To take responsibility for your life is a middle class concept, I said to Kristina, who was grimly eating a box of Cheez-Its with her arm in a sling and trying to convince me not to go over to KJ’s apartment again.
She kept loudly rolling the silver bag inside the Cheez-Its box up and shoving it down, like the box had a deeper or more resistant bottom than it did.
Then she’d carefully close the cardboard lips of the box and move it a foot away from her.
Two or three minutes later, she’d undo the box and the bag again.
Where did you hear that? she asked me, clearly hurt – she had just recently done some estimations on her vegan macaroon business and concluded that in five years, she and Brendan, her fiancé, could be, she exclaimed, middle class!
They could go to New Zealand on their honeymoon.
They could buy a dehydrator.
She could get that laser hair removal.
Well, if you’re going to go over to his apartment, please don’t do that thing where you bring him a chicken quesadilla next week when he isn’t texting you back. Surely, Kristina said, that is worse than middle classpiration.
You can make a mistake.
The same one.
For an entire life.
I wish you wouldn’t go either, said my other roommate, Nicole, who was dressed up like a shattered doorknob for a party where you were supposed to dress up like a dream you’d recently had.
We never seriously dated.
We just rotated around each other
accepting vague responsibility to desire and to be desired.
Like we hadn’t quite heard the assignment.
I confused our lack of chemistry for an opportunity to be ambitious.
I blame all the mixed messages out there on classroom posters.
Why does Garfield always look so hungover?
I didn’t understand yet, that just because something isn’t coming easily, doesn’t mean it is extremely worthwhile.
The years of this routine with KJ had silently piled up .
Like snow on thin, iron handrails.
How the surface seems too narrow for anything to accumulate that high.
After we’d finished a loveless session of gymnastics at his apartment, I laid on his top bunk thinking about how I’d gotten a little bit addicted to being told I didn’t have any STDs.
Before I’d started getting tested, I was sure I’d have the biggest STD, and I lost three nights of sleep pulling every single hair out of both of my knees. One by one. Like a porcupine in a pawnshop.
I’d scratched half my scalp off waiting for the test results and then cleaned underneath my nails with a Women’s Health subscription insert.
The dandruff redistributed itself in the air and on the floor.
When all the tests came back negative, the nurse practitioner and I celebrated like she was covering me in champagne and black balloons would come down from a trap door in the ceiling.
How, by catching nothing, do you celebrate something?
You celebrate sameness.
You celebrate permission to proceed.
As you were.
I’d gone to five clinics in six months. Without symptoms. Or new partners. Or insurance.
KJ’s bed became an utterly still lake.
I crawled over him to get to the bathroom, the ceiling very close above us like
we had fucked in a toy chest.
He roused, rolled onto his side, faced the wall and resumed the distinctly heavy breathing of those who are asleep while you are not.
How much more asleep they seem than you will ever be.
The exquisite loneliness it conjures. The epitome of close but far.
If they snore, I kick them hard, once, turn the other way and count to three hundred.
I lowered myself down the ladder, creaking like summer camp, pausing to admire his naked body in a perfect pitch of moonlight like this Swedish word, Mangata: the road-like reflection that a moon makes on water.
In the same breath of thought I imagined how bad it would be, how degrading and unconscionable it would be, for me, as my head reached the level of his asshole, if he farted.
And then he did.
Sometimes, the universe is not so subtle.
And impetus to redirect your passion and flee, forever, finds you
right in your face, like a branch you thought was higher.
You can linger a bit longer than recommended by the fluttered asshole
but then, find your shoes.
Leave the socks if they’re somewhere in the sheets.