m e r i d a    g o r m a n

Houses

 

“Come,” he said. So I drove six hours to get there, beige cities rushing by on either side, all the windows open. I was heaving, eager. When I pulled up he was in the driveway.


His house was a small addition built onto a farmhouse. We had to walk up a flight of wooden stairs to get to it. He hadn’t been living there for a while, and the electricity was turned off. It was just two rooms, and a bathroom some cats were living in. The bathtub had hard pellets of shit laying in it. We stumbled though the blackened living room to get to his bed. I was cold and we lay down and had sex for a long time. I was bleeding; worried I’d stain something. The sheets and blankets smelled of unwashed hair.


I watched him, his face.


After, he told me about the dead actress’s abandoned house. He hovered over me and talked, fingered my ear with a thumb and pointer. I felt like a tiny flame under him: wicked, living. “The house is red brick,” he said. “It’s on the other side of the hill.”


*


His house had no kitchen. So downstairs, at the grimy farmhouse stove, we cooked. He made spaghetti with green peas. I made dark bitter coffee. We poured milk into both. I held my hands over the iron burners, for warmth. It was early spring in Maine. Pines grew tall around the outskirts of his property. We ate standing up. From the kitchen window I could see my little red car.


“Let’s take a bath,” he said.


We went upstairs and cleaned the shit out of the tub. I got naked and lay down in the tub like it was a coffin, my arms at my sides. He turned on the water. We were silent, watching everything rise around me. The bathroom was steeped in the brown light of dusk. It was difficult to see him when he got in. He touched me and we slid toward each other, shivering a little. In the dark, he watched my hands, the shapes they made under the water.


*


I wanted him to tell me more about it.

-The house is in the middle of a field, he said. It’s boarded up. But there’s a window where some kids ripped a board off, and the outside light shafts through. The room inside is filled with chairs, all stacked on top of each other.


*


I sat on the concrete walk outside his house, pulling a tick from my leg with a tweezers. He was walking around in the yard. His dogs ran ahead of him, beating a path through the tall grass. The tick was burrowed deep and I picked at it. Earlier he had told me to burn the spot with the hot head of a blown out match. I was making a mess. Wind nuzzled the pines.


*


In bed, I asked him about her.

“She was a redhead,” he said. “She washed her body with milk. She had one hundred servants. She had stopped making movies years ago.”


While he talked, I imagined the bricks, the woman, the field. His body was large and quiet and I watched the cold northern light undulate and glow around us like a sea creature. After a while I noticed he was asleep, so I went to sleep. I had a dream where I was buried under many layers of earth. The earth was warm and dense and I felt blissful. Then I became aware that I was slowly being turned, as if impaled on a spit. I wrenched myself awake and curled into him, animal-like. When I woke in the morning he wasn’t in the bed.


*


He was getting something out of his truck, some tool. The sky was blank. I stood in the driveway behind him. His back to me, over his shoulder, he said, “She was a lunatic, Sarah. She was a lunatic who slept outside in the grass.”


*


It was June and still cold. I hung wet white sheets on the line. The cats twisted around my legs. He walked along the edge of the yard, close to the woods.


 

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MERIDA GORMAN was born in the woods of Southern Oregon. She lives and writes in Brooklyn.


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