Written by Mari Christmas
Illustrated by Elahe Behin
It’s six in the morning, the day after Lana leaves me and there’s no one left to talk to, not even the dog. I’m sitting up in our bed and the sun is shining and I’m holding the phone like a stillborn. It’s only Saturday. I stare out the window and think: “Yesterday was Friday.” I think: “Yesterday was the worst day of my life.” Yesterday I thought: “Tomorrow won’t be so bad. Today is the worst day of my life.” I say out loud, “Today can’t be so bad.” I think: “So bad? As bad?” Then: “Maybe I’m being too optimistic.” Because, right now, yesterday feels too optimistic. I put the phone down and go into the kitchen. There’s nothing in the fridge so I pick out a banana. I think: “Wow. That is one optimistic-looking banana.” I put it down, pick up the phone, and go back to bed.
On Sunday, I try walking around our apartment like it’s any old Sunday. I try watering the plants [hers], try putting away the dishes [hers]. When I look at my watch [anniversary present], it’s only six in the morning and already I’m feeling like someone needs to take out the garbage. Where did the time go? Five years. I think: “I don’t think I’ll even flush the toilet this morning.” I think: “King of the castle,” like that should be enough.
All right, I call her. She doesn’t pick up. After a couple of more tries, I think: “She’s stonewalling me” so I start to get a little defensive on the phone. I say, “You could have at least let me say goodbye to the dog, did you think about that?” Then I’m calling again, this time, pleading, saying I’m sorry. “Please, Lana, please.” But even then she doesn’t call me back. She won’t budge, like she’s telling me in her own way, “I’m making this very large effort not to be with you, doesn’t that count?”
I’m starting to lose it. All night I leave her more messages, even at her office in case she’s crashing there instead of at a friend’s: “Look, on the phone or in person. Just tell me if you’re coming back. I’ll wait. I’ll wait.”
Then I lay down. Two hours later I’m still awake and I’m thinking: “She’s not coming back.” I think: “That girl once broke up with some guy because he didn’t like David Lynch.” I think: “That was in high school.” I think: “I like David Lynch.” I think: “No you don’t. You like Larry David.” I think: “Now take off your goddamn watch.” I think: “It’s a nice watch.” I think: “Not that I’m looking to pick any fights. It just is.” I think: “And her plants. Get rid of them. Dishes, everything.” I get up when what I really should do is go back to bed.
I take Lana’s plants and her dishes, I take her Wilco albums and what’s left of her nail polish and her sweaters and even the hair that’s still damp and stuck to the shower drain like a strange creature, and definitely I’m taking her family photos off the fridge, magnets too. When I get to her books, I think: “Dostoyevsky’s on our side.” And I congratulate myself on making such a good call because honestly I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him. The rest of it though, I’ve added it to the pile in the middle of the kitchen. Then I go back to bed.
In the morning, the crap’s still in the kitchen. It’s all there. Half a decade’s worth. I guess it’s supposed to piss me off, eventually. But for now it’s just sitting there, keeping quiet. I don’t mind it at all.
When I wake up the next morning and it’s still there, I think: Maybe tomorrow it’ll stop minding its own business. Pile: “You pussy.” Me: “The fuck?” Pile: “Loogetme! Loogetme!” Kicking it. Pile: “You need to chill the fuck out.”
I play it cool. “Yeah,” I say, “yeah.”
So I go and leave a voicemail for my sister and I tell her about the pile of stuff I’ve made. “Maybe you want the toaster or something.” I end it with a description: “It’s colossal. Four slices, easy.” I’m almost proud. She calls me back and asks me: “Did this breakup lower your IQ or what?” I ask: “Do you think she met someone else?” My sister says: “Upgraded? Yeah.” Then she says: “Please don’t light that stuff on fire, you psycho. Look, I have to go.” I tell her that I’m sorry for making her get up. She says, “No, you’re making me nervous” and hangs up.
I am: Standing in the bathroom, in front of the toilet, my bathrobe hanging wide open, thinking there’s no way these old apartment pipes can handle five years worth of her crap. I imagine putting it all in the fridge instead: her toothpaste, her cellphone charger, even her humidifier and her old insoles, unused tampons, Tupperware, tax returns. There’s some sentimental stuff in the pile too: her sister’s pottery and the keys to the Carola that she drove in college, the tiny glass frog I picked up in Albuquerque, seashells. I go to the fridge and open the door.
Inside the fridge, there’s not much. I haven’t made a trip to the store since she left and it’s not because she took the car with her. I check the milk. It’s Almost Bad But Not Quite and the eggs should last a while.
I look at the pile on the floor and then I look at the fridge. Pile. Then Fridge. I think: “It should all fit.”
Afterwards, I find some nail clippers and a couple postage stamps that probably fell out of a drawer when I shoved her whole desk in there. Okay, it took a couple of tries, I admit, and I sprained my back a little, but I propped it up against the nightstand that was already in there, and, as a matter of fact, that desk looks pretty steady now leaning against the yogurt and the milk.
I roll the bed sheets and wedge them in between the condiments, and the mattress her parents bought us, I can’t believe how perfectly it fits inside the meat drawer. I think: “No shit, if she hadn’t taken the dog with her, I’d probably stuffed him in there too.”
Then I take the bare room and the walls and the hallway and the floor with its chipped paint and the rafters and the clawed bathtub and the sink and it all goes in. I just shove, put a little shoulder into it, and before you know it, it’s just a fridge stuck on an empty lot. No walls, no floors, nothing.
Inside, was I surprised to find the kitchen just the way it was? It’s no duplicate either; it’s the exact same one. And in there, the dog’s wagging its tail and when I look at her, she’s a collage of what I remembered – she has bangs and her hair’s Mona-Lisa long, and she’s wearing that blue sundress that makes her hips look a little too wide and her chest too narrow.
“God, you’re really something else,” I tell her in the cold.
Mari Christmas is pursuing an MFA at the University of Notre Dame. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Canary Press and Black Warrior Review.
(Updated Dec. 2013)
Born in 1979, Elahe Behin is a freelance illustrator, graphic designer, and member of ASIFA (Iranian Association of Animators). She studied graphic design at Tehran University. She has worked as a graphic designer for several advertising companies, illustrated a number of books for children and adults and participated in the production of several short animations. She is a prize winner at the 8th Tehran International Animation Festival, 2013. Elahe Behin currently lives in Rasht, Iran where she has her studio and teaches art. Her works can be found here.
(Updated Aug. 2013)