“I WILL ALWAYS BELONG TO YOU ,” she said two hours after we first met. We met via blind date—she knew a friend who knew a friend I knew; these three friends were apparently sleeping together casually and found it titillating to play post-coitus matchmaker. My friend of the three, this guy from my previous job, knew I had been laid off the week before and said he wanted to help me out. He sent me a text telling me to meet a hot girl at a café downtown on James Street North. The only other info: Tessa, 28, blonde/blue/130 lbs/5’9/TEETH.
On January 6th at 7:34 pm, I spotted her sitting pretty at a corner table. She was smiling aimlessly and toothily, a massive equine smile directed at thin air, at the possibility of me arriving—or so I thought at the time. I walked over.
“Tessa,” she said, extending her arm.
“George,” I said, or must’ve said. I must’ve shaken her hand too, but I was too struck by her to remember. Teeth yes, but beautiful.
“Oh, why don’t we just get the hugs over with too!” she said, getting up, squeezing me unexpectedly.
She insisted we order the same thing: Darjeeling fraps with soymilk; whipped cream yes, cinnamon sugar too. Whipped cream gives me gas, but I went with it.
“So, have you been on these sorts of dates before?” I offered. “Oh, let’s cut through the bullshit,” she said, still smiling broadly, “let’s not be one of those couples who meet for the first time and are all meta about it.”
From across the table, she took my hands into hers and, with a smear of cinnamon sugar across her right canine, began confessing things to me. Profound things.
“You know, I used to fight winter. But I’ve made peace with the seasons now, the way time moves,” she said.
“I guess we have no choice, right?”
“Well, it first happened when I got pneumonia. I was probably eighteen. My period would always come with the full moon back then. Wolfess, friends called me, because I’d bleed and howl, bleed and howl, month after month. Well, I got pneumonia and it threw my whole body off, right down to the very last cell of me. I bled for nine days straight mid-cycle, then my real period came two weeks late and never aligned itself with the full moon again. I’m no longer trapped by it.”
“The full moon. It let me go. It energizes me now.”
“And, there was a time when my mind was all over the place, scattered like leaves in autumn. It was so scattered that once I was drinking from a glass and didn’t notice until after I’d finished that it was cracked straight through, almost like hoar frost, and there were tiny shards all over. I drank glass that day without even knowing it! I survived, but vowed never to be so careless again. I was seven years old at the time.”
“Oh. I see.”
“So what do you do, George?”
“I, uh, well, I’m an accountant. But I’m… I’m between jobs right now actually. Trying to find a better firm, one with more room for growth. What about you?”
“I’m finishing my PhD. Nothing that exciting. You know, George, I truly believe we are all indefinable. What we do during the day, it doesn’t make up who we are. The fact that you’re laid off, that’s okay.”
“What makes you think I’m laid off?”
“Here, I’ll tell you a secret. I’m pursuing a PhD—this is a fact— but all I’ve ever wanted to do is bear young. How silly is that?” “That’s not silly.”
“I don’t normally tell anyone that, George. I must really trust you.”
Throughout the whole blind-date confessional, Tessa smiled that voluptuously toothsome smile, never stopping, even when she told me she was abused by her mother as a teenager. Her mother would kick her up the stairs and pinch her stomach to the point of bleeding. Tessa’s smile was unwavering.
“You know, George,” she said, right before we left, “I have a good feeling about us.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I think I will always belong to you.”
The next few weeks were fun and breezy. We watched funny YouTube videos and Disney movies. We snuck into Dundurn Castle and ate cookies. She put a little kid’s bowtie on me and we took photos in a photo booth at Jackson Square, after which she masterfully pointed out, “I’m struck by how genetically dissimilar we are. I mean, we don’t have one thing pheno-typically in common!”
During those weeks Tessa was a voracious lover. She was in and out and all over, came at me like a tropical storm, left like a sweet margarita. I thought her massive teeth might be cumbersome, might gnaw or at least obstruct, but I very quickly discovered there are manoeuvres only they can do.
“Just let me put them on there—you’ll see, it’ll feel really good.” “But they’re sharp—c’mon Tessa, I don’t think—no, no, wait, I—”
One day, the third of February, Tessa and I were celebrating her birthday—all she asked me to get her was orthotics. I don’t know a thing about orthotics, so I elicited the help of the pharmacist at Shoppers Drugmart. “Well, does she mean standard insoles, or professionally made orthotics?” he asked. I had no idea. I got her five different kinds of Dr. Scholl’s—arch support, gelly heel support, special high heel mini-inserts (did she wear high heels? I had no clue.) She loved them all. Just as she was about to blow out her twenty-nine candles (each one forcibly stuck in the centre of the cake, to the extent that the cake, which she baked and candled herself, began to sink in the middle and I worried it would all ignite) and I was singing, pitifully, “Happy Birthday,” Tessa turned to me, smiling, and said, “You know, George, we’ve been together for one menstrual cycle now.”
She looked strangely “un-Tessa” in that moment, the blaze of twenty-nine miniature candles casting strange shadows across her face, making her protruding muzzle look especially threatening and ape-like.
“Well,” she continued, “don’t you think it’s about time we move in together?”
On Valentine’s Day, Tessa and I united belongings in a one-bedroom apartment down on Strathcona Avenue. Several times throughout the madness of moving day, I’d catch Tessa looking at me, her smile glistening in the white, mid-February sunlight. Later, after cinnamon hearts and christening the kitchen floor, she whispered to me, “George, there were many times today that I felt the intense need to tell you I love you. They were brief, maybe a microsecond, and a few minutes later I was extremely relieved I didn’t say it. I think this means I may be falling in love with you.”
I drew her close to my chest and caressed her chin. No one had almost said they loved me before.
Tessa was the first woman I’d ever seriously dated or lived with; everything was new. I didn’t know that female masturbation can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. This is why, Tessa said, she never masturbated as a child and refused to let me get her off with my hands. I also quickly discovered that some women, indeed, Do Not Fart. I’d find her at the kitchen table, sometimes sweaty, red-faced, trying with mighty force to push gas out. “George, I push and push but it still won’t come!” As soon as I’d show any affection, which would suggest acknowledgement and understanding of her plight, she’d burst at the seams with tears, many tears, her titanic teeth weeping too. One time I made the mistake of saying something along the lines of, “Don’t worry, you’ll get it out eventually. It’ll come, I promise.” Tessa’s behaviour erratically shifted. Her crying ceased, and she looked me square in the eyes. “Actually, it will never come. I’m a proper woman, George, and proper women simply do not fart. What kind of example would I be setting?”
After living together for approximately three weeks, “Georgie-poo” began. It began because Tessa wanted to tell me she loved me for the first time in a rhyming couplet. Georgie-poo/I love you. It was sadly also the advent of “Marilu”—what Tessa demanded be her nickname. “Why not something like ‘Tessa-noo,’ so it’d at least resemble your real name?” I asked. But she refused. Thereafter in all moments of affection—sex especially—I was forced to call her Marilu.
“Georgie-poo, that’s not my name.”
“But, Tessa, it’s weird.”
“Oh, were you talking to me? Because I don’t know who Tessa is. Tessa has left the building.”
My beard grew bushy and my hair was getting longer, almost shoulder length. I looked like a bona fide woodsman. The way Tessa would grab onto it in bed, I was convinced she dug it. One day, though, she came at me with scissors and said, “Georgie-poo, time to chop chop.” She had a vision, apparently, and it involved our stainless steel popcorn bowl placed directly on top of my head, then her snipping in a clean linear fashion—my hair only, leaving the beard.
“You want me Amish?” I asked.
“Well, you know Georgie-poo, the greatest paradox known to mankind is that the Amish aren’t allowed to have style, and yet there’s an unequivocal Amish Style.”
“So, you want me Amish,” I laughed. “I seriously look like a little Amish kid with a beard!”
“Well, there is something so adorable about all that asceticism and unflinching stoicism,” Tessa said, kissing my neck.
The bowl cut looked ridiculous, like a practical joke sitting on my head. But I went along with it without a second thought, and not only that, I was so overwhelmed with amorousness that I took Tessa to the bedroom afterwards and made love to her in a fashion I can only call un-Amishly. “I love you, Marilu,” I said. And I meant it. I had never felt what I felt for her before.
A few weeks later, the honeymoon was over. March thawed into April, into noticeably longer days. Tessa began getting interested in yoga and meditation to help with “birthing” her PhD dissertation. One afternoon, with the blinds drawn, all the lights out, she was apparently deep into a spiritual shavasana when two thugs broke into our apartment and stole all my clothes—everything right down to my belts and underwear. Tessa says she may have heard a rustle, maybe even a tumble, but she was in the mode of “nonattachment,” which apparently means she hears external noises but doesn’t physiologically or emotively respond. “I don’t know how else to explain it, Georgie-poo—I was so far in, so attentive only to the rhythm of my breathing. I was in complete unawareness of my surroundings.”
“I understand that, but you were in shavasana on the bedroom floor—my clothes were in drawers right near where your head
would’ve been, my shoes were right here—” I said, pointing at the empty shoe rack less than a foot away from where Tessa’s yoga mat was sprawled.
“I swear I heard nothing!” she yelled, smiling largely.
I asked her if she was joking. If maybe the whole thing was a belated April Fools’.
“No! Why would I ever joke about something like this?”
“I don’t know, Marilu, from the look on your face, I thought maybe—”
“I’m smiling to avoid frown lines, Georgie-poo. Haven’t you noticed I’m always smiling?”
Her teeth flashed demonic for a split-hair of a second. I thought about how if every smile replaces a frown, Tessa is frowning all the time. I felt a chill like maybe this changed everything, like maybe she wasn’t being truthful, lying through her teeth. No, no, that couldn’t be, I reasoned. Tessa would never lie to me.
I shrugged off the Shavasana Incident. The world is stranger than fiction sometimes, and besides, losing all my clothes gave me a chance to create a new wardrobe, all under the direction of my sweet love Tessa. The new one consisted of Winnie-the-Pooh T-shirts and cardigans and neon-striped socks. I looked like a moron wearing my Goofy-in-Wonderland T-shirt, but it didn’t matter. Tessa was with me and she loved me. My world was complete.
Soon I began getting a little antsy. Spring fever, maybe? Tessa was home all day hammering out her dissertation. Some days she’d take eight hours to compose a single sentence. “The eventual addition of the definite article preceding ‘flu’ and ‘hospital’ in North America is indicative of reverse weaning.” On others, she’d be typing furiously or reading her textbooks out loud in a monotonic robotic voice—which, actually, I found kind of sexy. “One should always remain unwavering and unbiased while reading anything, Georgie-poo.”
When she wasn’t working on her PhD, she was fussing over me, trying to fix my buttons, for instance, or wiping infinitesimal crumbs off my chin. She’d Georgie-poo this, and Georgie-poo that. I felt small.
It was around this time that I began applying for jobs. I desperately needed to feel productive again, be outside of the house for a while, and show Tessa that I was worth something. I told this to her, and she sighed, “Georgie-poo, I think you’re great just the way you are. You don’t need a job. In fact, don’t bother looking, we’re fine financially.”
“I know, but I want to.”
“Sometimes we don’t always get what we want, Georgie-poo.” Later that day, without Tessa’s blessing, I sent out eight resumés and cover letters, and crossed all fingers and all toes. Something about the mere act of applying made me feel productive again, like a man. Only good could come of this.
Weeks passed and I heard nothing. Frustrating, but it often takes firms a good deal of time to solidify decisions about applicants. In the interim, I decided I should start taking a daily walk. When I told Tessa this, she grunted, “A walk? Why?”
“Just to get out, get some fresh air. I feel cooped up in here.” “We can open a window.”
She reluctantly gave in, and made me promise to wear my new Hamilton Tiger Cats baseball cap. She said it was a way to protect my nose from the sun and, more importantly, allow me to bond with the common Hamiltonian man.
“What do you mean by that? I hate the Tiger Cats. I don’t even know why we bought that hat.”
“It’s to protect you from thugs, Georgie-poo! Just listen to Marilu, won’t you?”
There was no use resisting, Tessa was always right. So I did as I was told. I put on the goddamn hat and went on my merry way.
On my walks I began to discover our neighbourhood, for example the gnome house, which boasted an assortment of weathered garden gnomes with massive and almost menacing smiles doing various activities like BBQ-ing and bursting out of Easter eggs; and the Christmas house, which forgot to take its mass of Christmas lights down four months ago; and the house right by where the new speed bump went in a few weeks back, with the lady who chain-smokes standing in her driveway while her seven kids tear up the lawn. It felt good to get outside.
Out of the blue, late-April, Tessa came to me crying. Was it one of those pesky trapped farts again? No. Did she still feel bad about the Shavasana Incident? No. I probed more. Was it the fact that my cute Amishness is fading now that my hair is growing out? No. Have I not been calling her Marilu enough? No. Then what was it?
“Well, Georgie-poo,” she said, crying but smiling, or trying to force a smile through the crying, which—how do I draw a comparison
for how demented it looked?—looked like a happy rubber ducky being forced through a meat processor.
“Georgie-poo, I’ve made a blunder.”
“Okay…” I had no idea what to expect.
“Georgie-poo, back in February, I got pregnant with our love child.”
“I got really scared. You just weren’t ready to be a father, Georgiepoo, so I got an abortion secretly. I was fine with the whole thing and carried on. But now that spring is coming and flowers are blossoming, I’ve begun feeling extraordinarily sad. So I went to a therapist last week. She assessed me. And I went back again today, and she gave me a strategy to get over this once and for all. And, Georgie-poo, I think I need to do it.”
There was no “okay” in my arsenal of how to respond. How to respond? No response. She dodged a bullet that to me may’ve been a butterfly. She didn’t ask me first—she deceived me. I was devastatingly jaw-dropped, but only for a brief second, because then, seeing her cry, teeth overwhelming her face and her head sinking back into that flaccid blonde ponytail of hers, I thought, poor Tessa.
“Tessa, I—” the words were hard to choke out, “I mean, Marilu, I’m, I’m so sorry for your loss—our loss. I know that must’ve been such a difficult decision for you. Come here, let me hug you.”
And so we hugged. For a long time. Afterward, I assured her that no, she didn’t accumulate any frown lines from the exchange, “you were smiling the whole time.”
I’m not exactly sure what therapist in their right mind would suggest that a heartbroken woman, who has just lost a child, put 365 Post-its on her bedroom wall in the shape of a fetus—“one for each day of the year, Georgie-poo. I am supposed to take one off every morning, and every one I take off will mean a bit less sadness for me until the whole thing is gone from the wall and my heart”—but there they were, a rainbow of Post-its formed as a lopsided seahorse to greet me each morning before I’d set out on my walks.
“Are you sure this is necessary? I mean, it could be painful being reminded of this each day.”
“George—you listen here. This is what the therapist said would help me. I am ready and willing to try anything.”
“Okay, fine,” I said, putting my running shoes on, about to leave. “Don’t forget to wear your baseball cap!”
More weeks passed. I still hadn’t heard from any of the firms I applied to. Tessa continued to peel off her Post-its one by one and birth her PhD, sometimes doing breathing exercises she described as Lamazey in order to ease it out. My walks started to triple. I’d walk morning, noon and night. I noticed the Christmas house still turned on its lights every night in the hazy April dusk. What forgetful people, right?— until I saw a miniature Christmas tree suddenly appear one day lit up in their front window. It was the beginning of May and the first time in my life that Christmas decorations felt creepy. I pulled my Tiger Cats baseball cap further down on my head, almost covering my eyebrows, and kept walking. Later that week, musing about the many possible adventures of Tessa’s teeth, I noticed the gnome house was suddenly, inexplicably, denuded. In the place of the smiley, exuberant gnomes, a typed letter was tacked to a tree trunk:
To the Idiot(s) that Took Our Gnomes,
We wanted to bring joy to our street with our garden gnomes. Our daughters and we put our precious gnomes on our lawn in good faith, believing that we live among respectful people. Unfortunately now we have to reconsider this. Please bring back our garden gnomes—our five-year-old cries whenever she comes home from school because the gnomes are gone and she’s reminded of what a nasty world we live in.
I shivered, pulled my baseball cap further down, now completely covering my eyebrows, and carried on my way.
Soon after, I finally received an email from one of the firms I applied to. Earlier that particular week, worried, I sent a follow-up email asking if they’d considered my application. The email they sent in return said something along the lines of, Please do not contact us again. If you do, we will have to take legal action. What the fuck? I called them immediately to tell them they’d made a mistake. The receptionist told me if I ever called there again, they would have no choice but to call the police. “And, the last package you sent us,” she said snarkily, “the one with the wind-up carousel and that card you wrote in baby’s writing—that was like, all just so twisted.” The line went dead. I tried calling back fifteen times, all to no avail.
I didn’t want to let Tessa see me upset, but I was so shaken, so deeply rattled, what else could I do but crawl to her, crying?
“There, there, Georgie-poo. These things happen. The right job will come along, I promise.”
“How do you know I’m crying over a job?”
“Oh, I overheard your phone conversation, Georgie-poo. Don’t worry, you’ll find work soon. There’s no rush.”
My phone conversation? I barely got a word in edgewise with that bitch receptionist—what could Tessa possibly hear? Anyway, no use quarrelling with her, I thought. She’s always right and she probably did unintentionally overhear. I slunk deeper into her soft, warm breasts and let myself go.
My walks continued. I’d see the mother of seven smoking cigarettes continuously, her kids terrorizing an anthill. I’d see the empty gnome house, then the Christmas house, with a wreath newly added, and after, an inflatable Santa. I’d muse about Tessa’s teeth ravaged by malaria on a safari in the Serengeti; Tessa’s teeth biting too hard on a chalkboard and shattering; Tessa’s teeth knocked out by an aborted fetus leaving only a single front tooth as a buoy wading in the blood and gums; Tessa’s teeth plucked one by one by a fanatic girl in love: he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not—when a few days later, walking by a strip of bushes, I spotted a single porcelain smile cracked out of its face, the face missing, the smile dangling there, impaled by a branch. A smile I recognized as belonging to none other than the Easter egg gnome.
“Georgie-poo, look at the progress I’ve made with our fetus! What would’ve been his mouth is already gone. A few more days and the place where his dimples would’ve been will be missing too!”
“Georgie-poo, once all the Post-its are gone, we should celebrate. What do you say?”
“That’s kind of far off. It would be this time next year?”
“I know, but it’s extraordinary to think about! We can make it a kind of birthday party for him—invite friends, make funny balloon animals and blow out candles. A celebration of life.”
Sometimes it was difficult to fathom a university paying Tessa to produce anything cerebral.
On all my subsequent walks I avoided the strip of bush where the defaced mouth hung. I shivered passed the barren gnome house, the
Christmas lights in May. I saw the chain-smoking mother of seven spank three of her children simultaneously. Life felt odd. Then Tessa said she had to visit her mother, who was dying in Saskatoon. She’d be gone for nine days. Did she want me to come with her? No. Why not? “You don’t know my mother; she’d kill you.”
Tessa charged me with the responsibility of de-Post-it-ing the fetus. She made me sign a handmade contract. She said, “Don’t forget, Georgie-poo, only one each day.” Then she left.
The next morning, approximately 330 Post-its stood before me; they glowed on the wall, almost technicolour in the morning sun. Would Tessa notice if I didn’t take any off? Of course she would. Okay, but would she notice if I took them off all at once, one fell swoop of Post-it fetus, to get the whole damn nasty thing over with? How could she ever know?
Thank you for being you. If you’re reading this, I bet you’ve already taken off your first Post-it! Congratulations! Don’t forget ONE (1) each morning.
No Post-its came down under my watch for the first three days of Tessa’s trip. Blasphemous? Unboyfriendly? I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, even for Tessa. On the fourth morning, I closed my eyes and shakily pulled not one but nine Post-its haphazardly off my bedroom wall. Imagine it: a grown man pulling off an array of rainbow Post-its so that what was once vaguely fetus-like could suddenly look like a deformed nothing stuck there. Fuck this. I threw them in the trash. Went for my walk. Was walking my regular walk—the regular landmarks—when horror struck. Scattered like dead bodies across a battlefield, each and every smile once belonging to a gnome, each smile extracted recklessly from its porcelain skull, jagged lines, teeth missing, were strewn across the gnome house’s front lawn. Blue-lipped smiles. Troll-green smiles. Massive equine smiles. What the hell? I considered knocking on the gnome house’s door. I considered calling the police. I did neither— pulled my baseball cap lower on my head, almost touching my eyelids. I walked away.
Back at my apartment, I felt rattled. I threw my hat on the bedroom floor, slunk into my bed and went back to sleep. Hours must’ve passed,
syrupy dreams of Tessa straddled on top of me fucking me. Tessa throwing her head back in heinous laughter. Tessa sitting at the café where we first met, staring into oblivion but also suddenly morphing into a massive purple gnome smile—throbbing—each throb like a strobe light: Tessa, gnome smile, Tessa, gnome smile…
A few hours later, I awoke. Shook off sleep. Was it all a dream? I went to the kitchen. Soymilk on gluten-free Cheerios is disgusting, but that was all I had left in the apartment. I opened the fridge to get the carton, earnestly stuck my hand inside, thought nothing of it until I saw, on the top shelf—without explanation—my Tiger Cats baseball cap.
All is well in Saskatoon. Did you take off the Post-its all at once, or are you doing it one by one, like I asked? I sincerely hope the latter.
I miss you. Love, Marilu
I am not stupid. I knew something was fishy. I knew that I had thrown my hat on the bedroom floor and slept deeply. I didn’t hear anyone come into the house, but who would come into the house just to move my hat, anyway?
When one lives with someone else, and one thinks one loves this someone else, and one realizes that this someone else may be slightly off his/her rocker, may have suffered one too many head traumas as a young child, but one trusts this someone else, and this someone else is off visiting his/her dying mother in Saskatoon, a place one has always thought sounded like a benign wind instrument, a place of snow and faraway and secretively dying mothers, when all of the above is all of the above, one simply cannot imagine this someone else anywhere but belly deep in snow and sadness.
Then it was a Thursday, it was the tenth of June. The day before Tessa was coming home. I awoke with a start, rubbed sleep from my eyes, and had these thoughts: Maybe living with Tessa isn’t so bad after all? Yes, she makes me do things like wear a stupid Tiger Cats hat every day and eat whipped cream even though my bowels don’t approve and call her Marilu even in the heat of passion. Yes, her teeth recall wind-up snapping gums and the disproportion of her skull cap-to-
muzzle unfleshed and unearthed in an archaeological dig. But she’s beautiful; she makes me feel important. No one has ever belonged to me before. No one has ever told me they loved me.
I missed her.
I rolled a bit in bed, imagined Tessa lying beside me, me wrapping my arms and legs around her rakish frame. Her soft skin. Her full breasts. It was a blissful moment, until I turned carelessly towards the Post-it wall, that fucking Post-it wall, because there, in front of me, tacked above the dilapidated head of the Post-it fetus, was my fucking Tiger Cats cap impaled by a meat cleaver.
What the hell?
I felt sick. I pulled it down. Walk, I needed a walk ASAP, so I scrambled to get dressed, put on the fucking baseball cap, walked towards the living room, towards the front door. Breathing in, breathing out, until the overwhelming need to vomit struck—all the living room furniture, the TV, the couch, the coffee table, had been rearranged; the TV faced the wall on the opposite side of the room, the coffee table had traded places with the couch, the couch was upside down. Was I going crazy? I shook it off—just sleepy still, that was all—pulled my cap down further on my head and, determined, walked outside.
In a daze, I walked my usual route but in reverse. Saw the chainsmoking mom teaching her eldest how to roll cigarettes. Saw that someone had punctured the Christmas house’s inflatable Santa; it was ripped open and strewn across the lawn. Fuck Christmas in June! I kept walking until I reached the gnome house, nearly vomited all over myself, saw Post-its, hundred of Post-its flittering in the wind, hundreds of rainbow-coloured Post-its strewn across the lawn like casualties across a war zone. Did I knock on the door? Did I tell them it was all my fault—the gnomes, the Post-its—that it was all because of me?
I shivered, pulled my hat lower, so low that its rim grabbed hold of my eyelids and tugged them upwards and open. I couldn’t blink, but I could run. I ran straight home. Straight inside the apartment, threw off my cap on the living room floor, ran into my room to sleep so as to slough off the fucking madness. But before I could escape, the most sickening sight of all—the only time I wouldn’t just feel like puking but would actually puke. Because the wall, which once bore hundreds of Post-its, was suddenly, mysteriously naked. Naked, but
not completely empty. In the place of the Post-its, it had off-white specks of various sizes and shapes arranged in the outline of a fetus. What the hell? I walked closer to see what it was, with each step my stomach heaving, got right up in front of it and I swear to God I saw each and every one of Tessa’s thirty-two horse teeth stuck to the wall, eyeteeth, molars, the whole fucking set stuck in the shape of a fetus. The fetus had eyes, the fetus’s eyes winked at me. The fetus had a gigantic mouth, it smirked at me. I vomited all over the floor in front of the wall, threw myself on my bed, closed my own eyes and slept.
I slept for what must’ve been an entire twenty-four hours. I slept until the eleventh of June. I slept until I awoke to the sound of humming, soft humming, sizzling too, like something in a frying pan. And I awoke to a ghastly, almost murderous smell. There was the smell of frying oil, perhaps eggs? But piggybacking that, a smell I had never before smelled.
I walked gingerly towards the humming, towards the reeking kitchen, not knowing what hour it was, what day, not thinking that it was the next day, that Tessa would’ve already arrived, but there she was with her back to me in the kitchen, naked except for a frilly pink apron, surrounded by sizzles and utensils and stench. I immediately noticed there was something different about her—she had her hair tied tightly back in a ponytail like she often did, but it was as if her hair was somehow irrationally longer, very long, right down to below her buttocks, and somehow less limp than usual. Was she wearing a hairpiece? And then suddenly the stench grew stronger, more heinous, and she began gently whipping her ponytail back and forth, back and forth.
I called to her, “Tessa!” but she kept whipping her hair and beating together some kind of greyish-yellow batter. “Tessa? What’s that smell?” Still nothing. She turned towards the stove and flipped what looked like eggs doused in sea foam and straw. “Tessa!” I yelled.
She finally lifted her head towards me so I could see her straighton. Smiles like hers are the kind you bring home to meet your folks— the kind you make love to, not fuck. And there it was, that smile smiling at me, protected by thick gummy lip folds, doused in saliva, and situated at the end of a very long protruding muzzle, maybe thirty centimetres in length, with two large nostril holes on either side.
“What the—” I began.
“Really, George?” she said, putting her hands on her hips. “After we’ve been apart for almost ten days, and you’re going to call me Tessa like you don’t even love me?”
“Oh. Sorry, uh, I mean Marilu.”
“That’s better,” she said with a stern face, then suddenly burst toward me, “Georgie-poo! It’s been so long!”
“I know, uh, it’s so nice to see you,” I choked out. “But, Tess—I mean, Marilu, what is that smell?”
“What are you talking about? The eggs?”
“No, it’s like the smell of death or something.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Georgie-poo, but mmmm I’ve missed you so much!” She began kissing and slobbering all over my neck.
“Tessa—Marilu—I can hardly breathe in here. We need to leave the kitchen, I’m going to be sick!”
“You’re silly,” she said, but complied silently.
We escaped to the living room where all the furniture had been rearranged back to normal. The smell followed us. We went to the bedroom where the Post-it fetus had been restuck and not a single tooth was in sight, except for the ones lodged in Tessa’s rubbery gums. The smell still followed.
“That smell! I just can’t—it’s inescapable! I have to go for a walk!” “But we haven’t seen each other for so long! Georgie-poo, kiss me!” Just as I was about to look for my baseball cap, I heard a slight whoosh sound coming from Tessa’s direction, the sound of blowing air through your teeth, and she began whipping her ponytail again.
“Tessa, what was that noise?”
It happened again, the whoosh.
“That noise. What was that?”
“What are talking about?”
“How could you not hear that? It’s like air passing through… Tessa, did you fart?”
“No! How dare you accuse me of that!” she yelled, putting her hands on her hips again.
“I’m not accusing, I’m just asking a question.”
“You are a bad boy, George, accusing me of passing wind after you know my challenges,” she screamed, still smiling, still whipping her ponytail like it was swatting away flies, then muttered to herself, “we really do give them the weapons to destroy us.”
The noise happened again.
“Look, I’m not trying to accuse you, I’m just asking you: did you fart? Yes or no.”
“George, you are crazy. I think you need help.”
I realize she needed to call me crazy in order to cover up the months of lunacy. Tessa, the decrepit mare of a woman, the equine psychopath I’ve been sleeping beside—of course she’s going to rationalize everything and say it’s me and claim that the sounds beginning to vibrate from her nostrils and bucked-teeth weren’t neighing, were actually crying. But Tessa, you have no fucking tears. You can’t cry drily and smile the whole time.
“I leave for nine days and come home to an insane boyfriend?” she wailed between ferocious neighs. “I lost my only child. My mother is dead. And now my boyfriend is fucking nuts?”
“Don’t be such a spoilsport.” It was all I could think to say because she shouldn’t have been name-calling and whining like that. Strangely, when I said it, she looked over at me with her ears tall and perky and a flash of those hungry, lusty eyes I know very well.
“This is not the time for making love. You’re sick, you need help,” I said.
“What! If you think I want you to so much as—”
“Look, I’m trying to be the strong one here,” I declared. “We cannot have sex, period.”
She threw her hands up in what seemed like defeat and sexual frustration, then began fumbling through her drawers, tossing underwear and tank tops and sundries into a heap on the bedroom floor.
“I’m leaving,” she said.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to come?” I offered. “I can help you take care of your mom.”
“My mother is dead, you prick. Didn’t you hear me?”
“I know, but why wouldn’t I bring her into this? It’s her time of intense need.”
“What? You make no sense.”
“Let’s fly out there right now together. It’ll be fun.”
“Okay, that’s it. I’m leaving you, George. I’m done.”
Yes, of course she was leaving, but they’d never let her on the plane looking like she stepped out of some Farmer Joe’s petting farm, neighing and whipping, and emitting such a stench that it was all I could do to stay there pleading with her to get some serious counselling.
“You need help, Marilu. We can get you the help you need.”
“Why are you calling me Marilu?”
“Who’s Marilu, huh? Confusing me with some other girl?”
She threw her pile of things into what seemed like one endless Tupperware bin. “George, you’re really fucked up.”
That’s what all the lunatics say. They try to twist it on its feeble little head so that it’s you who is supposedly crazy, not them. Well, Marilu, sweetheart, I’m not going to fall for it! It’s the oldest trick in the book.
“Don’t worry, Marilu, it’ll all be alright.” I said this as reassuringly as I could. I even grabbed hold of her wrists tightly, making her hands go limp from the pressure of my love. “You’re coming with me. We’re calling the doctor. ”
“Let go of me, you asshole! Don’t you ever touch me again!” she said, then neighed loudly. She wiggled out of my grasp, whipping me with her horse-tail, and somehow my Tiger Cats baseball cap appeared on the floor by the dresser, so she put it on her head.
“You’re mental, George. I hope you find peace somehow in your sad pathetic fucked-up life. I’m out of here.”
“You’re the one who is fucked up!” I found myself screaming, all the blood rushing to my head. I don’t think she heard, though, because time seemed to dilate just then and I could already hear the click-clack of her hooves galloping across the pavement outside the apartment.
I don’t know how it happened, but she’s been away for one week and has somehow taken everything, even the furniture, even the goddamn Post-it fetus, who I was starting to finally befriend. One morning I woke up and the very bed I was sleeping in, our bed, was missing.
What she didn’t take with her is that smell. It shrouds our cozy apartment with a mustard-haze. It wafts up on my chest while I’m sleeping on the floor. It explodes from the pipes when I shower. I gag and miss her and slay myself over and over again for letting her go without me; for not having the manhood necessary to rope her and drive her to where she could get proper help; for giving in to her delusions and letting her leave me with a stripped apartment. I sit on empty soymilk crates waiting. I stare out the window waiting. I can’t even go for my walks because she left wearing my Tiger Cats hat and I don’t want to sunburn my nose or have her catch me on a walk
without it; she’d have a hissy fit. I am thinking that when she returns, I’ll make love to her so she can have that baby she always wanted and I’ll tell her I’m sorry for everything, even though I don’t think I did anything wrong.