By Marisa Crane
There we are drinking Chardonnay out of chipped coffee mugs and intermittently making out on our red Ikea couch for lack of anything better to do. We seem to find ourselves in this scenario a lot. Every night feels like a pass-fail test administered by a voyeuristic universe intent on laughing at our follies and writing a big fat bloody F across our foreheads when we do something boring or uninspired.
I’m fairly certain K and I are the universe’s worst students because our favorite pastime is drinking and trolling the comments on YouTube videos, but even that gets old. I think we both know we’re attempting to distract ourselves from ourselves, but neither one of us wants to admit that solemn detail. I love K, but this life trajectory is not necessarily how I imagined my relationship with my soulmate would go. I’m not the most romantic person by any means, but I pictured coffee shops and art gallery dates. Weekend getaway trips into the mountains or the beach. Those types of things.
K, without a doubt, is the mopey sentimental one of our pair. She’s always expressing her feelings and whatnot even if no one’s particularly interested in having their night ruined. For instance, last week at my coworker’s housewarming party K stood on top of a wobbly table, eyes red and watery, and quieted the room with a few blows into a trumpet. I don’t even know where she found that trumpet. After she had everyone’s attention, she announced that Thomas, the famous bisexual goose, had died and was buried next to his male lover, Henry. They enjoyed eighteen years of gay bliss, she said, reading from the news article on her phone and wiping her eyes.
Isn’t it beautiful? she asked. Isn’t it? she repeated when everyone returned to their drinks and conversations without responding.
Her sensitivity is what I love most about her, but sometimes it can get exhausting.
K breaks our kiss and looks at me with crossed eyes.
I feel sad tonight, she says, her body deflating like a forgotten party balloon.
Why? I ask.
I’m not sure. I just feel empty. Like, if you opened me up, you wouldn’t find anything inside.
Maybe you’re just hungry or thirsty, I say. Let’s fill you up with those jalapeño kettle-cooked chips you love.
I was kind of joking when I said it, but she nods deliberately, eyes welling up. I give her a kiss on the forehead and tell her that we’re mostly made of air.
K shovels those chips into her face like a child eating slippery buttered popcorn at the movie theatre. Some chips miss her mouth and crumbs stick to her nose and chin. K snaps at me when I try to sneak a chip out of the bag, leaving teeth indentations between my thumb and inner wrist.
Three bags later she’s crying on the floor chugging wine. There are crumbs in her hair and down the front of her bright yellow tank top.
I wish I knew what was wrong with me. It’s the not knowing that I hate the most, cries K.
I know, babe. But we go over this all the time—there’s nothing wrong with you, I say, even though I should exercise more patience. It’s challenging sometimes when your girlfriend’s heart is as sensitive as the electric walls in the game, Operation. I always sucked at that game. I didn’t have the steady hand for such precise procedures. Guess I still don’t.
Whatever, she says, stiffening, then finishing off her wine. I have an idea, she says.
If you’re not going to make me feel better, then I think I know what will.
Okay, great, I say.
K jumps to her feet and jogs into the bedroom where it sounds like she’s operating a construction crane. I drink some wine, pick up the remote, scroll through my Netflix list, which you can tell is influenced by two very separate entities—half of the movies and shows are action or sci-fi and the other half are indie dramas that crush your soul. I put on Dr. Strange.
When she returns to the living room one of her beige Toms is dangling from her mouth. She looks like a Saint Bernard with a saliva-soaked chew toy. Her brown eyes are now neon orange and her pupils are nearly undetectable.
She holds up a finger to silence me, then tears a piece of the sole off with her fucking teeth. She chews aggressively, then swallows hard.
I thought maybe I could fill myself up with some items from around the house, K says, matter-of-factly as if she’s just informed me that we have a package.
Are you gonna tell me why you’re eating your goddamn shoe?
I just told you, S. I hate when you don’t listen, K rolls her eyes, then takes another bite, then another, then another, until she’s consumed the entire left shoe. She stands a few feet from me, tapping her foot and rubbing her belly as if waiting for something.
I pour the remainder of the Chardonnay into my mug and toss it back like a shot.
Well, did it work? I ask.
Nope, didn’t take. I just got these shoes last week so I thought they’d do the trick, but it’s been too long.
Too long for what?
K rolls her eyes like I should know exactly what she’s talking about, but doesn’t respond.
Well, now what? I ask.
Doesn’t it feel like something’s missing, S? K asks, sitting next to me and rubbing my leg.
I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it.
Hmm. That’s probably because you subscribe to, like, six subscription boxes. The deliveries come just in time to curb the sadness, she says.
I guess so, yeah, I shrug, although I haven’t the slightest idea what she’s talking about.
We make out for about two minutes. The mix of Chardonnay and salted jalapeño flavors in her mouth is foul, but I try to ignore them. She puts her hand at the base of my scalp and pulls my hair like I like, and a quiet moan escapes my mouth. Just as I begin to inch my hand up her shirt, she breaks free.
Not yet, we have an errand to run, K says, grinning. She knows I hate errands.
She puts her thin hand on the couch and pushes on the cushion a few times, bouncing a little, then nods as if she’s just confirmed her deepest suspicions about our couch.
We could use a comfier couch, K says.
This one is fine, I say.
No, this one is stiff and old. I’m positive that a new one will make me feel better.
Suddenly we are in the car, but I don’t remember agreeing to a trip or walking down the back staircase to the parking space, and Rihanna is singing about love or sex or drugs or learning her name or the hopelessness of existence. K definitely shouldn’t be driving, but she looks stimulated, her eyes orange and alive once again.
Ikea is freezing. Some people get lost in here, wind up accidentally living under the beds and below the sinks. I think the cold air keeps the lost people alive.
K approaches an L-shaped charcoal couch the way that one might stalk their attractive prey in a bar, slinking across the room like she’s racking her brain for a charming pick-up line. About halfway to the couch, she gets down on all fours and crawls toward the piece of overpriced furniture. I fear my girlfriend has turned feral.
I follow her because I would follow her anywhere.
She sniffs one of the legs then flicks her tongue a few times like a snake. I squat down next to her.
K—, I begin.
Shhhhh, she hisses, spraying me with K DNA.
She begins to lick one of the cushions, thoroughly as if she’s terrified to miss a spot.
A salesman comes over, absolutely fucking delighted. He keeps adjusting his thick glasses and smacking his lips before he speaks and I keep wondering why he doesn’t find her behavior odd or alarming.
You really love that couch, huh? For only $5,150 it can be yours! he announces. He sounds like he’s talking underwater.
Oh, come on, babe. We don’t have that kind of money right now. Let’s go home, I plead.
K ignores me and grins at the man like the devil in heat then bites a huge chunk out of the cushion, chews, then swallows. Her neck looks like the body of a snake, the way you can see the lump of fluff and cotton travel down her throat. Her belch is loud and otherworldly.
K stands up, wipes off the front of her burgundy pants, a piece of cushion in her one hand and her credit card in the other. She hands the credit card, our credit card, to the nice man.
Congrats on your new purchase! You two are going to experience comfort like you’ve never experienced comfort before, he says.
I ignore him and address my girlfriend.
K, don’t get me wrong, I’m no expert but I think eating a couch is bad for you. Like, your stomach won’t be able to digest that. Or the Toms, I say in a last ditch effort to convince her to change her mind and come home and drink Trader Joe’s 2-buck chuck with me.
She and the salesman pretend not to hear me, and maybe they don’t, maybe I only thought that I’d spoken aloud.
The man asks if we’d like to bring it home tonight and of course K says yes, then leaps into my arms, her legs wrapped tightly around my waist. I can feel her happiness sizzling from atom to atom. It transfers to my body the way heat does. She kisses me all over my neck and face.
When we get home, we open a new bottle of wine and sit on the part of the couch that she hasn’t eaten yet. She’s right; it is more comfortable than the other one.
K smiles this beautiful, satisfied smile and for now, all is right in our little corner of the world.
I wonder how long her happiness will last. I wonder how long until she grows used to our new couch. I don’t know how long things stay new anymore. It seems the adjustment period grows shorter and shorter with each new purchase. I have a feeling when she’s done eating the couch, she will have enough sense to check our bank account and realize how much the couch set us back. Saddened by our debt, I’m betting she’ll demand that we go to Best Buy this time so she can eat a Samsung 55-inch LED TV.
Marisa Crane is a lesbian writer and editor. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pigeon Pages, Pidgeonholes, and Drunk Monkeys, among others. She currently lives in San Diego with her fiancée. You can read more of her work at http://www.marisacrane.org. Her twitter handle is @marisabcrane.