I sit and listen to my new boyfriend the Nazi tell me things over and over again: “Your boobs could be higher and rounder. You could use some meat on your ass. Not sure why you’re not dying your hair. Only wear that shirt if you want to attract old men in the nursing home. Bra commercials are my favorite. Penelope Cruz too. Here, let me slap you on your leg out of frustration; sorry for the mark. Here, let me smash this pillow in your face, just playing. Nice dress but it could be higher on the bottom, lower in front. I could choke you. I could kill you right now. Close the doors and the windows; why do I have to keep telling you?”
I make hotdog hotdish with the only food in the house.
There is nothing on the walls; I am a guest in a blank house with a blank man. I make a brilliant tuna salad one day. I run to the cemetery and soar in my mind. It rains outside and I press my nose to the screen.
I spill juice and it splatters; suddenly, I have no one. There is not a leaf to look at, not a pet to pet. It is my fault that the Nazi only knows to rub in a stain; he does not share my extensive dry cleaning background. I soak it up and clean it up; I have nothing to apologize for except for the brief nettle.
I breathe deeply and prepare to enjoy Day Number Two, after realizing that the local water is not agreeing with me. I walk to the A&P.
Famous and brilliant people write to me, through e-mail and texts; my heart-mind soars, I can’t help it. I’m proud and happy and energetic; I run to the cemetery again. The Nazi comes home and makes his specialty: German-Hawaiian-pizza-toast with beef and pineapple slices, spicy ketchup. Half of it is for me, he says. I don’t want any of it.
In the end, I just have clammy feet and a zit on my forehead because my body doesn’t know what else to do. A scab on my scalp…a bruise on my leg.
When I am left alone to dream at night, one of my best friends dies. I am already worried about my sister, who thinks she is dying too.
I start a conversation, “Oh, you know my sister, the one with cancer in her eye? She goes to the doctor next week to find out more.” My heart has been steady with my sister, my own eyes on her. I take her temperature with my phone every day; I would take her place if I could. I close my left eye all the time just to try being blind like her. If I could have half her pain and half of my father’s pain, I would be of good service to the world.
I slowly realize that the words “my sister, my father, my family” leave no impression on the Nazi. I could be a bra commercial without Penelope Cruz, just your average run of the mill nonsense.
I get left in a hotel room, a pocket coin engraved with the words “carry my heart with you” left on the nightstand, my own gift returned. Only a cad would do this, and my brain recognizes the equation immediately. My heart comes along, hanging her head. She is the one who needs attention the most at times like these.
“Baby,” I say to my heart, a term of endearment I could never use with the Nazi, since “baby” means “infant” and only “infant” in German. I am glad to be able to use it again.
“Yes?” I say back.
“You are stronger and brighter and prettier and deserving of so much more than what you've gotten here.
“I know,” I sniffle.
“So you need to get moving back to Arizona, where your people and your pets are. Chop chop, my little one. Let’s go.”
I don’t hesitate to move forward, because I know my brain and she always takes care of me. I am well on my way when she rolls her eyes and whispers in my ear, “I hate to tell you this, but your air conditioning broke while you were gone and that’s gonna be five hundred dollars, which we know isn’t great on top of the extra night you had to stay here to get away from the Nazi and the new flight home, but, uh, deal with it.”
My brain has trained me so well for times like these, even when my heart is leaking fluid. I shrug one shoulder and close my left eye, almost glad for those abilities alone.