fiction by Maeve Howard
our first date lasts three hours. we talk as the ice in our margaritas creates a tequila bath. he pays for dinner. he leaves a two dollar tip. he doesn’t kiss me goodnight.
it’s 10:28 p.m. he calls. he is sick, wants to come over. I am opposed. my roommate’s mom is in town. she is staying with us. she is conservative. I don’t want her to be uncomfortable. he doesn’t care. he wants to be coddled. he comes anyway. why do I open the door?
he says he had a dream we had a baby together. a boy. I say it must have been some dream because I don’t want kids. he asks why. I don’t want anything tearing up my body. it’s the truth. he thinks kids would be fun and he has always wanted a big family. later, I research giving birth. maybe it isn’t as bad as I think it will be.
it’s my birthday weekend. we are all planning on going to Raiford’s. I change my mind. I’m old now, so it’s allowed. I want to stay in with my friends and talk. they understand. he doesn’t. he lights his blunt and says it’s rude to the people he invited. I didn’t know he invited anyone. he walks out and gives me the silent treatment. why do I apologize to him? it’s my party.
something is wrong, the sex doesn’t feel good. it hurts. he says maybe it’s the condom. can he try without. I say no. he says aren’t you on the pill? I say yes. so he takes it off and fucks me anyway. it still hurt.
on my birthday I get a delivery to the front office. I assume it is flowers from mom. it’s a fruit basket from him. I find a spot for it in the fridge. it takes up the entire top shelf. I wonder how many people will see it when they pull out their lunch boxes.
he fucks me without a condom again. I say no, he doesn’t care. is it my fault that I didn’t argue or push him? technically I didn’t make him stop. I just said no.
again, (this time, I buy pregnancy tests because I’m late. two are negative. I still worry. how much is an abortion? the pain in my left side is a wave of relief.)
I tell my dad he is incredible. I tell my friends that I know I’m capable of a long-term, committed relationship, and it’s because of him. I ask my sister how you know when you’re in love. she says you probably already do.
he is going out with his friends. he says he wants to come by later. I tell him I’m tired. that if he is out late, he shouldn’t come. he says fine. he calls around 11. late for me. his words melt, glaciers sliding out of place. I tell him not to come, that I’m going to bed. he says he is coming anyway. he does. I’m irritated. he doesn’t notice. my roommate closes her door. he says he needs to sit down. obvious, I think. as he sits in my pink chair, he announces he is going to throw up. he goes to my bathroom. it’s at the back of the house in the sunroom. I wait, trying to be a good girlfriend. I later find out I’m not his girlfriend. but for now, I think I am. he says he is sick, he is going to sleep in the spare bed in the sun room. thank god, I whisper to no one. I go to my room to try to sleep.
it is still dark when I wake up to the smell. foul, filling the house, seeping through my closed door. it makes me nauseous. I open the door and nearly choke. I walk to the sunroom. he is asleep on the twin bed, the bathroom door ajar, the light on. as I approach the bathroom door, he stirs. don’t go in there, he says. I walk in anyway. my tub is covered end to end in orange chunks. I have to clean it up. the smell is so bad. it’s not a choice. I keep thinking about my roommate. did she wake up too? as I walk out of the bathroom, he mutters he’ll clean it later. not an option. I grab a roll of paper towels and start by getting the chunks out and into a plastic Kroger bag. next comes a bleach spray. then I throw Ajax down and let it sit. turn on the showerhead and rinse. the smell still lingers in the air. I walk through the house spraying Febreeze. when the mess is in the dumpster, I go back to the bathroom. I stare at my hands, watching the soap bubble and drip onto the white porcelain. as I walk back to my bedroom, I see him. still asleep on the twin bed. in my room, I cry myself to sleep. quietly, so I don’t disturb my roommate (anymore than she already has been). why do I feel responsible?
the next morning he wants to play. I tell him he needs to go. he tries to stay. says he is horny. I say that last night was a turn off for me, that I’m not in the mood. he doesn’t apologize. he is, in fact, angry. he leaves. I cry some more.
he sends me money for a pedicure. just because, he says. treat yourself. I pick gold. mesmerizing. heavy.
I’m in New Orleans. for a work conference. I can feel it slipping away. why do I care?
I’m at his place. he has rearranged the furniture and thinks it looks great. he wants my approval. it’s nice, I say. we sit on the couch and watch a movie while he smokes. the distance between us is a trench on the ocean floor. the movie ends. I leave. he texts me saying he wants to talk. I say he should call me. I say I want to talk now. he stops responding. I call. he doesn’t answer. I get to sit in the discomfort his cowardice creates.
the next day at work we talk, but only professional, mandated conversation. he texts me after and asks if I’m alright. I tell him no. I want to know what he wants to talk about. he says he wants to talk in person. about us. I ask why we couldn’t have talked the night before. he says he fell asleep. he says he is busy tonight. he has to do a group project. I plead, can he please call me tonight. he says around 9 he will. he doesn’t. I call around 9:15. no answer. he calls later around 9:45. he asks how I think the relationship is going. I know it doesn’t matter what I think. he has decided. I say I thought it was fine but apparently I was wrong. he says he thinks we are just really good friends, and that the sex isn’t right. he isn’t satisfied. he wants to try different things. we always do the same thing. he says he doesn’t want to cheat on me. noble. I try to interrupt. I try to explain that this is something you can work on. doesn’t he think we can work on it? he says no. there’s silence. I don’t remember how it ends. he texts me a few minutes later and says “I’m so sorry.” why did I beg?
|Maeve Howard grew up in the Midwest and has been sprawled out on her living room floor with a pencil and paper since she was a child. In college, her creative writing course allowed her to hone her craft and further develop her skillset. She currently lives in Memphis, and enjoys songwriting, playing guitar, cello, and singing. Professionally, she works for an education non-profit and loves studying math.|