Art by Seth Goodkind www.sethgoodkind.comFiction by: Emily Calvin
Virginia and Tim have been dating for fifteen years, five of which Tim has been dead. Virginia never believed in ghosts until her fiancé became one, and after a couple weeks, she adjusted to living with a spirit and closed herself off to almost anyone living. People called her paranoid, schizophrenic, weird, and obsessive. She didn’t know what to call herself, but she knew she still loved Tim. She felt like one of those women she saw on Jerry Springer or Maury whose husbands have changed their gender, but they still somehow stayed together because they loved one another, no matter how odd the couple looked.
Tim loved Virginia enough to stick around even after his buddy accidentally knocked a cement block off the edge of a high-rise with his work boot while Tim stood below. He worked construction, and his hard hat cracked into his skull. The only part that bothered Virginia about living with a ghost pertained to his appearance. That cement block left a dent the size of a crater on the moon in Tim’s head, and apparently the afterlife did not mend broken bones, so she forced him to wear a hat at all times. The wound made her stomach turn. The translucent blood made everything all too real.
The hat reminded Tim of his accident.
Life changed when Tim died. Even though Virginia enjoyed his company, however haunted, they could no longer have guests over. Virginia moved into a studio after Tim died—which is where he found her, the day after his funeral, and crawled in bed with her as she slept. The place showed no sign of company. One blue sheet rested atop her bed, folded and creased as if she never slept. She didn’t have much anymore, but she liked to keep what she did own tidied. The sink had no dishes, dish soap, or sponge. Her cupboards hid one glass and one plate, and in the drawer below the sink, one lonely fork lay in wait. Good thing Tim never needed to eat. The only messy part of Virginia’s place hid in the corner, behind her bed, where she scribbled thoughts in permanent marker on her walls—
“white restlessness sits across the stage as i scratch my black pants into oblivion.”
“maybe i lost my one and only chance at true love…”
“i want the erotic heat to take me over like the ocean takes over the sea conchs at midnight.”
“insanity means writing without purpose and hugging trees and kissing cold lips.”
“i’ve got to stop beating my bare feet around his burning bush.”
They used to have fine China and champagne flutes before Tim’s accident. Virginia tossed it all when she moved to her studio and got a cheap plate, glass, and fork from Goodwill just in case she ever cooked.
But she never did. Tim didn’t eat, and Virginia lost her appetite from looking at his skull all the time.
They used to host dinner parties when Tim lived in the flesh. He invited all his friends; Virginia cooked pot roast and blueberry pie, and they reveled in their company. Virginia kept in touch with a few of his friends, but she never invited them over. They feared her company too because they assumed she suffered from severe delusions. Her days of marching naked through the streets of New York City to protest fur or save the whales lay in the past, with Tim’s body, under that cement block that crushed his skull. She had nothing to say to their friends, his friends, anymore.
When they invited her to protest against McDonalds or Walmart, she fabricated previous obligations and stocked her refrigerator full of Coca Cola just to spite them “Yeah, I used to believe I could change things too,” she said to them, “but then Tim died and…well…fuck it all. What can we really do? I’m over it.”
Tim tried to force her out of the house at first. When a friend called about a whaling ship protest—a cause about which Tim felt especially strongly—he almost screamed at her. “How can you not care?” he asked.
“I just don’t, Tim,” she said. “I don’t want to be around anyone but you. If they call me about a protest for ghost rights, I’m there, but whaling ships? I can’t stop those.”
He sulked on the floor, and she sat down next to him until he felt better, looked into her eyes, and placed a cold, foggy hand on hers.
When her only real friend, Tracey, invited Virginia to hot yoga or Pilates, Virginia pulled out her pack of Pall Malls. She never blew smoke in her face, though; she always turned her head to the right, twisted her mouth into the right corner of her face, and blew a straight rocket of smoke away from her present company. “Don’t invite me just for Tim’s sake,” she said.
“Stop smoking; it’s disgusting,” Tim said.
“But when I blow the smoke in your direction, I can see you better.”
Sometimes Tim’s friends succeeded in dragging her to lectures titled “Existentialism and Its Meaninglessness” or “Everything You Know Is Wrong: An Introduction to New Age Zen Hindu-Buddhist Taoism, Nihilistically Speaking.” She slumped in the corner and scribbled nonsense into a black, leather notebook with “Logorrhea” scripted on the cover—
“if you’re a glass of dripping water, why aren’t you refreshing? there must be some salt lingering from your last look into the past, before the flood, into the water, because that’s what moves me. not your smell. not your clothes. not your taste in music or literature. not your anatomy. the way you get it; one way or another, you get it, and i am left speechless.”
Tim sat next to her and read over her shoulder. She hated when he did that as flesh and blood, and she hated it even more as a ghost. The hot breath of a living human became ice-cold wind sending chills to her toes. Her auburn hair stretched down to the small of her back, and it waved just slightly in the wind of Tim’s breath.
Tracey lived about two blocks away, but she and Virginia only communicated via phone and email. The more time Virginia spent with Tim, the less she wanted to leave her home. Everything began to remind her of Tim’s accident and his head, his cracked skull, and she developed a fear of almost everything outside her home. She especially hated square tables. The edges reminded her of the cement brick that killed Tim.
Square tables also reminded her of the Italian restaurant where he proposed to her. They never married, and Virginia’s fancy dinners dwindled into consuming cashews, frozen fruit pops, and Diet Coke on the floor of her studio apartment while Tim sat next to her. They barely talked. The silence felt more appropriate for a relationship with a ghost. The longest conversation they ever had occurred after she spent her first day in five years outside, with another person. Tim and Virginia fought like dogs before Virginia made the decision to leave him behind.
“I can’t believe you’re leaving! And to a nightclub of all places! Who is that Giselle girl? I don’t like the way she looks at you.”
“Relax Tim…I mean come on…did you think we’d be together forever…like this? Me and a ghost?”
“Well, sort of.”
“Me too, but…I don’t know…I just…I’m losing it Tim…I really am…and I just need to get out. Meet new people. Maybe Giselle will be good for me.”
“Well I’m coming with you.”
Virginia knew how senseless arguing with a ghost could be, so she saved her energy and dressed in silence. Tim watched her, and Virginia remembered how warm his hands used to feel around her stomach when he came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. Now he couldn’t. After she slipped on a pair of low-rise Levi’s, a grey sports bra, and an old T-shirt of Tim’s, she left her place with Tim in toe.
When Virginia entered “Twisted Sisters,” she broke a five-year stint of mild agoraphobia, but her paranoia and delusions continued as Tim entered the bar behind her. She opened the unmarked, black door, and the scent of papaya, cocaine, and guilty excitement stained her nose. She saw Giselle behind the DJ table and watched her spin the vinyl with fierce and delicate precision. Emeralds dripped from Giselle’s hazel eyes onto the gold chains draped across her neck and stained them like rusted copper. Her burning hair reminded Virginia of the suns she drew in elementary school—with alternating shades of reds, oranges, and yellows that traveled in opposite directions into the cloudless sky and off the construction paper.
Tim sighed, and Virginia felt a breeze at the nape of her neck. “Oh shut it,” she whispered. “I’m here to have fun.”
Bass pumped through Virginia’s blood, and she started to wonder what kind of spell Giselle had cast on her. Giselle looked up from the table and caught Virginia’s eye. She smiled. Virginia looked down. Her insides felt like peach pulp, and she choked on their pits. She felt alone in a crowd and unable to hide her tomato-red face as she approached the bar, surveyed the liquor selection against the wall, and ordered her favorite drink: Jameson and Reed’s Ginger Beer. The bartender had hair like David Bowie in Labyrinth, and Virginia looked for a sign of breasts in an attempt to identify the tender’s gender. “What the fuck am I even doing here?” she thought, as the Bowie look-alike handed over her drink.
“You don’t belong here,” Tim whispered, as if he could read her mind.
“I told you to shut up. I told you you weren’t even invited to this bar.”
“But why are you even here?” Tim asked.
When Giselle invited her to the gay nightclub where she DJed on the weekends, Virginia envisioned a damp, crowded dive bar that smelled like permanent marker, dried gum, and sweat. The day before she met Giselle, she could not imagine leaving Tim nor could she envision taking him to a gay club. However, Giselle knocked on Virginia’s door at an opportune and vulnerable time; one might call it kairos.
Right before the fateful knock on Virginia’s door, she had spent an hour on the phone with Tracey. “You only leave your house to buy booze and cigarettes, Virginia. You’ll never get over Tim that way.”
She sat on the floor with a fruit pop in hand, and Tim sat on her bed, scribbling in permanent marker on her walls. “But what about all the edges? If I go outside, there are square tables and sharp corners everywhere!”
Tim looked at her and nodded.
“Still with the tables? You’ve gotta get over that sometime. You’ve gotta get over Tim sometime. You’ve gotta get out of your house, Virginia.”
She drew lines in the carpet while listening to Tracey on the phone. “I don’t want to forget about him. I don’t want to forget anything because things were lovely then. I cared about shit, and now nothing matters.”
Tracey sighed. “Why must you be so obnoxiously nihilistic all the time? Just loosen up! Okay, Tim’s dead, and I’m terribly sorry about that…I really am. I miss him too. All the time. He was my best friend. But you can’t let the end of his life be the end of yours. He died. You didn’t. He’d want you to live your life.”
“Don’t give me that bullshit. No one but Tim and me know what he wants for me”—two X’s in the carpet with a frown drawn beneath them.
“Okaaaaay, fine,” Tracey started again. “What do you want for you? You’ve got to want something with your life. You can’t possibly be satisfied sitting in your pathetic apartment all by yourself all day long.”
“Hey, it’s not pathetic!”
“It’s sad, Virginia; it’s like a concentration camp in there.”
“Well, what would you suggest I do, Madame Tracey? Call in Martha Stewart and have her house-wife up the place?”
“Don’t get testy. I’m just saying, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Try something new! Face your fears! GO OUTSIDE. Do something, Virginia, or you’ll kill yourself slowly.”
“That’s the point,” and then she heard a knock on her door. “Ugh, I gotta go. Someone’s trying to bother me again.”
“See, there you go again! Don’t be so negative. Who knows…maybe this knock at the door will lead you to a brand new adventure, a new life, happiness.”
“Yeah…right…or it’ll lead me to a phonebook I don’t need or some Girl Scout cookies I’ll eat too fast. Look, I’ll talk to you later okay?”
She hung up, and her eyes darted around her apartment before she opened the door. Tim ran to the door before her to see who stood on the other side. He recognized no one and felt no fear, so he shrugged his shoulders and returned to his scribbling. Virginia placed her hand on the silver doorknob and peeked through the tiny, circular, glass hole in her door. A swollen, pink smile through a fish-eye lens stared back, and she opened the door a sliver. She peeked her head through the crack, and the tall, muscular body attached to that glimmering smile stared back.
“What do you want?”
“Oh hi! My name’s Giselle!”
She shoved a hand into Virginia’s personal space. Virginia stared at the hand, then back at Giselle. Not a single muscle moved in Virginia’s body. Giselle cleared her throat and lowered her hand. “I live around the corner, and um, I was just going around the neighborhood telling people about my rock climbing business!”
She tried to smile as genuinely as before. “Oh, I don’t go outside,” said Virginia, “and I definitely don’t climb rocks.”
Giselle’s smile fell into a line as she thought about how to overcome this obstacle. “Okay,” she laughed, “that’s fine. But it’s really fun, and you get to meet some wonderful people.”
Virginia felt her eyes on every inch of her body, and she crossed her arms in an attempt to hide her D-cup breasts unhindered by a bra. “Why is she staring at me like that?” she thought, “Do I have something on my face?”
Giselle reached into her backpack and pulled out a pen. “Here, I’ll just write my number on the back of the card so if you ever decide you’d like to leave your house…you can call me and we can set up an individual appointment! I’m a trainer, see? So I can teach you how to do it. It’s fun I promise.”
Virginia still did not move. “Just take the card.”
Giselle smiled, and placed her hand back into Virginia’s space with the card. Virginia snatched the card, forced a smile, and closed the door. She bolted the door and stared through the peephole to make sure Giselle left promptly. After watching for about a minute, Virginia turned around and read the card. It read, “Rock Climbing Trainer,” with the tagline, “Ever wanted to learn to climb on real mountains? We start you out on the real thing right away! Email for an appointment.”
She turned the card over and read the phone number. She read the phone number three times before committing it to memory. Virginia had the memory of an elephant, or so she liked to think. “Don’t even think about calling that bitch,” Tim said.
“Well, she seemed nice. I don’t know.”
Tim threw the permanent marker on the ground and marched to Virginia’s side. Virginia felt his anger and forgot for a second that he did not possess the ability to hit her. She winced, and he wrapped his arms around her. She stood still and felt the cold, wet fog envelop her for a second then fade away. “That’s not even a real hug.”
Tim let go and walked back to the bed.
The next day, Virginia called Giselle. Bothered by her fight with Tim and inspired by her conversation with Tracey, she started to believe maybe Tim was just a fragment of her imagination and he would disappear if she only went outside. He could never hold her again. And he could never look at her the way Giselle did—like she wanted some ice cream on a hot day. “Try something new,” she kept whispering, until her legs led her to the phone, her fingers dialed the number on the back of the card, and Giselle answered.
“Hellooooo! Giselle speaking. What can I do for ya?”
“Um hi, Giselle?”
“Yes, this is Giselle. With whom am I speaking?”
“Um…this is Virginia…I never told you my name…you came by my place the other day and gave me your—”
“Oh yeah! You’re the girl who never leaves her house, right?”
“Yeah, that’s me. My name’s Virginia.”
She kept glancing at Tim, who sulked in the corner and brooded…or haunted.
“Well, Virginia, it’s nice to meet you! Did you finally change your mind? You ready for an adventure?”
Virginia hesitated at the word “adventure.” She shivered, looked at Tim, crying clear tears in the corner, and said, “Yes.”
“Good, you free tomorrow? I just had a cancellation, and I’ve got a great spot reserved in White Salmon.”
“Oh, um, yeah, I have no plans. I guess I could do that.”
Tim looked up, his pale face stained with grey lines of ghost tears. He never looked so pathetic.
“Awesome! I’ll pick you up at your place tomorrow at 10:30. Sound good?”
“Oh, and Virginia?”
“Don’t be scared. I’ll take care of you I promise. Just wear comfortable clothes; see you tomorrow!”
Virginia hung up first. What had she done? Rock climbing? In White Salmon? She climbed in bed, and grabbed her permanent marker.
“initials and abbreviations and sadness and song lyrics and depression and alcohol and drugs and creativity. mood disorders and television shows. novels and poetry. feminists and Romantics….”
Tim cried in the corner. “I don’t know why you’re so upset,” she said.
“Are you serious? Of course you know! You’re leaving me!”
“I’m not leaving you! I’m just going outside. It’s not the end of the world…I don’t think.”
“See!” he raised a foggy finger toward her, “You admit it! You’re terrified!”
“Okay, yes, I’m terrified.”
She put down the marker and turned toward him. “But that’s not going to stop me anymore. Tim it’s been five years of this, and I’m tired, I’m lonely, and I feel crazy.”
“But you’re not crazy. We’re in love, remember?”
“Yeah…I guess it’s still real love.”
The knock on the door came promptly at 10:30 the next morning. Giselle wore tight black biker shorts, an oversized, white tank top, and a black sports bra. She tied her blonde hair back into a bun, and she carried two backpacks of gear. When Virginia opened the door a crack, Giselle pushed her aside, barged in, and threw down the bags.
“Ready?” she asked.
She stood akimbo and stared at Virginia, still in her baggy T-shirt and underwear in which she slept. Virginia looked down, and her face flushed. Giselle smiled. “Oh don’t be embarrassed. I never wear pants. I hardly even have pants on right now!”
“Heh, yeah, I should get dressed.”
“Okay then go! The clock’s tickin’ and we got some rocks to climb!”
“Well she’s a bit presumptuous,” Tim whispered in Virginia’s ear.
Virginia shuddered as she reached under her bed, pulled out a pair of jean shorts and one of Tim’s old, black, fishing T-shirts. She stretched a grey, worn-out, cotton sports bra over her disproportionally large breasts. She pulled her hair up with an elastic band before slipping on sneakers. She glanced in the mirror on her way over to Giselle. Her face looked ghostly white and her brown eyes looked extra dull today. Tim stood next to her but had no reflection in the mirror. “I’m coming with you,” he said.
“Fine,” she whispered, “just keep quiet.”
Make-up seemed useless. She looked at Giselle and tried to force a smile.
It took about an hour to drive to White Salmon, and Giselle explained everything Virginia needed to know about rock climbing safety on the way, while Tim sat in the back seat interrupting every five seconds. She spoke slowly and calmly, and Virginia wondered how many girls she took rock climbing every day.
When they got to the mountain, Giselle helped Virginia with her harness and set to work hooking up the track for them to climb. Moss and mold covered the mountain and painted it with a rainbow of light greens and oranges. A breeze from the river below kept the area cool, and Virginia listened to the water lap over the rocks below. She had no idea she lived so close to a rainforest. The rocks were covered in cracks from years of lava erosion, and the path Giselle climbed looked like a jagged jigsaw puzzle.
“You know, I used to study the stars,” Giselle yelled from the top of the rock.
She hooked a carbineer into the top rung, slid the rope through, secured it, and slid down the rope onto the ground next to Virginia.
“I went to school for astronomy.”
“Oh,” said Virginia into the dirt, “that’s cool.”
“You ever look up there and just want to know everything about all those little balls of fire burning into infinity?”
Virginia never went outside. Of course she never looked at the sky.
“Liar,” Tim whispered.
Virginia twitched. Giselle didn’t notice.
“So, what do you do?” Giselle asked.
“Oh, um, well, I…I design websites…well sometimes…I mean I’ve sort of been out of work for a while…haven’t really been looking for it…”
“Web design? That’s awesome man. I wish I could design my own website. Hey, can I pay you to design one for me?”
“Oh um, sure. Yeah I can do that. I just have to find the time,” Virginia lied.
“You’re not really going to do that for her are you?” Tim whispered.
“Okay, enough small talk, let’s get you on that rock!”
Giselle clapped her hands and set herself up to belay. Virginia shuffled toward the rock. She turned around to see Tim standing right next to Giselle, arms crossed, watching and waiting. Giselle smiled encouragement. Virginia placed one hand at eye level on the mountain, and the rock crumbled in her hand like sand. “Oh don’t worry about that…just make sure you find the rock without moss on it. It holds up better, but even if you fall, I’ve got you.”
Giselle winked, but Virginia didn’t see it. She couldn’t stop thinking Tim climbed that mountain first, loosened all the rocks, and now stood back waiting for her to fall so she would run home and never leave again. Part of her wanted to run home. The other part couldn’t give up until she reached the top of that rock.
One hand here, one foot there, push up with your leg, another hand, another foot, push further, and further, and further. Virginia must have blacked out because before she looked up she had reached the top of the rock. Giselle jumped up and down below her, cheering her on and smiling bigger than the Cheshire cat. Tim stood next to her and sulked. He kept his arms crossed and refused to look at Virginia. A rush of warmth ran through Virginia’s hands as she reached the top and rang the bell that meant she made it. She made it, no thanks to Tim.
She turned around and looked down. Her body froze. She felt dizzy and nauseous. How had she climbed up this? How would she get down? Giselle yelled, but everything went silent. Virginia couldn’t hear a thing except Tim’s mocking whisper as she let go of the rung and fell backwards. “You can’t just jump…it’s too scary! You’ll die. But maybe you want that? Just jump and then we can really be together.”
Virginia let go, but deep down, she must have known she wouldn’t die, because her face showed relief as her feet touched ground thanks to Giselle’s graceful skill. Tim twisted his face into a disappointed frown. “I can’t believe you wanted me to die,” she whispered. “Get in the car and leave me the fuck alone!”
Tim dropped his head and walked through the car door and into the back seat.
“You did it!”
Giselle screamed, and ran over to hug Virginia. Virginia patted her on the back in response to the hug and ripped off the harness. “That was terrifying. Can you please take me home?”
“Certainly, Virginia. Anything you want.”
Giselle took the harness, packed everything into the car, and drove Virginia—and Tim—home in silence. The only words spoken came from Giselle as Virginia left her car—“I hope you still have my number. You can call me anytime, ya know…not just for rock climbing.”
She smiled. Virginia smiled back and stared into her green eyes. What did she want? She turned around and walked into her apartment building.
“Don’t even think about calling that bitch,” Tim whispered.
“Or what?” she said.
“Honey, I’m a ghost; what do you think?”
She looked at Tim with squinted eyes, then threw the door to her studio open. She almost tried to shut Tim out as she slammed the door and locked herself inside. “I said SHUT UP!”
She ran to the kitchen. She had one bottle of Merlot stashed beneath her sink, and she grabbed it and ripped the cork out with her Swiss Army knife. “Leave me alone! Why are you even here still?”
“Baby, calm down.”
Tim floated toward her.
“Don’t come any closer.”
Virginia held the knife toward him. He laughed. “Honey, that’s not gonna hurt me. Come on…you love me. It’s me, Tim. I’m here because we’re in love.”
“Well…what if I don’t love you anymore?”
“We both know that’s not true; so put the knife down and just let me hold you.”
“You can’t! You can’t hold me even if you wanted to! That’s the problem!”
She marched to the couch and threw herself on it. She screamed at Tim and downed the bottle as if she had been stranded on a desert and the wine was her first canteen of water in days. By the time she emptied the bottle, her frustration had mounted, and she threw the glass bottle across the room. She screamed as it flew through Tim and crashed against the wall. He stood in front of her, trying to get closer, and he didn’t even look back at the broken glass. “Stop fighting me,” he said.
“You don’t exist!”
“Then who are you talking to?”
“Ah! I hate you! Go away! You’re not real!”
Hazy eyed with a bit of vertigo, Virginia grabbed Giselle’s card from the kitchen counter, dialed her number, and agreed to meet Giselle where she DJed in an hour. She hung up the phone and stared at Tim. He proceeded to lament about being left behind while Virginia dressed in her jeans and Tim’s T-shirt. “You’re not invited.”
“I’m coming anyways.”
She grabbed her keys and rode her bike to the club before sobriety could rethink her decision for her.
Fifteen minutes later, Virginia and Tim arrive at “Twisted Sisters.” She wished she put more thought into her clothes before she rushed over here. She stood in front of Giselle, watching her laugh and dance and finesse the vinyl as if she were pleasing a woman. Giselle kept stealing glances at Virginia, and Virginia tried to avoid eye contact. She could not remember why she came. Her head spun, and she sipped her drink. Tim stood next to her, unseen by anyone but Virginia, and mocked her every move. She tried to ignore him. She tried to lose him in the crowd on the dance floor. Her hips shifted to the left and right. Her feet slid back and forth. Her head nodded. But nothing lasted long. She felt a cold breeze on her hips and knew Tim found her. Eventually, she gave up and stood in the corner with one arm across her stomach and the other at her mouth, drink in hand.
She stood there like a statue for an hour, next to Tim, ignoring him while unable to avoid him, and watching Giselle DJ.
Then Giselle took a break.
She hopped down from the DJ booth. She wore a teal version of the same oversized tank top she wore earlier that day, but her spandex shorts had grown into pants that reached her ankles. Slip-on Keds covered her feet. Her eyes had been decorated with liquid eyeliner far beyond her actual eyes, and glitter covered her body. She looked stunning. Almost like a faerie or a mermaid. “I can’t believe you’re here!”
“Yeah, me neither,” said Virginia.
“Yeah, me neither,” said Tim.
“Well…what do you think?…of the place?”
“I think it’s…crowded,” she laughed and sipped her drink, “but the décor is pretty cool.”
“Pretty cool?” whispered Tim. “This place looks like a 1980s rave party.”
The bar had black walls with disco balls hanging like lamps from the ceiling. In one room, people mobbed and grinded to the DJ; in the other room, people shoved and squeezed through to the bar for drinks. Besides black paint, tiny chips of mirror covered the walls, and lights in the corners created strobes in every direction.
“I love it. It’s my home…my favorite place to party!”
Giselle grabbed Virginia’s hand and pulled her to the bar.
“Oh I have a drink.”
“Don’t let that bitch buy you a drink,” said Tim.
“Well, I’m exhausted. I need to sit down. I need a drink, and I’d love to sit and talk to you!”
She put an arm around Virginia. Virginia stiffened, but the liquor sank into her inhibitions, Tim’s ragging fueled her desire for change, and she relaxed. They pushed to the corner of the bar, found two stools, and sat. Giselle ordered a gin and tonic and placed her hands on Virginia’s thighs.
“What the fuck is she doing!” Tim yelled.
Virginia didn’t move a muscle. “Listen, I’m just going to be honest…can I be honest?” Giselle asked.
Virginia’s legs tingled, and she stared into Giselle’s mermaid eyes. “Um yeah, I’d like that.”
“I just think you’re stunning.”
“Oh gag me,” said Tim.
Virginia’s hands jumped on top of Giselle’s. She looked down. When did she do that? It felt nice. Tim watched.
“Yes you, sweetheart.”
Giselle twisted her hands around and held Virginia’s. She leaned toward Virginia. “What are you doing?” Virginia asked.
“Trying to kiss you.”
Giselle did not pull away from Virginia’s face.
“Don’t let her do it. I swear to God, Virginia, don’t kiss her or else,” whispered Tim.
“Well…I just don’t…see I have this boyfriend…well ex-boyfriend…well…it’s…ummm…”
Giselle placed a hand on Virginia’s mouth and whispered in her ear, “Do you think I’m beautiful?”
Tim’s voice blew cold air between their lips. Virginia’s entire body went numb, and she whispered back, “Very much so.”
“Then kiss me.”
Virginia pulled away, grabbed Giselle’s face, stared into her eyes, and almost began to cry. Giselle grabbed Virginia’s stool, pulled her closer, held her by the waist and pressed her lips against hers. Virginia took a deep breath and kissed back. “Oh god, why does this feel so nice?” thought Virginia, while Tim fumed behind her back.
“I can’t believe you,” he yelled. “You’re disgusting.”
“Then fuck off,” she whispered, but he went nowhere.
Giselle looked at Virginia. “What?”
“Nothing, nothing, sorry.”
Ten minutes later, the girls hailed a cab, threw Virginia’s bike in the back, and drove across town to Giselle’s apartment. Tim sat in the back and nagged Virginia about true love and commitment.
Giselle’s apartment had slightly more furniture than Virginia’s, and much more kitchenware. Her sink hid under mounds of dishes with cheese stuck to plates and orange pulp dried to the sides of cups. Piles of clothes covered her hardwood floor. The front door led into the kitchen, and her bedroom lay on the other side of the kitchen. They stumbled through, and Giselle threw Virginia onto her bed. The sheets crumpled in the corner, but neither girl noticed. “Ugh, this girl’s a mess,” whispered Tim.
Virginia pretended not to hear him as she climbed in bed with Giselle. Tim stood with his back against the wall and watched the two women. Giselle pressed her palm to the left side of Virginia’s abdomen, and Virginia’s flesh dissolved into Giselle’s hand. Her left hip sank beneath the pressure of Giselle’s palm, and she slid down the bed, a bit further into Giselle’s mouth. Virginia glanced over to where Tim stood and made eye contact. His eyes filled with tears, and Virginia smiled. The satin sheets made everything slippery. Giselle’s tongue twisted and turned and vibrated and slurped. Virginia’s eyes squeezed shut, and her teeth clenched together. She reached down and dragged her fingernails across Giselle’s arm. She felt a vibrating sensation where Giselle hummed into her clit, and her toes tingled.
Did Tim disappear? Her arms reached to the sides of the twin bed, and she grabbed hold of the bed frame as her hips learned to communicate with Giselle’s tongue. She found her answer as a damp cold covered her hands. Tim had moved closer to the bed. She swerved her body around the bed like a snake, wriggling from one spot to another until Giselle’s tongue pressed down on her clit on that spot that made Virginia’s fingertips go numb.
Tim never did anything like that.
The cold on her hands disappeared as Virginia reached climax.
Giselle hummed lullabies and spelled jouissance with her tongue on the sweet, red flesh between Virginia’s thighs, and Virginia let go. She let go of everything—her body, the bed, Tim, cigarettes, wine, love, and finally, her orgasm. She came and came and came until she started to worry she might never stop coming. She came until the sheets turned sodden and the floor smelled like sour candy. Giselle’s tongue became like a string running through the inside of Virginia’s body, and when Giselle pulled out and fell onto the mattress, Virginia came so much her organs fell out of her vagina like an accidental birth—ovaries, intestines, stomach, kidneys. Giselle lay face down on the bed, unaware of anything unusual.
Virginia grabbed her insides, swallowed them whole, pulled the blanket over her head, and tried to process what just happened. She closed her eyes and listened for Tim. She could not remember the last time a room felt this quiet and peaceful. She fell asleep and dreamed about ostracism and insanity.
In her dream, she painted broken friendships on her walls and spoke to her paint chips about reconciliation. She carved ice cubes into tongues and swallowed them whole. She confused Home and Garden advice with the words of Sylvia Plath and decorated her entire apartment according to Plath’s poetry—stuffed wolves, rabbits, and daddy issues, accessorized with jade stones. She stood in her kitchen and laughed like a hyena while wearing nothing but a ripped T-shirt Tim gave her the first time she slept at his place.
Then she fell into a snow globe. She saw the world in a fisheye lens and drew the curvature of her surroundings. She looked to the sky and watched tiny white pills float around her and disintegrate into blurry lines and intangible oscillations. Every nerve in her body tingled, then wailed and gnashed its teeth as the pills fell and absorbed into her skin. She could feel the residue in the air as if someone has filled the snow globe with clear gel. She reached her arms in front of her and pressed her palms against the oversaturated space around her. She pushed to the top of the globe and swam through the plastic mound like a frog through a pond.
Tim waited for her at the top of the pond. She broke through the plastic snow globe and pulled her Swiss Army knife out of her back pocket. Tim walked toward her to hold her, and she shoved the knife into his stomach and dragged it across his torso. His mouth filled with white blood, and he fell into the snow globe. She laughed as his body hit the ground, and she threw the knife down with him.
As soon as Virginia woke up in Giselle’s bed, she threw up on her carpet. The rest of the indecipherable stains camouflaged the puke. Giselle rolled over and glanced at the mess. She had lived in her apartment for 10 years, yet her bedroom walls remained completely empty. Beige paint cracked along the walls. A small desk sat in the corner, and nothing else filled the room. Giselle looked at Virginia. “Please don’t tell me that was your—“
“First orgasm? No way!”
Virginia got up to find a paper towel.
“No, your first time with a girl.”
Giselle stayed in bed.
The kitchen had about as much food as a crack den—nothing edible in sight. The refrigerator hummed much like Giselle did the night before. Virginia looked around at empty cupboards and dirty countertops. The bathroom sat at the other end of the kitchen, across from Giselle’s bedroom, and Virginia resorted to toilet paper to clean her mess. Mildew covered the bathroom floor, and an unused mop sat in the corner. Virginia grabbed a roll of toilet paper and walked back to the bedroom.
“No. I’ve been with plenty of girls before.”
Virginia unraveled the roll of tissue paper and began to wipe the floor clean. She waited for Tim to scoff, but she heard nothing.
Giselle still lay on the bed, on her back, with her arms crossed behind her head, and she watched Virginia.
“Okay, fine…yes…it was my first time. But I’m not fifteen. It’s not a big deal.”
Virginia finished cleaning and tossed the toilet paper in the trashcan under the sink in the kitchen. When she returned to the bedroom, Giselle was buttoning up her pants.
“Fuck,” Giselle mumbled
Virginia stood in the doorway and tried to look experienced…confident. She could not hear Tim’s voice anywhere.
“Listen, I’m your first girl, so that means you’ll probably be obsessed with me for a painfully long time.”
Virginia’s feet planted into the ground, and she glared at Giselle.
“I’m not trying to be a dick…it’s true! It happened to me; it’s happened to every lez I’ve ever met. It’ll happen with you. Haven’t you ever watched a lesbian film? We’re the biggest stereotypes around!…Fuck! What am I gonna do with you?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all.”
Virginia grabbed her clothes, threw them on in the empty kitchen, and rushed out before the tears came.
Her bike sneered at her as she approached, and the tires let out a tiny snicker. “Fuck you, Ariel,” she mumbled at her bike—named after Sylvia Plath’s work of poetry—and kicked the frame so it rant against the road sign to which it was locked.
“Where the fuck are you, Tim?”
Ariel stood in silence and waited for Virginia to tell her where to go. Virginia mounted Ariel’s sleek, shiny metal frame and whispered into the handlebars, “Take me home.”
The 11:00 am sun burnt her eyes as she pedaled the streets between Giselle’s house and hers. The tears flew from her eyes to the sides of her face like windshield wiper fluid in the wind. Salt made her cheeks tight. “How dare that bitch. Seduce me out of my home, fuck me, and then ditch me. Fuck her. I don’t need that; I just want to go home. Where is Tim?”
She yelled into the sky, “Tim, where the fuck are you? You better be at home or I swear to god I’ll kill you even more than you’re already dead!”
Upon arriving home, she jumped off Ariel, and Ariel purred a little. “Thanks for taking me home, baby.”
She pet Ariel’s handlebars. “Now I’ve gotta find that fucker.”
She locked Ariel in the basement, said goodbye, and ran into her apartment. She locked the door behind her as her eyes darted around her apartment. Everything looked as it should’ve, but she still saw no sign of Tim. She looked everywhere—under the bed, under the kitchen sink, in the cupboards, under the couch. “Tim!” she yelled. “Where the fuck did you go?”
He was nowhere.
She looked at her walls, and all the permanent marker had disappeared. The only writing left spelled out two words, “Fuck off.”
She ran to the bathroom and threw up. “Tim,” she cried, “you left…you really left.”
She rest her head against the toilet seat, and her tears mixed with her vomit. “He’s gone,” she whispered. “He’s gone he’s gone he’s gone.”
Her mouth twisted into a smile, and she breathed in the empty air around her. She wiped her face and flushed the toilet.
Her apartment had never felt so empty…so clean…so orderly. Virginia could breathe. She could talk to herself without getting an answer. She could think without cold wind blowing across her neck. She could sleep without getting the shivers.
Virginia turned her head toward the two words behind her bed. She walked over to the wall, grabbed the permanent marker that rested on the bed, and wrote two words beneath Tim’s message, “I did.”
She threw the marker out her window and grabbed a fruit pop from the freezer. She took out her “Logorrhea” notebook and wrote,
“the detriment of human society is our belief that there are answers.”
She placed the notebook on her couch. “Do you think I’ll get over Giselle?”
She spoke the question aloud, but for the first time since Tim’s death, no one answered. Virginia smiled and licked her fruit pop in solitude.