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April 29, 2024 Fiction


Melissa Boberg

Advil photo


Do you think I’m reading the fine print? Get real. It’s so hot in here. There’s a wet rag on

my forehead and C is at the foot of the bed, reading the ingredients from the label of the bottle

out loud. When he comes across a chemical he can’t pronounce he looks at me like I’m

contagious. When he’s like this it’s a bit excruciating to listen to him, but last night’s cheese and

crackers and lukewarm champagne are pulsing in my temples and it’s honestly way too hot to

care. Besides, there’s always the way we laugh when he isn’t!


C lives in a building that’s beautiful and tall, and that’s sort of how he is, too, but I hope

to God no one ever tells him that. I am sweating so much I could actually fill up a pool with it

and give some college kid a job as a lifeguard all summer. I am drinking the leftover wine from

last night’s glass because my head feels like it might fall off my neck and roll around like a

marble and because hair-of-the-dog might fix that. C is not sweating at all and he is basically

doing propaganda for Advil right now, saying he feels completely fine, and when I try and put

my glass to his mouth and make him drink he acts like I’m coming at him with a taser. He cares

too much about the preservation of his liver to take a sip of alcohol with Advil in his system—can you even believe that? Like, grow up. I start a huge fight about the half-life of Advil.


Wine and Advil cannot be worse than eating a PopTart, and that’s according to me. According to me, a real man would just take his chances and have a sip, like what is he, scared? According to him, I am sick in the head and my behavior is disturbing, but according to whoever

he was last night, I have the softest skin in the whole world. It all depends who you trust. Who I

can’t help but trust is my vagina, really I haven’t got a choice, and according to my vagina, I am

contracting my third UTI of the year, so add that to the list of reasons why I really can’t listen to

him right now, like I actually have a medical condition.


I give up on the getting-him-to-drink thing because the wine tastes hot and sour and gross

and I’d rather be shot than hear his take on the flavor, and besides it’s tiring for my arm to wave

a glass in front of his mouth when he has never shut up in his entire life for even a second. He

must be repeating the ingredient list at this point because he’s been droning on and on for

decades, but I’m not sure because I haven’t been listening.


I only have fractions of milliseconds of silence between his words (he truly never shuts

up) but in those, I envision my knuckles around his throat, white from grip and my lips covered

in drool because I basically salivate at the idea that maybe I could squeeze out a compliment

(e.g. “if you were in Girls you’d be Jessa, but like, a dateable version...!”) from his mouth. But

in the thousands of years without silence all his words amount to is a breathy and smelly and

meaningless monologue, and the worst part is that he’s still going, like Jesus Christ.


I’m this close to reciting a Hail Mary because it might actually take a divine intervention

to get him to shut up about how bad this wine is for me—he’s now Googling what “indigenous

yeast” means—but I don’t really even remember how the Hail Mary goes. I just look at his spine,

its curvature slumped over my legs like a tsunami and I want to plant a flag in that architecture

and own him like a bubble around me, and I’m stuck with the most annoying and obnoxious

bubble but it’s only mine and everyone feels bad for me because there’s nothing I can do; we all know there’s no saving me. His skin feels cold and kind of soapy like you imagine a bubble would taste, and I discover this as I make the mistake of running my nails across his vertebrae, and now he’s remembered seven thousand things to tell me about how I need to be careful because of his undiagnosed scoliosis.


He earnestly thinks that invisible scoliosis is the worst thing that can happen to a man and

by the way things are going right now he might think that I’m a close second. He might also think that I’m unsanitary and a glutton—honestly, whatever—and those are probably the real

reasons why he doesn’t “think it’s a good time for” (i.e. want) me to meet his sister, PhD.


I think timing is the worst excuse in the world. Like, it isn’t a good time for me, either: I

have a raging UTI and I’m drinking in my underwear before I’ve even brushed my teeth and I

don’t usually let myself think about it but I probably share this man with multiple women who

all have cleaner nail-beds than I do, but I’d still be excited to meet his sister who’s getting her

PhD, like I’d probably spend the whole day picking out an outfit and blowing out my hair.


Speaking of whole days, there was one time C and I spent one in his car, stuck together

on the Verrazano for hours. We played rock-paper-scissors and then fuck-marry-kill and then I

started a fight so huge he had to take a lap around the stopped car to cool off and then when he

got back in we decided to forget everything that had happened so far so we started hypothesizing

instead, guessing what was causing the delay. I said someone had probably rear-ended someone,

and when they got out of their smashed cars to talk about it they decided they should run away

together, and now nobody could leave the bridge because the lovebirds accidentally blocked all

the traffic before their spontaneous romantic adventure. Then I Googled that plotline to see if

somebody had already made a movie about it, and nobody had so I wrote the whole thing down

in my notes app and thought about what I’d do first after I sold the story to HBO for millions

(probably vacation).


C, a self-proclaimed realist, said it was probably a teenage girl driving like an idiot. We

never saw what actually happened, but you can’t convince him he wasn’t right and honestly I

regret bringing this up now because I get so pissed off just thinking about it that I might explode.

I want to light myself on fire and climb in his nose and burn there forever, like when you have to

sneeze but get frozen on the most warped face; I want to annoy him till he dies.


Back in his studio (yes, studio, he talks really one-bedroom though so you’d never know)

we’re done the scoliosis talk, thank God, but now he’s launching into something about my

undeveloped sense of self—like, could I even name in words what value it is that I’m adding to

his life, what do I actually bring to the table—so it’s really more of a lateral move.


I can’t take it anymore so I talk, and I tell him just so he knows, I really don’t give a fuck.


“Just so you know, I really don’t give a fuck,” I tell him.


Turns out, it’s the best thing I’ve said all day. I see C’s back start shaking like he’s

laughing and then he turns around to look at me and something about his face looks like that

fucked-up little doorway in Coraline and I want to throw buttons over my eyes and run inside.


At around 3, he says, his sister, PhD will get in. But for now it’s barely 11. My sweat

could fill up his mattress and flood his whole apartment and from his open window, the sun

burns a hole through our skin and the floor and the thin ass walls that hold us into our little point

on the grid. I tell him I am the hungriest person in the whole world.


“I am the hungriest person in the whole world,” I tell him.


And then I wait for the next speech to start: I wait for him to ask if I’ve ever in my life

used the mini elliptical he gave to me when he moved last fall, I wait for him to say how it’s not

good for your gut microbiome to eat when you’re baking hot, I wait for him to circle back to my

undeveloped sense of self and how it’s impossible to really support someone so wishy-washy.

But what he says is that he’ll pour me a bowl of cereal, and then he gets up to do it.