What’s Out There

30 Jul

house

Three years later he still looked at her Facebook. Once every six months. Violet. She was in a relationship. Formally engaged or not was hard to tell. That section of About Me was blank. She’d had to look available for her career. Often key decision makers were still men.

But they went on trips together. Resorts insulated from global unrest. Engaged in all but name. The fiance had been a photographer. Now Creative Director for a lifestyle brand famously run by a DisruptHer/ She-EO. His early work made it look like he fucked the models. You don’t become a photographer to take pictures. She still worked for the ad agency. An early adopter of La Croix. No doubt they’d moved on past pamplemousse, an apres-garde flavor.

She was still beautiful. When he felt bad enough he’d stop looking.

One day he looked up in the checkout line at the Echo Park Vons. And there she was. Next to the Archie Comics. On the cover, Archie’s dog and cat. The picture hinted they were romantically involved. Oh my God, she said. How ARE you. She was buying beets.

I’m good, he said. It was partially true. He lived alone. His cat had been killed by a neighbor’s pit bull. One fish left living in his tank. But one of his cactuses had blossomed. His credit had improved. Things he didn’t think could be taken away had been. New things hadn’t come to replace them. But he’d lost weight.

Are you writing, are you working, what’s up, she said. He said yes and yes. Trying to commission an oil painting for a book cover. A naked woman with a rampant unicorn. Maybe you know someone.

The painters I know are expensive, she said.

And how are you, he asked. Even though he knew. I got married, she said. The exit door slid open and the wind blew her DisruptHer-designed white cotton jumper against her belly. There was a bump. Do you have a Vons card, said the clerk, who was transsexual and could have been a defensive end at the Division 1 level.

Before she took her bags she turned back. Like something had occurred to her. She watched the clerk scan his broccolini. His peach with an “ORGANIC” sticker. Looked at his new shoes. We’re having a party, she said. You should come.

She gave the details. So nice to see you she said. Her s‘s hissed a little. Something was wrong with the shape of her tongue.

**********

Their house was on a hill by the reservoir. Women over 28 walked well groomed dogs below. This is my husband Charles, she said. A caterer had been hired to grill salmon; the smoke stung his eyes.

This is a beautiful house, he said. Yeah I got lucky with the stock, said Charles. I sold before that whole thing came out.

The She-EO used sweatshop labor and made employees sniff her crotch. There was an exposé in New York Magazine. Piggyback pieces in Buzzfeed and Jezebel. She was writing a book. It would contend she’d been unfairly targeted, as a woman entrepreneur of color.

What about you man, said Charles. You buy in this area?

I’m not quite at that stage of life, he said. Charles looked at least 5 years younger than him, although he may have used boutique eye creams.

I tell all my friends to buy now, said Charles. I think this city is having a moment. New New York. The caterer flipped the salmon. The fat dripped and made the flames hiss up and in the turbulent air the trees looked like they were underwater but burning. He lived in an apartment. You had to be careful not to knock off the toilet seat. He made good money and saved 25% of net income. A median-priced home could be paid off when he turned 120.

Their salmon is supposed to be the best, Violet said. Charles was suddenly holding his side like he had a cramp.

**********

Later by the white sangria she asked if he was still single. He felt something move in his chest. Of course, he said.

Well I brought you here to meet someone. The thing in his chest fell back, lower.

She’s my cousin. I told her you were a lost soul but had potential. She’s like that too. But listen, you can’t just fuck her.

I’m not like that anymore, he said. It was true. Lately he hadn’t had the chance.

The cousin looked just like Violet. Had moved from Brooklyn. Charles had got her a job. Their first date was the Echo Park duck pond. The American coots had had babies; they frolicked and whistled. In winter there are hundreds of these. But only a few pairs remain to breed, he said. I don’t know where the rest go. Maybe Canada. I think it’s cute you know so much about birds, she said.

He didn’t fuck her on the first date. But when he kissed her he held her bottom lip. Long enough to let her know he liked her. Violet texted him. Told him he’d done well. Don’t you dare cook chicken for the second date, she said. He took her to a new restaurant instead. Bison meat was available. She had flirted with vegetarianism but it just hadn’t worked out.

She’d been a poet. Then a Freelance Creative for various Lifestyle Brands. Kept a Tumblr for personal branding purposes. Pictures of food. She’d once appeared on television when a colleague offered $10,000 to anyone who could find her a boyfriend. It was a successful promotion in you know, career terms, she said. But the men were too short. He’d had a moment of fame too when a story he wrote was used by 100,000 men on OKCupid. Pilloried in Jezebel. I can’t believe that was you, she said. I liked it.

Back at his apartment they played Scrabble. He did not try to get a middle finger in her panties. I’m proud of you, texted Violet. Please take good care of her.

Six months in she asked if he could see them build a life together. He said yes. Do you think you can do that with the career you have, she said. With what you do.

He felt like he’d been alone his whole life.

Charles got him a job. He had a great portfolio once he removed certain sentiments. Emotional range. He ghostwrote the She-EO’s book. Like playing a character. Easy when you got used to it. The book was a success. She was redeemed.

Their wedding was in May at the Echo Park duck pond. The coots seemed to hide and the starlings had lost feathers in their necks. Some parasite. Violet was a bridesmaid. The baby was 18 months and Violet often spoke of schools. In his tux Charles looked worse, something gone from his eyes. A Norwood 3 now with the hairline out of Coppola’s Dracula. Chief Creative Officer. He had problems somewhere in his guts. He’d seen the She-EO’s specialist. Was told it was nothing.

The priest was Korean. A concession to her father, who still glared sternly from his cafe au lait colored folding chair. When he kissed the bride she slipped him tongue. She had a sense of humor like that. He started to laugh but it felt like a scared bald mouse. Tasted like a battery.

The honeymoon was in Tanzania. In November they bought a house. One night he woke up in the dark when the garbage truck came early. Her fingers were prying open his belly. Her bloody lips grinning; eyes like a lizard’s. She was gnawing the veins in his liver with teeth like old seashells. Black tongue long as a necktie constricting around shiny red things inside him. She looked up and her eyes turned kind. Baby go back to sleep, she whispered. Everything will be OK.

12 Responses to “What’s Out There”

  1. Pancake Mouse July 30, 2017 at 8:27 pm #

    *slow claps*

    Masterpiece.

  2. asf July 30, 2017 at 8:28 pm #

    Awesome as usual. Patented delicious tacos twist ending.

  3. Eduardo the Magnificent July 30, 2017 at 8:36 pm #

    Hate it when that happens….

  4. Anonymous Kiwi July 30, 2017 at 9:49 pm #

    Hold this for an entire novel and you’ll never need to work again.

  5. Russell July 30, 2017 at 10:01 pm #

    🙏🏻

  6. legend July 31, 2017 at 12:37 am #

    Holy shit

  7. Nikolai Vladivostok July 31, 2017 at 12:49 am #

    Hehe. I liked that. Asian girls always turn out to be monsters – at least she didn’t start nagging all the time.

    So did you lose your job or something, after that unpleasantness a few weeks ago?

  8. Turd July 31, 2017 at 8:21 am #

    I hope you aren’t actually doing naked chick & unicorn. That’s kinda played out

  9. Small July 31, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

    Hmmm. Do you post on /r/nosleep?

  10. YourShrinkSaysHi August 1, 2017 at 10:02 pm #

    Finally, a good one. Well done.

  11. seriouslypleasedropit August 5, 2017 at 3:52 am #

    You deserve better. I hate it.

  12. Visitor August 5, 2017 at 5:02 pm #

    Goddamn. You are fucking talented.

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