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Romance Fiction Drama

Kiess keeps saying he wants to see me, keeps talking about how he wants to touch me. Keeps calling me on the phone real late at night, I can hear his damp skin on the other side of the landline, his red lips move slowly over the bottom of the phone. I can see his fingers twirl around the cord connecting it to the receiver, and I wonder what he’s wearing or what he isn’t wearing. He’s a tease. 

Every day, I wear something green or pink or white or blue. Wear something that goes well with my complexion and curves around my figure without being too revealing. Every day, I smile at my coworkers and ask them about their kids. Some of the women tell me about their athlete children. and the rest tell me I should have gone into modeling or acting or something big— not advertising. Sometimes I say something philosophical: something about how every step of life is a sell of the self. They smile and offer me a cheap laugh. Sometimes they offer coffee instead. 

Around noon, I eat a peanut butter and honey sandwich with a banana and a carton of milk. I pull my collar from around my neck and hope a ring of makeup hasn’t stained it. I stare at the photo of my father, mother, sister and I in Greece on vacation a few years ago— I think about Kiess. I wonder what he does during the day and how he feels. I wonder if he’s stumbled into a childhood friend recently or what song he listened to on the way to work. I wonder if he’s chosen boxers or briefs. I wonder if he broke any bones when he was in grade school. I stare at myself in Greece with red cheeks, khaki shorts and a neon green fanny-pack, and I can’t help but to think about where Kiess and I will vacation for our fourth anniversary.

Every time we talk, he wants to come by. It’s usually real late. He went to a late meeting or had a night run. He’s tied up in business or visiting family, but he wants to spend time together, he promises, and he’s sincere. I know he’s not lying when I see his lips rip over his teeth. I know from his gaze, from his breath and from the hair sticking up on his arms: he’s honest. 

I know Kiess wants to see me, and I think he’d even be content with coming over for a drink after midnight and sleeping on the couch while I take the bed. 

I don’t think he’s a bad man.

I met him in the park about three years ago, I was half running, quarter jogging, fraction walking— he was coming towards me the other way, and as we passed each other, I thought it might be a laugh to look over my shoulder and take a second look: like how they do in the movies. I looked, and Kiess looked, and I turned forward again. I looked again, he looked back as well, and we both stopped. 

Nearing me, he said something along the lines of “Do we know each other?”

“Maybe school?” I lied. 

“Yeah. Maybe,’ Kiess said. “Do you run this path often?”

We met each other on the run frequently after that, and then for breakfast a few times and eventually spoke over the phone. It never trickled much past flirtation and friendly intimacy. 

Paul Éluard has a collection of poetry called ‘Capitale de la douleur’. 

Capital of Pain.

The relationship, if one could call it that, is stagnant. I don’t run the path anymore, I let it have its place in time, but we meet over the landline every few weeks. He’s made inconsistency into clockwork. He calls, and then says my name real slow, sighs and tells me what he would do to me if he were there. Other times, he asks me to tell him a story or he’d tell me a story. Something about a conversion or an audit or an acquisition, aneurysm. He talks for a few minutes and sometimes a few hours. I respond and ask questions and tell my own story until my mouth hurts. Eventually I take to yawning and listening mostly, but I stay on the line for him. I just want to soak all of him up. When Kiess wants, the phone call ends. 

When he’s feeling lonely, when I can feel his yearning from across the city, he calls every night for about a week. I sit by the phone in anticipation until Wednesday or Thursday or Friday when he doesn’t call again, and I know he’s got enough of me or found whatever he needs somewhere else.

I don’t think he’s a bad man.

I see myself married one day. I see myself on an island. I see Kiess beside me, under the sun, and I see a ray of light reflecting off of his sunglasses as he exhales.

“This is where I’ve always wanted to be, you know?” He says to me in the dream. “With you, here, like this.”

I nod in my fantasy, think about what we’ll name our future children, and I touch his hand. 

Once in the daydream, I watched Kiess retract in disgust at the touch of my hand, his facial expression morphing into a contort quite fiendish, and his cast grew heavy. I shuddered free of his distaste and tuned back into the coffee ring soaking onto my desk. 

I think he wants me, I think he wants me in the way that most people want their husbands or wives: in a quiet, demure way. 

In a two-story, white-fenced home way. He wants me in the way everyone wants a roof over their head and something warm to crawl close to once the moon is hung. 

It’s nothing special, and I’m no one special. 

I’ve made him feel important. I let him feel like a man.

He paces through my mind in a tired old wife-beater, crucifix necklace, sweaty hair and five days of missing a shave. He touches my chin and with a convulsion, I bring myself from fiction.

See, here’s the thing, Kiess, I picture myself saying, really digging in. Really giving it to him. Here’s the thing. I love you. I love you with more than my heart, I feel you in my ventricles. Maybe even my arteries. I felt you before I even met you. I would do anything for you. From that day in the park, I was heaving and every breath was submission. How don’t you know that? Why don’t you know that?

I won’t ask him if he loves me too. I can’t.

Even in my mind’s eye, he isn’t looking at my fool lips. He’s looking over my head at a waitress or a television or the door, and he feels the room loosen at the stop of my talking.  Looking at me with those eyes, he smiles.

“I love you too.”


The photo of my family and I in Greece is in a thin black frame. I bought it for a few dollars when I first started working. My sister was heavier during the vacation, and my dad hadn’t started balding yet. My mother is distracted in the photo: looking into her purse for sunscreen. I remember my father complaining about cancer and sunspots, and my mother had taken to finding a solution quickly.

As a teenager, I always wondered how they loved each other. They weren’t affectionate. That day, he never asked her for the sunscreen, and she never chastised him for not having put some on that morning. After the photo was taken, she squeezed a dollop into his hands and some into hers. She watched him carefully as he massaged the lotion into his skin and pointed out a spot on the back of his elbow that he had missed. 

My phone rang last night, and I picked up. Kiess kept saying he wanted to see me, kept telling me I could come over tomorrow night. 

“I want things to be different between us, okay?”

“Yeah,’ I hummed back, flipping through the television. “Hey, let me ask you something. You don’t mind?”

“Of course not, darling. What’s up?”

“What’s your favorite thing about me, Kiess? I don’t mean my legs or eyes... What about me makes you want to come back? Or make things different?”

He hesitated, cleared his throat over the line, but said finally, confidently: “You’re always there.”

He’s not a bad man, but I am a good woman.

Last night, I ended the phone call myself.

May 27, 2021 18:44

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Iris Orona
16:49 Jun 01, 2021



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