from the novel Affair
She waits outside the door. Or inside the door. Not in the door. I am in the bathroom. She is in the room. I just used the bathroom. She presumably did not just use the room. Besides her, there is also a bed in the room and maybe a few odds and ends and four corners which she is not using because she used the bathroom just before me when I was in the room listening to her use the bathroom instead of seeing the room. Then we switched. Here I am.
She did not flush. Hence, tangible confirmation of what I heard was saved in the bowl. What I heard was a torrential gush. Tangible but I could not touch it. I could have, but I did not. She did not flush. She is a girl who does not flush. Sometimes. This time. A young woman. I do not know much about her. I heard her stream stop and did not hear her flush or dab herself with paper or wash her hands and indeed when we switched places I could see she had not flushed. Because I arrived at a toilet already containing pee. Into which I also peed. Our pees mixed, diluted by water, undiluted by paper. Our yellows mixed. Our yellow. She had not flushed. I did not know whether or not to flush. I do not frequent flush toilets and she had not flushed and so I do not know whether or not to flush. I do not know if she expects me to follow her lead and not flush or if she saved the flushing for me who followed her or if she did not mean to set an example for me to follow or not follow but merely did not flush because that is what she does. I flush. This is no chamber pot. Our yellow disappears like sewage on the way to the treatment plant. When will it arrive? How will it be treated when it does?
She has treated me kindly and so I am here.
I do not wash my hands. I know where my hands have been. I know where I have been. No place much filthier than another. I do not know where the faucet handle has been. A germ or two bolsters the immune system. A little filth shores up health. I do not know where I am going. I do not wash my hands at home either.
She is waiting. I hope. I think I hope.
I fear for my life.
I do not know whether or not to do up my pants before I leave. Or go in. Leave the bathroom, go in the room. She led me up here, to a cabin in the woods. With a flush toilet. Perhaps it is not a flush toilet. Perhaps I should not have flushed it. I followed. I do not know why. I mean, I do. She is young but beautiful and funny but sincere and smart but not overbearing and dressed like a gypsy but cleaner and mysterious but tactile and she wants me insider her. So I am in her bathroom. Outside her room. There is only one room in the cabin, besides the bathroom. Which I am in.
I think to take off my ring and hang it on the light switch. Electricity, she has it. Solar power perhaps. Or hydro or wind. Off the grid. What I have always wanted, I think. Then I think I should turn off the light when I leave, go in, at which point the ring would clang to the floor and I do not want to listen to my ring clatter, and the ring may further get itself lost in the floor, in the vent register for example, except there are no vent registers because this is a oneroomlogcabinwithabathroom without forced air, but there are plenty of cracks in the floor in which to lose a ring, many more than four corners, and not a few holes, as in drains and mouse access openings and other holes less holey, all of which are hungry for a ring, which they would swallow, finger inside or no, no questions asked. Whether a man is inside it or no. I am not sure what I want to do and do not want to do right now, and all the bifurcations between, but I am absolutely without a doubt positive I at this very moment have no inkling of a desire to be looking for a ring I am inside on the one hand and outside on the other.
I also have no desire to forever lose my ring.
I leave my ring on.
Where am I? I ask myself because you are not here, and neither is she, nor are she, none of the shes I could mean, nor the one I do. She is here but not here all the same, considering the door.
I am not as good at answering questions as asking them.
I am pleased with myself for leaving my ring on because if I had removed it I would have had to zip up my pants in compensation and that would have been a decision. About my pants. Good pants, lots of pockets, lots of wales, lots of sticks. Luckily I went to the stick collecting place today instead of the stone gathering place, or my pants would be considerably heavier and piled around my ankles instead of sagging undone around my goosebumped buttocks. Or unluckily because that is where she found me, if her finding me was unlucky, in the stick collecting place, where I was collecting sticks. She led me deeper into the wood, over a creek whose bottom was lined with goodlooking rocks, up a rise, and to her dwelling.
I later asked her if her dwelling might properly be called a cabin.
She said, Yes.
That was a while ago.
The cabin has only one room, minus the bathroom, which is where I am, not looking in the mirror. I have not looked to see if there is a mirror.
I cannot remember what she looks like. I put my wife’s head on her. I do not mean I put it on her, but it is there in my head, my wife’s head on the resurrected body of Marie Antoinette. Which is not to imply that the young woman whose name I will come up with eventually has a body that resembles Marie Antoinette’s, except that it is headless in my head. Perhaps her body does resemble Marie’s. I do not know. We never met. Marie was French. Gypsies are French-like. Though not the kind of French Marie Antoinette was, I imagine, being she was Austrian. And a queen before she lost her head. I have only known so many women. Surely there are similarities between their bodies.
I begin to pull the sticks from my pockets and other holes in which they are stuck. My pants need to be unencumbered for whatever decision I make. I wonder if I will be able to sell the sticks this afternoon. No I don’t, but I should, even though it will not matter. I always sell just enough to buy rice on the way home, whereas if I am selling stones I always sell just enough to buy beans. No matter the day, the kids have enough for one meal a day. Thank God, even if he has nothing to do with it. I lay my sticks on the counter one-by-one. I lay my sticks on the counter one-by-one. I continue to lay my sticks on the counter one-by-one. This cannot continue.
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*photo by Jason Ganwich*