness and i had this tiny fakeness and if i said yes to you i'd get swallowed up and never know my own kind of real. i felt swallowed up already. i'm sorry. "I'm sorry", i say to the empty couch.
my tears make it hard to judge the distance, but i lurch toward the couch anyway, hugging the awkward prosthetic arm against my underwater chest. god, i loved it when youd would let me take your arm off. and i would place it on the be. facing each other like unlucky mirrors, all this infinity reflecting back and forth, youd touch me along my broken edges and id trace my fingers over your older-than-me scars. wed dismantle each other, bit by bit, becoming a pile of puzzle pieces we could mix up and place wherever we wanted them.
i remember: you reaching inside, past my vocal chords, my skull, your hands becoming finger puppets behind my eyes. i took a soft curve from the heap and place it where your elbow used to be. you took a cutaway from my sternum and it fit you like a badge. the puzzle of a world fell away into something greater than an answer. and when we had put the puzzle back together, there were pieces left over, still on the bed. too much self to fit back into place.
until i finally confessed. people had started finding out, and i hated what that made me feel like. i told you i no longer had enough meaning in me to balance you out. but the truth is, i felt like i had become one big prosthetic. yours. or a freak that no prosthetic could cure or complete. they dont make fake insides for people like me, do they?
god, i miss you. i miss you. i miss you... my mantra. it helps me control my breathing. until keys jangle noisily at the door and the handle starts to turn.
kill him. that’s all i think now. kill the fucker. think he can steal my stash and run out the door while i’m in the bathroom that doesn’t even have a lock and is no better than a four as far as bathrooms go, okay a four and a half, but he’s like a two or one and has eyes that are worse than mirrors (cracked and dirty yet reflect nothing at all, especially me)... and he thinks he can get away with it?
then he opens the bag that i didn’t notice dangling from his perfectly formed hand and this great smell fills me with vitamins and HGH and i my pavlov mouth starts watering, emptying my brain of everything except thanksgiving greed. when was the last time i ate?
he sets the bag down on the couch, right in the middle of his still sweaty imprint, and i barely notice the stretch of his shirtsleeve. the bad lighting flashes off the plastic wrist, the metal pincers as they open the bag and lay out warm contents like christmas morning. i don’t even care that its not what i usually order. i ravage the fries first.
my shoes are still posed on the floor. his artificial arm moves to pull at some of the hair i’ve caught in the corner of my mouth. i’m not as surprised as i should be.
life is full of little moments when it seems all i do is spin in circles. and not in that happy way i used to when i was a kid, a little kid, and waited till the clouds twisted into a whirlpool of daydreams and i fell onto the grass, giggling with abandonment. i can’t even remember his name, this guy with an arm like yours. i remember when you had two good ones and would lift me up so high, i spun with the clouds.
new sweaty man sits besides me, looking happy that i’m not acting like a bitch anymore. fatherly approval on his face. he holds out my purple case. i want to hug him. and i don’t think i’ll even throw up this time. afterwards.
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