The Way Things Are Supposed to Be

I lift my left fist. It hovers inches from the door, my arm a right angle. I move it back, as if to knock, but for some reason or another it doesn’t land, and I think briefly that my muscles stopped working, and then I realize I am afraid. We are supposed to talk. I move my fist back. My hand collapses against my thigh.

I lean back against the wall. I slump down to the floor, stretch my right leg out so my shoe grazes the opposite wall, and bend my left knee. I tilt my head, then straighten it. I switch legs. I try to look cool, disinterested. I bite the skin flaking off around my thumb nail. I don’t know why I told him in the first place. I switch legs. Will you quit biting? I lean my head back.

David opens the door. “I didn’t hear you knock,” he says.

I climb to my feet, take off my shoes. As usual, I climb over the back of the loveseat and sit down. I cross my legs. David asks if I want a drink, and he brings out two wine glasses. I hold mine by the stem. I take a sip. It’s cold, smooth. David lights a tiny red candle that’s supposed to smell like apples but doesn’t. I adjust my fingers to cradle the cup in my palm with the stem extending between my first and middle fingers. I take a sip. David usually sits on the bigger couch, in a seat adjacent to mine, but tonight he sits in a chair across the room. I uncross my legs. I take a sip. I chew on my thumb. Stop that. I want him closer, I want to curl my body against the armrest and pretend it’s his chest. I want to kiss him and the thought is smooth. I cross my legs. I wait.

“You’re really cool,” he says. I look up at him, then down at the floor, then at my index finger tracing circles in the condensation forming on my glass. “But I’m not gay.”

I take a sip, another, another. I bite my thumb. I uncross my legs. I try to look cool. Stop biting! My face feels hot, and it might be embarrassment but it could be the wine; disinterested. It doesn’t matter. I take a sip. I tilt my head back, and the liquid slides down my throat. The ice cube drifts lazily towards my lips, then clatters abruptly against the bottom of the cup. I cross my legs. I want to kiss him, but the thought is ice this time. I place the empty wine glass on the folding table, next to the candle that’s supposed to smell like apples but doesn’t.

“Okay,” I say. I’m blushing. It’s not the wine, certainly. I look at him again, then down again. I fidget with the button on my left shirt sleeve. Suddenly the button is very interesting. I try to look disinterested in everything else but the button. I try to look cool, but I probably look like a cherry. I bite my thumb and it tastes like metal. I keep chewing. I uncross my legs. I tilt my head back. I try to look cool. “That’s what I thought you’d say.” Disinterested. I want to kiss him. I want. I want. I want, more desperately this time.

David shrugs. “It’s not fair.” I cross my legs. I look at him, then at the floor. “I would date you. You know, if you were a girl.” I look at the wine glass next to the candle that is supposed to smell like apples but doesn’t; I want to shatter it, but I don’t. 

In some other universe, I grab the glass and smash it against the floor. In some other universe, David lights a tiny candle that’s supposed to smell like apples and does. In some other universe I stop chewing on my goddamn skin; and in some other universe my fist collides with the door; and in some other universe I was born a girl and stayed that way; and in some other universe I meet his gaze and we kiss. But my thumbnail is wet with spit and blood and the room smells like a match, like burning, and the wine burns in my stomach, and David’s eyes burn into the top of my head, and my breasts burn under my shirt. I uncross my legs. I fidget with the button on my shirt sleeve. I try to look cool but I am on fire. I try to look disinterested but I am cherry-red. I try to stop wanting to kiss him. I try to stop wanting to be a man. I climb over the loveseat, put on my shoes. My left hand hovers inches from the doorknob.

AUTHOR

Kieran DeMelfi is a software engineer from southeast Pennsylvania, but his first love is writing. He writes about mental illness, being transgender, and body horror. He is thankful to everyone who reads his work and to all those people who have given him something to write about.

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