Allison Field Bell
We’re in a house in Oakland—Chris’s house. Bicycles and typewriters adorn the living room. The kitchen is cramped and smells of rotting fruit. In the morning, light spills in through the kitchen window casting shadows of the potted herbs that live there. Chris’s bedroom is a mattress on the floor. It’s a desk covered in papers and clothes. It’s one bookshelf with books haphazardly arranged. It’s all rectangles. His room is orange or yellow or maybe it’s white with a maroon wall. It might not be orange or yellow or maroon at all. That might be the light casting its glow against white paint. I know that it’s nighttime, and inside Chris’s room is warm and bathed in a citrus light. Michael is there, and Chris, and me.
Michael is dragging an inked needle across his thigh. It’s a tattoo gun he purchased from someone, and he’s testing it out. Michael’s usual tattoo process is stick-and-poke. He has done this kind of tattoo to my leg: a gnome with a daffodil. The tattoo gun makes my teeth ache. It’s a sound like drilling. It seems to be ripping through his skin. He drags it into an uneven rectangle. Chris and I watch and drink. We’re drinking something with whiskey—this I know. I am almost always drinking whiskey. Approximately a fifth every day. Usually Bulleit. Michael is drinking too, and by the time the rectangle is done, we’re all drunk. Something happens then where Michael wants to kiss Chris and Chris wants to kiss me. And then Chris says he’ll kiss Michael if Michael kisses me. And then we’re all kissing each other and clothes are coming off. I’m asking if this is a bad idea, saying I don’t want it to change things between us.
When I say us, I mean Michael and me. I mean the intensity of the friendship we’ve formed in only a few months. I mean the fact that we live together as roommates platonically, and that we stay up late drinking whiskey and talking about dismantling capitalism. I mean that I love our little cabin in the woods in Arizona and our California road trip. I mean that I don’t want to lose him just because I’m about to fuck him.
He says that everything’s fine. Everything will be fine.
Everything is not fine with me. I’m in the midst of a very dedicated eating disorder. I don’t eat much and I throw up when I eat anything. I have lost three belt sizes in a month. I don’t weigh myself but I imagine the number is under a hundred. I still hate my body. The way my thighs squish out on a chair, the outward curve of my belly. My fat, round face.
In Chris’s room, the scene is chaotic. Chris wants to watch Michael and me. Chris runs to the car to get a condom. Michael and I kiss and it’s comfortable and easy like it’s been happening for years. Our bodies seem to fit together. Or maybe that’s just what Chris says. With Chris and Michael’s bodies in the bed, I am conscious of the smallness of my body. I am obsessed with its smallness. I want it to shrink and shrink and shrink. Until I am just a sliver. I feel powerful in becoming a sliver. I am not powerful.
And then Chris wants Michael to punch him in the face. Or Michael wants Chris to punch him in the face. Either way, someone gets punched in the face, and it’s not me. I am on the sidelines watching violence meet sex. It’s curious and sexy and strange. I’m drunk. I’m with Michael and Chris and we’re all naked. And afterward, we fall asleep together in Chris’s bed.
In the morning, we laugh at each other. Everything seems to be fine. And it is until it isn’t. Until Michael says something later on another night in San Francisco about our friendship being forever changed. And I’m upset and drunk again. And I haven’t eaten. Or what I have eaten, I’ve thrown up. And eventually, I am crying. Crying because I’m afraid of losing Michael. Crying because I already have. Crying so that I ensure I lose Michael. I’m crying, and Michael and Chris leave me in San Francisco with some other friends.
I wake up the next morning and get a ride back to Oakland. In the kitchen at Chris’s house, the three of us sit and prepare an egg dish. I crack eggs into a bowl. One, two, three. I crack and watch the yolks slide around the glass, whole and golden. Michael slices into a bell pepper while Chris cubes a potato. I apologize for being dramatic. I say I was drunk. I say I’m embarrassed and do they hate me now? They insist that they do not, that everything is fine. But Michael is quiet and everything is not fine.
Later, he will move out of the cabin in the woods in Arizona. He will pack his things and leave while I’m at work. He will be my roommate one day and a stranger the next. His body will forever be part of my body—the tattoo. My body will shrink and shrink until I am hospitalized for dehydration. My body will remember and misremember his body. My body will understand that it loved his body, just not in the way he thought. He thought: sex, love, relationship. My body understood: friendship, roommate.
But for now, we are in Chris’s kitchen making an egg dish. Chris is telling me I’m crazy like him. I’m saying yes to crazy. We’re drinking mimosas or maybe not. Maybe Chris and Michael are drinking beers and I’m already pouring myself a glass of whiskey. Either way, the eggs are in the frying pan, oil snapping. We stand together in the kitchen and watch the eggs solidify. Or maybe Chris and Michael are sitting and I’m watching, or maybe that’s not true at all. Maybe there are no eggs, and we just sit and roll cigarettes and wonder what happens next.
Allison Field Bell is originally from northern California but has spent most of her adult life in the desert. She is currently pursuing her PhD in prose at the University of Utah, and she has an MFA in fiction from New Mexico State University. Her work appears or is forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, The Gettysburg Review, Shenandoah, New Orleans Review, West Branch, Epiphany, The Cincinnati Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Pinch, and elsewhere. Find her at allisonfieldbell.com.