That Stuff Is Going to Kill You
Nothing is happening, I said to my roommate, who was speaking a series of letters and numbers into the phone. I walked to the window. Pulled an armful of paired socks out of the stacker bin. Looked at my fingernails and then glanced at my roommate, who crossed a name off a lengthy roster printed on dot matrix paper. Should I take two, I asked my roommate, who was cupping a hand over the receiver and making sounds that might have been German. It was mid-October. Earlier that day we had tried building a lion-noise box. Our Halloween costume longlist was workshopped across the entire kitchen whiteboard. Several of my premium oatmeal-colored undershirts mysteriously vanished into a wooden crate packed with stretched rubber and metal jacks. Our rejected costume ideas: Sid and Nancy, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, a bowl of rotten pears, Dora Carrington and Lytton Strachey, two elk fleeing the same hunter. How long has it been, I asked my roommate while standing in front of the living room clock, the one I yearned to vivisect with my tweezer kit. Beneath the clock's face, a porcelain couple in white was sentenced to death every hour on the hour. Remember that this was before you could purchase a quality keyboard for under $100, the kind that could play The Monster Mash using various keys of lion roar or groan. My pupils are itchy, I told my roommate, who was poised mid-dial on the rotary, sipping something beige with a fat straw. I decided to wash my feet, wanted everyone to know. Forgot that the bathtub was harboring the nascent lion-noise box, which trembled beside my toes and the sea-vomit of Victoria's Secret bubble bath. I'm okay, I shouted over the battery sizzle, past the amorous vinyl shower curtain, beyond the looming death knell of the porcelain couple at the strike of noon, into the ear of no one in particular.
writes: My fiction and poetry have recently appeared or are forthcoming in West Trestle Review, DIAGRAM, Bennington Review, Thrush
. I am working on a novella in flash that chronicles the adventures of grad school roommates in late-90s Chicago. My poetry collection, Department of Elegy
, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in early 2022.