Them

By Meg Pokrass

You would hate it if you knew how many times I apply lipstick now that you’re gone. I’m putting it on, like, every five minutes to get through the next fifteen, though I know they use fish scales to make it, and it’s like killing fish to put on lipstick for no reason. Nobody usually sees my champagne-grape stained lips except myself, and two adorable medical professionals.

If I had been a cat you probably would have kept me forever, even with an incurable disease. I think about that every time I clean the litter pan, especially late at night. I clean it too often because it makes the cats love each other more, and also because I can smell how sad I really am in the unpleasant odor of their piss, which I’ve read glows under black light.

In bed, my eyelids behave like cheap polyester drapes, unable to keep out the light. I wake from dreams about us walking nowhere… covered with butterflies. I can taste you with my feet the way butterflies taste leaves and flowers. Without you here, I notice too much about how the town is changing, new money moving in, teenage girls with their rubbery, flat stomachs. They walk around cold-eyed, like billboards about nothing.

Sometimes, I drive to the Taste It where they use organic bags. As I shop, I try not to gawk at girl’s stomachs like I used to try not to stare at perfect front lawns. If I had a flat stomach, and a perfect lawn, and if I were not dying – you might have stayed here on my sofa, drinking beer and burping to mark your territory.

I’m a sloth, it’s what we had in common. And the fact that our left eyes feel much more connected to the intuitive parts of our brains than our right eyes do!

Also, the first time we made love, I remember how we talked about the fact that bulls are really color blind, and how a red garment has nothing to do with their rightful anger. How just having to cope with a cape being waved at you by some short murderer dressed up like a kid on Halloween would be bad enough.

The young doctor took my pulse this morning, prescribed yoga. He had stubble on his shin, and Teva sandals—like you. This guy, this doctor, made me blush when he said he liked my cockroach tattoo. He walked out to get the nurse, held her hand and brought her in to see it. She had a cute hair cut, neon blue eye shadow. She laughed, said random. I told them why cockroaches fascinate me, that they can live for weeks with their heads cut off.

They looked at each other, seemed to connect without touching—as if this were all about them.

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MEG POKRASS has published stories in McSweeney’s, Five Points, Wigleaf, Bayou, 3AM, Smokelong, and numerous other literary magazines online and in print. Her work has  been internationally anthologized, most recently in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton, 2015). Meg received the Blue Light Book Award for her collection of prose poetry, Cellulose Pajamas (Blue Light Press, 2016). Her other collections include Damn Sure Right, My Very End of the Universe, Bird Envy and The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down. She is the flash fiction curator for Great Jones Street App, and curates the Bath Flash Fiction Festival (Bath, U.K.).