THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT


NUDISTS: FICTION

by by Emily Segal

illustration by by Galen Broderick

I don't mean this meanly.

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They always had the important talks--race, finance-- when she was sleeping, which meant she always fucked up. You're not the same if one of you is sleeping.
And she's looking at him like My sympathy is not a machine that runs on nothing.
--
Everyone's got their vices. And there's Anita on the bed, green pen poised, coloring all the dry bits of skin til she's spot-mottled as fungus or tree bark. Spot-mottled: fungus or bark. Pauses, pen poised, and she's looking at him like Yeah, that cord is real long. Bet I could get it six, seven times around your
--
How bout you close the kitchen cabinets next time? I see your haircut in the trash I'm gonna take it it's gonna be disgusting. He's all, If you touch it it means you're a thief And she's looking at him like Admit that you've been asking for it! Her skin is humorless, tight. And she's looking at him like I need this like a hole in the head!
And she's looking at him like To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
And he's fighting real hard against his things.
Go to the bathroom, flail and punch a wall. And she's asking, Are you the one who lets it mellow?
--
Making cobbler, tearing the soft blanched skin off the peaches. The peaches and the skin. Simmered them in the boiling water til they were grey and rotlike. Simmered them down til they were greyed and rotlike.
And she's looking at him like
you are one hot mess.
--
And she's looking at him like
Speed it up, sir, the little birds will be coming to dress me soon
soon the birds will be coming to dress me.
It's like boning through a sheet, And she's looking at him like
I am going to assassinate you.
--
I am calling to say that I must be compensated for my troubles.
Where are you? he asks. I'm in New York, she says, where everything is beautiful and interesting.
And he's looking all
I use the softest words I got.
--
What's derided as magic is magic. In the olden days, that must have flown, she said. Not anymore, she said, sighing. We're going to have to let you go, she said. How cranky the other one was!
--
She invented the idea of a floor. What would it be like, without her.
To begin, this was a scam. Her parents-in-law, and the party that meant they had to move the furniture, and how deep those rug-craters were, the imprints.
What has grout? An apartment where
everything is built-in.
--
The thing that is happening to your face? she says, that's a meth-thing.
You need to be kinder to your machine, he says.
--
They were taking the same data, drawing very different conclusions.
You are very even-handed, she says.
He was forced to lock the door.
That's a copout answer, he says.
We're going to have to let you go, she says, sighing.
--
And she's thinking that our very notions of humanity are impacted, like a molar, by our things.
And he's looking at the guy like What are you? Some hair-palmed termite fuck? What the fuck are you? he's asking, some hair-palmed termite fuck? You gotta set up the tension then RELEASE IT, he's shouting at them, yelling. And then she's saying, I am going to fire you, she's saying, discharge you as my friend.
--
She's thinking about things she could do: sit in the kitchen, pour boiling water into the crystal glasses, watch them burst. Or, better, what she's thinking: put all your cut hair into your sock.
--
The thing about sobriety, he says, trails off. I really like this bag, she says. It makes me feel businesslike and secure. I guess it just depends on how you react to challenges, he says.
--
But what about the time I have invested in you as a person and a girlfriend? he is asking. I'm selling everything!
And the ticker tape keeps floating all around them.