I had a Buick and a girlfriend who looked just like me. We lived by the beach. It was a dry summer, and idyllic.
The couple who lived out of a Ford Explorer at the end of the block, nearest the water, called us Mary-Kate and Ashley. We didn't get it. We didn't know we looked alike. We were very busy making love. It was our calling, and we took it seriously.
We took LSD after she went to a swimming pool. Typical stuff happened.
I wanted to go outside, but she didn't want to because she'd been lying to me for a few months.
When we made love, I hallucinated that our genitals had, like, fused. Her clitoris swelling such that it occupied and usurped me. And for lack of a better term, fucked us back and forth into an ecstatic gape I'd never known.
We watched the sky brighten against the window. Later we ate hamburgers.
We booked a night at a B-and-B upstate and smoked out a window overlooking the Hudson River.
The guy who took our bags was glistening. We said his last job had been operating a halfway house. He said we could walk through the rooms that weren't ours, so we did.
We drove around. We got distracted at an estate sale. I bought a blanket, and she bought a lamp. Maybe she bought something else.
In the basement, there was an aquarium tank filled with Garfield stuffed animals. There was Garfield in graduation attire, and Garfield in a cotton football uniform, horned Garfield wielding pitchforks, and Garfield confronting a plush plate of lasagna. I bought all these, plus Garfield with sewn grinning teeth like razors, a circular pin affixed to the back of him reading MAKE MY DAY!, and suction cup paws, which we stuck to the Buick's rear windshield.
I also bought an unadorned Garfield with a passive countenance.
The halfway house guy implored us to book another stay. The eggs he cooked smelled like luggage. Driving around, we fantasized about spending more time at the B-and-B. Like every day, forever.
A second window appeared in the corner of our room, byzantine and entirely bricked-in.
It was sometime after we took a particular photo together that I realized how much we looked alike.
I was on unemployment and in the middle of a psychotic episode I didn't know about. I'd signed a binding legal document. I was editing a novel I'd written and felt fairly taken with myself.
(I lost fifteen pounds that summer, to give you an idea.)
In the photo, I arrange the unadorned Garfield on my girlfriend's shoulder. My face is buried in her downy crotch. She's holding the camera, which is a phone. Her hair is black. Her lips are parted.
And we were late to the Fire Island ferry. I nearly blew the Buick's struts. And she cried the entire weekend, all the way until I dropped her at the curb outside the gallery she worked at Monday morning.
She was diffident and smooth. At the time I most appreciated this, I'd used that very sentence to describe another woman, in the novel.
Like it was too true to keep to itself. Because it was.
The couple who lived out of the Ford Explorer had a dog. It jumped into a book while I was reading it.
The guy said, —Where's Mary-Kate?
I hadn't known I was Ashley.
He asked me for the fifth or so time if I wanted to come over later and hang out. I knew he meant sit on the tailgate with the back door open drinking Steel Reserves, because I'd seen him and the woman do it so many times by then.
Another night, my girlfriend stirred to the woman saying, —Fuck you, you fucking piece of shit. I'm going to kill you. I'm going to kill you. I'm going to kill you.
She woke me so I could hear the guy's voice die as he ran into the distance of her threats.
—I love you, he sobbed, before abdicating to crickets.
One of the side windows had blown out. Garbage bags were taped in its place. They kept living out of the SUV, though, and letting the dog on the beach.
And after Mary-Kate told me the truth, I asked if she wanted to go to where we'd sat after seeing a movie the day after her birthday, five months prior.
She said, —Yes.
Instead we went back to my place and made love. We had a bath, more love, tried to sleep. I turned on all the lights and packed a bag. I told her I could drive her to her place.
(She had her own apartment, of course. She just didn't live there.)
As we bawled, the room warped in impossible angles. I was obviously too tired to drive, so we made love.
By and by, Mary-Kate moved out and had a psychotic episode she didn't know about.
We would sit in her damp, windowless bedroom with a black light, ruminating over where black lights came from. She lost weight. I bathed in filthy ocean water, and then it would happen that a few days passed without us talking.
The woman at the end of the block said, —Are you okay, sweetie?
She had an Eastern European accent and cunning, kind eyes. I couldn't remember how many years older she was supposed to have been than the guy.
I wanted to be drunk with her alone, but we never got the chance.
I burned a mix CD.
We met at the library on 42nd Street. She was all happy.
I said, —Sup?
Mary-Kate was under the impression that we hadn't broken up a few nights earlier while talking on the phone. I thought we were seeing a movie.
In the library basement, there was a room with folding chairs and homeless-looking people and a digital projector. We kept rubbing against each other.
Later, we carved pumpkins and made love. I was still collecting unemployment. The gallery she'd worked for had closed, and we disagreed on the amount of "perfectness" this evinced.
She moved into an apartment with windows. I left the CD in her mailbox.
We watched martial arts classes held in the storefront across the street from her bedroom. The instructors often stayed well into the night, bathed in a blue glow of television, and eventually Mary-Kate got a very large mirror, which we'd sit in front of, eating on the floor.
I fixated on the idea of a dating app that's only measure of compatibility would be, like, somehow having unequivocal knowledge of and thus displaying the sentence the user had thought the most times.
In its original conception, this would be the most frequent thought made over one's lifetime. But I began to believe that might not always be fair.
I imagined, for instance, it could discriminate against people who'd gone to prison for six months over some petty offense ten years prior and whose sentence remained, I can't wait to get out of prison.
Though I couldn't be sure.
Only the app would know for certain. And the eponymous sentence wouldn't be displayed to the user. It would be outwardly accessible only, for the eyes of potential matches.
Of course, someone could always register a dummy profile, in order to research his or her or their own psychic configuration. I mean, yeah, duh they could. So great, you've done it, I thought. Are you proud of yourself?
Mary-Kate had traveled across the country to where her mother lived in the desert. I started getting very into being stoned. My shoes filled with broken pieces of seashells.
I developed a firm, wandering lump in my lower right abdominal quadrant. Mostly, I ignored it.
The couple who lived out of the Ford Explorer went elsewhere for the snowy months. Mary-Kate remained across the country. The lump grew.
The lump grew.
She burned a mix CD, and we listened to it in the Buick and booked a night at a cabin off the highway.
It wasn't heated. It had too many doors. I tried to open them all, but I was only able to open four. The others were bolted from the inside, positioned in two rooms opposite each other, seeming like, if you opened one, you'd simply enter a three-foot hallway leading to the other.
We got drunk, and I struggled for half an hour to make a fire. I wanted to get drunker, but try as I might...
Anyway, the lovemaking was first-rate. We were officially split by then, and I figured if that were the last we had, we could at least have that.
Mary-Kate fell asleep. I gritted the sediment of wine in my teeth and dreamed of unspeakable horrors.
In the morning we ate eggs. I caught her eyes in a reflection. We talked about a man she was interested in, and we licked the Garfield with the circular pin reading MAKE MY DAY!'s suction cup paws and tried to stick it to a stop sign.
The following morning, the people who'd rented us the cabin accused me of stealing their blankets, which I accounted for by explaining I hadn't. The day after that, Mary-Kate traveled across the country.
The lump grew. I stopped eating. I finally felt like an artist and stayed up late, caring about nothing.
There were nights I'd later consider "close calls." Fury in my voice, behind my eyes. I wanted to die.
Time being relative, there's no such thing as what actually happened. I cried on the subway. I found the people who'd rented us the cabin's blankets in the trunk of the Buick. It broke down shortly thereafter.
I sensed, via smell, my, like, "capacity to love," which caused me to hiccup, walking to the beach.
A friend visited town. I was able to sit across from this person at a Chinese restaurant, pushing a cup of tea around.
And the couple returned, garbage bags over window, parked at the end of the block. They didn't make much noise. The dog was gone, but this time they had a bunch of cats. Once or twice, I saw the guy without the woman.
He said hi to a girl.
—Hi, he said. —Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi.
—Hi, the girl said.
He said, —Where's Mary-Kate?
—What was her name?
I said something.
I said, —I think you have me mistaken for someone else.
I bought her a book a few days after her birthday. I left it in her mailbox and the next day we made love, and then I didn't see her for several months.
I got the Buick fixed and drunk and tried to drive it over the Belt Parkway median at five a.m. on a Sunday morning. I went to some doctors. I felt lights on my face.
The cats took to the beach. They developed a penchant for the whole scene. Neighborhood people scattered paper plates of wet food and unshelled peanuts.
They licked their paws. They licked the plates, left the peanuts alone, and stayed out of the garbage and algae. You'd see them between rocks. Sumptuous, uncharitable creatures. They ripped seagulls apart mid-alighting.
A cat like these was quite capable of inspiring awe. I already had one named Turmeric, but I imagined dragging off another and naming it Igloo.
I detected a spiritual presence, which began in my heart, and spiked outward. I saw it in my stomach. I saw it in the critical steps of all felines, and I knew it to be God, so I believed in God.
I got the Buick fixed and was going to drive it.
I walked toward the end of the block.
I heard a sound like air.
I looked at my phone.
I cried for a bit.
I heard the guy who lived out of the Ford Explorer.
He said, —Wait.
I saw it swerving, making a U-turn.
The woman perched behind the wheel, and the guy holding the open driver's side window.
She put on the brakes.
He moved against this change in velocity.
He let go of the window and fell to the ground and screamed a little.
She drove off.
The SUV made a noise.
I watched it skid around a corner.
He lay on the asphalt touching his leg.
Two other neighborhood people were standing around him.
—She drove over my leg, he said.
But he told the cops it was a hit-and-run by a random vehicle and he'd never seen the driver.
He got into an ambulance, and I would've left sooner, but the ambulance had me blocked me in.
I saw her.
It was nighttime. We were in a park. We sat on a bench and watched a kid play with a black light until he burned himself. I told her about Igloo.
Her window was the same. The martial arts guys were different. They were watching TV.
And we ate hamburgers on the floor. We looked so much alike, it would've been increasingly symbolic not to.
TRY AS I MIGHT...
Well, a thing I've noticed is: say you've got a set of double doors, consisting of two doors. And say you keep one of them permanently locked.
What have you got? You've got a door.
But don't take this the wrong way. Or anything, or else. It's just a thing I've been thinking about.
I can tell you I've done my best if you think it might make you feel better.
As for the lump, some people told me one thing, and others others. It comes and goes. More importantly, it gives me something to preoccupy myself with.
I've done my best. I'm going to keep doing my best.