“I WROTE HIS NUMBER ON THE BACK OF MY HAND BUT IT WASHED OFF”

 

I cried until I broke a blood vessel in my eye and my tears turned red. After three hours, I gave up on trying to come and went home.He turned out to be crazy. I pretended I didn’t hear it when he told me he loved me. He cried in my arms afterward, so I figured he had a girlfriend. 

We made plans to meet again, on Mykonos this time, but my visa ended before then. When we had sex in his sister’s bedroom, I tried not to wake her up. I loved him. I wanted to love him. I’d never fucked anyone from Prince Edward Island. 

He was my first. I never called back. Three weeks later, he mailed back my driver’s license. I closed my eyes so that he couldn’t see that I was bored. I told him I liked Faulkner to get him into bed. 

I was his first. He never called back. I wanted to find out what kissing a woman felt like. Things just sort of developed from there. We broke the towel rack in the shower, and he needed three stitches in his hand. He tasted like rosemary. 

I thought I loved him. He wrote me letters when he was in the navy, but his writing was bad so I skimmed them. He could recite the first hundred lines of the Canterbury Tales, which I thought deserved something. We had imperfect sex in Stairwell 28 of the Milwaukee Convention Center. He rocked me to sleep after I heard about my brother. He couldn’t kiss. His sweater smelled like him, and I lied when he asked for it back. 

I forgot to ask his last name. I forgot to ask his first name. He didn’t believe I didn’t want a commitment. I didn’t believe he did. He told me he could sense my dark side but we were still two miles from the trailhead, so I humored him until we got to the car. His girlfriend and my boyfriend fell in love. 

He saved my life twice. He was lonely, and I had some free time. He recited Shakespeare in bed, but I wanted him anyway. He had a tattoo on his arm that said YOUR NAME HERE. 

I found out on Facebook that he died a year later, from an aneurysm. We had both been drinking. We both were stoned. He wore a beard to cover up a scar on his chin, I never found out from what. 

I had the bruises for a week; when they faded I called him again. She looked a lot like me. We were in eastern Montana, on I-94, and it was five in the morning. This went on for six months. He emailed me but I accidentally deleted it. He emailed me but I deleted it on purpose. He was almost what I wanted. 

He never emailed me. He knew forty-three words of English, but that was more than I knew of Portuguese. She was a poet. We took pictures; later I denied everything. 

He really was what I wanted. He made his own furniture, though he never did fix the bed. I slept with his best friend to get an introduction.  I broke his foot, but it was an accident. 

He thought I was faking it even when I wasn’t. I called him “sweetheart” because I didn’t want to get his name wrong. He tipped really well, so we went back to his room later. He was going to be the last, but then it ended. 

There was a thunderstorm and lightning struck very close to the boat. She kissed my boyfriend and then me, and I tasted his beer on her breath. I was his fifteenth try at heterosexuality. I wished he’d shut up and kiss me. When I got home, I found a leech attached to the back of my right knee. 


Kij Johnson won the 2010 Nebula for “Spar,” the 2011 Nebula for “Ponies” (also a finalist for the Hugo and World Fantasy). In 2012, she won both the Nebula and Hugo for “The Man Who Bridged The Mist.” Her novels include two volumes on the Heian trilogy Love/War/Death: The Fox Woman (which received the Crawford Award) and Fudoki. She is currently researching a third novel set in Heian Japan; and Kylen, two novels set in Georgian Britain. She is an Assistant Professor of Fiction Writing at the University of Kansas English Department.