Sophie Tegan Gardiner
I Think About You All The Time
When I get home it’s wearing my clothes again, watching the heat from its cup curl up into the dark. I fumble out of my boots, coat and it turns towards the glass. It watches as I unhook my bra underneath my shirt and manoeuvre until I can pull it out the armhole. The outside light is on and tiny shadows cross the brightness.
What’s for dinner?
I lump down on the couch, fist the pile of grey plastic bags towards it. It uncurls and comes in from the balcony, leaves the door open to the night. A moth follows it inside and starts to bump between the three globes hanging from the ceiling. I lazily think about squashing the moth shapeless.
It takes the bags from my hand, leaves dark pink dents behind. Out come tomatoes, garlic, Israeli couscous, mint, parsley, Green & Blacks chocolate, a small packet of pink and white candles, Danish butter. It picks through for a moment.
Forty-minute brownies and tomato couscous.
I raise my eyebrows into an affirmative. It bends down to turn on the oven. The gas works on the third try, finicky blue. Its face lights briefly in profile, thrown against the wall behind it. It looks happy. It’s hard to tell.
It waves two packets of tiny tomatoes at me. I nod.
It nods back, takes my favourite knife and starts to cut. It places the tomato halves in straight rows on a baking tray. Olive oil, flakes of sea salt. When it moves the tray to the oven they wobble all over the place. The brownie mix is fast to make. Chocolate and butter melted into the rest of the ingredients, in at the same temperature as the tomatoes.
My phone lights up with a text from Harry: HAPPY BIRTHDAY HAG. I send back two kissy faces. He promises to call after his date, which means tomorrow.
We eat on the floor in front of an episode of The X-Files. It dumps a bowl of couscous in my lap and then hands over a slick bottle of white wine. I have to bring up Wikipedia’s List of The X-Files episodes because they all seem similar. We watch ‘Fearful Symmetry’; a tiger has disappeared without a trace. We pass the bottle between us.
In forty minutes, I cut two thick squares of brownie. I open the packet of candles and stick one in each piece. It goes to get the matches from the bedroom drawer. It lights the wicks and makes me lick the flame out. I turn off the lights. The room is warm and dimly orange. It sits across from me, outlined. We blow at the same time. It looks happy, and then it is dark.
When I was younger it wouldn’t come out of my room. It stayed in bed for months at a time, the sheets pulled all the way up over its head. It only ate grapefruit, made huge collections of thick peel on the bedside table. The air still smells citric. These days it mainly haunts the balcony and prefers to leave half-drunk cups of tea around the house. It likes to cook.
It has only ever met Harry. He says it looks like a sentient gimp suit, but not shiny enough. I usually go to his place.
The text from Harry comes when I’m on the train: I THINK I MIGHT HAVE SCABIES. I reply: YUCK. THE CLINIC LADIES WILL LOVE YOU.
There is a boy-pirate staring at me. He is angry in a way that’s exciting, even for me. Every finger has a ring on it. I consider getting the pirate’s number for Harry, but his jewellery fear is probably preventative.
(How many gays do you know that don’t wear jewellery of some kind?
The normal ones.
That’s reductive. Watches?
Sitting two seat-blocks in front of the pirate is a girl with skin that goes on forever. The bleach has almost grown out of her hair. It’s black, European-curly, the tips just frosted. She has a small Capricorn tattoo on the soft, fleshy part of her inner arm. I consider being the person that would ask for her number.
She walks past when she gets off at Britomart. She smells rich, but also a bit like a baby. Warm. I keep the smell inside me all the way home.
There’s a plate of sausages, beans and mashed potato glad-wrapped in the microwave. The tomato sauce is still on the bench.
It is already in bed, watching another episode of The X-Files on my laptop. I climb in beside it and watch the shapes on the screen move. It shuts the lid when the episode finishes.
There was a girl on the train today.
The blank head is looking at me, slowly. Its body starts to ooze under the sheet. It folds itself into my neck, my armpits, in between my legs. It holds me like a skin. I fall asleep like that. The light stays on all night.
It requests apricot chicken, so I leave to get chicken thighs and canned apricots in juice. When I come back the dining table is set. The rest of the pink and white candles have been stuck into the perimeter of a grapefruit. It burns like a bouquet. The spent match is crumbled next to a fork. The wine sweats quietly onto the Formica.
After dinner I stack the dishes into the sink. I collapse into the couch while it makes a cup of tea. It places two mugs carefully on the carpet by my feet, then stretches out with its head in my lap. I stroke along its solid crown and it relaxes against me. With the other hand I reflexively check Facebook, then open Tinder. I tilt it down so we can both see the screen. A text from Harry appears at the top: HAPPY VALENTINES DICK.
It reaches up to swipe right a couple of times, on women that look like they’d kill me. It starts a few conversations. I don’t continue them.
Sophie Tegan Gardiner grew up inside a park in metropolitan Auckland. She moved to Melbourne in 2015 and is currently completing her last year of creative writing at RMIT University. Her work has previously been published in Signals, Twinge Zine, Voiceworks and the Bowen Street Press Review, and most recently on the Meanjin blog.