Mariah Inspires by Christine Fadden


Ever since Lucien’s eight-week promise to his wife not to see me, I spent most nights at Ben’s, drinking wine and smoking hash.

“You’re not going to run off and live with that old French git,” Ben said, shaving a hunk of sweet Afghani into smokable flakes with his Swiss Army knife.

“How do you spell git?” I said, recording all of his Briticisms when stoned.

“You’ll be wiping his ass in ten years.”

Ben’s face was thin, his head shaved, and when he took a drag he looked like a skull and crossbones.

“Lemme draw you,” I said.

“Remember, I’m the artist,” he said, throwing me a flat thick pencil.

I drew two circles the size of quarters, filled them in black as could be—the way you did on a Scantron—and tore them out. I leaned my head back and put the circles over my eyes. Walking on my knees, I stuck my arms out in front of me and said, “I AM SKELETOR.”

I felt my way to the coffee table, to our last bottle of wine. The black circles fell off my face when I poured.

“Make us a draw-er-ing,” I said, scooting over to Ben.

We sat knees to knees and he sketched what looked like a melted candle.

“It’s very Petit Prince. What is it?”

“It’s you and me under the covers.”

I grabbed the sketchbook and tossed it. “Give up,” I said.

“I’m nicking you,” Ben said. “Serves the dodgy Frog right.”

“You and I would end up dead in the Seine,” I said. “Dead drunk.”

It was getting late, past me dealing with the Metro.

Radio France switched from French songs to American.

“It’s Mariah fuckin’ Carey!” Ben said. “Your compatriot. Giz’ a snog!”

Sometimes, you kiss a guy because he throws a line you couldn’t ever possibly hear again.

We were drunk, we were high, our foreheads hit.

“I can’t.”

Ben stood, pulled out the futon I always crashed on, took the blanket down from the shelf and put some water on for tea.

“The usual?” he said.

Oui.”

***

My head was spinning. Ben kept begging for me, through the wall. Him—like in the cartoons he drew—a stick figure boy with “Shag” in his thought bubble on one side of a barrier, and me on the other side, a stick figure girl thinking “Patience,” but maybe the word wasn’t completely spelled out.

My eyes landed on a glass of miraculously unfinished wine and the Swiss Army knife Ben had used earlier for scraping hash. The Paris night blew across the greenish-grey rooftops outside. The moon replenished itself in the City of Light, the city of no ice cubes.

“Come sleep with me. I’ll behave like a brother.”

All the tricks and cheap wine.

I jumped on top of Ben in his twin bed, my lower-center pressed to just above his, the place of ironwork-twisted-in-root smell of men. I was wearing his boxers and “British Fag” tee, holding the hash-sticky knife blade to the moist mound of his neck.

“How about you and me starkers?” he said.

Stoned on hash, I could see where he had nicked himself shaving. White fibers of Kleenex stuck to yellow crust, not quite a scab.

“First,” I said, “take a sip.”

I held the wine glass at an angle so as not to spill, at an angle Ben had to lift his head to—that forced him to press his Adam’s apple into the blade.

He sipped.

His hands moved from my hips to my ankles and a grin spread across his cheeky face. He had good bones. He laughed under my thighs and I felt his laughter hit just above the band of his boxers, which I still had on because as fucked up as I could be, I knew cheating with a Brit on my French married lover who might be leaving his wife when I still wasn’t legally divorced from the Russian, wouldn’t be right.

Like how surfers get to standing in one barely visible move, I hopped up and stood above Ben, marching with the knife in one hand and the wine glass in the other. My feet landed in drunken rhythm on either side of his narrow hips. “Hayayaya!” I said.

Ben had a sawhorse set up by his bedroom window to serve as an airing-out hangar for his Paris-smoky clothes. The sawhorse stood one foot from the bed. I stepped onto it and balanced, still with the knife in one hand, wine glass in the other. “I am Nadia Comanisshhi!” I said.

Out the window the cobblestones below were grey like the moon and set in a rainbow pattern. I threw my hands to the sky and stretched, arching my back, preparing to land like Comaneci, flatfooted and final, or like Kundera, between laughter and forgetting.

Je t’donne un 7!” Ben had become an Olympic judge.

I turned from the window, tried a dip off the beam with one foot—the simplest of moves.

Je mérite un 9!” I said—and fell.

My wine glass flew. Wine splattered everywhere—on Ben’s twin sheets, on his pile of clothes, on his face.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” I said.

Ben jumped to the floor, grabbed me under my armpits, and lifted me to a stand. “Bloody hell!” he said.

Wine droplets clung to his eyelashes. He had his hands on my face again like when I’d let him kiss me because he had said Mariah fucking Carey.

“You okay?” he said.

I raised the knife up between our stained lips. I put the blade to his face and shaved a bead of wine from his cheek. It seemed to breathe …Where there is love… on the edge of the blade. Ben put his finger to it, and then to my mouth.

… I’ll be there.

____________

Christine Fadden recently found herself biting her own fist while watching Dexter, Season 4. She admits she does like this Mariah song, and also, J-Lo’s Love Don’t Cost a Thing.