Night Call by Jennifer Todhunter

Fiction

He tells me we can’t sit on the couch, we can’t be on the bed, that’s what he says when he opens the door to his apartment. His hair’s all askew, his breath puffy and curdled, and I say, of course, of course we can’t do those things, and I lie in the middle of the living room floor, in the middle of the rug she bought from the thrift store when we were high and in love with its sensible colours. Do you adore it? she’d asked, running her fingers along its tapestry, touching her shoulder to mine. I want you to adore it.

He exhales and lies next me, next to the coffee table covered in sympathy cards, overstuffed ashtrays, and half-full beer cans. There are candles burning on the windowsills, maybe the same candles burning from her wake, or maybe they’re different candles lit from the flames on the tables we sat drinking around while he eulogized their time together. She was a cunt, he’d said. She was a cunt and she left me.

The room smells of cumin and coriander, of coconut milk and lime, and my stomach rumbles. You’re hungry, he says, and he’s up and he’s feeding me a bursting bowl of curry and rice, just as he tried to feed her all those days she lay dying. He watches me eat, and he nods while I chew, something instrumental and melancholy floating from his stereo speakers. The music feels as if it should have words, but it doesn’t, just as we should have words, but we don’t.

He pulls my hand into his after I’ve finished eating. His pulse thrums somewhere in his palm, and I grip him tightly, not wanting to let go of that beat, not wanting to let go of him.

She wasn’t a cunt, he says finally, his thick fingers laced through mine.

I nod.

I loved her, he says, and somewhere, something in my body breaks.

I know, I say, pulling a rust-coloured pillow from the couch and tucking it under our heads. She loved you too.

But she loved you more, he says, and the curry splits in my stomach at the thought of how complicated these night calls used to be, at the thought of how the three of us used to lie on this floor and look at each other, not one of us wanting the same person back.

 

Biography
Jennifer’s stories have appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Necessary Fiction, CHEAP POP, and elsewhere. She is the managing editor of Pidgeonholes. Find her at www.foxbane.ca or @JenTod_.

Image: Pixabay