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Gossamer by Trevor Houser

06/01/2009

I move into a flophouse in midtown called the Sunshine Inn. I decide to become a flailing drug addict. A flailing drug addict, who later writes frankly and poetically about his flailing drug addiction.
     First I try crystal meth.
     It makes me feel like a walking elevator made of sunlight and mosquito hearts. Afterwards I retreat to a hot bath. This is to trick my heart into thinking everything will be okay in the end. For dinner I prepare a box of mac and cheese. To go with the mac and cheese I buy a five-dollar jug of pinot grigio. I watch old movies covered in blankets like a shock victim.
     “This is the worst I’ve ever been,” I say in a tone bordering on prideful.
     One afternoon in the laundry room I run into another aspiring drug addict. She looks like a less healthy version of Penlope Cruz. Her name is Lotta. Cut-off jeans. Impossible breasts. My stomach and balls tighten.
     “My name is Lotta,” says Lotta.
     “My name is Hector,” I say.
     We are both high.
     “You’re cute,” says Lotta. She folds her arms over her chest as she says this. Her breasts seem very squeezable. “Where are you from?” she asks.
     “Horsefish, Oregon.”
     “I’m from Veracruz.”
     Lotta and I go back to her apartment. We smoke meth together. Her apartment is rampant with baroque-style chandeliers and velvet love seats. She has rescued them from various flea markets and back alleys.
     Lotta puts on a 1930’s robe and a Nina Simone record.
     I think about what’s under the robe.
     “What do you want out of life?” asks Lotta.
     “To live in a castle.”
     “My dream is to move to the country. The fresh air would be good for me, I think.”
     “Fresh air will do that.”
     “And a yard would be nice to air out these cushions every once in awhile. They get pretty dusty.”
     I nod blowing out smoke. There are seventeen love seats by my count.
     “You are very pretty,” I tell her.
     “Thanks, but my stomach feels like a bumble bee.”
     “Looks normal to me.”
     “We should do something.”
     “What should we do?”
     “We should play tennis in the nude.”
     “We should?”
     “Yes, we should.”
     “But we need tennis shoes.”
     “Oh yeah.”
     “Can I spank you?”
     “Why?”
     “I don’t know.”
     “Ok.”
     “How does it feel?”
     “Good, actually. But also a little weird.”
     “Should I stop?”
     “No.”
     “How about now?”
     “Ok.”
     “I’ve never done that before.”
     “We should do more.”
     “More what?”
     “Things we haven’t done before.”
     “Alright.”
     “Did you know my lifelong dream is to live inside a shark and pick out which people he should eat?”
     “I thought moving to the country was your lifelong dream.”
     “I have two. Everyone should have at least two in case one doesn’t work out.”
     “Who would you have him eat?”
     “The shark? I don’t know, politicians, maybe. Is my butt red?”
     “A little.”
     “You spanked me a little harder than I thought you would.”
     “Sorry.”
      “Do you like me? As a person, I mean?”
     “Yes. As a person I do.”
     “You’re sad, too, aren’t you?”
     “Maybe.”
     “Do you want to kiss me?”
     “Sure.”
     We don’t have sex. According to Lotta the meth has killed her sex drive. She lets me masturbate on her breasts instead. It takes me almost an hour. Afterwards we order Chinese food and stay up till sunrise. Lotta doesn’t own a bed so we sleep separately on love seats. I pick out a royal blue one with gold brocade. Lotta sleeps underneath a worn green one with chipped mahogany lion paws. Neither of us sleeps soundly. Lotta sobs occasionally.
     This goes on for weeks.
     The two of us rarely leave the Sunshine Inn. We only go out to procure more meth. On the street we pretend we are ghosts that no one can see. Once while waiting on Lotta to find her connection I try to buy her tulips. But then I stop trying. I am convinced they won’t sell flowers to someone they can’t see, or don’t believe in so I hide behind a telephone pole.
     In the morning I lay my head between Lotta’s breasts. I pretend they are fleshy castles and I am sleeping in the soft brown valley below. In the afternoon we smoke meth and feel like elevators. When the sun goes down we talk about the health benefits of living in the countryside, or procuring more meth, or eating microwave popcorn in the nude deciding whether we should play tennis or not.
     One morning Lotta opens her wrists with a bread knife and I call an ambulance.
     “Is this how you want to live?” the doctor asks me.
     “It’s only a phase,” I assure him. “We’re moving to the country.”
     In the emergency room I decide enough is enough. There is something wrong with me. Look for my old marketing job. Look for a healthier version of Lotta. One with zero aspirations and nipples the size of lugnuts. We could live amidst the mildly ambitious of Staten Island. A little yard. A cozy study with a fireplace. Smoke a pipe and enjoy the Sunday book review content in my shortcomings. Mostly I want Lotta to not cut open her wrists with a bread knife. Or at least I don’t want to be there when she does. Am I secretly cold-hearted? Secretly do I not care about other people deep down? I think of this possibility. After awhile I stop thinking of this possibility. The possibility confuses me because it goes against what I need to believe about myself in order to live sans self-immolation. If the opportunity arises I promise myself I will take Lotta to the country and let the fresh air cure her. I picture our life in the country. We would take long walks in the meadow adjacent our cold-water cottage. I would shoot a rabbit for stew, or possibly fricassee. When I don’t shoot any rabbit we would eat canned soup. We would fuck slow on a rocking chair and discuss the weather.
     A few days later Lotta knocks on my door at the Sunshine Inn. I don’t answer. She calls my name and knocks some more. Then she sobs. I look at the floor and breathe through my nose.
     After breathing through my nose I decide to escape drugs and Lotta, but I don’t know how.
     One day something in the Homes and Gardens section catches my eye. It is a picture of Marcia Gay Harden. She is on a small dock with her blue jeans rolled up her feet dangling in water. The caption reads “Marcia Gay Harden gets away from it all at her lake.“
     The next day I take the train upstate and buy a small lake of my own with my life savings. The real estate agent assures me my lake is just two lakes over from Marcia Gay Harden’s lake.
     “What’s the name of Marcia Gay Harden’s lake?” I ask, on the drive out to my new lake.
     “Gossamer,” the real estate agent says.
     “Gossamer,” I repeat. “That’s good.”
     “Yes it is,” the real estate agent says. “What are you calling your lake?”
     I frown, unsure what to name my lake.
     “Don’t rush it,” the real estate agent says. “It’s bad to rush the naming of a lake.”
     The real estate agent reminds me of Warren G. Harding, but with less eyebrows. When we aren’t talking the real estate agent likes to whistle old show tunes. Whistling is a lost art like maybe cobbling.
     An hour later we arrive at my new lake.
     “What do you think?” the real estate agent asks, looking even more like Warren G. Harding in the sunlight.
     “I like it,” I say. “It is small though.”
     “It’s small, but it’s deep,” the real estate agent says. “I’d say close to twenty fathoms near the middle.”
     “What’s a fathom?”
     “I don’t know.”
     “Is it good for swimming?”
     “I don’t see why not. As long as you’re mindful of the logs and rocks.”
     “Any fish?”
     “Probably a few old trout. Nothing big, though. There’s an old forest service shack behind those rocks complete with cot and a potbelly stove. You can sleep there until you build something.”
     I survey my property. It is a wobbly oval lake with basalt obelisks ten feet high at the north end, a gray beachlet to the south. There are tall pines and wildflowers closing in on all sides. My lake is roughly the size of a baseball diamond. It is healthy dark green like emeralds or deep jungle. I go for a walk in the woods. These are my woods, I think. I go for a swim in the lake. This is my lake, I think to the trout.
     The first thing I want to do is build a little dock. To dangle my feet off of, or to launch future vessels of expedition from. The real estate agent drives me into town. I buy lumber, tools, a tent, three kinds of chili, various shades of booze, and a mobile wet bar, the sort people roll around on patios and/or boat decks. On the way home the real estate agent stops whistling, “Anyone ever tell you it’s not good to be so lonely at your age?”
     “What’s a good age?”
     “Fifty-three. That’s a pretty good age for loneliness.”
     “Are you lonely?”
     “I’m sixty-eight. At sixty-eight you’re too busy thinking about death to worry about loneliness.”
     “Are you married?”
     “I was. She was a painter.”
     “What did she paint?”
     “Flowers mostly.”
     “What happened?”
     “Died of bone cancer.”
     “I’m sorry to hear that.”
     “That’s alright.”
     I have a recurring dream. In the dream Lotta is crying outside my cabin door, but I’m afraid so I call the police. The police come. They tell me they are taking her to the loony bin. For some reason they have train lanterns and speak turn of the century brogue. I remember how in bed Lotta’s breasts pressed out to the sides like pressed alpine mangoes. I also remember how she cut open her wrists, slouching against a closet door, bleeding into the carpet. Woody the Woodpecker was on.
     I go back to sleep feeling unsure about my decisions in life.
     The next day I go back to the city looking for Lotta.
     The landlord at the Sunshine Inn scratches his head. He looks at me with squinty eyes. He tells me this is a serious business and he doesn’t know if I am serious enough.
     “I know you’re not stupid,” he says, “because you got off that meth shit and looks like you did alright for yourself. But I don’t know if you understand what happened to her after you left. She went bat-shit. We had to evict her. Last I heard she’s living on the streets. I’m not saying it’s your fault because she’s always been a little crazy, but what you need to think about whether or not you think this lifestyle is for you.”
     I don’t say anything. I nod at the landlord as if weighing the pros and cons of bat-shit craziness, but what I am really thinking is Lotta needs some fresh country air then she’d be cured and not want to smoke meth, or open her wrists up with a bread knife. I imagine Lotta and I lying out in the sun. We are sucking in the country air, our lungs pink like the mouths of manta rays! I imagine lightly spanking her bare ass. I imagine us living together and eating trout amandine with brandy reduction sauce feeling safe from the evils of meth and bread knives.
     “Just think about it,” says the landlord.
     I tell him there’s nothing to worry about. “I’m taking her to the country,” I say. “I have property there.”
     I go looking for Lotta.
     I try all the hotspots for homeless meth addicts that marginally resemble Penelope Cruz. I look under bridges and cardboard boxes. I look in three different drug clinics. I am staying at a Holiday Inn Express because I spent most of my money on the lake. I watch movies and drink miniature bottles of scotch. I do a lot of things that I forget about. Sometimes I think I am possibly a good person. Sometimes I pose in the bathroom mirror with a plastic knife, laughing maniacally.
     I go to the drunk-tank. A cop says they had someone named Lotta in the night before. “She kept trying to slit her wrists using the damn paint chips. Remember that crazy bitch, Bob?”
     “Oh yeah,” says Bob. “That bitch was crazy.”
     “But she was a looker, too, wasn’t she, Bob?”
     “Oh yeah,” says Bob. “She was a looker alright.”
     One of the cops smells like barbecue and menthols. The other cop has no smell.
     “Where did you pick her up?” I ask the one that has no smell.
     “Who are you?” asks the cop.
     “I’m her case worker.”
     The cop who smells like barbecue and menthols tells me to hold my horses. He looks in a file. “Says here the used furniture store on Hudson and Leroy,” he says.
     I go to the furniture store.
     Inside the store is all of Lotta’s furniture. I ask the owner about it and he makes a groaning noise. The owner is probably from Poland or Hungary. I base this on the sound of the groaning.
     “I was idiot to buy this stupid furniture,” says the groaning Polish man. “She is crazy, you know this?”
     I nod.
     “Every night she come here calling me pig and spitting on the windows and saying I should give her furniture back.”
     “Do you know where she is now?”
     “Who am I? TV detective?”
     I wait outside the furniture store until dark.
     I go to a bar across the street from the furniture store. Other people are talking and pretending they don't have herpes or low-paying jobs or husbands that threaten their pet birds with Aztec lamps. I think the world is a cruel place that is also boring in ways that are hard to explain. I look at the sky. It is turning a dusk-like color, fizzy purple pressing down on orange. Dusk is my favorite. It makes me think of white dinner jackets and the 1930’s when everyone owned seaplanes and lived in Siam. Sometimes I squint my eyes into the descending haze and the buildings turn into a jungle canopy and the cars become seaplanes and the street becomes a lazy river, which is full of man-eating catfish or something else that’s vicious and hard to explain. Twilight is weird. It makes you want to wear a turtleneck or speak Spanish while piloting a fan boat at midnight.
     I look at the menu.
     Then I look out the window and see Lotta.
     I see her standing in front of the furniture store. I see her peer in. She’s peering at her home, which is being sold off piece by piece by an angry Pole. At first she doesn’t recognize me.
     “It’s me, Hector,” I tell her.
     Lotta and I drive upstate that night.
     We don’t talk to each other.
     Lotta sleeps while I look at passing houses. Some of the houses look like good places to have Thanksgiving, or possibly wakes. We go into town to the general store. I buy a quart of bourbon and a frozen turkey. The frozen turkey looks better here than frozen city turkeys. Probably because of chemicals, or the idea of buying it outside the city.
     The cabin has a rusty old oven made of thick black metal. I cram the turkey in there and open the bourbon. I smile at Lotta and pour us each a glassful. Lotta looks tired. She says she’s tired and disoriented and tries to nap. I go outside and drink my bourbon.
     “Colossal failures are better than regular failures,” I say to the bourbon.
     But then I think I’m going have a good life even though I don’t believe it because having Lotta with me makes me feel good about myself. I probably saved her from dying. She could have slit her wrists in an alley, or been shot in the face by some reverse racists. Besides having someone around makes you feel less like lighting yourself on fire and more like moving forward in some indefinable yet realistic way. What I am doing is healthy and normal. Millions of people before me have done what I am doing.
     I go inside.
     I put butter on the turkey. The turkey smells good and I have more bourbon. I go outside and look around, but I don’t see the President.
     In the middle of the night Lotta wakes up.
     “Who are you?” she asks.
     “It’s Hector,” I say.
     Lotta sits up a little, squinting. “Who?” Behind her is the window filled with stars like a far off pinball machine of dead galaxies and fireflies.
     “Hector,” I say. “Hector from the Sunshine Inn.”
     “Oh,” she says lying back down. “I thought you were someone else.”
     I watch her fall asleep. She is thinner than before. She has on an orange tank top and old, saggy panties with sunflowers on them. I lay my hand on her hipbone. I lay my hand on the bone above her pussy area, which is shaved and the color of burnt butter. She sleeps with her mouth open. I curl up next to her and fall asleep.
     The next morning I make eggs.
     Lotta isn’t there.
     I pour white wine into a glass and look at my eggs. I think about when Lotta and I first met high on meth. I think about her breasts. I go to the obelisks and read one of my books on fresh water fish. I look around for Lotta, but I don’t see her so I keep reading even though most of the time I lose my train of thought and wonder what the trout are thinking. I read and think about the trout until lunchtime when it gets too hot. At lunchtime I go back to the cabin and make a sandwich. Lotta is still not there. I sit at the table and eat my leftover turkey sandwich and drink two beers. I look out the window at some blue jays. I want to grab the blue jays and bonk their heads together like in the cartoons. That’s when I realize we only have one chair at the table.
     After lunch I get my saw and cut down a tree to make another chair. It looks bad, but it will do.
     Lotta comes out of the woods.
     “I made you this chair,” I say proudly.
     Lotta looks at the chair. “I need some meth,” she says.
     “I don’t have any.”
     Lotta blinks slowly. Her brain is computing something. She looks sicker than before.
     “We need to leave,” she says. “We need to go back.”
     “I thought you always said you wanted to live in the country. Isn’t it beautiful?”
     “What am I supposed to do here? Watch you make chairs?”
     Lotta goes into the cabin. I can hear her throw something like a pan against something else.
     The next day Lotta starts walking towards town saying she hates it here and needs meth and that I never should have taken her.
     I secretly follow her.
     She walks for about a half hour then stops and sits on a boulder. I hide behind a tree. She looks around as if it just occurred to her where she is. A hawk flies overhead. I think she is crying. Then she turns around and comes back to the lake. I get home before her, pretending to read about trout.
     “I’m sick,” she says.
     “From the meth?” I say putting down my book.
     “Yeah.”
     “Have you been trying to kill yourself?”
     “A little.”
     “Why don’t you stay here?”
     “I’m going to get sicker if I stay.”
     “That’s alright.”
     “I don’t know if can do it.”
     “Can I help?”
     “Yeah, ok.”
     The withdrawals go for over a week.
     I change the sheets when she sweats through them, and clean up after she smashes something in a rage. I bring her glasses of whisky when she cries uncontrollably. I feed her soup.
     “I’m embarrassed,” she says at one point looking briefly human.
     “Don’t be,” I say.
     One day she jumps out of bed after zero sleep in forty-eight hours. “My brain feels like a jet engine!” she screams. “I have to kill it! I HAVE TO FUCKIN’ KILL MY BRAIN!”
     Then she passes out for twelve hours.
     Another day she turns to me and asks if I will help kill her. She is even smaller now. She’s looking at me, but her eyes are dead. I tell her no in a way I hope is probably soothing.
     “I’ve been thinking about it,” she says, nervously pulling on her eyebrow. “All you have to do is tie one of those bricks to my leg or something and help me to the lake. I just want to go in the lake, ok? Can you do that?”
     I think about people in the movies who take care of dying loved ones, or loved ones that are going crazy and I try to act like them. I pretend there is an audience watching our lives like a movie and wishing I were their significant other and why won’t their significant others sacrifice for them like that guy (me) in the movie? The problem is if I don’t think about the audience I’m afraid I will leave her, or just let her walk into the lake with a brick tied to her leg, watching her. Thinking about this doesn’t make me feel good. Am I a bad person? Or does everybody think like this only they don’t tell anyone and hope that the feeling eventually passes? I think probably everybody is self-hating and massively scared and wants to die at different points in their life. People mostly act the way they think people should act unless something is wrong with them and then we put them in jail, or drug them, or electrocute them.
     We make love for the first time. It is very slow and gentle and I kiss her eyelids.
     We lie down and listen to our heartbeats.
     “Will you stay?” I ask.
     “I don’t know.”
     “How do you feel?”
     “Better, I think.”
     “That’s good.”
     “Do you hate me?”
     “No.”
     “Can we just lie here?”
     “Ok.”
     We just lie there. Darkness. Our heartbeats are normal now.
     I fall asleep and have a dream. I am standing on a deserted island. The island is covered in howler monkeys and jade treasure. I become a famous finger painter. Most of my paintings deal with trees and their feelings towards the Industrial Revolution.
     In the morning a summer storm blows through.
     Trees bend in the wind. Rain smacks the lake. We sit on our bed and watch the water glide down the windows in sheets. It doesn’t let up all day. We make love a couple times and then we sleep. Later we cook up cheeseburgers and eat them in bed with beers. Lotta feels a little distant, but I think it’s the rain. Some people are like that. Our bed smells like cheeseburgers and beer.
     “How do you feel now?” she says.
     “What do you mean?” I say.
     “You were sad about something when I met you.”
     “Maybe.”
     “What were you sad about?”
     “I don’t know.”
     “Can we just hold each other?”
     “Sure.”
     I hold her.
     “I can’t help it,” she says. “The rain just makes me sad sometimes.”
     We go to sleep and don’t make love this time.
     In the morning I make coffee while Lotta joylessly presses her tits up against the window at some foraging raccoons outside.
     “Fucking raccoons,” she says.
     I am worried about her, but I don’t say anything. Don’t rock the boat, I tell myself. I make eggs and more coffee. We eat in silence, a man and a woman living together in the wilderness.
     “Should I kill a moose for dinner?” I ask jokingly, peppering my eggs.
     Lotta doesn’t laugh or say anything. She is having second thoughts. She misses meth more than she thought she would and now that her dream of living in the country has come true she realizes she might not actually like her dream, or that she doesn’t really understand it.
     If our situation were a color it would be battleship gray.
     Lotta eats her eggs silently. I watch her. I explain the stealth and delicacy involved in stalking and eventually strangling a moose to death.
     Lotta looks at her eggs, unimpressed with the tenets of moose strangling.
     “You have to snap out of it,” I tell her. “I can’t take it.”
Lotta gets up from the table and leaves.
     A few weeks pass by.
     We don’t make love.
     Once, after half a bottle of whisky I tell her I am the Wizard of Bang Town and wag my boner in her face like a magic wand, but she says she feels “weird.”
     Summer is over.
     “Why did you move here?” she asks me finally.
     “To live in the country with you. To make you healthier.”
     “But I don’t think I like it here.”
     “Listen, it doesn’t matter where we live. We’ll be fine as long as we’re together.”
     I hug Lotta and we go inside to finish our breakfast.
     Three days later I find Lotta in the bathtub sobbing with a box of razor blades.
     I tell her I’ll marry her if she gives me the razor blades.
     From then on we live happily ever after.
     I buy Lotta a lime green string bikini for an engagement present.
     Lotta reads some books on honeymoon destinations wearing the lime green string bikini.
     “Where are the Cook Islands?” she asks, lying in the sun, her breasts like pressed alpine mangoes.
     Frequently I wonder about things.
     Mainly I am wondering if my love for Lotta was somehow manufactured, that I don’t really love her, but that I want to because it seems right or at least moving forward in some way, always moving to some indefinable point, which from certain angles equals maturity and/or progress, and that wanting to love her and/or reach said “maturity/progression” somehow overpowers my original feelings of not loving her, but possibly just lusting after her, or being scared and alone, of sitting quietly and not answering the door.
     Then again I might love her.
     Or maybe love doesn’t exist except as a sort of lost language that was faultily deciphered by everyone including Marcia Gay Harden.
     Or maybe love only exists for certain people who have low expectations about life in general, or high thresholds for boredom.
     Or maybe love is fleeting like sunsets and livable conditions at Angkor Wat.
     Lotta is on the dock. She asks me to rub sun lotion on her.
     I start to rub lotion all over her body, which gives me an erection.
     “Look what you did,” I say, pointing at my engorged wang.
     Lotta does her coy Penelope Cruz face. “What should I do, mister?”
     “Well, well,” I say, lightly whapping my wang against her cheek. “Looks like I’ll be forced to drill all your national parks.”
     We do it doggy-style on the dock with her bikini top pulled to the sides. I grab at her big swaying breasts like a caveman. I pull her hair from behind, but she stops me.
     “What’s wrong I ask her?”
     “Nothing,” she says. “Just a bad memory.”
     We go for a swim.
     We swim for awhile, but don’t talk. I don’t know if I should be engaged to her, or to anyone for that matter. It promotes unrealistic goals for what living is supposed to be about even though I don’t know what that is. I am feeling irresponsible, but I am also conflicted. Didn’t I want a house in the country? Didn’t I want Lotta to live with me, to drink Manhattans and strangle mooses? I am worried and feel out of control. I am maybe one of those people who can’t be happy because deep down they don’t have any anchors. They think life is some kind of floating dream, or some kind of cartoon, but really it’s like something you spill on the rug, which poses the question, am I regular rug or am I stain-proof rug?
     My life has boiled down to rug analogies.
     I go behind a tree.
     I feel like having a panic attack, or strangling a moose.
     I wait for the panic attack. Nothing.
     Go home, hug Lotta, kiss her, followed by instant-mashed-potato-stew and wine. After stew I am exhausted and satisfied from robust country living. I feel like a real person, which is to say a part of the larger history of the world. It makes me feel less guilty or insecure. But sometimes it also makes me feel more insecure. Maybe the world knows whether or not you are pretending to be real, or actually real. What if the whole world is pretending? But then I think that can’t be true because of World War II and cancer. I tell myself there is a married couple somewhere that is real. Somewhere like Islay. They eat real stew and make real love and chop wood together in the sun dreaming of peat covered castles and a pile of glistening brown trout for the elongated murk of winter.
     “Do you love me?” asks Lotta.
     “Of course,” I say.
     I am lying to save her life, but also to save my life.
     One day Marcia Gay Hardens shows up.
     She is walking her dog.
     “Oh, hello,” she says.
     “Hello,” I say.
     “Are you the new owners?”
     “Yes,” I say. “This is my wife Lotta.”
     Lotta waves, adjusting her lime green bikini.
     “You should come over and have a drink some time,” says Marcia Gay Harden. “After all we’re neighbors.”
     I smile. I think about disguising myself as a moose and strangling large numbers of wild mooses.
     “Thank you,” I say to Marcia Gay Harden. “We will.”
     The forest is very quiet.
     Mooses breathing quietly in the distant shadows.
     I look around for the President out of the corner of my eye, but I don’t see him.
     “Ok, well we should go now,” says Marcia Gay Harden. “Nice to meet you two.”
     Back at the cabin with Lotta.
     “Do you want to get married?” asks Lotta.
     “I don’t know, do you?”
     “I don’t know.”
     I look at Lotta and secretly despise her a little. Seeing Marcia Gay Harden makes me take stock of my life, and I think how when Lotta and I first met I was under the impression she was a different person who was seemingly better than this person in front of me who is now presenting herself in this present reality as “Lotta.” I was under the influence of her mystery. Her face was a mystery and her drug addiction was a mystery and her furniture was a mystery. Her tragedy seduced my tragedy to form some kind of double-tragedy. What everyone realizes at some point or another is that life is boring and overwhelming, but how you come to this realization is different for each person.
     When Lotta falls asleep I go outside.
     I make a bonfire.
     I throw all the books about trout and exotic honeymoons in there.
     I watch them burn.
     I drink a Tom Collins while the trout and mooses breathe quietly.
     In the morning Lotta looks at the still smoldering fire pit, shaking her head. She asks me if I don’t love her. She says this still shaking her head at the ground even though she already knows the answer, but asking for it anyway because that’s what we’re conditioned to do for some reason.
     “I don’t know what I want,” I tell her looking at the same ground she is looking at.
     We look at the same ground together for what seems like a long time.
     The next morning Lotta is gone.
     I go for a long hike with my shirt off.
     I have a Tom Collins.
     I go for a swim and feel the coolness of the water on my skin.
     “My life is unstable,” I say to the lake.
     I wonder why my life is unstable, but then I realize the instability probably stems from the fact I did not heed the call like the rest of my generation. The call that went out silent and terrifying like a dog whistle. Staten Island, said the call. A yard, and a pipe, and a wife with nipples the size of lug nuts. But for some reason I didn’t heed the call, or I didn’t care. Or I wasn’t paying attention. My DNA is probably faulty. I was supposed to be Napoleon, or someone like Napoleon, but I listened to the wrong music as a baby.
     The real estate agent shows up.
     “I have some bad news,” says the real estate agent. “You better sit down.”
     We sit down.
     The real estate agent tells me the police found Lotta dead in a motel on the highway.
     The real estate agent looks at his shoes and breathes quietly.
     “It looks like she hitched a ride and then probably OD’d with whoever she hitched a ride with,” the real estate agent says.
     I tell the real estate agent I don’t feel good and go out into the forest. I feel like I might vomit, but then I don’t.
     I walk for awhile until I show up Marcia Gay Harden’s lake house.
     Marcia Gay Harden lets me in.
     “Would you like something to drink?” asks Marcia Gay Harden.
     I ask for vodka.
     Marcia Gay Harden goes to the kitchen to make Gibsons.
     I will kidnap Marcia Gay Harden, I think.
     I will grow a mustache and do things like the mow the lawn and not complain, or talk about things like life being a series of big failures and small failures.
     I will become a Stalinist and Marcia Gay Harden will become a reverse-racist.
     “I hate whitey!” Marcia Gay Harden will scream at the mirror.
     But then I realize fantasizing is useless and pathetic.
     This is what I realize as I start to feel useless and pathetic. It creeps through me like mercury, or blood.
     My blood is pathetic.
     If I had nine million dollars I would have a life-size moose sculpted out of jade and I would pretend to strangle it at cocktail parties.
     I think of Lotta dead on a dirty motel carpet, staring at the ceiling, her lips cold and blue.
     I’m trying to be honest with myself, but it doesn’t feel good. It feels like strangling a moose on a cold Thanksgiving morning and then having a Manhattan to try and forget about it. Pretending that the moose isn’t out there frozen on the lawn, its hooves pointing skyward.
     Marcia Gay Harden and I have Gibsons in her living room.
     Her living room is mostly dark leather, knotted wood and sunlight. She has a chessboard made of two different kinds of agate.
     “I was just about to make one anyway,” Marcia Gay Harden says, curling up with her Gibson at the edge of a couch the way teenage girls do. “Where’s your wife?” asks Marcia Gay Harden.
     “I think she died,” I say.
     “Oh my God, are you ok?”
     “I think I need to call a coroner, or a cemetery or something.”
     I start to cry in Marcia Gay Harden’s living room.
     Then I stop crying and ask to use Marcia Gay Harden’s telephone.
     I call a cab and tell them to take me to New York City.
     I thank Marcia Gay Harden and wait for the cab.
     “That’ll be like three hundred dollars,” the cab driver says over his shoulder.
     “Shut up and drive,” I say.

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Trevor J. Houser was born somewhere in Oregon. His stories have appeared in a number of publications including Zyzzyva, Pindeldyboz, and The Columbia Review. He was a marketer in a major New York publishing house, a private investigator in San Francisco, and a gas-runner in Mexico. He currently lives in San Francisco.

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