June 17, 2013


“There’s stuff you can say and when you say it everyone gets scared.”
         When Megan said it, she barely made the effort to raise her voice above a murmur, not caring particularly whether or not she was heard.
         “Yeah,” Josh agreed. “Like ghost stories, or one time I told a kid that if he stepped on a grave in a cemetery, the dead guy in the grave would wake up, crawl out of the grave, and find him. Oh, but you have to push the kid so he falls on the grave, otherwise it isn’t as good.”
         “Yeah,” said Megan flatly, “that’s basically what I mean.” She lay sideways on the bed, her head pressing her arms against the cheap sheets. Behind her, the curtains were drawn over a fourth-story window overlooking a parking lot. Josh sat upright on the bed beside her. Megan stared past him.
         “I hate myself,” Megan said.
         “No you don’t.”
         “I hate myself.”
         “What happened?”
         “Nothing happened.”
         Josh slipped his arm around her and rested his hand lightly upon her waist. When Megan didn’t react to this, he gingerly levered her head off of her forearms and onto his chest. Megan didn’t react.
         “Can I ask you a question?” Josh said.
         Megan nodded horizontally.
         “Do you...” He thought about it. “Are we, are we girlfriend and boyfriend?”
         Megan did not move. “I don’t know,” she said, as if the answer had no relevance to her. “I think we’re just dating.”
         “Oh,” he said.
         The blank wall of Megan’s bedroom loomed in permanent focus.
         “I’m really frustrated,” she said. “Or I’m exhausted. With being frustrated. Or with being frustrating to other people. I know I say the wrong things or think the wrong things. Like when I think I’m saying things that are funny, people just think it’s weird and don’t know how they’re supposed to talk to me. I think maybe it is me. I think maybe I am just bad at being a person.” Megan pictured herself tranquil in a car rolling backwards down a hill.
         “Why would you say that?” Josh asked idly, circling the small of her back with his fingers.
         “Because I like you.”
         Josh kissed her forehead.
         “I like you too.” He kissed her ear, biting gently at the auricle. “You’re so sexy,” he added in a wet whisper.
         Megan seemed not to hear at first, then dully said, “I’m glad you think that.” She stared dispassionately at the wall.
         “I try telling other people what’s wrong with me,” Megan said after a while, the affectlessness crumbling from her voice, “and it’s always bad. They feel like because I’m confiding in them that they’re obligated to help me, and they never can. And it’s not their fault because it’s a thing wrong with me and nobody can fix it. But they get mad because they feel like they tried their best and spent all this effort on me and I’m awful for not being better. I never get better. I’m always going to be difficult. And hard. I am the person… I am the person who exists so other people can wash their hands of me and say that they are better and more mature as a person for deciding to let me go.”
         Josh slid his hand down Megan’s stomach and under the belt of her skirt.
         “Sometimes I wish that I had died when I was like, one. It would be really sad but everyone who cared would be over it by now. That’s the problem with living, I think. It’s way too painful.
         “Maybe I’m too self-aware. I think about that a lot. I think that’s my problem. I think if everyone in the world was as self-aware as I am, they’d all be dead.” She turned her head to stop Josh and look him in the eyes. “I’m being very funny now, by the way.”
         Josh kissed her on the mouth, bringing his hands back up to stroke the hair back from her face. After a minute, he pulled out of the kiss and turned Megan onto her back. He swung a leg over her, paused briefly, then lowered and kissed her again. Megan held up Josh’s head and looked at him clearly.
         “I am so sad that I want to die.”

June 6, 2013

The Lovers

Late at night, on a Wednesday, a man and a woman board a southbound train together at Charing Cross. Holding hands, they skirt a subway pole and settle in the seats nearest to the train doors. The man is dressed exclusively in Adidas product: puffy, white Adidas sneakers; grey Adidas sweatpants; torn, white Adidas t-shirt (non-Adidas chest hair emerging defiantly at the neck); and a white Adidas baseball cap.

The woman, who is uncommonly pretty, holds a glittering blue handbag in her lap. An oversized leopard print shawl envelops her upper body. She paws and strokes his bare arms, and nuzzles softly against his neck. She teases him with almost-kisses, touching lips just to pull back abruptly, then revealing, as his eyes meet her face, a coy but reassuring smile. Then she kisses him more deeply, openly, and as the bill of his baseball cap prods at her forehead, she reaches blindly to push it out of the way.

The man recoils. "Don't touch the hat," he barks. "That's the one rule I have."

For the rest of the train ride, they sit in silence. She regards him with unmatched longing while he stares away, at a fixed point in the distance, bound by his honour.