These stories are not based on anything or anyone I know
Let’s just say I expected more. We had dinner at that new place ran by Susur Lee’s children. Coleslaw made out of 19 ingredients. Edible flowers. After dinner we checked into the Thompson hotel. We swam in the rooftop pool. From it we watched an older couple in the condo building below argue over an outdoor rug they were laying out on their balcony. After the pool, we drank drinks. She got drunk fast and smashed her lips against mine then passed out. I carried her to our room.
He had to pull over to throw up but she didn’t mind. Kate held his long hair back as he retched. She didn’t turn away when he reached for the back of her head and pulled her in for a kiss. “Too many Oxys,” he wheezed after they kissed. Oxys. Maybe he was a drug addict. She could help him get clean. “Your sister is a babe,” he said, started the car. “I think she married my brother for money.” Kate had a sudden urge to punch him – now her sister was going to be rich on top of everything else.
My first boyfriend, Derek, who was a snowboarder, had a morbid lack of curiosity: no newspapers, no books, no TV. He visited me in college. I told my college friends I’d probably have to join the Army to deal with my grief, if he were to die. Then he died. The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center issued a warning for areas above 1,200 metres but he went anyway. Derek’s mother kept saying over and over at the funeral, “What a freak accident.” But it was no freak accident. It was Darwinian, I thought. I was relieved the nature intervened because I had no heart to break up with Derek.
The island was almost deserted, no animals except for lizards. There were lizards everywhere. Lizards frying their tails on hot rocks, slinking out of damp corners of our cabin, washing up on the shore, their rotting bellies gray and spongy. Naturally, that’s what we ate, lizards. Then my son started killing them without the intention of eating them. That’s when the first one showed up on one foggy morning. Tall like a person, with a human body, icicle teeth. The next day, there were two of them.
She was that kind of girl, you know, the kind that wouldn’t wipe her bleeding nose because she thought it’d be funny to look as if I punched her. She stuck in large, tacky hoops in her ears. She turned the baby around as if she was hiding him. She giggled, “People will think he’s deformed.” “Be more gangster,” she said. “You should wear a toque. Yeah, that’s hot.” The photographer said, “Ready?” and she said, “Almost,” and lifted my chin up and said, “Now, pretend you have balls.” That was the first time I felt like actually punching her.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure. If you could be inside my head right now, you’d be screaming with pain.”
“Wow. Screaming with pain?”
“This is funny to you.”
“No, of course not. I’m sorry.”
“So if you could, with anyone, who would you—”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake. Brad Pitt?”
“How’s the book?”
“It’s a book.”
“How’s your headache now?”
“But you can read okay?”
“What are you trying to say?”
Helen gets up and goes into the kitchen where she stands by the stove.
“Do you have any cigarettes?” she says when I come in.
“I quit,” I say. I open small drawers punched into various kitchen furniture. Candles, string, tape, sunglasses, cat brushes, a Valentine’s Day card. I’m lucky to have you in my life.
“I should get drunk,” she says.
“Look what I found,” I show her the Valentine’s Day card. “I didn’t mean a word of it.”
“My grandmother told me every woman wants her husband dead eventually,” she says.
“The black fantasy.”
“The white is when you dream of your wedding.”
“You’re supposed to just wait it out. It’ll turn. Secret to marriage,” I say.
“Okay then,” she says and then we don’t say anything for a while. We can hear our husbands laugh in the other room.