Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 120 in October, 2009.
H e held the door and invited her in even though her perfume made him sick. She wore eleven bangles and three pairs of earrings and a silver hoop encircling her lower lip. He came in after her and fiddled with the lock. She handed him the flower she’d picked from the bush outside and said, Here— you should put it in water, there’s a glass in the bathroom. He looked, but the bathroom looked pretty sparse, not even a shower curtain. She checked herself in the mirror over the dresser. He laid it down on the night table next to a lamp with a flowered lampshade wrapped in yellowing plastic. She didn’t care about a flower dying of thirst and only suggested it because she was testing his will, made a mental note of his half-assed attempt which registered as cooperative but unreliably submissive. He wiped a slick of sweat from his upper lip and touched the button on her jeans. Well—where do we go from here? She tried not to think about the last motherfucker. He mentally loaded a gun like the ones George Raft always pulled on cops or rival crooks. She mentally washed the blood off her hands. He coughed. She did some Kleigel exercises. He coughed again and took a pint of Jack from his sport coat. She held out her hand. He handed it to her. She took it. He stared at her without smiling, watching her unscrew it and take a slug. She handed it back, seeing clearly that his blue eyes were symmetrically balanced between two rays of creases that made her think of barcodes. He took a long drink.
H e thinks he must be reading her mind now, even though she’s dead. He thinks that even though she’s dead she’s thinking he was her last motherfucker. He checks the bills in his wallet where he keeps the money he doesn’t spend on sex in a separate compartment. He buys his old lady stuff that she thinks she can’t live without but forgets about and stores in an upstairs closet where she also stashes the drugs. He mentally pets the cat. He adjusts his tie. He falls down a flight of stairs on his tricycle. He wipes his ass and sees blood. He rolls a bill. He falls out of bed. He vacuums the pot seeds from his mother’s rug. He takes a shower. He’s cleaned up and goes to the dresser for his watch and cigarettes. He’s thinking she’s thinking, “I’m dead but it was worth it.”
She imagines she’s reading his mind now even though he’s dead. She’s thinking he’s thinking she was worth it. She’s counting the bills in his wallet, which are divided into separate compartments. She puts them into the back of her underpants, scratching where it itches. She takes a leisurely shower and vacuums under the rug where she finds his Foreign Fannies magazine. She mentally unwraps a chocolate-covered cherry. She looks for her mother on a crowded beach. She lights a joint and turns on the News but leaves the radio on. She finds a fish, long dead, in a dried out net. She’s licks the last of the Jack from the edge of the bottle. She finds her mother under the boardwalk half-naked with some darkish guy with a mustache doing the unnamable thing, which he later did to her. She’ll never forget that first motherfucker, will try not to think about this last motherfucker and flushes the condom down the toilet.
Bonny Finberg, 2009, Paris