Daniel shows me his new apartment. Its empty rooms and drapeless
windows. He smiles with teeth only, offering me cheer in this bare
cheerlessness. I know Daniel better than that. Our mutual friends
accept his offer of superficial contentment. Relieved, they look
forward to his housewarming party.
We look out his large windows at the industrial area that surrounds his
new home. In the loft across the way we see a naked man sitting in
front of two computers. One has a very large monitor that seems to not
be in use. On a smaller laptop, he appears to view online profiles. In
my story of him, the man is trying to decide whether to chat with other
men or whether he's just too tired. In general or from the relentless
newness of fucking strangers. He clips his fingernails as he decides.
Daniel stands beside me. Close. We laugh and make a bet about whether
the man will have company. Daniel is visibly relieved to discover
distraction for after I leave. I watch with the curiosity of an
outsider. The man across the way is television to me. To Daniel, the
man might be a lifeline – a human being who displays his own
separateness by sitting naked in front of an uncovered window. I can
tell that Daniel wants to touch me.
Earlier in the evening, at Sailors', we drank Maker's neat and Daniel
offered, partly joking, to have sex with me if I ever wanted. He
doesn't want that now. Even if I wanted it, he is too overwhelmed by
the realness of having left his house keys in the hands of the wife he
never wanted to marry, that he married because he should, and that he
couldn't protect from the pills she gave herself from stolen
His restless eyes and hands tell me that he doesn't welcome this
freedom. I know him; his smile belies the fact that he wants to be held
and assured that it will get better. I can't do that for him this time.
I wish I could.
We pretend he does not want that. We pretend he is not lonely
and that neither of us is damaged. I need to leave this sad
place where Daniel will sleep tonight for the first time. I need to be
home in case the source of my own misery comes back. I know he won't.
We laugh and refuse to acknowledge his or mine. We can't help each
He walks me to my car. We laugh at small things – the old
woman flirting with him at the bar, his naked neighbor, my near-fall
when my boot catches the sidewalk. We hug for more than a moment. He
is six and a half feet, solid. I concentrate very hard on transferring
some comfort to him. We stick to our quiet agreement. I step back. I
need to conserve what is left for myself. For when I return to my
house, filled with furniture, filled with things.
We are still laughing as I get into my car. He will call me tomorrow. I
will help him choose a coffee table. He closes my door. I watch for
only a second and leave.
Lauren Becker has stories in or forthcoming from Dogzplot, mud luscious, Six Sentences and Word Riot.
She lives in the city where Gwyn Fisher took the
photo that accompanies this story's billing on the main page. If you can guess what city that is just by looking at the photo, you
win some kind of prize.
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/200812laughter.htm
Photo detail on main page courtesy
of Gwyn Fisher.
w i g · l e a F