Being Gross

By - Feb 16, 2018

I looked at clocks, and then made wishes. I tried to catch eleven-eleven and twelve-thirty-four twice a day. I thought, I wish I was happy and didn’t care about anything or my future or Ana, I wish I was rich and I lived in Havana.

     I looked at my phone. Ana had posted a picture on Instagram of her hand in a flower. I scrolled a little further. She’d posted a picture of herself holding a bottle of something I didn’t recognize in a city I’d never been to. I put my head down and walked in front of a car. I listened for a sound, but none came. My phone vibrated. A number I didn’t recognize appeared and disappeared on the screen before I could answer. I tried calling back, but it wasn’t in service. I hung up and turned around. 
     I lay on the floor in my apartment and stayed there for a moment, feeling dramatic. I was about to get up and put my head in blankets when I heard a knock at the door. I waited for whoever it was to go away, but the knocking only increased, arriving every few seconds in short, solid bursts.
     I crept, measuring my steps, hoping they could be mistaken for silence, and bent carefully at the peephole. I opened the door to a small girl with pale hair and white fingernails and a pale red face.
     ―Hi, she said.
     ―I’m, like, really sorry to bother you, but like, hey. So my name is Chelsea, and I locked myself out of my apartment…
     I nodded.
     ―I, like. I live upstairs? I, um. Maybe you’ve met my boyfriend? We moved in last year, and I guess I never formally introduced myself… I’m Chelsea.
     ―I’m David, I said.
     I put out my hand. She took it, held on for a second, then released.
     ―So, like. So I locked myself out? And August, that’s my boyfriend, and he isn’t home from work for another hour and a half, and I was just wondering if it would be okay if I hung out here until he gets back? If that’s not, like, too much trouble. It’ll be getting dark out, and to be totally honest I don’t feel that safe on the street alone, like in Brooklyn, and I don’t feel that comfortable sitting at a bar or, like, and I really shouldn’t be spending money or anything. I’m an intern, and I’m still kind of new to the city, and, like…
     ―Sure, I said.
     ―If it’s, like, any problem at all. Like if I’m putting you out or you were just about to leave or anything?
     I told her it wasn’t a problem, and she assured me she’d just sit silently at the table with her laptop and headphones in and wouldn’t ask for anything. I asked her if she wanted a glass of water, and she said she didn’t want to be a bother. I got her some water and lay down in the bedroom.
     I texted Ana, my upstairs neighbor is like the most obnoxious midwestern transplant. she locked herself out, i’m letting her chill in the living room till her boyfriend gets home
After a while Ana responded, I’m from the Midwest
I typed, lol. I deleted it and sent, you know what i mean, it’s different, and she didn’t respond.

     A few hours later, I had my head in blankets when Ana texted, Is she still there?
I leaned out the doorway to make sure.

     she left a while ago
Ana typed. My phone’s screen went black. It vibrated.

     Do you want to watch a movie, she asked. She sent a link to a terrible romantic comedy that had been released a year or two before. 
     We tried to press play at the same time, as close together as we could manage given the lapse between our respective devices, and hinged on the trust that we were both doing what we’d said we would.
     Ana had chosen the movie because it had seemed especially terrible, and we texted throughout. I felt calm and natural, and about forty-five minutes in one of the characters got sick at a party and threw up. A minute or so later it looked like another character was going to kiss him.
     I texted Ana, if they make out now he will have just thrown up
I’ve done that, she replied.

The characters kissed, and Ana didn’t respond for a while. When she did, it was with an explanation of how upset I’d made her feel. That I’d essentially called her gross.

     but it is gross! I texted. come on, like, that’s like objectively gross
It’s insane we can’t even text from thousands of miles apart without fighting
ok, I responded.

     I don’t want to watch this movie anymore
I copied my ok and pasted it into the text box. I realized she’d never know about it. That wonderful, ostentatious passive aggression. If I sent it, it would double the futility of the act. I only wanted to love her. But I did. And it was gross, I continued to tell myself some hours later. I shuffled my feet in front of the fridge. It was definitely gross.

     ―So what, I said.
     I opened a Schlitz and poured it into a cup, but the cup wasn’t full, so I opened another and poured part of it in too, but then the can wasn’t empty, so I took the can and the cup and lay in bed.
     A month or two would pass before Ana and I talked again. Sometime before that, though, I rode the train to the beach. It was winter, and I experienced a brief erotic feeling toward a piece of styrofoam plate on a tiny iceberg, or a large shard of frozen snow, where the water touched the shore, melting.
     My phone had transitioned from sometimes malfunctioning to being totally useless. Dropped calls, text messages undelivered, my screen pixelated, blinked, went blank for hours at a time, and so I didn’t bother trying to take a picture.
     I watched, from maybe fifty feet, a dog, leash dragging behind it, walk ankle deep into the ocean and have a bowel movement. It licked the water for a second, then ran toward a person, farther away from me.
     I looked around and quickly moved to where the dog had been. The surf was barely lapping, I scanned it. 
     I kneeled in the sand. I put my hand on the cold surface of the ocean.
     I felt disoriented, and stood up and looked around again. I took off my coat and shoes and socks and jeans. I hesitated, then walked in to my waist, eyeballs shaking, staring into the murky water.