The gabardine is itchy; he wears it like his trimmed beard. He smells of rum and doesn’t always wash and his tongue also smells of rum and sounds like a cat lapping up milk as it licks the intricate curves of my ear, tracing it like a map he knows and doesn’t need.
The infection is presenting itself as a phone call unanswered. I dial back, but get a flower shop. I dial again and get the Chinese restaurant.
His brogues have lost their tread, he may slip at any moment in the slick I’ve left when I emptied myself onto the floor. But he has kicked off the shoes and they lay, one upside down on the eggshell white carpet of our bedroom.
Take it to the dry cleaners, he instructs while in the shower, steam like ashes on the glass. I collect the thing from the toilet seat. Torn cuticles on my hands catch on the fabric and threaten to unravel it all. But I bite them instead. Don’t do that, he tells me, as if he can see through the glass at the ghost of me.
Again, the phone rings and I answer. Hello. I hear her breath. Or his. And the clatter of the elevated train is back there too and someone is yelling about Jesus. It is not the he or she yelling about Jesus, of course. But, just as I’m about to be told what will happen to me, in the next coming, when the messiah visits, the line goes dead.
I throw the suit in the passenger seat and as I back out of the driveway, it slithers to the floor with dried fir needles and tissues. I pull into the dry cleaners, which shares a parking lot with the Chinese restaurant. 24 hour turn-around! A neon sign shouts. Beside the building is a green dumpster. Taller than me. Smells of sardines and banana peels and rain water. I reach up and push the suit over the edge. It doesn’t make a sound on the other side. A section of sleeve dangles above me, half in, half out. A seagull overhead caws. I get into the car and go home.
You took the suit in? he asks later. I did, I say, and I tell him it’ll be ready in 24 hours.
Jennifer Fliss is a Seattle-based fiction and essay writer. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming with The Washington Post, Narratively, Prairie Schooner, The Citron Review, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere.