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This Is Your Life Now

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I.

It's the social awareness that gets you. Toddy knew, and Platt knew, and even Mrs. Barbour knew. There’s a solidarity within the ranks that reminds you that you aren’t a part of it, no matter how much you tried to be. However, if you dig deep enough, you will see that lying to you is just another attempt to keep you. 

 

At Kitsey’s apartment, you confront her, yelling and then whispering and smiling. You did not know you were smiling until caught on it. You still do not know why you smiled, except, maybe, that you felt the same. Head not heart. You are better with her, no matter how much in that moment you liked having the upper hand and the ability to leave her without it being your fault.  You are better with a woman.

 

II.

You meet him again, the man who you know will only bring you down. He got you started on drugs, and you liked it. You liked it so goddamn much. You were survivors together, but so much worse together, little street rats huffing glue and… well, you don’t talk about that. In the car driving to another bar, you asked him what to do, and he said to confront her. You did the day before the party, but Boris never said to break up with her. He simply said one had to know whether she did or did not cheat.

 

He also said not to be with someone you love too much. You remember Kotku and how love can be so terrible. Did Boris even love her? He had to, but never would you love someone like that. You are better with head not heart. 

 

At the engagement party, you wonder if you are taking his advice or not, showing up somewhere to someone you are just the slightest degree less in love with. Less in love with than Pippa that is. But Kitsey proposed to you and how good it felt to be wanted.

 

III.

Amsterdam—that is what you call it now, will call it forever—is over. You don’t tell Boris about the hotel room, about how it was your own personal hell and that somehow you think it was a hell of his creation. What is it that happens when a god creates a world then abandons it? That’s a stupid metaphor, and it makes you happy that you don’t believe in a god. Still, you’re sick as hell, and Gyuri’s questions are getting to you. There’s another reason you don’t tell Boris about the hotel room. He is too proud of what he’s accomplished for you to tell him now how his accomplishments were leaving you in the dust. He texted you, didn’t he? Even if you never got his texts. Even if you still want to die, just a little bit, because you know what you’ve done. 

 

You also know that he won’t let you die. That’s half of why you stay with him in Antwerp—that is what you will always call it, Antwerp. Why would you call it anything else? All that happened was him making you soup and smoking weed with you and shooting up, something you refuse to judge him for. 

 

Absolutely nothing else happened there, but it feels like something did. 

 

You go home to Hobie after that, bringing back the money. He tells you that it’s not enough. He tells you how much you hurt Pippa, how they thought you left forever, how they thought that you stole everything from them to leave them picking up the pieces. What he’s most mad of, however, is Pippa. You don’t get how he could get so mad about it, but you also understand how ashamed you are to have hurt her.

 

The gifts that you never gave her hurt you, too. Somehow, you knew from the start that it was a terrible idea. Somehow, you knew from the beginning that going with Boris may mean last chances.

 

What made you think you were never coming back? You never anticipated dying, not that you did.

 

III.

The Barbours made it clear that you aren’t held to anything. You don’t have to marry Kitsey, nor do you have to even date her. Somehow, you stay engaged to her, though you know that you are allowed to dinner without having to do anything but show up. You do show up between the trips to buy your collections. They love you, in their cold way. Toddy even slips in something about a good doctor one night over roasted duck. Do you need a doctor?

 

On your trips you begin writing a book, no longer having anything to tell simply to your mother, but something to tell yourself. You think that may take the place of a good doctor. Boris and his lecture about boxes changes parts of you. You still hate your dad so, so much. You hate seeing his jawbone when you look in the mirror and love seeing Hobie’s hands when you look at your own on a piece of furniture. The book helps you to realize that your body is your own. 

 

Somehow the book becomes about Boris. He is a main character despite spending just as much time with Kitsey—half a year living with her and the Barbours, three months going to dinner, a year dating, six months engaged. Even then, you write about Boris and the two years you spent with him as a child and the less than a month that you spent with him between New York and Amsterdam and Antwerp—two weeks of which you spent without him. You are sure to mention how you took Conversational Russian in college, two full semesters.

 

You think of Boris again. Would he tell you that you need a doctor? You don’t think so, but he told you that as a child you should have been in a hospital.

 

IV.

You don’t see him for a year. That’s nothing compared to eight, but it burns just the same.

 

V.

It's the social awareness that gets you. Before, you only saw old classmates because of Kitsey. Occasionally while walking down the street before that, just while in Manhattan or in an expensive bar somewhere outside of Manhattan but only just and with the same presence. With Kitsey, it was because they were her old school friends or older siblings of her old school friends. They looked at you and went You? With Kitsey Barbour? And it made you smile with pride and something else that you won’t talk about. Now, you still go out with Mrs. Barbour, and occasionally, you get a drink with Platt. Once in a blue moon, you go out with Toddy. He asks you somewhere, always him, and if you are free, you say yes.

 

You bring along Boris near everywhere you go. Even if uninvited, he comes, too. There is something about that that amazes you. How fucking lucky are you to have this? How fucking careful do you have to be to have this forever.

 

Apparently, you don’t have to be too careful because when people look at you wrong, you drop his hand.

 

When you drop his hand, he does nothing, and you feel everything.

 

At night, all you feel is shame. Shame for seeing a man, shame for being looked down upon by people who you don’t even like, shame for dropping the hand of the love of your life, shame for dating someone with a wife and kids at home.

 

You let Boris fuck you into the mattress, and it feels good.

 

VI.

Pippa calls you one night, some would say it's a congratulations on finding love. Others (you) would say it sounded a lot like “Oh? So you’re gay now?”

 

“Did I ever tell you… When I first met Kitsey again, I was fucking two girls at once. Not a threesome, which, yes I have had, but… yeah. Two girls and I began dating a third. I stopped things with the other two when we became exclusive. I’m a good person.” The last part you told mostly to yourself.

 

“Is there a reason you’re telling me this?” she asks, and you really don’t know. 

 

“I’m not gay,” you say and hope she believes it. You hope you believe it. “He isn’t either. He has a wife, you know.” That, you instantly regret saying. You just hope she doesn’t remind you of when you said you were a good person. “I’ve got to go,” you say again as you hang up the phone.

 

In the end, you go right down the stairs to Hobie’s workshop and hope that he isn’t there when you get out the glues and the stains and get to business. Normally, you would open up the shop, but not today. Being fit for public consumption isn’t all it's built up to be. Tomorrow, maybe Hobie will ask you about Boris and then you will have to figure out whether he talked to Pippa or not. Maybe it won’t even be tomorrow! It will be later today! Either way, you want to see no one.

 

VII.

As with every night, you go back to Boris’ hotel room where he’s been living indefinitely. This time, you don’t let him touch you or shower with you or even see you. You dress in the bathroom and curl up as far from him as possible.

 

In the night, while you both pretend to sleep, he wraps a hand around your stomach and drags you back to him. His hand stays above your shirt, and his mouth never kisses your neck, but still you feel dirty. 

 

By morning, you still aren’t asleep. He’s awake and letting you sleep in. Before he leaves, having dressed for the day so quietly that he would have never woken you up if you weren’t already anyway, he gives you a kiss on the forehead. It is so soft and free from whatever filth you usually want from him that you cannot move. Your eyes are still closed as you pretend to breathe, and you hope that he thinks you are asleep. Everything will be okay. It has to.

 

VII. 

Do you remember what Hobie said to you when you came back? He said that he thought you left forever. He thought you took the money and left for the rest of your life never to return. You want to do that now. Run away from Boris, too. The problem is, the answer is he’ll always find you. 

 

Will Gyuri come to your funeral? In forty years when Boris finally sees you, randomly, as he walks on the beach in some South American country, will he kill you? Will Gyuri call you ‘Potter’ as he lays you to rest? 

 

Your father should have trained you better to see the manic impulses in others, the ones you didn’t recognize in Mr. Barbour on the very last time you saw him, the ones you don’t recognize now in yourself as you run out of the hotel room without showering. Isn’t it funny that Boris has purchased shampoo for the room but hasn’t made any other attempt to make a home here. No state of permanence.

 

He bought you your shampoo.

 

VIII.

You go to Hobie first, so he knows you aren’t dead when you leave. You tell him the truth, at first at least. You need to go somewhere, and you don’t know how long it will take you to do what needs to be done. When he asks what needs to be done, you tell him that it’s to say goodbye. When he asks to whom, you say your father, and a part of that is true. Spur of the moment, you say Vegas as your destination, say hi to Xandra and ask to see where your fathers ashes are buried. How long has it been that you haven’t known where a parent was? 

 

Before any more can be asked of you, you take your singular suitcase, filled with two suits and no pills, and get into a cab. On the way to the airport, you realize that you weren’t lying all along. You need to see Xandra, and you need to see your father.

 

IX.

Vegas is cold. No one seems to remember that when looking back, not even you. Easily, you can pull up memories of shivering under the vent when the AC was blasting too strong and you were too out of it to move, but when it comes to the outdoors, you forgot deserts get cold in winter. 

 

You don’t have Xandra’s phone number, haven’t since the house phone when you were a kid. Even if she lives in the same house, you don’t remember the number. You do remember the bar on the strip. She managed it for years (in between selling other things), and you make your way there, thoroughly missing your winter coat as the air runs deep into your bones. 

 

A woman sits at the bar, her shirt is sparkling and she winks at you as you stare at it. Kitsey would never wear something like that, but then again, you never really wanted her to anyway. You never really wanted her any which way, dressed or undressed, as long as in some way it was done for you or in need of you. Isn’t that sad? You never wanted her to be her own person unless she was leaving you alone. Isn’t that pathetic? You only wanted her when she wanted you. Isn’t that vile? The way that you used her. Is it okay as long as you feel bad about it? Is it okay because she used you?

 

Do you remember the way that your father used you? For money, for cheating, that one time when he brought you along to a pawn shop where only in adulthood do you realize that Bobo Silver was behind the counter and only in adulthood do you realize that he was using you not to get beaten as he coughed over some money, too large an amount to justify spending on a cheap pawn shop ring for Xandra. But didn’t she always like it cheap.

 

To the bartender, you ask after a woman named Xandra, and he offers in turn only knowledge of a Sandra that works next door. She must’ve been at least in her late fifties, and she sounded at least seventy. 

 

You do next door and ask after her there. “Is there a Xandra who works here?” Maybe the man next door heard her wrong. “What about a Sandra?” you ask when no one knows. 

 

She’s there. Next door from the first place. What can you say about the experience except that she takes you home?

 

“You know,” you tell her, “I used to go lay out in the street almost every night hoping that a car would come and run me over. I used to walk as far as I could out into the desert, miles and miles, and lie there hoping to be pecked at by the vultures. I tried to light the house on fire just so that I would burn down in it.”

 

She swallows.

 

Still staring at the ashes, you tell him, “I’m mad it was my father that got to die.”

 

“Boris told me, you know, about the burn in the couch. He came home one day beat to shit and told me it was nothing. He told me that he’s never feared death, that kid. He did tell me this though; he doesn’t want a trial by fire. The idiot meant literal fire.”

 

You tell her not to call him an idiot, but she just replies “All teens are.” You aren’t a teen anymore, and neither is he, but you don’t tell her that. When you first saw him again, Boris said you should have been in a hospital. You do tell her that.

 

“Your father should have, too,” she says.

 

That night, you sleep on her couch. And the next night. And the night after that, too. Each night, you buy her dinner like you’re paying her rent. One night in particular after she complains that you’re going to make her fat, you go to the grocery store and cook for her. She lets you. That’s all you can thank her for. 

 

X.

Everything is perfectly okay. You eat, you sleep, you mop the whole house. Two weeks pass of just that. Making yourself a reason to stay. Everything is perfect until one day Xandra comes in with her cellphone and says it's for you.

 

She never thought that he would stay out of a jail cell long enough to find you. She doesn’t tell you that; the look on her face does. But he found you, so it's time to leave. What else is there to do when she says there’s a man asking after you on the other line.

 

XI.

Before the airport, you know nothing, think nothing, are nothing. Once inside, you are a fugitive again making an escape to somewhere where no one can contact you. Funny, you still have your phone. Funny, you still haven’t turned it on, not since you last went on a plane and they asked you to turn all electronics off. 

 

At the ticket counter, because some airlines still have that, you go up to buy a ticket to Canada. Anywhere. Could be fucking Camloops for all you care, but they don’t have one. They do. You know they do. Don’t push things away until they aren’t there just because they don’t serve you. The flight just happens to be tomorrow, and that won’t do.

 

Instead, you go to South America.

 

XI.

Peru is enticing, and so you go there. You haven’t spoken Spanish since childhood, but you’re sure it will come back to you. You’re sure your love of the heat will, too. Like Goldie, maybe you too can be a tropical bird.

 

Maybe you can find a job as a bartender. Or as a doorman. Doorman sounds nice. Anything sounds nice, at least in the warm breeze that comes to you as you exit the plane. You spend three days on a beach, go to a club, try to fuck a woman. None of these go well, least of all the third. On the fourth day, you get the worst sunburn of your life. On the fifth, your keys fall somewhere between the bed and the wall that it's pushed against, the side effect of liquor loose fingers and sheets tucked in so tightly that they are near impossible to get under. Finally, you turn on your phone to use it’s flashlight. An impossible number of texts pop up, and you are too tired to think about it. You turn off your ringer, and go to sleep.

 

XII.

The only message that you read comes from an unsaved number that you recognize to be Xandra’s. She is furious, at least you suspect. Her dishwasher is broken, and she says it’s your fault. If anything, it serves her right. You aren’t sure what she did wrong this time, but it’s her fault. Still, you should pay for it to be fixed.

 

On Friday, you leave Peru through Venezuela and Belize. You get to Vegas through Austin and another layover in some forgettable city. It takes until Sunday, but you get to Xandra’s by cab.

 

The cabbie takes your money, and you walk up the stairs to give some more of it to Xandra. That, or fix it yourself if you can’t just buy her a new one easier.

 

Walking up the steps of the apartment, you watch your feet, so tired you think you’ll miss a step and fall off with only a duffle bag to catch your fall. Wouldn’t that be nice? Your eyes stay on your shoes until the top of the stairs when they reach someone else’s. Black shoes, leather, wingtips but with no laces. On the back, the heel is higher than one would think, and one would think that on the inside there are probably lifts. You know better, though. You know these shoes and the man that they are connected to, and you turn your body away before running down the stairs.

 

XIII.

“Wait!” he says, so softly that it barely comes out harsh. “I just got here.”

 

You knew he would find you. You thought that would be the answer. But as he takes your wrist and pulls you back, as he turns you back to face him, as he holds the back of your neck and looks you in the eyes, as he looks down at your shoulder unable to keep his own eyes dry, you realize. This isn’t the answer.

 

XIV.

You think that in a thousand lifetimes, you would go back to him in each one. You think that in every chance you get at life, you will meet him and it will be irrecoverable. You think Jesus Christ! It’s invisible, but you have a scar far larger than the one on his shoulder which claims you as his. There is a part of you that wishes the bullet that grazed his skin had your name on it. What else is there to say?

 

XV.

“Why are you here?” you ask, and it means why are you here with me.

 

“To find you,” he says, as if that answers anything.

 

You tell him you weren’t lost, and he asks if that meant that he never lost you. A part of you wants to say that you were never his, but you don’t. Instead you say, “Where’s your wife?”

 

That does it. He frowns, big and ugly and angry. What will he do with his anger? All of you wants to know. Will he do something big? Violent? Will he scream? Will he go quiet? 

 

He does none of those, just turns around, hunches down, and asks if that is what all of this—he spreads his arms wide and swirls them around at ‘this’—has been about. His wife? His kids? Him? He doesn’t even see them! And that’s the point.

 

“I’m not asking you to divorce her,” you say, so calm that it makes him madder.

 

He looks at you, piercing. “Good. I wouldn’t have anyway.”

 

What would he do for you, exactly? He would come all this way without you even wanting him to, but if you asked for something simple? Never. He doesn’t even see them. You remember all the times you dropped his hand while walking in public and think maybe you should have dropped it in private, too.

 

You tell him that you are going now, and he runs in front of you to cover the stairs. You go silent as he looks you in the eyes. You pull out your phone and pretend to look at that instead. You do have hundreds of unread messages after all. 

 

“You told Hobie you were leaving, no?” He asks you. 

 

You don’t respond. 

 

“You did not tell me.”

 

You do not respond.

 

“You left me, no name, no number, no forwarding address.”

 

You do not respond.

 

He left you for a year; what is a few weeks?

 

Finally, his anger breaks and he looks down at the ground. “I couldn’t sleep without you there,” he says. “I think maybe you are just on another trip to get back one of Hobie’s changelings. I think maybe you did not leave me low and dry—” You know what he is doing, trying to get you to correct him. He knows it’s ‘high and dry’— “I think many things, but you do not answer my texts, so I think far worse things. Did not think you would come to Xandra. Hobie told me eventually, tired of watching me tear my hair out I think.” 

 

When you don’t answer, he changes strategies.

 

“My father died in Mexico City—” You don’t look up— “2009, it was a mining explosion. Killed many other men as well. Probably his fault. Did not learn about it until three years later when an associate googled ‘Pavlikovsky’ to see if anything ever came up. Associate told Myriam. Myriam told me. Me, I told associate to not be pussy, come to me when he has something to say to me. Big old circle of talking.”

 

You move back to lean against the railing by the stairs, no longer able to see Boris if you look up, no longer in his direct line of vision either. He has to turn his head to look at you. Instead, he just turns around and sits on the highest step. 

 

He continues to speak. “I know that you had to see your father. I should do so, too. Is bad for me not to have ever said goodbye to my old man. To be fair, he never said goodbye to me either. Come with me. We don’t have to go back to New York. We can go to Mexico City, say goodbye to my father in his pauper’s grave.”

 

Once upon a time, you heard him say that his father died in New Mexico. You heard him say that he has never missed his father since, and never wanted to see him again. This whole thing is constructed and just another reason why you say, “I can’t be with you and be a good person.”

 

“You do not have to be good! I am not good person. You love me, yes. You hate that you love me, but that does not change it. I am bad, bad, terrible man to you, yes?”

 

You want to say no, so you do. That is the first thing you have said to him that actually shocks you. There is no freeze out in an attempt to make him walk away. 

 

“Potter—” you look away— “Theo—” you see him again— “You do not need to spend your whole life on your knees praying to a god above for sins to be forgiven. You do not even believe in god. You do not need to spend every day repenting any person. You spend your whole life jumping between two boxes: bad or good, before or after, yes or no. You do not need to put everything into absolutes. Just be. Just exist. Do not be with me if it makes you so upset, but come home.”

 

You ask him where home is, and he says New York, but where in New York?

 

“Hobie’s house, my hotel room, your own hotel room in a completely different hotel. Anywhere that we can see you and you can sleep. This is good enough for now, yes?”

 

You want to say no, but as you well know, the answer is yes. The “for now” seals it. Now is good enough. Doing your due diligence, you put an envelope with money in Xandra’s mailbox for the dishwasher that may or may not be broken, and you get in a car with Boris before going on a plane with Boris before going home with Boris. 

 

XVI.

The plane lands with what feels like a crash. You had gotten so used to the feeling of being up in the air that now the ground of New York feels like the gravitational pull of Jupiter. Or, as your mind supplies it, your feet are being ripped through the floor of the jetway into the concrete below. Still, you keep walking. You walk all the way into a cab, Boris careful not to put his hand on the small of your back, though you know he wants to.

 

You know he wants a lot of things, but you don’t listen to him as he talks to the cabby, and you don’t listen to the cabby as he tries to talk to you.

 

XVII.

It’s the social awareness that gets you. When you exit the taxi, there’s a line of people waiting for you. A line of three, but that’s enough. Hobie comes up to you with bated breath, tears in his eyes, a hic in his throat, and dear God do you not want to do this. Worse, Pippa and Everett look on as all this happens, and you let Hobie crouch over, all six foot three of him, to surround your whole body with his. 

 

You give him two awkward pats on the back and hope that’s enough of a hint to make him stop. It’s not. You stare straight forward as you feel Pippa looking at the two of your forms. Boris, well, you don’t know what Boris is doing. A part of you finds that as freeing as you feel doomed. A separate, more vindictive part of you wonders where Kitsey is if not here to see your shame? With Tom Cable, maybe. If they’re still together, that is. Is it even fun without you to run from? You have to say, you had much more fun running from yourself than you did in the weeks leading up to all this. Peru, the sun, the drinks, who could forget? Except for those twelve hours that you don’t remember.

 

While all of this goes through your head, Hobie finally pulls back enough to see your face. Alternatively, now you can finally see his once again, and the tears in his eyes have dripped down.

 

You tell him there’s no need to cry; you told him you were going away for a while but that you’d be back, and here you are, back just as promised. What could possibly be wrong?

 

Truthfully, what did you do wrong? You did everything right this time, didn’t you? 

 

XVIII.

Pippa comes up to you next as Everett hangs in the back. You tell her that you were only stopping by for some new clothes and maybe to say hi, and she tells you that’s all she wants as well, to say hi. You know she’s lying, but you don’t tell her. That would kill all civility between you, and you can’t yet face the truth of chaos. 

 

“Pippa,” you say, “I really must get going.” The awkward formality of your voice is far outside your control. It really isn’t your fault that the two of you talk like this, nothing is. All of this is just something that happens to people once in a while. 

 

“I don’t think you’re a bad person!” she yells it as you try to walk away.

 

It’s startling. The idea that she doesn’t hate you. Well that’s not really what she said, is it? No, just that you aren’t a bad person.

 

“Is that what you tell all the pretty boys?” you ask before mentally hitting yourself with a baseball bat. 

 

“You are pretty,” she says, “But that’s not just something I say. I don’t think you are a bad person.”

 

“But you don’t think I’m a good one either.”

 

She tells you that isn’t what she said, but you don’t believe her. It’s what she meant. Obviously. Or she would've told you that you are a good person from the start. 

 

You tell her that you need to go, and she lets you walk all the way inside before following.

 

XVIII.

You are back here, where it all started. You aren’t sure what that ‘it’ is, but you know for a fact that it all started in this very house, in this very room. Pippa sits on Welty’s old bed--the one you never traded out despite the lumps and the bumps--and watches you pack. This time, you remember to bring pajamas. 

 

“I’m trying to remember why everything is like this,” she says, and you have to wonder the same. 

 

“I’m sorry I kissed you,” she says, and you want to tell her you’re sorry for trying to kiss her back those two times. 

 

Instead, you think about making a joke about how you wiped her kiss off your lips. You don’t do that either. You just pack, and when you are done, you leave.

 

XIX.

Boris waits for you outside and follows you into the cab, uninvited and entirely unwanted. But you are tired, and you’ve lost your fight. He sits in the cab and waits for you to tell the driver where to go. When you don’t he takes you to a hotel, not his, just a random one and drops you off there. 

 

Isn’t it lonely to be given up like that? Isn’t that exactly what you wanted? To be alone? 

 

XX.

Boris comes back that night. You have this image in your head before you open the door. He’s on his knees, ring in hand, begging you to let him in, here for you and you alone. “I just divorced Astrid, and I want to marry you.” He wants to make an honest man out of you. 

 

When you open the door, he’s standing straight, no sign of regret or softness or love on his face. He brushes past your shoulder as he walks in, and he takes a seat on the bed. The one king sized bed. What does he want? to fuck you again?

 

You set your face and stand in front of him. You won’t speak if he won’t.

 

“There are very few things I do for my children,” he starts. “I send money every month, I give Christmas presents. I stay married to their mother.” He sighs at you. “I can’t take one more thing away from them.”

 

But is it enough, what he gives you?

 

“I don’t. I’m not sure. I mean. Jacus is a good kid, sharp nose like mine, blond hair like Astrid. He’s almost three now. Sherry and Isak are six. I managed to get them birthday gifts this year. I got Sherry some Barbie dolls and Isak a Tonka Truck. Astrid told me they traded with each other. It’s good enough for me that they like anything I give them. 

 

“Sherry has a Vitamin D deficiency. Apparently it’s common when living in a place with very little sun. I thought Sweden was sunny actually, until she told me that. Sherry did, when she was talking to me on the phone after the doctor's appointment. I got scared for her a little. Would you believe that? We were getting shots in the ass to ward off malnutrition, and my daughter just has to take some vitamin gummies and I get scared. Astrid had to calm me down before I flew out there to take her to a specialist.

 

“I want to see them,” he says.

 

You just look at the ground, the carpet beneath you could be warm or cold on your feet, but you can't feel it through the soles of your shoes. 

 

“Would you like to come with me?” he asks.

 

A part of you wants to ask why he’s using his children to get you back. A part of you is scared of what he will say. A part of you is too tired to do anything. A part of you just wants to say yes.

 

Instead, you tell him, “If using your dad didn’t work, why would you try to use your children?”

 

“I want you to meet them. I want you to meet Astrid. Maybe then you will get it. Why I stay married—”

 

“—why you won’t marry me.” you finish for him. You don’t know why. You don’t want him to marry you. You don’t want to marry anyone, not after the disaster that was Kitsey. “I don’t mean that,” you say. 

 

He asks you if that’s true, if you really don’t mean that. When you say it’s true, he breathes a sigh of relief, and once again you are set to wonder what he will do for you, if not be with you. He’ll show up. He’ll drag you back. He’ll talk and talk and talk. He’ll fuck you into the mattress, maybe. He won’t be yours. Unfortunately, you’ve already marked yourself as his.

 

XXI.

You go to Hobie first, so he knows you aren’t dead when you leave. You have somewhere you need to go, and you don’t know how long you will be gone. Boris is coming with, of course. Well, more accurately, you are going with. Why you agreed to go meet his children and wife you do not know. Deep down, you do know, but you won’t tell anyone that, not even yourself. 

 

Sherry is, to put in nicely, an asshole. Jacus has sticky hands that apparently all children have. You don’t like children, but you like them. Isak is such a sweet kid, so maybe that’s why you let him fall asleep in your arms as you walk through the Swedish grocery store. You let Jacus tug at your pant leg whenever Boris lets him out of the cart and onto the ground. 

 

Eventually, you pick Jacus up too with your other arm, and you feel his sticky hands as he shoves your cheek and laughs. His laugh is infectious because Boris laughs at you and suddenly you are laughing at yourself, too.

 

The woman working the checkout compliments your little family before asking if you need help out to the car. It’s not your family though, and the thought relieves you. Worse things could happen than having kids. Worse things could happen, like Boris divorcing Astrid to marry you.

 

XXII.

Things aren’t okay, but you feel better. That is, you feel better until you get to New York and Boris is still in a shitty hotel. Your shampoo is still there. 

 

XXIII.

“Please,” you say to the ground, “Why can’t this be good enough?”

 

Boris hears you, of course he does, of course he thinks you’re talking to him. Why wouldn’t he? He’s standing right there.

 

“I can be enough.” he says to you. “Just let me.”

 

But he isn’t. “But you aren’t.”

 

“Let me be. You won’t even let me move in with you.”

 

“You won’t rent an apartment.”

 

“I can get an apartment. I can fill it with antiques. I can get us the biggest bed in the world. And I will do it for you. I will do so, so much for you.”

 

You tell him to get four bedrooms, one for you, one for Astrid, one for the twins, and one for Jacus. It will work won’t it, as long as he doesn’t have to see them too often. 

 

He tells you that they can’t know what he does in New York. Your face falls at that. Not you, he says, business. They all know he’s with you. You thank whoever is up there that Boris didn’t say they know he's doing you. Still, he doesn’t rent a four bedroom apartment.

 

But he says that he will go back to visit them. He’ll do it again, and bring you with him again, and it will all be good. 

 

Jacus will throw a spoon covered in jam at your face. Isak will cry into your shoulder about how his Barbie got black sharpie in her beautiful blonde hair. Sherry will kick you in the shins, again. You won’t know what to do about any of these things. Boris will pick up the spoon and lick the jam from your face as you cringe. Boris will color all of the Barbie’s hair black with that sharpie and say she matches him now. Boris will laugh at you getting kicked in the shins, and then you will too.

 

Slowly but surely, you are enough.