Each day, before we fuck, we smoke fat bowls and eat huge greasy burgers. Appetites are often lost to oppressive summer heat, but I relish the burning, first on my skin then emanating from inside. It makes me hungry; it makes me alive. We run and play like foxes, sinew and bone propelling us through the heat and the hollows of each other. Each night, when the sun slips away and I’m alone again, I die.
I die when I open your wife’s profile in the dark. I do this to humiliate myself, a worse kind of betrayal than yours. I click back to “New Yorker Fiction” and read the first paragraph of a story five times before giving up and clicking on a recipe for oeufs en meurette. I light a joint and pull deep to mimic the burn of daylight in my chest. The cherry is a star, a distant sun, and I’m a wraith clicking back and forth between tabs, cool in blue light, translucent. I bet she cooks oeufs en meurette. I bet she knows everything about everything.
I die the night you tell me I shouldn’t have called. I die when you tell me to get rid of it. Air can sound a lot of ways, and in the clinic, through a small, sucking tube, this is how it sounds like emptiness. I’m bleeding and it’s all over. Later at home, I listen as a couple argues in the alley below. Or maybe it’s a hungry cat howling in the dead of night.
I buy eggs, herbs that smell like fresh-cut grass, pancetta, little onions that look like a bitch to peel, a wine I can’t afford. I’m mindful not to break the eggs as I juggle the groceries on the walk home. Summer is nearly done, the days are cooler, shorter. These little deaths are a constant reckoning and I lift them carefully, like eggs poached in red wine.
Jenny Stalter is a new writer and former private chef. Her work can be found in print and online at Longleaf Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Maudlin House, New Flash Fiction Review, Tiny Molecules, Cease, Cows, and others. She is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. Twitter: @JennyStalter.