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Useful Information

Story by Kim Magowan (Read author interview) February 18, 2019

Art by Lorena Turner

Boyfriend One drops me off at Boyfriend Two’s house. One doesn’t know about Two; he thinks he’s dropping me at the house of some college friends, which is not untrue. UVA is where I met Two. We used to get stoned together at frat parties.

One wrinkles his patrician nose at Two’s house. It’s painted orange. Not a classy shade of orange, like pumpkin, but the too-bright, in-your-face color of a reflector vest.

“You should tell your friends the color of their house will seriously affect its resale value,” One says.

“They rent.”

He shakes his head, dubiously. I want to believe that an element of One’s aversion is that, on some subconscious level, he intuits the presence inside of a rival.

Not that One would have any right to object to Two: One’s married. His wife is Leticia, pronounced La-TISS-ia. One expects me to be jealous, and I am, though lately less than I pretend. I envy Leticia for her creamy skin more than her husband. When she’s out of town and One takes me to their house, I scour her medicine cabinets. I sample her moisturizers, take pics of her expensive face masks.


After One drives away, I ring Two’s doorbell. I don’t have a key to either of their houses. With One that’s deliberate; he would never in a million years give me a key. With Two, it’s an oversight. Two’s disorganized. He has trouble keeping track of his own key. But he’s also thoughtless—not in the malicious sense, but in the absent-of-thought sense. I’m waiting to see how long it will take for it to occur to Two that he has a girlfriend, he should give her a fucking key. So far, it’s eight weeks and counting.

I imagine that I am a behaviorist, studying dogs.

Two kisses me and says, “You hungry? I’m cooking something.” It’s past ten, but I am hungry, so I perch myself on one of their grimy barstools (Two and his housemates are slobs) and watch him cook.

On the plus side for Two: he likes to feed me. And he’s a good cook, though sometimes he goes crazy with the chopped ginger.

On the plus side for One: he knows I like to be dominated in bed. Or rather, he taught me that, because I’d lived twenty-three years without knowing it. The first time we had sex, he said, “You’re so responsive,” and I felt like a marionette bouncing to pulled strings.

With Two, I relax. I don’t worry about shaving. Two is like my gray comforter with the ticking coming out. Sometimes I go to Two’s place to nap. I can fall asleep with Two. With One, I am vigilant.

One provides orgasms and excellent presents. For my birthday he gave me burgundy John Fluevog shoes, with satin ribbons that tie around my ankles. Wearing them, I feel like a Fin de Siecle courtesan. But he also gives me obnoxious presents, like a Fitbit.

Thirty-nine years old, One is as lean as a rock star. Sometimes his fingers will pause on my hip or belly, calipers assessing my fat.

Two knows where to get the best barbecue ribs.

One says things that puncture. Earlier tonight when I asked if he was about to come, he said “I can’t, I have to save all the baby makers.” Leticia is trying to get pregnant. When I averted my face, he said, “Oh, come on, Jenny.” Like I was being dramatic or sensitive.

I want to blend the way Two spoons me and I feel warm and cozy, but then suddenly too hot, with how One squeezes my wrists when we’re fucking.

You know the Plato theory, about how we’re all broken halves, wandering the globe, looking for our soulmate to complete us? Well, I don’t think I’m incomplete, but both One and Two are. Mashed together, they’d make an adequate boyfriend.

This is education for a real relationship. One has taught me things, not just that I’m a submissive. He taught me love is something you can control. I’ll never love Two, though he’s cuddly and affectionate, a human Labrador. But I thought I loved One, until three months ago when I got out of the shower and he was talking on the phone to Leticia. He didn’t hang up, though I lay down next to him, rested my hand on his hip. I listened to him talk to her, and say, “Love you too,” and that’s when I learned feelings can be shut off like turning a tap. You can think, Fuck this. Useful information, really.

Triangles beget triangles. The one between me and One and Leticia produced the one between me and One and Two. I wonder if Two has found his own Two. For his sake I hope it’s someone less judgmental, someone who doesn’t spritz his bar stool with hand sanitizer or say, “You’re squashing me.” With Two, I suspect I’ve become One.

I watch Two crank a pepper mill over whatever’s in his wok–something green, something buttery. I watch the pepper float down like snow and wait for him to feed me.


Notes from Guest Reader Leonora Desar

This was a voice story for me; as in I loved and trusted the voice and would follow it anywhere; even (and because) of all the characters’ flaws. I believed in this moment completely the way you do with a good voice; and that somewhere, off-page, it still exists, in some alternate character story dimension, somewhere.

About the Author

Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teaches in the Department of Literatures and Languages at Mills College. Her short story collection Undoing won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award and was published in March 2018. Her novel The Light Source is forthcoming from 7.13 Books in 2019. Her fiction has been published in Atticus Review, Bird’s Thumb, Cleaver, The Gettysburg Review, Hobart, New World Writing, Sixfold, and many other journals. She is Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapel.

About the Artist

Lorena Turner creates photography projects that draw from the areas of documentary, journalism and fine art. She selects image-making tools that best articulate her ideas. Lorena’s work is shown both nationally and internationally in venues as diverse as The Photographers’ Gallery in London, the United Nations headquarters in New York City, the Arc Light Theater in Hollywood and the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art. Her book, The Michael Jacksons, and ethnographic monograph on the American subculture of Michael Jackson impersonators, was published in 2014. Lorena received an MFA from the University of Oregon, studied sociology at The New School for Social Research in New York City, and teaches photojournalism and documentary storytelling in the Communication department at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, California.

This story appeared in Issue Sixty-Three of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Three

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