When She Leaves

By Rebecca Hannigan

Illustration by Lonnie MF Allen

 

There’s this skirt I always used to wear and sometimes still wear which sits all folded up in a tidy square in the bottom of my closet, in a drawer, in my dresser drawer, beside the socks. I pull it out every now and then, and sometimes it fits, and sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes it’s too long, and sometimes it’s not, and it’s funny because I never know exactly what it’s going to be until I take it out and pull it on over my legs and up on my waist, which is sometimes just how I like it and sometimes not.

Today the skirt isn’t there. It isn’t anywhere, and there isn’t anything in my drawer or closet. I’m in my towel after a shower, after soaping dripping soaking the carpet in my room, with nothing to sop me up. I’m not sure how this happened, how the clothes disappeared, why they are no longer here.

I decide to call my girlfriend.
She answers, at work.
“Hello?”
“Hey,” I say. I can barely hear. There’s a lot of noise on her end. “Where are my clothes?”
“I’m sorry?”
“My clothes!” I find myself yelling. “They’re gone!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You don’t know what I’m talking about! You don’t ever know what I’m talking about!”
There’s silence.
“I’m sorry,” I say.
She sighs.
I wait.
“I’ll be home at five,” she says.

By the time she arrives, I’ve dried off and ditched the towel. My face looks sour, but it’s because I just ate a lemon, wedge by wedge. I prop my elbows on the table, wiping a yellow fleck from my exposed breast and curling my legs tightly around the chair.

“What are you doing?” she asks, standing in the door and sounding annoyed.
“What are you doing?” I ask back.
“Coming home from work. Looking at you, confused. Wondering why you aren’t wearing any clothes.”
“Wondering? I already told you. They’re all gone.”
She scrunches her eyes and scratches her head.
“I don’t think you should really mind the fact that I’m not wearing clothes,” I say, slowly. “You should be happy. Right?”
She walks over and climbs on me, spider-style, pulling her pant-covered legs over my bare ones. “I am happy,” she says, in a tone that would suggest otherwise. “I’m just stressed,” she says.
I nod. “I can tell. And I’m sorry.”
She nods back, then drops her head to rest in the curve of my neck.
“I’m stressed too,” I say, stroking her hair. “To the point of disfunction, disuse. I mean, look at me. I can’t even get dressed.”

She lifts her eyes to meet mine, and lets out a laugh, which rolls across me like water, like taking a giant bath. I let my head fall back and find myself laughing as well.

“You’re ridiculous,” she says.
“You are too,” I respond, but at the same time, she says, “I’m leaving. I’m sorry. I have to.”

I look down at the stack of our thighs, with hers on top of mine, and I’ve known for a few days now that this was coming. I wouldn’t say, but I knew it. I wrap my hands around her calves and grip them tight. “Is there someone else?”

She shakes her head. “No. But also, yes. In the way that I feel like I’m someone else.”
My eyes are all wet, but I laugh. “You are so full of cheese.”
She also laughs. Because she is, and she knows it.
I’m still sitting there, with no clothes and an empty closet, when she leaves.

 

 

Rebecca Hannigan is a staff reviewer for Into the Void and junior editor for F(r)iction. Her work is forthcoming in Juked, and can be found in Stain’d, wigleaf, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, and elsewhere. For further reading, go to rebeccahannigan.wordpress.com.

 

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