These are tiny excerpts from the short story collection I wrote in undergrad. It’s called He Chases Her. These excerpts were originally posted in a series in no particular order…some are way better than others.
I think she must’ve cried about how terrible the experience was. She must have gone home and microwaved a TV dinner and put on Leno and wished someone would sit her down on a couch and ask her questions. Infomercials flashed on the screen as she slept in the silver light of the television. Those were the lights of heaven and she slept through them all.
Words spilled from under her right breast and wrapped around her belly button. They crawled all over her arms like ants. I liked to touch all the words, kiss them, bite them. I wish so much that some of the ink had smeared all over my cheeks, my forehead, stained my teeth. I especially liked the words that said “love.”
Or maybe I have this wrong. Maybe what I remember is Lily saying something once, crying on my chest:
“I am love. I exist to be loved.”
“And I love you,” I said.
“I just want to lie down and be lovely for someone.”
What I remember, if I remember this correctly, is that I never wanted to swallow someone whole so badly, like the worm at the bottom of a bottle of mezcal.
Once, I asked this woman to run away with me to Iowa because there was so much space out there, enough grassland to settle wherever we wanted. We’d sleep in tents and no one would tell us the better because no one would find us.
We did it, too. My wife and I left our lives, left the rent unpaid and the lights on and the beds unmade. We went west and we got so many letters that our mailbox spat them out like a baby.
Of course, we came home. In the middle of winter. The cold had changed everything. Our house was dry and chapped. The walkway was powdered with snow.
I looked at my wife and smiled.
“We have to move,” Lily said.
The only thing that I’ve ever wanted to stay in my life is that happiness.
Just the other day I hear her yelling from the bathroom and I run across the house because I think someone is killing her, or worse—taking her away. But it’s her. She claws at the words until the skin is raw and bleeding. She sits in the shower holding her stomach and chest, sobbing uncontrollably.
Later, I bandage her up, dabbing alcohol on the wounds with cotton swabs and pulling the shredded skin that still hangs off her. She flinches whenever it burns, but the worst of the pain is over.
We’re right at the edge when the world is about to fall into the stillness of winter. She breathes steadily and I watch her clip all her fingernails.
“Thanks for not taking me to the emergency room. They would just think I’m crazy,” she says.
I don’t say anything, but I hug her back so hard. We stay like that for a long time because I can’t let her go.
Of course I let her go. What am I supposed to do but love her? Isn’t that love? The point at which you reach something irrevocably bad, but you keep on?
She’s felt this way before. My wife. It feels so nice to say.
My wife is testing the waters.