It’s our anniversary and also my birthday and she is in the pine needles on her hands and knees. She scrapes up poop and clears her throat, her shoes only halfway on.
“I will not let them fuck me,” she says.
The house is a product of the modern American security state. Cameras provide complete and total coverage of the property, ensuring we are not in the hot tub a minute past 10pm as the sound of bubbles and light conversation may keep up the neighbors.
We lie around mostly, getting drunk and watching old movies. Her small senior dog zig-zags, compulsively sprinting around what for him I suspect to be a very new and interesting floor. He sees us outside, accelerates and trips, face-planting his way down the sharp brick steps. At the bottom, he shakes it off as though nothing has happened. Whenever we come to places like this she laments her own apartment’s lack of a yard. I don’t think I will ever be able to afford a place like this unless I move very, very far away from everyone.
I say I want to go to the zoo and so we walk over and pay $10 each to go inside and watch a black bear have a panic attack. A woman standing just behind us says this happens a lot. We do not enjoy looking at the bear, though everyone seems to like it just fine. We say to each other that later in the evening we will email the zoo people about this, yet never do. I think about telling her I love her but instead I say I really like the way her hair looks, here, next to the foxes. She asks me what I like about it and I tell her I don’t know enough about hair to say.
It’s the fourth of July and also our family vacation and she’s seeing if she can email the president while I try to eat too much. We are with my entire family for the week. I watch as my sister and her husband test positive for Covid within the first five minutes of arriving and hugging absolutely everyone. They immediately re-pack everything and begin the eight-hour trip back to central Ohio. We say goodbye to each other from across the room and I think my sister is trying not to cry. As they head out I feel like I’ve let her down somehow.
My cousins’ kids are old and cool and have tattoos and probably don’t remember my name. I ask them the same boring questions about their lives as all adults do. “So you have tattoos? That’s cool. How’s school going? That’s great.” At the beach my Uncle Bill tells us he bought sixteen bags of pretzels because they were on sale and he can take them back home where they are usually fifty cents more. We tell him that’s insane and he just laughs and laughs.
I sit, hunched in a camper chair in the sand as she lays out. My spine feels terrible. She’s on her side and from this angle her ass looks humongous in a good way. I tell her we should go to the boardwalk tonight, to see all the freaks. An egg-shaped child runs between us – boogie board bouncing behind him – sand whipping our faces, flying in exposed holes. Squinting, she yells to me something about former Vice President Mike Pence and I realize my phone is probably at the ice cream place from before.
It’s the final day and we are fighting in an airport. She says I am not considering her. She says there is a limit in our ability to connect. I want to keep apologizing for the way I am, for not knowing how to love someone as well as she does. To selflessly and enthusiastically exist in relation to another person in ways that to her, appear to come so naturally. I am sad to think that I may be letting her down. Perhaps we are both just tired.
A voice calls for Mustafa over and over again as a young boy next to us asks his father if they will ever be 1K Premier Members. The father tells him that if they fly enough, then maybe. It’s been a long trip and she is sick, clearing her throat with incredible exactness in terms of cadence and pattern. Her head is on her sweater which is on her bag which is on a table filled with tablets flashing images and asking if we want to order them. I ask her if all things considered she’s had a nice time but I can’t tell if she hears me or not. I will try again in an hour, once we are on the plane going home, free from all these vacations. I will ask again, and she will accidentally cough in my mouth, and say, “Yes.”