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by Chris Milam


When she asks how I’m doing today I answer with a verbal yawn: I am fine. A standard response that should be laminated and worn as a deceptive lanyard. How are you handling the divorce? Well, read my neck, it says I’m fine. How does that dollar cheeseburger taste? Fine. We are shutting your electric off on Thursday. Fine. The toilet is clogged with dead hummingbirds. Fine.


She’s eating a caramel. I want to challenge that caramel to a street brawl for the right to be in her mouth. Be warned, delectable foe, my left hook is a funeral.


Tell me what you did this past week, she says. Slept like a pride of lions. Drew your image in a bowl of butterscotch pudding. Heated up too many bean burritos. Peed in the sink because why not.


She unwraps another one. Please stop, I don’t say. Quit chewing so enthusiastically, I don’t say. Get focused and analyze me, rip my inner-walls apart with dictionary words and textbook insight. Conversation is a plunge into affectionate waters. Let go and let me in.


She taps on her keyboard.


Writing about me?




How are the meds working? Fine. No, I don’t recognize my fucking thoughts. I am an empty microwave. I am a drained swimming pool. My brain is a field-dressed 20-point buck.


She asks me about reframing. Does it help? Yes. In my head I am no longer petrified and lonely and grotesque. Now, thanks to your trickery, I am only a solitary smudge because romance can’t decipher the story of blah in my veins; the thirst in my bashful throat. Romance is incapable of mingling with neurotic tendencies.


And my face has aged prematurely because I love hard. So hard.


How are you dealing with your feelings for me, any progress? I like the way you eat, is that progress? Your mind is a bag of smart. Your heart smells like a sheet pan of warm bourbon balls. I tell my online faux-friends that I have loosened the diamond coffin on your finger. I tell them about earthquakes of the soul. I tell them your eyes are liquid haiku. I have picked names for our future children: Sophia and Lily. They will be blonde, small-boned, and Mensa-like gifted. We will have a Family Night, when we play board games, get all silly in our matching pajamas, and devour pepperoni pizza and rainbow sherbet. We will be as happy as a caramel lounging in your mouth.


Have you heard from Jenny? Your children? No. They posed for the milk carton shot before being kidnapped by a rejuvenated life in a picturesque town. We turned to woe overnight, which carried me to this office. You care about me, talk to me without being distracted by the carpet, your phone, a tarantula crawling on the window. Can I go home with you? I will do the dishes, take out the trash, and paint your toenails a proper shade of turquoise. I will make duck à l’orange for you. I will cut the grass on the diagonal and trim the bushes with karate chops. I will clean the grout with my tongue. I can be useful, like a Swiss Army knife. Like cherry cough syrup.


Session is over, she says. See you next week, Henry.


At home, I log in and type that it’s official: We are going on a date. Mediterranean for dinner followed by ice skating and café au lait downtown beneath the city lights. Hands will be held. And maybe more…


I wait for the wireless machismo: Your woo game is strong! Don’t break her, H-dawg! Get that shit on video! They are brutes, but their digital chest-bumps are like buckets of sugar melting in a non-stick pan. Neanderthal confection is on the menu this evening, with a goblet of silence to wash it down.


North of midnight, the house is a mausoleum. The only sounds are the pulse of the refrigerator and the slap of angry curtains. The plop of a bleeding faucet. I climb inside the strain, burn my armor, and rest a cheek against the cool side of darkness.


The delusion becomes a lullaby; a swarm of lethal hoofbeats in a collapsed mind. I am fine. I am fine. I am fine.


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***Chris Milam lives in the bucolic wasteland that is Hamilton, Ohio. He’s a voracious reader and a brooding introvert. His stories have appeared in Bartleby Snopes, Molotov Cocktail, Maudlin House, Spelk, and elsewhere. He also has a story forthcoming in WhiskeyPaper. You can be wowed by his retweets @Blukris. Please find him on Twitter and delve into the world that is Chris Milam at: ***


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