It was just her and him in her kitchen on a Monday. She sat across from him and he sat back across from her. Her legs were out and his were under. To him it was cold but to her it was hot hot hot like he’d put on the oven to spite spite spite her. He moved his right, then his left, then his rightleft, and she quivered her knees up and down. They were doing battle, and she couldn’t kill him.
Backing up, it was thought inevitable that she would have to. From the day she was born, if you’ve been keeping track. The hospital where her mother gave birth was surrounded on three sides by water, and then on the fourth side there was a parking lot. It was a pretty rural area so there was no need for a parking structure. Her mother’s room in this hospital, for some infernal reason, overlooked a bunch of cars instead of some baby ducks swimming to play hopscotch with some turtles or something. So when she was born her mother yelled
CLOSE THE BLINDS
As such she was born entitled to a good fight, and this is what he was giving her, even though she didn’t want it. Being entitled to something is different than wanting it, at least that’s what the rich kid tells me.
She and he had known each other for a few years, through friends, like happens. Honestly neither could remember nor pinpoint the day when they started calling each other directly instead of just landing next to each other in diner booths, late at night, after shows. They were good friends now, but recently there had been an important tonal shift in their relationship. Again the beginning of this shift is hard to needleprick, but the story she had started telling involved this one recent time when he’d picked up the check for their dinner while she was in the bathroom, and like, wouldn’t accept any cash! And she’d tried to buy him a drink later but he wouldn’t even, and who does he what does he how does he think he is and who am I supposed to be if that’s the case! She would say. So she was already angry a little, but secretly, which is why she was not even sure why she invited him over to watch Season Two anyway. It’s her favorite Season! He’s only going to ruin it, she said, on the phone. He won’t even get that one part.
He was late arriving, which he told her was because of a train thing (TRAPPED he said IN A TUNNEL he said IMAGINE HAVING TO EAT YOUR FELLOW PASSENGERS oh oops he thought that’s too far) but actually it was because he was absolutely agonizing for a literal twenty minutes over what bottle of wine she’d most appreciate. Believe it or not she didn’t even look at the label, just said his takeout was cold but she could zap it (adorable!) if he wanted. She at this point could feel her anger forming unions and picketing her rationality, which is why when he agreeably said he’d be fine just with the wine and no takeout, she fuh-lipped out. I’m not even joking, that’s how she said it on the phone the next day. She said, fuh-uh-uh.
First thing she did was she started pounding on the walls to scare him down the hallway and force him into the kitchen where he was not at all at home, even when he was at home. Then she got to shouting at him about his lateness and some other stuff that he’d done a few months ago and forgotten about, typical, and he realized that he was meant to yell back but at first he could only make soothing sounds with his mouth, like what the fuck! Who makes soothing sounds with their mouths! So she just got madder and then she made this swipe with her hand–at nothing! she was swiping at nothing!–and she hit this bottle, this agonizedover bottle, and it smashed on the ground between them. They both went to catch it but instead fell/slipped/tripped and indeed realized the tableau in which you’ll recall we found them earlier.
He got mad then. Better late than. And he said some stuff, I don’t want to get into it. But it was the kind of thing that hateful people reserve in their hearts to say to people when they least want to see them ever again. He didn’t think he was that kind of person (he was; a timebomb), so he said didn’t even mean it, and doesn’t everyone makes mistakes. Only then when mistakes break like that, what can you do? Mean them or not, you can’t fry those yolks. The thing to do, going forward: either think before you speak or recognize you’ll be sitting there with your heart and breath competing for which one can malfunction faster.
So it’s like that, she said.
But it was too late because this was her birthright.
His weaknesses were as follows. (1) He liked her. He was gonna–I mean before this went horribly wrong, he was. You know. (2) She was a girl, he was not. (3) Bum left knee. He pulled something somewhere nearby that in some practice sometime previously and though it ended his season and he wore an ACE, it never healed right and during thunderstorms he had to disguise his limp. (4) His legs were tucked under! That’s not a fighting stance, man. (5) She’d chased him this far, hadn’t she?
They spread out for her like fields of bubblebath in warm brilliant tubs. All she had to do was pop pop pop and he’d drown drown drown. Mouse/trap, bed/sword, Acme rocketpack/looking down. She raised her hand like it held a shoe and he was the roach. The illusion fooled even him because he flinched and closed half an eye. His chest went far up and down as though she had never before been aware of another person breathing so close to her. Right, left. Rightleft.
If you’re surrounded, it’s inevitable. They’re coming for you in a swarm and even if you just mean to escape you’ll probably step on one. You’ll just be kicking in your attempt to grab the rope ladder that’s being lowered just for you and one of the more intrepid attackers will be on that bottom rung when your rugged boot hits that right angle. You couldn’t avoid it if you tried. Probably you tried. There were so many. There in the kitchen though, they were only two. It was just math but it hurt, and she could hear in her ears the noise his blood cells and bone splinters would make, rivers over rocks that weren’t there, now crushed. It was dark. Something hummed. It was complicated. They were living.
She spared him.