by Curtis Snider
A woman wakes up in bed beside her ex-boyfriend and is at loss to explain how she got there. Inexplicably drawn to stay, she scours every square inch of the apartment they used to share, noting the traces of her presence that linger on, as well as the empty spots that conspicuously mark her absence. The deeper she digs, the more she understands how imperfect her relationship was – and the less willing she is to come up for air.
I HEAR HIS VOICE through the gauze of bed sheets, asking if I’m awake. Dishes clatter. The kitchen sink is running.
“Hmm,” I answer, approximating yes.
“Are you real?” he asks.
“Real?” The morning light is blinding. I blink and rub at my eyes. “Of course I am.”
“Okay,” he says. I hear him sigh. “Then get out.”
I force my eyes open.
This isn’t my apartment. This isn’t where I live.
I RARELY WAKE UP during the night, but last night I did, if only briefly. It was dark—as dark as night gets—and I was only awake for a moment, but it was long enough to feel his body beside me. My boyfriend’s body. Well, actually, my ex-boyfriend. He was sleeping next to me. It’s been months since we’ve shared a bed.
But this isn’t my bed. It’s his.
"WHERE AM I?” I ask, only to confirm the impossibility of it. I struggle to keep my eyes open against the damned bright light cutting through the window.
“You don’t still have a key, do you?” Half-dressed, he rushes from the bathroom into the kitchen, which is only a few feet away from the bed where I’m lying, and snatches a frying pan from the glowing stovetop. Using a metal spatula, he digs impatiently at two rubber-cement fried eggs. He runs late like this every morning, without fail.
“Did you kidnap me?” I ask groggily, sitting up.
He scoffs, still concentrating on dislodging the overcooked eggs. “Why would I want to do that?”
I gather a fold of sheets around my torso before I sit up. When I lived in this apartment and slept in this bed, I didn’t hide my body from my boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend. Why is that prefix slipping so easily from my mind this morning?
“I have to leave for work soon.” His tone carries an implicit instruction—or more appropriately a demand—for me to do something about this situation. He shovels the last bits of breakfast into his mouth and finishes buttoning his shirt.
Without answering, I retreat into my pillow and pull the sheets up over my head. I ball up, completely covered, the way I used to during our first year when I had no class and he had to work early. I should be considering my next action, but instead find myself lulled by the warmth of my own rhythmic breath. The sheets inflate and deflate around me like a bellows.
I can hear him scuttle around the tiny bachelor apartment, from the kitchen, to the bathroom, to the closet, and back to the bathroom. I’ve always found the “bachelor” part of “bachelor apartment” funny. Just by living here together, we were actively refuting it. Or is a man still a bachelor until he gets married? Whatever he was, we survived. It was cramped, but I didn’t mind it. Not until the end, anyway.
Still enveloped in my breath bellows, I hear the front click door open, creak, then shut. I hear no more breathing or moving inside the room. Just the whir of cars from the road outside. I peek out from under the sheets. He’s gone and I’m alone again.
about the author
CURTIS SNIDER is a writer and creator from Edmonton, Alberta. Growing up in a military family, he moved across the country more than a few times before eventually returning to Edmonton where he now lives with his wife and cat. He received his Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Alberta and when he’s not working or writing, he’s been seen acting, making short films, and performing improv comedy.
from the library
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Winner of the 2015 Friends of Merril Short Story Contest, When I'm Old, When I'm Grey imagines the strange — and strangely familiar — forms that fear and longing can take, as we venture forth into the unknown of the future.
The Psychology of Animals Swallowed Alive:
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Embark upon these twenty short, scrumptious flights of fancy from the unmistakable pen of Scott Prize-winning author Kirsty Logan, and you will be astounded, titillated, disturbed, amused, heartbroken, and above all, astonished.
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Marcel, a sensitive sniper, knew his life was missing something. But he didn't know what until he set his crosshairs on it: Violet Caine. A ginger-headed lover of Thai food, wanted dead simply because her brother messed with the wrong bike gang. It's a story of redemption coming too late, and the ways happenstance can turn a warm man cold. Then warm again. Whether fate wrote his troubled life, or he wrote it himself, he wants Violet Caine to be the end of it - be it figuratively or literally.
If You Waited Here, You Would
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After Ray collapses on the sidewalk outside a New York coffee shop, the bittersweet vagaries of his long marriage come into focus, one heartbeat at a time. From his new vantage point, flat on his back, all their conflicts are laid out against a canvas of sky, contrasting miscommunications and infidelities against something slower, steadier, and ultimately much vaster than he ever realized.
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Polly knows what she wants: to be in the greatest band in the world. Oliver knows what he wants: Polly. Together they are The Oughts, a duo trying to attain the unattainable, one basic chord at a time.
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“Margoshes gives us the life of Charlie Weinheimer: quadruple bypass patient, widower whose children all die tragically young, but not a whiner. In his hospital bed at age seventy-seven, he’s seen it all, right? Well, maybe not. Watch as Margoshes calls upon his raconteur skills to thicken the plot.”
— David Carpenter, winner of the 2010 Saskatchewan Book Award for A Hunter’s Confession