Sometimes You Have to Live

“Fuck me,” I said. “The toaster’s broken again.”

Megan looked up for a few seconds. Her mouth hung open in disgust, and she looked like a zombie the way she just stared into—past my eyes. She was an undead judgment machine. She looked down again, smacking her lips together and flipping the pages of a magazine because she couldn’t still when she was mad.

“I’m going to the store to just buy a new one. This garage sale shit isn’t cutting it.”

I knew this would work her up, get her standing and speaking and turn her into a real person. She’d been sulking around the apartment for two days. It’d started when she’d checked our bank account after we’d decided to buy a real mattress.

“No, don’t, please. We can’t afford a new toaster. You know we can’t. You did the budget, you saw it. We can barely buy groceries every week. We can do without a toaster. Please. I’ll cook dinner. Just sit down and don’t spend any more money.”

The sun was setting behind the empty lot that doubled as our backyard. The pink light made her look like she was warm and blushing and delicate. I wanted to walk over and press my cheek against hers, trying to soak up some of the heat in the otherwise chilled room. Cold pushed through the window panes, slowly creeping toward the center of the apartment with its icicle fingers.

I sat in her chair and closed the magazine. The woman on the cover was smiling a coy smile and twisting her hand into her hair. She looked happy and powerful and I wondered if Megan ever felt that way. Like she could have anything she wanted if she looked into someone’s eyes and smiled, bit her lip, bat her lashes. I pushed the heels of my hands against my forehead.

“What do you want to eat? We have spaghetti and those frozen corn dogs you like. I might be able to find some packets of ketchup at the back of the cupboard—I saved them somewhere. Or I could make peanut butter sandwiches or—”

“That sounds great.”

“Which one?”

“Any of them. Whatever you want. I’ll just have what you don’t finish.”

Eyes closed, I felt her arms wrap around my head. She buried her face in my hair, and I remembered that I hadn’t showered in a couple of days. I knew I had to do that before the water was shut off, but I hoped she hadn’t figured that out yet. That she could live for a few more days thinking that it was just the groceries that were tight, and maybe the cable. I hoped it’d surprise her—our sudden desperation—and that she’d be glad that she hadn’t spent the last week of our life in the lower class scrimping.

“Let’s make all of them.”

Published at Goon and Darling Do Flash Fiction on June 7, 2012.


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