Bad Girl – Kate Jayroe

Inside of every man, there is a bad girl.

Helen lives in my frontal lobe. Sometimes, though, she enjoys lobe-hopping. Full-on parietal. Occipital, every blue moon.

It is Thursday night, and Thursday night is date night at my place. You and I stay in. “What about chicken?” I’m nodding and then we are cooking, and we are murmuring things of bliss together: “fir trees,” “turmeric,” “move in together.” We are eating. After we are eating, we are washing, and occasionally, rubbing hands, tenderly.

Quiet, domestic moments instill a strange caginess in Helen. I can feel her inside my head: pouting, texting. A quiet cirrostratus feeling brings a migraine.

We start to kiss. I stop us.

“I only wore black in 1999,” I say.

This isn’t true. I was not old enough to have full autonomy over wardrobe in 1999. Further, I would have probably picked the color green over the color black because green is my favorite color and always has been.

Helen spills some whiskey in my temporal lobe when some guys come over who don’t pick up their cigarette butts, and some girl one of the guys met through work won’t stop talking about her nitrous connect. One of the guys is too drunk and makes a move on his friend, and his friend isn’t ready to try stuff with another guy, and so the drunk guy drinks a fifth of gin and lights some fireworks, crying. Helen finds him. Makes out with him. They pass out together on an air mattress.

I scratch my head, grimace, and apologize. You and I laugh together. We move on.

We initiate intimacy. I am smiling warmly. I am saying things like “relax” and “like that?” and “hey.” We are blushing feverishly, sweat starting to pucker at our edges: “you look perfect,” “we fit together,” “perfect.” I bite your thigh. I clamp down hard.

Helen wants to leave a mark. Your flesh on my incisors feels tenser than anticipated. My frontal lobe feels like it’s melting. Helen is doing dabs and crying again. That guy from the air mattress ghosted her and didn’t text back about hanging, when he had so clearly been into her. Helen is devastated, because she lowered her standards by even giving him her number. The worst part is, he drew a picture of her naked body and posted it to Instagram and a famous art critic double-tapped it and he didn’t ask her permission before he posted it. She recognized her own body hair.

“That hurt,” you say.

“I’m sorry,” I say.

You shudder. In my arms, you’re startled. You’re worrying about me, and I’m worrying about you worrying about me. The entire room fills with worry, a tannic heat only generated in collaboration. We hold onto each other. We suspend worry sufficiently enough to find sleep. We sleep.

We make eggs, toast with raisins in it. The morning is gray and quiet. We smile. Lips closed in mock-assurance, dress-up certainty. You have to leave for work soon. I’ve got to run downtown. We walk to the door together. We go outside. We stand by your car and we embrace. Our breath smells like coffee and tired sugar.

“Call me tonight?” you ask.

“If I’m up to it, yeah,” I say.

Helen hates talking on the phone. She doesn’t do it, if she can avoid it. Helen has terrible issues with anxiety. Helen is also quite apathetic. Helen has managed to escape many emotional obligations by shrugging and saying:

“Anx-apathy.”

She speaks with a dull stare and a hard swallow. Helen doesn’t entertain questions concerning anxapathy.

You squint your eyes. You search for some type of substantive emotive capacity. You can only find mental whisperings of an uncooperative bad girl, etched into the landscape of a cooperative good man.

You get in your car. You drive away to work.

 
 
 
Kate Jayroe is an MFA candidate at Portland State University, and a staff member at the Sewanee Writers' Conference. Her work appears or is forthcoming in S T I L L, Stirring, and elsewhere.
 
 

Categories: Features, Fiction, Flash