Don’t forget about the Plotto contest at the Tin House blog. That gets posted today, too.
About this story? I love this story. I love it more since I’ve started talking to some Jungian Analyst Fiction Writers, but I think I’m getting ahead of myself.
The only good anecdote about this story is that a good friend who was into studying film a lot wanted to make this into a movie. I don’t know if he ever did. I sort of doubt it, but I hope I am wrong. I hope he made this story and a great many others into invisible indie films.
Also, today, I met the truck that one of my characters drives. It strikes me that that sentence, on its own, doesn’t really mean anything. But trust me when I tell you it’s significant and exciting. I love it when characters introduce nuances of themselves to me as I go about the mundane business of life.
And yesterday was the biggest day ever here at April Line Writing, on one of the worst-written posts I’ve placed in a while. But parenting matters, and so do guns and computers and opinions, and teenagers are a unifying force insofar as we are all affected by them strongly: whether we remember being them, whether our small children show us occasional glimpses of the teens they’ll be too soon, whether we are parents of teenagers now… It’s a fraught, hot topic.
She didn’t want to sleep with him anymore. Didn’t want his name tattooed on her forehead. She cropped her hair into bangs for job interviews, she told him. Regularly ever after. But really the bangs were a curtain, hiding him. She’d thought getting sober would make him more mature. Instead it made him stagnant. Made him cling to her the way he’d clung to booze. Eve felt queasy when he touched her. Couldn’t look at his eyes, spent as much time at work as she could. She didn’t want to break him, didn’t want him to know. She was a little worried about breaking herself. When she got home from work and he tugged her close and whispered in her ear, she rolled her eyes and said, “Do we have to?” He snorted and let go. She made coffee, and they drank it, holding themselves rigidly to the side of the dining room chair that maximized the physical distance between them.
“How was your day?” he asked.
She looked daggers at him and said, “Same as yesterday and the day before that. What’s with the small talk?” He shuffled his feet under the table and got up.
“Where the hell are you going?”
“The bathroom, okay?” and he did. “I’m going back to school,” he said, wiping his hands on his pants.
“What for?” she asked.
“I don’t know.”
“It’s your turn to do the laundry,” she said.
“Can we go out?” he looked at her, pleading.
“No. I’m tired. And busy. I have a manuscript to look at tonight.” She scratched her knee.
“I’ll go then.”
“Go what? Fuck somebody else?”
“Maybe that. You’re not a bundle of lust these days.”
She scowled, flicked him off, without a bit of irony.
“Bitch!” He spat on the wood floor.
Making a mark on the pile of papers in her lap she said, “Better wipe that up.”
He did and then he left. Slammed the door.
Eve threw her stack of papers against it and grimaced. Leaned her forehead in her hand and left it there until her palm tingled. Then eyed the red creases on her wrist, imagined the way blood would bead up in them if they were cuts. She waited a while and called a package store that delivered. She thought of seducing the delivery boy when he arrived. She wanted change. She felt matronly. Like she should own a girdle. She thought she might answer the door looking undone and the delivery boy would seduce her. Then she remembered Scott’s ugly name there on her forehead, indelible.
She rubbed at it, marveled that she could still feel the outline. She thought, how stupid we were. How stupid we are. She didn’t feel the same kind of stupid about Scott now. She thought in complete sentences now; compound-complex sentences with semicolons: sometimes quadrasyllabic words made their way into these sentences. Scott was still thinking in fragments, glimpsing the deeper him occasionally but refusing to believe such a thing could exist. That there was a reason for such a thing to exist. He explained himself in excuses. Once, he was a copy editor at the Register, but was fired for lateness and bad spelling. He corrected the spelling of someone’s name just because he didn’t like it. When his boss asked him why he thought that was okay he said, “It’s just who I am.”
She thought about how AA seemed to make him existentially paranoid. Gave him a kind of spiritual awareness he lacked before. That makes some men sexy, she thought, thinking of barefoot- Buddhist-boys and their rolled up Kerouac novels: their beards, beanies, cargo pockets, Camels. She thought about Scott’s insecurity, calling her at work to make sure she loved him. She thought about his stack of graphic novels on the floor next to their bed, how she’d wake at 7am and he’d be reading.
“But it’s literature!” he’d say, when she made faces.
“It’s literature for misplaced little boys who’ve found themselves all grown up with nothing to read, Scott. Why don’t you try Carver?”
The doorbell rang and she took the steps slowly to answer it. She wanted to forget the relationship without having to leave it. She wished she could order a perfect Scott from build-a-boyfriend.com. She wanted parts of the old Scott back. She wanted to want him.
She opened a beer and thought of Dane, who she lunched with at work. Dane with muscles and a strong sense of self. He’d been an organic farmer inMontanabefore. She thought of visiting there with him, touring fields of tomatoes, fucking in the dirt paths between stalks, cool leaves tickling them. Limping, sweaty and dirt-caked, back to a wood-sided farm house. Drinking lemonade on the porch. So many times she’d imagined his thick fingers on her bare back. She thought of who she used to be: an insecure, pink-haired girl with a coffee shop job and a college degree someplace on the blurry horizon. She popped a second beer. Gulped desperately. Then a third. Somewhere in the middle of the fourth, she dozed, her crotch throbbing. She was jarred alert by the slam of the bathroom door. Scott was home.
She banged on it.
“You in there, Sexy?” she slurred.
He opened the door and she fell forward, her head sliding down the door. She grabbed his hand and straddled it, palm-up.
“Wanna’ fuck?” she asked.
He rubbed her through her jeans. She sighed through her nose, leaned her head back, smiled. He guided her to their room. He savored the flavor of beer on her tongue. They undressed each other. She was impatient to have him inside. He asked her to wait. She said, “Fine.” He kneeled, straddling her legs. He pressed his hands into her ribs, drug them down, remembered the shape of her. She fingered his penis, admired its color: somewhere between mauve and plum.
She’d always adored it and couldn’t think of anything else to do, it had been so long. She didn’t remember the last time. She felt out of practice, like being sixteen again. She shut her eyes, let Scott love her. He played with her breasts, kissed her limbs, made her orgasm with his hands, his tongue, finally inside. She pulled him close with her arms, legs, feet. Wanted him deeper. She didn’t remember this intensity. She didn’t remember this at all. When they finished, they curled into each other, slept.
She dreamed of large, angry, black, block letters, with eyebrows and scowls, hemming her into this bed with this man. They were the letters of Scott’s name, spelling themselves like jail bars. It was morning, then night, then morning again. Quick like a cartoon. The letters refused to let her leave. She felt that dry soreness in her throat that comes from holding down tears. She tried to break the letters with her fists while Scott sat, passive, against one of them. Watching her, his eyes wet.
When she woke, Scott smiled into her face as he fingered the letters of his name on her forehead. Then he kissed them one by one. Narcissist, she thought. But she didn’t move.