by Michele Markarian
About eight months into their relationship, Dale told Karla he was starting to feel horny for men again.
“What?” Karla was stunned. She and Dale had been enjoying a very physical relationship that he’d been after her for months to consummate. They’d met when Karla was living with someone else. He was a friend of a friend in their circle who showed up one night in a club and joined them at their table.
“Little accident with the Daisy?” he’d asked Karla, noticing a bright red scab on her heel through her nylons. Karla looked at him, surprised. What kind of man knew about such things? This one was beautiful, with Roman features and light brown eyes, like a thoughtful animal.
“He’s after you,” her boyfriend would say accusingly, each time they’d run into him.
“I think he might be gay,” offered Karla, just to shut him down.
Her boyfriend snorted. “Gay, schmay. He loves you. He’s always staring at you.”
Turns out they were both right.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” sobbed Karla. She’d left her boyfriend the year before and had been crashing on the couch with friends in Beacon Hill.
“Come over,” said Dale. “Call a cab. I’ll pay for it.” Feeling a desperation that belonged in a Jeff Buckley song, Karla did, sobbing the whole way. She got to Dale’s tiny Fenway apartment around 1 a.m. He hugged her while they sat in the kitchen to discuss his feelings.
“I haven’t done anything yet,” he said.
“Don’t you like being with me?” Karla knew she sounded ridiculous even as she spoke. If he liked men, he liked men. That’s when she noticed the cockroach, a nut brown bead scurrying across the counter. She screamed.
“What?” asked Dale. He turned around. “Oh. Yeah. They’re everywhere.”
“Since when?” croaked Karla.
“Eww.” Karla shuddered. “So what do you want to –“
“Why can’t we just keep seeing each other?” Dale sounded hurt, and reasonable.
“Because you’ve just opened up a huge door.” Karla noticed another cockroach, this time in the sink. She grabbed a glass from the counter and capped it over the bug.
“I like that glass!” protested Dale.
“So you want to be non-monogamous, then? What about AIDS?” challenged Karla. A larger cockroach appeared to be climbing over the glass.
“Well, duh, obviously I’d be careful. I don’t want anything to happen to either of us. I really care for you, Karla.”
“I love you, Dale,” cried Karla. “But if non-monogamy works for you, it’s gotta work for me, too.” A cockroach waited on the wall and listened.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Dale crossed his arms.
“It means it has to work for me, too. Do you have any bug spray?” Karla’s eyes darted to the wall.
“How is that going to work for you?” Dale rummaged under the sink.
“If you can see men, so can I.” Karla wasn’t sure why she was saying this – she didn’t even want to see other men – but it seemed fair.
Dale looked at her thoughtfully. “No,” he said.
“What do you mean, no?”
“I mean, no. I wouldn’t be cool with that.”
“Bug spray, please?” Karla noticed wall cockroach was joined by a friend.
Dale went back under the sink. “Sorry, Karla, but it’s not the same thing.”
“Sure it is.”
“No it isn’t! It’s different. I should be enough for you.” He came out from under the sink, holding a can of Lemon Pledge.
“Sorry, this is all –“
“And I should be enough for you!” Karla screamed.
“I can’t even believe you.” Karla was near tears. When did Dale become this possessive and sexist? She found herself inexplicably turned on. She grabbed the can of Lemon Pledge.
“What are you doing?” Dale demanded.
“Dale. Let’s some make art”. Karla sprayed the cockroach that was now scurrying down the wall. It stuck in place, frozen and stiff.
“Nice!” Dale nodded his approval. “There’s another one.” He grabbed the can of Pledge and sprayed. A cockroach stopped mid-scurry, stuck to the wall like a magnet.
“Right there!” Karla screamed and pointed. They took turns pointing and spraying until the walls of the kitchen were a cockroach mosaic, decorative rather than dirty. Dale pulled Karla by the arm and led her into the bedroom. Over the course of the night that was left they could hear them falling, hitting the floor with a crack, little legs suspended to the ceiling.
* * *
Michele Markarian is a short fiction writer and playwright. Her work has appeared in Bridge Eight, The Furious Gazelle, Daily Science Fiction, The Journal of Microliterature, Moida Magazine, and several anthologies. A collection of her plays, “The Unborn Children of America and Other Family Procedures” is available on Amazon.