by Lee Ann Mortensen
lover wants first is to breathe in her Thai stick very deeply, slowly,
filling the air with the green smoke from her lungs.
What my lover wants second is for me
to lie down on the carpet in front of her and pretend I'm sleeping
so she can look at all the parts of my face, all of my lumpy body,
and not feel shy because she says she's shy and doesn't
want to be.
What my lover wants third is for me
to bake her a cake, no frosting, so she can smell the rising batter
as she smokes, as she gets hungrier, so she can watch me move from
sink to stove to cupboard and back, little sweat beads popping out
on my forehead because it's hot outside, it's summer and
98 degrees, and she's making me bake, and I've silently
burned my hand on the oven rack.
What my lover wants forth is for me
to smoke the Thai stick, coughing as she eats hot cake, my throat
feeling burned with acid marijuana remains, my head beginning to expand
as she gorges herself and looks at me like she wants to fuck the universe,
or jump from a tall, wavy building.
What my lover wants fifth is to dress
me in white because it glows, and because it reminds her of her cleanly
childhood indoors. She dresses me in shorts and a tank top, these
being all I have in that color, and I dress her in a sheer work blouse
and a skort, these being all she has in that color, and she wants
us to look at each other for at least thirty minutes. "White
is pure," she says. "It's clean," she says,
"and at least once in a while we need to be clean in this life,
don't you think?" And because it's important to
her, we dress in white and stare and stare at our sweating cleanliness,
and I try not to look like I want to leave.
What my lover wants sixth is for us
to dance to some odd music she found at the thrift store that sounds
like Buddy Holly, only canned and slow like you'd hear in an
elevator, and because we've been smoking, and because we've
eaten cake, and because we're very cleanly glowing in white,
we like the music. We sway a little to it, and begin to smile, and
begin to dance, and begin to feel a little happy, sort of.
What my lover wants seventh is for
us to talk, to say everything and purge ourselves. She closes her
eyes and begins.
"I've always wanted another
Porsche like my first husband gave me. It was red and fast and got
me lots of fucking. But you'll never make enough money. I hate
that," she says.
I cough and try to come up with something
good. I say, "I don't particularly like your hair, I mean,
it's nice hair, nice to touch." I cough a little. "I
guess I don't like it after you've been jogging, or when
you've put a little too much product in it. It sort of seems
too sticky maybe."
She looks at me tightly because I've
said "maybe" and I'm not supposed to say "maybe."
I'm not supposed to equivocate. I try not to look away when
she says, "The fact that you were spoiled as a child, that you
got all of what you wanted, the swings, the horsies, all that shit,
makes me so fucking jealous, makes me hate you even."
I cough and look at the burning joint
on the table, then at the table in the kitchen. "OK. So I guess
there are times when I wish you could be a little neater, maybe, I
mean, just throw your junk mail out more often or something, um, well,
She rolls her eyes.
"Sometimes I wish you were a
man," she says. "I think I'd feel safer."
I lean myself over the coffee table
for the Thai stick, take a long drag until my throat burns. I cough
out green smoke, and as the room rolls around me I say, "There
are times," I start, then cough, then start again. "Sometimes
I hate the way your mouth moves when you talk to me. It gets kind
She smiles a little, takes a bite of
cake, crumbs falling on the carpet, on the couch. I want to clean
"I wish you were more assertive,"
she says. "I hate having to take over all the time, like in
restaurants. You never call the waiter over when I want more wine.
You can never even get on a ski lift ahead of others. If you were
a man, I wouldn't have to think twice. I'd just have what
I flick a piece of lint off my white
shorts. I look the cake crumbs, at the pictures on the walls.
"I suppose I hate that picture
over the fireplace. It gives me nightmares sometimes. I mean, I wake
up with headaches if I look at it before I fall asleep, which is hard
to avoid when you think you need to read until 2 AM. I mean, you can
read when you want. But it's the picture I hate. I guess."
She stares at me.
"Can't you ever say what
you're really thinking, just once even?" she says. "Just
one, little, fucking time?"
I bite at one of my fingernails and
reach for the burning marijuana, but she moves it away. I look over
at the gouged-out cake, the crumbs on the couch, on the floor. Then
I look at the month of junk mail piled on the dining table, at the
three days of socks she's left in the hallway on the floor and
in the bathroom. I look at the burn marks the joint is leaving on
the coffee table. I look at the picture she painted in watercolor
class and made me pay to frame, the picture she thinks is so pretty
and delicate and classy hanging above the fireplace, this painting
full of its mauves and its sickening pinks. I look at all the green
smoke in the room and think about the times she has moved my lips
with her fingers to try and make me kiss her correctly or speak in
"You suffocate me," I finally
My lover smiles, crawls over to me,
snuggles into my neck so softly I almost begin to forget I want to
What my lover wants eighth is to make
love, so we do, touching and pulling until yet another Wednesday has
been gotten through in relative, lung-filled safety.