Hot Tin Roof is a program to showcase current literary work produced in Iowa City. The series is organized and juried by representatives of three Iowa City-based cultural advocacy organizations: Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature and Little Village magazine, with financial support from M.C. Ginsberg Objects of Art.
By Djea K. LaFée
You recall, above all, the time he tried to convince you that he grew up with Tourette’s. This is the type of story that, although you know it happened long ago, the sting still sticks with you. You knew, you “really knew” a man with Tourette’s, who had terrible difficulty holding back punching bystanders, and who would interrupt himself with profanities. You remember the fundraiser that all of his friends at the dive bar hosted, collecting jars of pennies, raised in the air with frothing mugs of beer that spill their foam on the gummy, brown, thinly carpeted floor. Staring at this pretender, at his albeit-handsome face from across the shoddy metal table, over damp coffee cups, across the Haligonian humidity between you, into his unfortunate moustache, you know then that he is a liar. But you do not care. You are desperate.
Halifax, you punctuate to yourself, as you thrust your finger toward it on the map. People there might have funny accents, you think, and certainly there’d be a museum or something even a little beautiful to see. You board a plane, because it’s cheap, and because the books you read paint it as some kind of paradise — a place worth a peek.
When you initially meet, he is not as anticipated. You see him racing, thin and nimble, across the street from you, standing stunned on your opposite sidewalk — almost comically overdressed as if he were a cyclist who leapt from the Tour de France on his way to a business interview. You imagine he might smoke a cigarette and manifest a bidon of wine, a woolen jersey, a sick attitude. A pastiche of eras, his bangs hang into his eyes, his French nose adorned by this surprising and strange moustache. He untangles himself from his steel frame, clacking all the way, as he towers over you like a warhorse, clopping in his cycling shoes. He immediately reveals his arrogance by insulting American health care. He snorts when he laughs. He has already won you.
Over ciders and ciders and ciders, you listen to him rant about the military and international politics. You nod, because you know, oh whatever, he is a man with stick and poke tattoos, he wants to take you places, to show you donair, superior coffees, his herbs, movies, and you are on vacation. You never expected that you could win a man with your knowledge of the Algerian War, but here you are, grinding against him in the dark of your bed for the night, staring down his tattoos, watching him look panicked by the confidence that you have in your body. You insist you are both having fun. You laugh all night and the girl in the room next to you leaves a passive aggressive note for your joy and obvious fortune. You still laugh every time you read it.
The next day, after coffee and some level of deception, he leaves you asleep on his buckwheat hull pillows, in the daylight of his apartment, touting again his beliefs in the superiority of Canada, and you feel warm and content against the mattress, staring at all his plants, the boots in his apartment on the shelf by the door, his books, his duck paintings. You think to yourself, “I could get used to this,” but the echoes of his lies tell you that you won’t. You won’t ever. But he will see you after work.
You knock on the door with a careful face of makeup. In his workclothes, boots, and wooly socks he is an Acadian wonder, a modern Beausoleil, a brush of a bristle on his lip. You decide to watch The Lobster, not realizing that your choice is ironic for the development of your relationship. You order hot Italian sandwiches, and while you eat you stare around you into the mess of his room, his bed on the floor, the jerseys and shirts he hangs from ropes and rods that reach across his ceiling. He falls asleep on and off, having worked the whole day, and because, truthfully, he does not have much time for you. It is strange because you know you don’t really want him, but you want something about him, maybe just all the good he has to offer, or maybe you just desperately want him inside of you. You watch him in the stark contrasts of his character, in the innocence of his dreams, and as he passes in and out of sleep, you converse or you watch the movie alone, gawking and sighing and sobbing, and he snubs the doodles you present him from his bedside notebook.
At the suggestion that he be inside you, he is beside himself, and like a mad pair of sex-driven lunatics, you hurriedly undress each other, you grabbing his cock, pumping it intensely and looking him dead in the eyes, saying “Do you like that?” You are seeking his approval, and his jaw drops; you have it. Atop him, you come four times, unbridled, and he covers your mouth to silence you. It is unlike anything you’ve felt before. You are confused, but overjoyed.
As you kiss him goodbye in your galoshes at five in the morning, you have learned that he will try to suck your upper lip, and you place your face on his accordingly. You don’t know if you will see each other again. You resist feelings. You try to just think about the plane. Under an umbrella, you are soaked, and you try to make pleasant conversation with the taxi driver, who seems perplexed by you and your strange effervescence. You figure he suspects something.
The messages trickle in, although, you know, this time you tried not to get attached. He likes you. You talk for weeks. He plans to visit. You offer to go see him. You buy your ticket. He grows distant. You crumple into a ball on your floor, erupting in deep and foreboding heaves of sobs. He disappears. Your heart fills with vitriol. You scheme and you abandon plans.
A month later, it is sunrise at the Halifax airport. You nurse a hangover from a bar you had gone to with him once before, afraid he might come, but excited if he did, and you nearly sleep through boarding your plane. You dared not go to his house, to his work, but you dared come to his city, and you dared be alone. That orange sun peeks up over the horizon, magnificent, burning you in the crevices of your eyes. It’s okay. You’re going home.
Djea (the d is silent, the vowels are long) relishes writing highly personal nonfiction about womanhood and taking empty photographs. She once got a job in Bordeaux but turned it down for love. You might say she’s kind of a romantic. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 239.