fiction

this ends badly

monika kozak

art by monika kozak

I met her at a party, it was someone’s birthday, someone introduced us and I fell in love with her thick eyelashes and the dark shadows under her eyes.

‘I don’t sleep,’ she said. ‘I haven’t since I left uni. My body forgot how to do it.’

I said it was impossible to forget how to sleep, and I sounded arrogant because I was terrified that she would excuse herself, say she needed a drink, and not return. She laughed, and I noticed there were shadows in her eyes too.

That first night, we didn’t make love. She floated around my single bedroom flat peering into my refrigerator, my closet, my medicine cabinet. I didn’t know what she was looking for. What are you looking for? I asked.

‘You,’ she replied.

When she found out I was poet, she asked me to read her my poems, and when I said I was shy, she lay on the sofa with a cushion on her face and said she wouldn’t come out until I relented. I read her a dozen, and her sharp intake of breath told me she liked them, though she never said a word.

She didn’t move in, she just never left. And most nights, she slept deeply.

Two months later, I found her standing in the shower, shivering violently. Her nails were blue. I wrapped her in a towel and pulled her into bed. I rubbed her skin and kissed her all over. She was limp and didn’t speak for the rest of the morning.

By evening, I accused her of playing games because I knew this was something serious and I wasn’t ready yet for the world to intrude. When she spoke, I almost clawed her face. She said a man was waiting for her back home.

She stayed another week and there were silences where we used to laugh. We drank to forget that we were soul mates on death row. When we made love, I was rough. I bit her nipple and the inside of her thigh.

She left on a Tuesday while I was out. I told people whom she’d met that she died.

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27 thoughts on “this ends badly

  1. This is stunning. Love it. One of the other comments compliments your “powerful brevity”, and I can’t put it any better (so I’ll not try).

    “I told people she’d met that she dird” – and I felt she had, or maybe the narrator.

    Liked by 1 person

      • jillianmrks says:

        It’s the style…a sense of ennui and a sort of monotone numbness in the retelling. Brings to mind any one of several selections from her complications. Most notably I would say something perhaps from “Because They Wanted To”. Here’s an excerpt from “Turgor”: “He kissed me and I felt a deep squalid bitterness under the first layer of his kiss. For the first time that night, I felt him in earnest and he felt very familiar. We were now going in the direction broadly labeled “pain”. But of course, pain has many directions too”.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a brilliant excerpt. I think you can only write about something tragic or painful in a deadpan, detailed sort of way. Otherwise you run the risk of being heavy handed and cumbersome.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. jillianmrks says:

    Yes, agreed. BTW damned autocorrect. I love how Emily Bronte starts her tale “Wuthering Heights” cautioning the reader not to smile at any part of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. thefeatheredsleep says:

    I love the drawing. I also think it goes well with the story. The story was excellent. It reminded me of a story I read in Harpers like TWENTY YEARS AGO which was about a man who was going down an escalator and he sees this sad looking but beautiful woman, she picks him up, then and there, they go back to his place, make love and when he wakes he sees that she has committed suicide because she wanted to die with someone rather than alone. I remember reading that as a kid, and despite the adult content (why was I reading Harpers as a kid??) I was profoundly affected by the idea of it. I think on some level the protagonist knew what was happening and on another, couldn’t accept it. Either way this has the same staying power as that story I read so many years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

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