by Lindy Biller
On Sunday, he sprawls out on our garage-sale couch, reading a book about Ancient Egypt while I play the piano. He closes his eyes for a while to listen, and I’m filled with warmth for him. Then: “The average man’s hand is almost an inch wider than the average woman’s,” and, “The white keys used to be coated in ivory, but now most manufacturers use an opaque thermoplastic polymer.” He turns the page of his novel. I hit a sour note. The black dots on my sheet music look fuzzy, like spots of mold.
On Monday night, tangled up in bed, sunset dripping down the window, my boyfriend says, “Did you know most love-making sessions include between 100 and 500 thrusts?” I bury my face in his chest, squishing my eyes shut against the softness of him. “Love-making?” I tease. “Does that mean you love me?” He grins. “Is it that obvious?” On Tuesday, he gives me a back massage and tells me the number of bones in the human foot (26). On Wednesday, when we argue about gender roles (“You think you deserve a medal because you cook sometimes?” I snap, and, “Sometimes?” he repeats, shredding the chicken for tacos), he tells me that archaeologists recently uncovered evidence of a prehistoric warrior woman in the Andes Mountains. “What killed her?” I ask, but he doesn’t know. On Thursday, we go out for a fixed-menu date night—$50 for two appetizers, two entrees, two desserts. Dessert is a dollop of whipped cream and a pale wedge of pineapple. He studies my face, then flags down our waiter and orders two scoops of the house-made marshmallow graham cracker gelato. I think I’m falling for him. Really, truly. “Did you know graham crackers were invented to stop people from masturbating?” he asks. “Yes,” I say, digging in with my spoon.
On Friday, I tell him I need space. Some time to think. He sets up on the couch, knees bent, feet wedged against the armrest. I go to our room and close the door. The bed feels empty. First a good empty, then a bad empty. I think about our future together, the one we could have. When I complain about a lumpy hotel mattress: “Did you know the first pillows were made of solid rock?” After the birth of our first child: “Breastfeeding burns between 500 and 600 calories a day.” I imagine him with another woman. I imagine fucking a man who doesn’t know the number of streetlights in the average midsize American city, or how to make tiramisu, or how to massage my shoulders so that the tension dissolves like sugar in black tea. You can love him, I tell myself. You’re almost there.
On Saturday, while he’s scrubbing pasta sauce off of dishes, I get dressed for a night out with friends. High heels, a black jumpsuit. “You look great,” my boyfriend says. He doesn’t tell me where and how beer was invented, or the origin story of high heels, but I can tell he wants to. At the bar, it’s trivia night. I am on fire. “Muhammad Ali,” I say, and “kilobyte,” and “moldy bread,” and “Seventeen.” Everyone around the table stares at me. “I think we’re winning,” Sarah says, grabbing a garlic twist. “How do you know all this stuff?” Caleb demands. I stir my whiskey sour with its tiny straw and think: attraction, a surge of dopamine, fireworks in the amygdala. The average time it takes to decide if you like someone: four minutes. Whiskey, from the Gaelic word uisce, meaning “water.”
Lindy Biller grew up in Metro Detroit and now lives in Wisconsin. Her fiction has recently appeared at Flash Frog, Trampset, Pithead Chapel, and perhappened. She works as a writer at a small game design studio.