Issue 14

Four months is longer than most for Leda’s men. She meant to tell Justin last night that we’re going to want to be single for the Spring term and we’ve got to end this before my mother knows your name but got drunk, early, at Flamingo Karaoke. She serenaded him with three Phil Collins songs (“If Leaving Me is Easy” had her on her knees), and, in what can only be attributed to the sneaky power of pop song sax, she convinced herself that one more night of love making wouldn’t hurt anything. It wasn’t until she held him afterwards humming “Easy Lover” that she realized how cruel it was.

Now it’s morning and she’s not looking at the man in her bed, or at the ridiculous kanji tattoo on his rear deltoid that she begged him not to get. She sees only dust particles settling onto the quilt in sunlit columns. Every minute that he sleeps is a fresh layer of dust. He needs to wake up so she can be done with this. She pictures them entombed, to be discovered decades later like Homer Baron or 90s Phil Collins. Would her mother approve? Justin’s body tapers in all the right places: neck, waist, and ankles; his hair is thicker than hers, and his teeth are as straight and white as a member of the Young Republican Party she enjoyed in a closet at the YRP convention last year. Leda thinks she would.

Leda sings “Easy Lover” and forces air through pressed lips, which produces a very un-sax like sound, as he snores. There’s something vulnerable about Phil Collins, something that says “protect my heart and I’ll do anything for you” and Leda likes the idea of feeling needed. She’s beginning to understand why her mother likes Phil Collins so much. She would dance around the kitchen for Phil; she would be his perfect woman and promise him that she’d be good but, in the moments that he wanted all of her or wanted her to want all of him, the song would end without anyone feeling actual pain.

Movement, finally, as Justin turns away from Leda, taking her grandmother’s quilt with him. The sheets lift, releasing the faint smell of sweat, and “Easy Lover” stops. She moves closer, puts five fingertips then her lips on his shoulder in an effort to wake him. Back when she thought she could someday love him, she would wake, curl herself around his body and smell their slippery selves from the night before in the fine hairs on his neck. There was a time she could look him in the eye. There was a time when she cried in the bathroom at work because he forgot her birthday and she felt it in her bones, the fear of being unloved. They cracked every time he apologized. There was a time when she thought she would deserve him and could lie in bed with him forever but now all she can see are the items in her bedroom-the Indian lamp purchased for $3.25 at a garage sale, the annotated true-crime books next to the door, the vinyl ottoman at the end of the bed-and how, even though they are crap, they are hers and they need to be dusted.