FICTION – Susie’s Boyfriends by Rachna Kulshrestha

I share a two-bedroom apartment with Susie, a redhead who wears flimsy, bohemian-styled pants and has a fresh cigarette dangling between her yellowed fingers every hour of the day. Her boyfriend K is bilingual, an architect and has a double chin. He seems like someone who is articulate and self-driven, and has a glass eye that twitches every time he talks as if his face is trying to adjust to the foreign body. Once, when Susie was away with boyfriend W, he stopped by. We sat in my bedroom and talked for hours. His breath was hot and sharp with alcohol and he kept mentioning his wife who was probably dead. I wanted to kiss him. And I think that he considered it too. Instead, we drove around the town in circles. He sat on the passenger side and drew interconnecting streets on the gas receipts and parking tickets like they were corridors inside a time-space maze. We took a tour of an old building, Smith and Company, a drugstore during the Civil War and stopped by a tattoo shop where he got some ink on his left arm. A redhead with perfect breasts, sitting on a motorcycle, smoking a cigar, a pinch of ash settled in the auburn halo of his flesh.

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 Boyfriend M is a social worker. He comes on the first and the third weekends of the month. He always wears a sweater. His voice is low, deep and he grunts while he is fucking Susie. She is quiet when he is around. Whenever he sees me, he always waves and says, Oh, how skinny you’ve become. And it seems as if he is shivering while he is talking and his words will fall apart once he stops. He mentions the boys he works with and it makes me think that he loves his job. His boots are worn; his skinny legs bent inside the baggy jeans and his mouth moves a lot as if he is chewing a gum. He slams the apartment door every time he leaves. I have seen him walking in the aisles of the supermarket next to the restaurant where I work. Four times out of five, he is holding the hand of a younger, blonde man. We have seen each other and smiled. He knows his secret is safe with me because Susie doesn’t think much of him either.

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Boyfriend W is a Lebanese guy. He makes rare appearances, mostly late at night and in the morning, I recognize him by the sound of his snores syncing up to gurgling of my coffee machine. Susie doesn’t mind even if she is unable to sleep. In his presence, her eyes seem suddenly less sullen; her sunken cheekbones filled as red bubbles, as if something makes sense to her once again. He wears a plaid shirt buttoned all the way to his neck and doesn’t care that Susie fucks other men. Together, they sit on the bench outside the apartment building and pass the cigarette between them and watch the dusk-licked sky. He talks about his work as a handyman, how he likes to repair stuff. His eyes are dark brown and he rocks on his heels when he looks at me. It makes me want to touch myself. I imagine him to be someone with dark hair all over his body. Someday, I’d like to meet him outside for a couple of beers, check in into a motel and fuck him hard. I’d want to live with him in a house which needs a lot of remodeling, mother his large-headed babies and wear blouses streaked with pine oil and yellow milk stains. And invite Susie over for dinner.

Rachna Kulshrestha lives in McKinney,TX and is an electrical engineer by profession. Her work has appeared in and/or is forthcoming from Prime Number: Press 53, Redactions, FlapperHouse, Dewpoint, and 2 Bridges Review.

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