by Megan Giddings
With one kiss the first boyfriend turns my organs into agriculture. Lungs become wheat fields ready to be threshed, my stomach a log covered in straw and mushrooms, my liver heirloom tomatoes struggling to survive. The process feels like I’ve eaten too many pancakes. My voice is wind when I’m with him. We hold hands and my fingers are onion grass pushing through cold spring dirt. A no is tree branches scrabbling against a bedroom window at 2:30 AM. A yes is only heat, a zephyr in May. An argument is a thunderstorm’s wind rearranging lawn chairs and pool noodles. When I yawn, a vine of red grapes falls out of my mouth. I start collecting these. He says he loves me, but I know he doesn’t understand me. I don’t care when I look in the mirror and see the verdure of my skin and hair. When I can’t take it anymore, we decide to be in love only in August, when I’m at my most ripe. In the other eleven months, I’ll turn my yawns into wine. A glass will make everyone who drinks it feel sleepy and desirable. I’ll harvest and sort until I’m me again.
The second boyfriend turns every date into a game show. He gives me fifty dollars our first night out for telling a funny joke and tells me I made it to the next round. The second date, I tell him about the business ideas of my dreams: a doughnut for every meal bakery (it’s like sausage, but in a circle), candles made out of money and wax to make you feel rich (who hasn’t wanted to burn a twenty dollar bill and smile?), a reality show about junkyard dogs (people love asking dogs what they’ve been up to). He says none of those ideas are feasible and reminds me: we can’t all be winners. He makes a whomp whomp noise and leaves me to pay for the meal. I do it, vow never to see him again, and call him the next morning. On the sixth date, he takes me to his house and shows me the enormous obstacle course in his backyard. I run across a pond while my boyfriend throws tomatoes at me. I climb ladders while the neighborhood kids pelt me with water balloons. I rip my dress crawling through the finish line mud. I finish the course in record time. We fuck while confetti and helium balloons fall from his bedroom ceiling. The morning after, he gives me a lifetime supply of off-brand laundry detergent and kisses me goodbye. We break up when he refuses to go down on me until I answer three questions correctly while he continually asks me if I’m smarter than a fifth grader. Sex with him isn’t worth knowing the capital of Connecticut.
The third boyfriend and I decide to build two wooden boxes that are seven foot by seven foot. We tell stories about our childhoods while picking out the wood. We were very boring children. The kind who named our dogs Bandit and Patches. We hold hands while varnishing, not caring if some drips on the floor. The chemical smell makes me feel so good I don’t wanna wash my hands ever. Every week we get together and hammer and talk about the hardest things we’ve ever done. Him a bike ride across America to raise money for a disease I’ve never heard of. He broke his left foot so bad he saw bones poking through flesh. Me taking care of my Grandma during her last months. She called everyone Susie and would only eat oatmeal. I miss her, I admit while sanding my box’s edges. I’m not sure why I feel it’s something I have to admit rather than own. When we’re done, we slide beneath our mutual boxes. I take a sharpie and write Grandma, Patches, pistachio ice cream, curly hair in the wind on the slats. I fill the walls with a list of everything I love. His name isn’t up there and I’m not sure if it means I love him the most or don’t love him at all. Surrounded by words and light whispering to me between the slats, sawdust in my nose and hair, I’m so alone, so happy.
Megan Giddings is an MFA student at Indiana University and the Executive Editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. Her chapbooks, Arcade Seventeen (TAR) and The Most Dangerous Game (The Lettered Streets Press) will be released Summer 2016. She has stories forthcoming or that have been recently published in Pleiades, Black Warrior Review, New South, and Barrelhouse.