Sweat

By Janni Raychuk

Dave pissed into an empty water bottle by the bed. The bottle was filled with a rust-colored liquid. That would be the blood. There were several of these bottles strewn across the room. When Dave was finished with this one, he threw it against the wall, but his pitch was weak. The will to move was overwhelmed by his desire for sleep. Dave couldn’t remember ever being this badly off. The little basement he inhabited was a veritable shithole. The dirty dishes were stacked in the sink and empty cans of Spaghetti-Os lay on the counter. A perpetual swarm of fruit flies was hovering. The floor was sticky, dingy, and covered with cigarette ashes. In the makeshift living room dirty laundry was everywhere and the couch cushions exploded with the orange foam from within. The bedroom was a mattress on the floor and more dirty clothes, along with the bottles of piss. This was all a far-cry from his studio apartment on the Lower East Side. In those days, he had money, and he had some semblance of power, and he had a woman. He had several women, but the one he was married to didn’t know that. The apartment was kept clean–she kept it clean–and he did not eat his dinner from a can. If she were here now, she’d be appalled, but mostly she’d feel vindicated. That he could not live without her. Then she’d start to clean. This was his second wife. The first did not have a propensity for housekeeping. They would drink and laugh and screw, and eventually they brought a daughter into the world. This daughter would quickly start to grow up without a father because her mother left Dave and moved across the country, somewhere far where Dave could not impose his will on them. The second wife knew that was one of Dave’s little quirks, imposing his will. He would rant and rave and impose his will all over the place, yelling and sweating from the amphetamines. The amphetamines were necessary, though: necessary to work, to play, to continue. Dave thought this white pill kept the wheels turning when everything inside of him drained away.

Dave tried to stand up. His legs were shaking terribly and his vision was clouded black with gold sparks. The pain in his abdomen and sides left him nauseous and his breathing was hitched. For the first time in a long time he wished for the drugs again. But mostly he wished for her.

Every man with a square jaw and thick dark eyebrows reminds Liam of his father. And when he looks into the mirror, there are no traces of him in Liam’s face except when he scowls.

 

Liam is jarred out of reverie by the telephone ringing. Dave, his father, is on the other line. Toward the end of the conversation, two minutes later, he says I love you and I want you to come over so we can finally, really, talk. Ah! But you can’t lie to me so easily, Liam thought. Your twists of truth and charm do not work on me so easily. After all, half of my blood is yours. I am a liar, just the same.

 

But Liam’s problem wasn’t really with his father. It was with Kat. And Liam wrote.

 

if you wanted to get rid of me, then why did you kiss my knee? why did you lean in swiftly, pupils concentrated in concentration, rub your lips against mine a couple of times, say “see you soon”? I can’t find reconciliation, can’t plunge backwards through the brain’s deluge of mindseye images and make sense of it all. Even in chaos there is some kind of order, or is it the other way around, and i can’t find either one in you. you are unaccountable, a blip on the radar, some loch ness monster, and i know i saw you and felt you and breathed in your warmth, but now i’m not so sure.

 

Liam was satisfied with his Loch Ness Monster metaphor. It had been a running theme in his journal entries for years. Real, perhaps, through affirmation and reaffirmation, eyewitness accounts and even photographs. But it probably wasn’t. But it wasn’t like Bigfoot, because he is not a sea creature like the Loch Ness Monster. The LNM stayed afloat, half submerged, but what remained visible was testament to its true enormity. Yes, this would work as some kind of grand metaphor, he thought, as he heard his mother come in through the side door.

Liam’s mother was Brenda and she could neither convincingly tell a lie nor detect one. She took the world at face value. She figured that since she had no reason to lie, no one else did either. Deep down she knew this was not true, but sometimes it was just easier to give people the benefit of the doubt. Skepticism was taxing, and Brenda had no desire for more complications. There had to be a way to make everything simple, and Brenda had found it. Brenda vacuumed, dusted, made beds, Windexed windows and mirrors, boiled water, chopped vegetables. Her home was truly her domain, her kingdom, and with a soft hand she allowed it to flourish. She wiped the sweat from her brow; she had been planting gardenias and pulling up weeds outside. She touched her hair and felt the stringiness of it, the oil. She would call Dave after taking a shower.

Dave. He wasn’t so much a real living breathing entity as he was an anchor that tethered her to a past she‘d rather forget. The divorce was almost fifteen years old, and still they spoke to one another. He had used her up, spat her out, uttered and muttered words that would have destroyed a weaker woman, and they would have destroyed her too except for the swelled stomach and the kicking, thumping along with her heartbeat. His nightly verbal assaults, an enfilade of vitriol spewing forth indiscriminately except for the fact that she was there. And when she checked herself into the hospital, not for labor pain but for the walls closing in and the white noise and static distilled within the confines of her skull, coming to a head, a streaming faucet that will not cease, and for the rushing in through a mirror darkly, and the constant questioning questioning questioning connecting the dots and only a jumbled mosaic, a half-image with no rhyme or reason. She checked herself in and wept violently and the doctor offered her sanctuary from this man whom she loved so much she would wake up in a cold sweat, dreaming of all the ways he could betray her, only partially cognizant of his constant betrayal of her in waking life, but still she wasn’t sure and something inside of her broke and there was a puddle of water on the floor and this time she was in the hospital for labor pain and even after she gave birth to his child he continued to impose his will upon her until he finally stayed true to his threat to lay down the hand upon the woman who fed him, and white noise and static gave way to a picture so clear and vivid that she could bear it no longer.

Dave, she thought.

She felt clean again, and her fingers sought the heat emanating from between her legs, and with a soft hand she loved herself and wept violently.

Janni’s favorite hobby is writing. If you want to contact her, do so at jraychuk1@gmail.com

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