LOVE ME LIKE THIS
by Kayli Scholz
“This is happening, Trish,” Brooke says. “Are you even listening?”
Not closely so much, no. My girlfriend, Brooke, home at dusk and pouring out the details of her emails she punched out to her dickhead office staff. “They're all bullies,” I say, but that isn't good enough. Sometimes what could you say?
Issue #109 soundtrack: Killer Whale "Why Can’t We Be"
I peel back the lace curtain in the kitchen of our bluegrass hammock-like trailer town, looking at the half-collapsed bleachers in the grass. The meadow has been blanched down to weeds for a long time, and lately there'd been a grazing. It wasn't a rabbit and it wasn't a deer. It wasn't a person. My nerves are wound up like a coiled spring, ready for recoil.
“I'm sick of this shit,” Brooke says. “The corporate drama circuit is a fucking gut punch.”
“Rough Friday? I really don't know what's wrong with you.” Brooke sniffs into the milk carton, deciding it isn't sour enough to throw out. “This isn't an after-school party squasher, Trish. This is my work.”
Yeah, well. Brooke was a new HR manager and gave everybody a self-important cold lip, but turned into an electrical storm when somebody looked at her funny in the grocery checkout. That's how some people were, all churned up all the time, a furious bullshitter. The drag of Brooke's cadence indicated a 'here we go again' when she thought a sensitive neurotic time of mine was near.
No, this time I'm not a fink. Here is my proof, and I'm looking at it through lace curtain. It isn't the antidepressant, not the mood stabilizer, not the new sleeping pill. I take my phone out and shoot a video of a skeletal body moving up the edges of the saplings above the husks, across the street and down the dipped brook.
“Just what are you doing?” Brooke says, as if the phone is the bother.
“I invited Scott and Mindy over. There's an extraterrestrial out there.”
“Jesus Christ,” Brooke hunches over the dishwasher, clinking glass.
I can still see the old version of swing and sandbox, the baseball diamond and the clearing stump of tall corn. I film The Thing, and it floats like a drift wind. There's a cutting sound that drags with this Thing, but it's nothing but a hum in the background of Murder, She Wrote on the TV, turned up all the way.
I don't get upset about things. Brooke would get up in arms over a waitress that didn't put her coke refill down gently, but she worried about me? I wanted her to be gentler. But I'm crazy looking out the window at an alien? What does it matter, nothing lasts forever.
I was a semi-fuckup but I had passion behind the fuckups. Trish would never screw me over, and fuck me, could I say the same for myself? That was the roll of the dice. Sometimes you had to stomp your foot and yell about the delivery clerk. Cussing about Phil in the mail room made coming home to Trish easier. She was sick upstairs – in her head, the worst place for the lights not to come on during a storm.
I think my problems help her with her problems. When she suffers, I suffer everywhere. I hurt my back lifting her spirits up. I spy on her to make sure she's keeping up with life, with her meds, with her shit. When I touch her, I feel the earth move under my feet, sang Carol King, and me too before the paranoia takes its spin. I double-check what we've got in the refrigerator, no caffeine. Caffeine kills. If she wants to smoke a doobie with me, you got it like rocket, but if she starts on coffee again I'll spring a leak.
I call and tell Scott and Mindy not to come, that it's just Trish doing her thing again. They address their concern and I'm all, no, no, no, I got this. They want to come over anyway and I say alright, have it your way. They're newlyweds and our best friends. When you're married you have the same friends, and even though Trish doesn't care about my work drama, she knows good people.
I make egg salad, put some garlic bread in the oven, get out the bourbon.
To be fair, there is a groveling figure among the husks in the video Trish shows us. Brooke gets so fed up, she finishes eating and goes outside to weed at eight o'clock at night.
“Is it a landscaper, I wonder?” Mindy says, squinting at the laptop screen. “Could it be that?”
“At six-thirty on a Friday night? Repeatedly for fourteen days, traipsing around like a field cat? No way, girl,” Trish says, stiff as a wood plank.
“Why does it appear angular – pause – what's that?” I say.
The zoomed-in look of the shaggy dark trees makes the extraterrestrial business sound almost credible.
“What about calling the Parks and Recreational department? Or the property manager of the trailer park?” I suggest. The way it came out sounds like a classroom order.
“You think I haven't thought of that?” Trish stirs. “With my history? With the pharmacy in our spice cabinet? I'll be humiliated up the hill.”
What she meant was possibly psychiatry, or prison, but I wasn't positive. Once Trish tried to commit suicide by climbing a tree and putting a shotgun to her temple. It was unloaded. When was that again? I'd say to Mindy some nights, pretending I couldn't remember the date of March 29, 2004. What sticks with you are dates that made you quit your day and run for help. Early summer had spread itself over the land, the sky went on for days as I'd grappled with my faith.
“Play it again,” I say, trying to ignore the alien as clear as glass in the frame.
I go out like a trooper into the summer night, infested with moths and sticky mosquitoes, dogs barking in the distance at the neighbors' weekend hollering. I feel up to no good like a big burly man was going to stop me from going out there. “Oh please, dangerous is your favorite word,” I'd hissed at Scott, who thought Trish's video should be uploaded to an online media channel and let the free world put their two cents in, share, inform to inform. “Stranger danger, relax, she's fucked in her head.”
Trish was mentally ill, a loaded gun at the end of the day. She'd spent more time in a psych ward than she had in a nine to five job. Additionally, aliens don't exist!
The sky is crowded by trees in the torn-down smear of the stricken field. This sudden crystallization of anguish comes over me like a furious twitch when I hear the distinct clicking sound, like a motor running on its last battery. I say 'Hello?!' like a polite auntie coming over unannounced.
I quit smoking five years ago because I was scared of the arsenic, our most important areas of the brain seem the most delicate, making fear not only lucid but attack-like with hallucinations if you get enough in your system. Driving, mopping the floor, when you were looking for aliens in the corn. Does Trish still smoke? No, she was a clean eater or something now. Scott showed me a blog about it.
And then I became very ill after what I saw in the trees, and returned to the trailer.
We watch the video again and this time I send it to my cousin, Sal. Sal lives in Ruskin, Florida, where UFO sightings are all the time and not news. I'm happy for a minute because I know Sal will text me in the morning and tell me cross my heart and hope to die, I believe you, kid.
I stretch out on the couch while Mindy is out trying to be a friend and prove my point, and ask Scott if he wants any frozen key lime pie.
“Just … how far can we go with this do you think?” Scott says. “Will they set up camp? Will the authorities be involved and to what extent? Camera installation?”
Brooke snaps. “This isn't 90210, have you looked around? Where do you think the cameras would go?”
Scott acts as if he hasn't heard her, giving her a wink that means something. “We can't demand media attention from this. Other people have to see it for action to be applied.”
“Thank you, Scotty, thank you,” I say, feeling the floor seesaw underneath me.
Mindy comes back and she talks to Scott. The crickets are singing outside, mating, who knows, getting as worked up as our dog, Pudding, feeling the reverberation of an attack piloting in the near future. Animals know before humans.
I've cried in every room of this place, including on the toilet, around the sink, down on my knees by the washing machine. Most of the tears have been for Trish, and now she's convinced we have to escape to a hotel for safety? We could be harvested? We have to figure out a game plan? What form of insanity is that? I've choked on my ass all day, babysitting co-workers, hustling for lost emails with proof numbers, and I come home to Trish telling me she's been watching over an alien all day.
Do you know Pudding hasn't been walked?! Our baby Bulldog, holding in her pee. Another bladder infection on the way, cramping my wallet. My anger is a sharp pulse in my throat. Could enough sulking fix this? I strike the kitchen window with my palm, hard, everybody looking up.
“We can take a walk together instead,” I say. “Then we can think about the hotel.”
I love her, I love her, I love her.
“I'll call the Parks and Recreation department first thing tomorrow morning.”
Kayli Scholz is a short story writer from Ft. Lauderdale. Her fiction has been published in The Fem, Atticus Review, and the forthcoming Minor Literature[s]. Follow her on Twitter.
Christopher Brown is a musician and artist living in Austin, Texas. For the past year he has developed a Candy Minimal photo series, which is entirely shot and edited on his mobile phone. His work was recently featured in Mashable. Follow him on Instagram.