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Kit Nowell

Copyright 2018 Kit Nowell

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Your yard smells like magnolias and chewing gum. They're blooming now. The magnolias. Tentatively. The air is too wet and they can't breathe. And you left your chewing gum under the table on the patio so many times that it's become a layer of petals and the table is a flower itself.

Aside from that your garden is dead. The neighbor's dog always takes his piss back here, so all the grass is stiff and yellow. I hate that dog. Always shedding smelly clumps of stupid fur. He bit the neighbor's daughter, and she just cried and cried. I hate that little girl. She has these wispy little blonde curls and these dull blue eyes and she's going to grow up and become someone's 'interesting' wife one day. You can just tell, she'll be like that. She'll go to a liberal arts college to earn her M-R-S., and then there will be book clubs and brownies and yard sales and Hoodsie cups and she'll be nostalgic about the time when she wanted to become an opera singer.

Your house is going to fall apart. There's too much salt and sunscreen soaked into the wood on your rotten porch. The paint is chipping, and it's just gray underneath. Like, the color of old lady hair kind of gray. The shade of 'aging gracefully'. There is a nest of bees forming in the stone wall by the back door, and I don't think they're making any honey. I think they just want the sugar in your chewing gum. It will make them stupid, diabetic bees, without any intention behind their lives. They are creatures made to work. They're not like you or me.

Your mother won't acknowledge me, so I talk to her and pretend she talks back. I say, "Fine weather we're having", and she'd say "Fuck off", is what I think she would say to me. She swears at me quite often, that way.

I know they really only do Cotillion in the South, but I think that's why she hates me, I've ruined your Cotillion. Because the way I understand it, Cotillion is for young ladies who are virgins, and it's an announcement that they don't want to be virgins anymore. But that time she caught me with my fingers between your legs ruined that. There's no point announcing that you want to give away something you've already disposed of. So I guess I can answer your question, fingers count after all.

Your mother looks nice. She's been seeing people lately. So I guess she's dressing up. She found out that we borrowed her lipstick. She sounded mad at the time, but I don't think she really minds. She just knows that she should mind, so she had to put on a show. You know. For the bees.

"I stole the violets from the old guy down the street. He had them in a basket. So I took that basket and dumped all the violets here. But then I felt bad, because he's old, you know? So I went and picked some different ones, and gave the basket back." I sigh. "I'm nervous."

You intentionally don't paint your nails, you're proud that you bite them. You don't chew the gum in your mouth, you leave it in your left cheek, like snuff, like camel spit. It's intentionally a little bit repulsive.

The problem is that we are meant for each other. We are two people, Thoracopagus twins conjoined at the soul. We found each other too soon, we didn't have any of the drama, any of the foreplay. None of that sexy stuff. And we're not like Romeo and Juliet, we're not going to die before our time. We have this perfect love, and nothing important to do with it.

And we don't want a soulmate. And that's what makes us soulmates.

I have grass stains on my knees from tasting you, because I couldn't say words to begin with, so I just had to fill my mouth with you. I didn't think you'd mind. You taste like you drank too much Coke while you were away. You don't care about your health at all.

"You're revolting," your mother did say that, forgetting that the window was open, with only the screen. Or maybe she didn't forget and she really wanted us to know that my blowjobs, while fantastic, make her queasy. I know I'm the one that revolts her, my special connection with her daughter that she can never have because she's been corrupted by motherhood. She won't know what your voice is like unstrung, or how soft you are underneath your skirt, or the flavor of the grime underneath your fingernails (it is a pleasant combination of skin cells and grease and five-dollar perfume and bitterness, and sometimes soap). She will never know these things, and she is jealous. Or maybe I'm just projecting. Yes, you agree, I am projecting.

I'm sorry. I know this stuff is a turn-off.

One hour ago: "You put your gum in my hair." The first thing I said to you when my mouth was no longer occupied.

You responded with your smile, I'm fond of your well-bitten lips.

"I'll keep track of it better there."

And then you pulled me up by my chin, and we didn't deal with the grass stains.

I'm proud of them.

You go inside and I stay in the back yard, momentarily exiled. You return with a cucumber, no, two cucumbers, one of them whole, the other cut up, because it amuses you to see a whole cucumber in my mouth.

"Eat it," you growl, and I do. It tastes like water.

"Did you miss me," you wonder, and I don't know if you even say it aloud, that's how loud the inside of your brain is.

"I stood vigil here, waiting for you to come home." And then I ask, "How was the funeral?", because I want to hear you tell me.

"Dull. Predictable. Keep eating."

I press the cucumber against my lips, and listen to your voice.

"He was dead months ago, and that's when I cried over him. We shouldn't have kept that machine turned on. That was an injustice. Dead bodies deserve to rot. It's what they want."

You sit beside me, one eye on my mouth, one eye closed. The grass is scratchy and parched on our bare legs, and the air smells too much like summer, overdosed on pollen. The garbage is cooking, out by the street. It's oozing out onto the sidewalk, a bilious, syrupy mess, obliterating chalk drawings and perennial flowers.

"I'm sorry about your dead dad," I try to talk around the cucumber, and can't, but you hear it anyway, because I'm thinking so loud.

"I'm sorry you love me so much."

Don't be. Don't be sorry. The neighbor's dog is sorry he bit that little girl, and your mother is sorry she didn't say goodbye, and left you to do it alone, and the old guy down the street is sorry because I found out he molested somebody and he should be sorry for that, all of them should be sorry because they're disgusting and sad and a little pathetic. They're not like you. They don't put gum in my hair, and ask me to jizz all over their J.Crew sweaters. They don't stick.

"Did nobody miss you," you ask instead of stopping your sorry.

"You did."

"But did anybody? Your brothers?"

My brothers are jealous because I've got a nice white girl, not one of those trashy ladies they keep trying to touch. They don't know how nice those girls really are. They don't know how nice you really are. Aren't.

"They think it's disgusting, the things you let me do to you."

I smile, because I don't care.

"It is disgusting."

You agree, playing with me. "You're absolutely filthy."

"The worst."

"Keep eating."

I love it when you control my stomach. I can't go in the kitchen because it belongs to your mother. And I can't leave without you because. So you gather the food and make me eat it. Or you starve me for days.

"That's why I do it." Your grin is feral. No God would put such feral lips on such a perfect face.

You lead me around the block, and we discover the gated community we think should exist somewhere tucked away. People love gates too much for there not to be a community for their appreciation nearby. We climb over them, sweaty palms pressed together like undone moth wings. The houses look empty, haunted by families that have never lived there, because families don't exist. There are statues placed tastefully in one of the yards, and they are carved in a style that would be Oriental if that wasn't racist. They’re fat and smiling, with jagged claws and clownish faces. Little racist statues.

It's not the dragon's fault that white people like the idea of the Orient.

I think it is the dragon's fault, but I know you disagree. We can TP them later.

"Is your gum still in my hair?"

You tug at it, tangled above my left temple.

"Everyone who sees it will know you're mine."

As if anyone didn't know. I slept in your back yard while you were gone because you asked me to. I growled at the neighbor's dog when he came to take a piss. I endured your mother's grumbling. I was the soldier at the gate, lighting lamps by the seaside, keeping your lighthouse warm. You wink. I slept in the rain because you asked me to. I waited for you because you asked me to. I would have done it even if you hadn't asked me to.

Does that frighten you?

"A bit." You shrug, but you don't let go of the gum. I walk lop-sided beside you, letting you lead me around the gate on the other side of the too-neat block. "I am sorry that you love me so much."

Past the gate, everything changes. The houses are no longer white, the lawns no longer green. It looks like there hasn't ever been enough water here, like the earth is just a salty swamp, infertile and incomplete. It looks like only weeds could grow here, and the world is painted ugly. Steel mill gray. Old bruise purple. Colors not fit for crayons. I like it here. The clothes hung out to dry and the washed out gasoline air all smell like home.

"Where would I be now, if I didn't love you?"

You smirk, letting go of my head.

"At home. Your dad's house. Jackin' it."

That's not much different from what I was doing while you were gone. The back yard of your mother's house, growling at the neighbor's dog. Dreaming wet dreams of your elbows and corners, getting rained on, sleeping on rank grass.

"I know you did all that." You're sorry.

"Don't be sorry."

"I think you would still be in school. You'd be going to vocational, you'd still want to be an electrician. Never really happy, but content."

I'd trade contentment for anything, any day.

"Contentment is dull."

"You're more than just anything, to me." Try to smile. "You're the girl who puts gum in my hair."

The neighborhood is shaped like a grid, with houses hanging lop-sided on the face of the mountainous hillside. There are fences and hedges that function like fences, and everything smells like poison. Insecticide and coffee grounds. And an inordinate amount of pollen.

"Tree jizz," you agree.

And far too warm. The sun makes both of us sweaty. We're going to taste like store-brand Saltines when we finally sit down. There's the house you used to go to after school. It's been painted since then. The lady who lived there might not even be alive anymore. And there's the squirrel trap in the yard across the way, and remember how much you hated the boy that lived there? It wasn't the squirrels' fault.

Your memories enter my head as I think them, until they feel like my memories, too. I can smell the cupcakes, the kind that start with a bag of powder in a box, and I can think about looking forward to the days that the flavor was chocolate, like it's something I did. I can know where all of the toys were, and that all of the crayons felt like they'd melted a little. And punching that little shit in the face when he was cruel to the kid with Down's Syndrome, what his face looked like, because 'girls don't hit'; how wrong he was!

"How is it that the houses here are nice, but not the best, and the ones on the other side of the backyard are shitty as hell, and the ones a block away need a gate to keep us out?"

The gates didn't do a good job, you think.

"But it isn't fair, don't you know?"

You shrug, and the sleeve of your dress slips down your shoulder. The cotton is blue and damp, and underneath it your skin is freckled and pale. There's still a faint impression from the bra you took off, dangling from your fingers like an ineffective handbag.

"Your name is John, right?"

You know it is.

"Say your name."

I love your commands.

"Say it."

"My name is John."

And how do we know who you are, John? You can change your clothes. You can learn to speak. The only way to know you is to look at your yard. Are you a John going to Princeton next year, or are you a john going to a whore three nights a week?

"The houses need to be the way they are. Otherwise, nobody is going to know who they are."

I think that's a lie.

"It's a lie they tell themselves."

You know so much. So much I have to say it out loud.

"You know so much."

You toss your hair off of your neck, the layers underneath curly with dampness. I want to touch it, but you haven't given me permission yet, not until we find a special place.

"I only know things that are absurd. I only know what I don't want. It's nothing useful. Maybe that's what I need you for."

I do things like hurt. You climb the swing set for me, to make sure it's safe. I get stung by the wasps so you won't. You whisper directions, and I follow. I lie down and you move on top of me. You do things like keep track of where we're going, and I do things like learn how to tell time. You find the footholds on trees so that I can follow you up. I do things like clean your legs when they're covered in pollen. I do things that are too menial to do. I do until you say, yes, just right, there, good.

This is not a special place.

"It used to be."

Your memories are like water. They felt invasive at first, but my body got used to the temperature months ago. You were Wonder Woman on the tire swing, you were a gargoyle at the top of the slide. The mulch gave you splinters and reeked of dead wood, and the trees rained caterpillars and you were a part of the forest.

Inside the fence was freedom.

"I was a such a stupid little girl."

Every little girl is stupid. Oh, that makes you laugh.

You climb the swing set, your feet leading while mine follow. The wood leaves abrasions inside your knees.

"There is no place in the world that's safe for us."

What do you mean?

"You know what I mean."

I don't want to.

"Too bad. Not knowing is contentment, and you chose not to be content."

I nod.

What do you need?

You need to hear me ask you.

"What do you need?"

You scoff. You kick hard enough for your shoes to fly.

"I need a Bachelor of Arts. I need ballet flats and 'interesting' leggings. I need to mind my p’s and q’s."

Those are things that other people need.

"Things I need to do for other people."

Things you don't need to do for me.

The problem with soulmates is that they always kill themselves. We're not going to be some tragedy. We're not going to drive into a wall, or drink ourselves underground. We are more important than that. But we can't be in a comedy, we don't want to make the world whole. If anything, we want to un-make it. Maybe we'll have to. And anyway, we've already shown the world what it's like when we have sex. We are one constant spoiler.

You kiss me, and the sun doesn't even think about setting.

"Why did you let me do it to you?"

The first time. Before we loved each other- sorry. I know you hate it when I use those words.

I was the one writing graffiti in the bathrooms. I had this silver pen that made my head smile when I smelled it. It smelled better than daisies, better than girls. It smelled better than bathrooms. All rotten, old water and soft tiles and overzealous hand sanitizer. I was me. I was unwashed and I'd cut my hair myself with a pair of safety scissors. I'd pierced my ear with a thumbtack. I'd broken my knuckles against the wall, and they were bleeding and I didn't care.

You were in the boys' room.

You said you'd never broken a rule before. I laughed at you, because it sounded so stupid, because I didn't know yet.

You said you hated me. I knew, I knew you looked at me when I laughed, and you saw my crooked teeth and you resented me. So I resented you back. I thought it was because of my jeans, or maybe my smell, or my loudness, or my cigarettes. I thought you resented me because good girls resent bad boys. But you knew. You always knew.

You said you wanted me.

There was a cage on the bathroom window. We couldn't have opened that window. It was a metal cage to keep us from jumping, or from other people getting in. Or maybe the cage was an aesthetic choice, a symbolic 'fuck you' to the people inside looking out. It had been painted pink, and rust was peeking through.

And I wanted to know what you wanted. And I wanted to give it to you.

"I didn't understand."

I wanted to be an electrician, or a carpenter, because they made money. I wanted a cigarette. I wanted to write a bomb threat on the bathroom stall because I wanted a reason to go anywhere else.

And then I wanted to give you what you wanted.

"I let you take my shirt and flush it down the toilet. One of the sleeves snagged on the seat."

Because I could, you think.

Because the janitor was tall and mean and told the little boys they were fat and told the little girls they were stupid. Because it took him hours to dig my shirt out. It was covered in buttons, it ruined the pipes. And after, he was covered in old water and porcelain dust, and everyone thought he deserved it, because everyone knows everyone is fat and stupid, and it doesn't do anyone any good to say anything about it. It's just mean.

"I let you pinch me."

I let her hold on to my skin so hard, harder than I thought two fingers could hold, and there was a square-shaped mark on my shoulder for days. It started out red, before it went purple and black, and then faded to the generic yellowy-green of old bruises. I hid it, because I wasn't sure if I was supposed to show it to anyone. It was your special badge you loaned to me to wear.

"I asked you not to let go."

"And I told you that you were never to tell me what to do."

Your choice. Everything. Yours. You chew on your fingernails. I haven't answered your question properly. Your skirt has ridden up so completely, I can see your skin where even the sun hasn't touched you. skin that feels so nice. Soft and strong. Your underwear is tangled, you must have shoved it on. It's dark gray. Cotton. Unremarkable.

"Don't look at me right now."

I do as you say.


"What's my answer?"

You know my answer. You want to hear it.

I was angry and my knuckles were still bleeding and nobody was coming to get me. The principal had just told me that my mom was going to die. He didn’t use those words, but the news from the hospital was bad and he was the messenger and I really wanted to shoot him. He hadn't said it, but he'd also told me that my dad was going to marry someone new, and she was going to be dull and she was going to have no idea how to make peanut butter sandwiches (crunchy peanut butter and red-skin peanuts on wheat bread with honey) and she was going to have no idea how to water the plants and the plants were going to drown and she was going to have no idea what to do with me.

The principal had told me, inadvertently, incompletely, but irrevocably, that I was going to go to vocational school because I was going to want to work so I could leave that house and marry an appropriate girl and be a good dad because that's what you do when you move out of the house. Only my kids weren't going to have a grandmother, just some lady called 'nana' that didn't know how to make a peanut butter sandwich.

He told me that I was going to have a tuna sandwich every day for lunch, wrapped up in a brown paper bag with a thermos full of soup gone cold and a zip locked bag of potato chips, squished mostly into crumbs.

That I would have one pair of work shoes and one pair of funeral shoes and white socks to match my white underwear and a haircut like my dad's and a car with a driver's seat with enough space for my legs and tax forms to fill out as the 'head of the household' and I might read a book or two and I might go camping once or twice and maybe there'd be some kind of unspoken specialness between me and my first son where we'd do the whole 'throw a baseball' thing and maybe, eventually, I'd die feeling like it had all been enough.

And when he told me all that, without saying any of it, I just knew that I didn't want it. I didn't want a house like the one I grew up in, with tight-packed bedrooms and bunk beds and a basement full of junk and bicycles. I didn't want a garage or a closet full of workmen's boots. I didn't want to be in charge of the bills every month. I wanted to burn my whole neighborhood down. I wanted to make sure I never had to see that street again. I wanted to bake some fucking cupcakes and take an axe to the trees out front. I hated the sidewalk, and the little tufts of grass growing through its cracks. I hated the useless shrubs, struggling for survival. I hated the beat up cars and the broken glass on my neighbor's lawn and the brittle, tacky ornaments I could see from my bedroom window.

And then you walked into the bathroom, and pinched me, and I did not have permission to tell you what to do.

"Because all of a sudden, there was nothing else in the world."

You knew that already.

"I did. But it's different, hearing it."

You think, and your thoughts are quiet. You're not contemplative often.

"If we can't have a house," you shut your eyes, "then where will we go?"

If we can't make a house with our two hands, what will be the bridge that connects our hearts through our arms?

God, poetry is for ninnies.

I hate the insects. They gnaw on us both, then flicker away like insubstantial lights, our blood commingled in their stomachs. Greedy bastard things. They are of little value, they're only food for the frogs. And frogs aren't worth much either, not in a swamp anyway. There's just an excess of unnecessary things.

"Very good."

I don't know what I've done.

"You've figured it out."

Everything is worth nothing to us, you think, when you don't know the answer.

Everything else has failed us. Disappointed us.

It's hot when you're vague.

I curl up against your sweaty skin. You let me taste you, just a little. Sour and salty. I close my eyes, rolling your taste around in my mouth, sucking the last of it from my lips like it's the best taste in the world. We're not in agreement on what the best taste in the world is. You think it's new chewing gum, the orange flavor, no mint. I think it's macaroni and cheese, baked and bright orange and sprinkled with breadcrumbs. We both agree that the taste of one another's skin is not the best taste in the world. But it is our favorite. I rut against you, and you rut back.

"You could drag me underground. Bury me among the roots of a gnarled tree, let them grow around me, tangling, growing next to my bones, tendrils wrapped inside the marrow. You could turn me into a wooden boy, and leave me with the earth. And every day you could come and water me, and I'd spend every night afraid that you're going to forget me. You know I'd wait."

Trucks rattle past us. The street lights attract bugs. The sewers are full of rot and old rainwater. Everything buzzes, like static electricity, like the broken dryer in your basement, like the skin on your throat when you moan. Moving too much around us, like the world will never stop moving. The Earth is such a restless planet.

I forget that I was talking, and my throat stops working as I press my lips against you, but you hear me anyway.

You could leave me beneath the sky, on some roof somewhere. Let the sun burn me, let the rain freeze me, let the snow bury me. I would wait for you, unrestrained, willingly. You could abandon me and make me wait for your return.

"I did."

Or I could follow you. I could trail you, a captive to your shadow. I could mirror your steps and bend to your will. You could lead me through fire and let it burn my fingertips. I would walk for miles, attuned to your pace and nothing else.

"I know you would. Keep making promises."

You flip me over, press me down, my back pillowed by rough, dead grass. It scrapes against me where my skin is bared: against my forearms, against the space between my shirt and my jeans, against my neck. You press a fist against my sternum, allowing every breath I take.

You could tether me to your wrist and feed me from your palm. I could be an exotic bird, a lapdog, a pet dragon. The main attraction of your menagerie. You could build me a room and place me in it; cover all the mirrors and close all the windows so that the only living face I see is yours. Until you're the only person left in the world, and the world is only the room.

This is what passes for sweet-talking these days. That makes you laugh, and I feel it in my groin, your deep, snarky laughter. I gasp as you cup me, rolling what you find in your palm, not very softly. Do you want me to keep going? Of course.

You could bid me to build you a church, and I could spend every day worshipping you, and it would never be enough. My palms would be bloodies by the altar, eyes blackened by the smoke of a million tributary candles. I could memorize every uneven freckle, every overlapping crease in your skin, every curly tendril of frazzled hair. I could fill endless volumes of sacred texts detailing your every shape and curve and texture. I could keep fires stoked in your honor. I could beat my lips together until they bleed just addressing you in prayer. I could write books about you. I could hand-illustrate every page. And in the corners I would discretely hide pictures of goats fucking, monks mooning nuns, and the delicious pleasures of orally sexing a vagina.

You know, like those books in museums.

"I may have to."

I taste your snicker on my lips. You lean over me, holding my thighs between your own. My hipbones scrape against your insides. The streetlights illuminate us, but the world doesn't see us. The Neighborhood Watch bitterly looks away; we are more repellant than their sprays and Citronellas.

You squeeze, and I know you feel me through the thick denim. It pleases you to see the evidence of my attraction to you, the completeness of my bent will underneath you. You grin. I can't close my eyes, I'm a victim to that grin. I bare my neck to you, and you press your lips against my veins so that I can feel your voice inside my skin, an insidious melody that competes with my pulse. I want it to win. I want it to conquer me. You laugh because it already has. Your name might as well be written on my heart.

"I may have to build us a place," your whispers are warm and intimate inside my blood. "Because there is no place for us. We're not welcome."

We make people uncomfortable.

"We are uncomfortable," you reply. "Feel how your back is."

My spine is bent awkwardly, pressed too flat against the perfectly dried out manicured lawn. There's a sharp rock digging into my shoulder, wedging itself in the joint when you sway above me. Your fist is still pressed against my sternum, and my breath escapes and finds itself underneath my ribs, pressing against them and rubbing my skin into the dirt.

I close my eyes. You can feel all that?


Everything. All I feel, and you feel it too. There's nothing I can keep from you, not even pain.

We are outside the house I grew up in. There's a red plastic tricycle underneath the porch. The color has faded to a sickly Pepto-Bismol pink, rain and sun and dirt have claimed it, but not completely. I used to ride it inside the house, in just my diaper, and it used to make my mother wild, always afraid I'd break something or someone or some part of me and I never cared.

"You don't even have that anymore."

She died.

"You had a monopoly on dead parents, but you don't even have that. I've taken everything from you."

I should feel sad. Sad that this girl, this other, has everything that used to be mine. She took my mind first, and then she took my body, and now she has everything; memories and sensations, she will be all I will ever want again. I am fully hers. But I feel no loss, no especial tragedy. You don't have to be careful with me, but you are. And being kept by you makes me horny.

You definitely have a monopoly on my libido. You've made sure of that.

You kiss me. My lips are sensitive. You don't bite. I know you can. I don't know if you will.

"I want you to scream my name. I want you to line your pants when you wake up the street. I want all the yippy little lapdogs to howl from fear." You suck on my earlobe (because) I will do anything you say.

The sun rises as I wake up. You're gone, but you're nearby. I can still feel your weight on me, or maybe that's just wishful thinking. Groaning, I close my eyes and see the living room where I used to sit. There's a television; in my memories it's on but in your eyesight right now, it's off. Your mouth tastes like tap water. Did you steal water from a hose? Ah, yes, from the yard down the street.

You didn't cover me, so I lay here, waiting for you, as bared as you left me, weary dew seeping into my wrinkled clothing. What's left of it.

I can hear my step-mom's feet on the weatherworn front steps. You've already stolen me, she must know she's not getting me back.

She never had me in the first place, and my fierceness is alight. You flatter me with thoughts like that.


Her voice will never live inside my head, never trickle in between my ears and rest there like a parasite. With my step-mother, I have a choice; I don't have to listen to her. I do, for now, but only because you didn't tell me to leave.

"Hi Lisa."

Her hair is starchy, and her eyes are plain. She looks at me, sprawled across the lawn, and I know what she must assume, but I don't drink, not anymore. I gave up drinking, gave up smoking, because no one else can own me. I wanted you to have me, completely, so addiction lost its claim to me. Addiction never really had me in the first place, either. I was given to you before I took my first breath. I was made for you.

And I don't even think God exists.

"Can you get up, please?"

That's misleading, because it's not a question, but no one else can command you, and your thoughts seep inside me, and I don't think those were meant for me to hear. I wince, because Lisa's made you angry.

"I'm ok where I am Lisa."

You want me to look at her, so I do. She thinks I'm trying to upset her. She thinks that I hate her, but there's not enough of her to hate. She only ever wanted little things. A new mattress. An in-building washing machine, on the second floor. A small ring on her finger. A vacation to Florida once a year. And now she has all of it, and there's nothing left inside her. There's no want. No need. She's a tiny human being, all filled up with tiny, little things. You tell me to smell the Nair on her legs, listen to the whistle of air through the gap in her teeth. You tell me to notice the things that you notice, the list of things that make Lisa unlikeable where you live.

Please don't be petty.

"Are you all right?"

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