You Will Want Me When I Disappear

"I'd Never Felt So Light" by Thomas Renjilian, recommended by Electric Literature

Introduction by Alyssa Songsiridej

Is it possible to make someone love you? Can you anticipate your partner’s unconscious desires and force yourself to deliver them? The answer to both questions is “definitely not,” but for Michael, the protagonist of “I’d Never Felt so Light” by Thomas Renjilian, the answer is “absolutely, yes,” and the disjuncture between his internal confidence and external reality sparks the tension and anarchy in this hilarious, unpredictable story. 

Michael is a volunteer ESL instructor with exactly two students. His instruction mostly involves making them repeat phrases like, ​​“Let’s torch the church and go to brunch.” One of his students appears to be a native English speaker and thinks that she is in college. Michael lives with, and also off of, his boyfriend, who he senses is pulling away from him. His solution is to commit to a diet of “boiled carrots and egg whites,” which rightfully horrifies the boyfriend. This doesn’t deter Michael from his plan to starve himself. “A major problem I had with the men I dated was that I knew what they wanted better than they did,” he says, articulating a thought that begins as a well-trodden dating complaint and then ends in an outrageous statement. Michael also reveals, unwittingly, the ways in which his certainty keeps him from really seeing other people.

It takes a rare talent to make a diet of “boiled carrots and egg whites” humorous, but Renjilian is such a talent, and this story is one of the funniest I have ever read. Each detail is carefully placed and reflects a consciousness that sharply observes the world but is unable to actually digest it. Renjilian makes Michael’s proclamations so definitive that they seem correct, but they always land somewhere strange. The logic is 80% sound and then 20% chaos, like when Michael thinks he will successfully seduce a poet because sex with him is great material for a sad poem. “​​There was already one published poem about how sad sex with me could make a person,” he notes. “It had been nominated for, but did not win, a Pushcart Prize.” 

The whiplash and pivots of Michael’s consciousness keep the reader wide awake, following a voice about to dance itself off the map of narrative expectations. Renjilian brilliantly balances contradictory elements, creating a story intentionally chaotic, outrageous, and daring. You may not want to date Michael, but you will definitely want to keep on reading about him.

– Alyssa Songsiridej
Managing Editor, Recommended Reading

You Will Want Me When I Disappear

I’d Never Felt So Light by Thomas Renjilian

The night my boyfriend switched from when to if while he talked about our future, I said I’d eat nothing but boiled carrots and egg whites until I dropped twelve pounds. One for each month we’d been together, though I hadn’t planned that. I just picked a number. Twelve would make me small enough to please him. At that size, he could throw me around in bed, and when he finished, I’d be small enough that he could toss me over to a chair where he could ignore me until he needed me again. Now, at one hundred and thirty-five pounds, I was unavoidable.

I liked a lot about him, so don’t ask. I liked that he was a hobbyist metalworker. I liked his apartment with a view of a building that looked like but was not the Statue of Liberty. I liked that he liked some dogs but not all of them. When he ignored a dog, it broke my heart. I’d never empathized with a dog before. I liked how he showed me emotions I didn’t know I had. Sure, he probably served some metonymic function, too, alright? The way someone quiet and distant becomes who you imagine them to be, and in their silence, you become everything you fear about yourself, so you try to bridge the gap, attain a sense of self which you hope to be, but suspect is not, consonant with that person’s love. I was always grinning wide and saying, “Is there something in my teeth?” He’d never tell me. He’d say, Stop pretending I’m a mirror.

“If you only eat boiled carrots, what restaurants can we go to?” my boyfriend asked.

“And egg whites. Boiled carrots and egg whites. There are a million places with that.”

“Michael, I’m not going to watch you eat that.”

He was lying. A major problem I had with the men I dated was that I knew what they wanted better than they did. I know this sounds presumptuous, but explain this: the smaller I got, the more they fucked me. The cheaper my meal, the more they brought me out to eat. The quieter I stayed, the more they laughed and called me clever, even though they were the ones who’d made the joke.

If they admitted what they wanted, it would be considered abuse, and these were nice guys, so I just had to guess. I asked if he had a peeler. He went to the drawer and handed me one. I hadn’t even bought the carrots yet.

By the time the sun woke me up, my boyfriend had left for work. Everything in the room was white. I looked in the mirror. I was a stain on the sheets. He always woke up before me to jack off. The cum-filled tissues he left on the bed were already brittle. When I woke up feeling sexy, I’d jack off too, usually into the same tissue, to save trees. When there were no tissues left on the bed, I assumed he was planning to cheat on me during the day and was saving his cum for that.

I always woke up feeling sexy. His body drove me crazy, especially when it was gone.

After I came, always thinking of him, I felt sad and imagined a bunch of little scenes between me and my boyfriend. First, I imagined I’d said something that impressed him in a conversation, something about Flaubert, whom I’d never read but often pretended to know about in my daydreams. But my boyfriend only liked mystery novels and books that made new arguments for capitalism, so then I imagined I said something about Flaubert at the wrong time, like at a work event where everyone else was talking about pie charts or the world of politics, and where saying literary things looked pretentious in a desperate, grasping way. Then I imagined having a threesome with him and one of his friends, maybe Tony who was an amateur MMA fighter. In the fantasy, everything I did in the threesome got no response, but when Tony sucked his cock, my boyfriend came and said, “When you suck my cock, I’m afraid I’ll come forever.”

The problem was, I did not know what he wanted me to be. I tried so hard to be quiet when he wanted that, and sexually affectionate when he wanted that, and to affirm his ideas when he seemed to want that, but no matter how hard I tried to infer the partner he desired, my own traits kept seeping through. When they did, he did not like them. I’d say, “I read a new poem today,” and he’d groan. I’d have a horrible nightmare, and he’d wake up and say, “Maybe you’d be more comfortable out on the chair.”

I had this idea that if I became the willowy, weird anorexic boyfriend, he could know me as a trope, wear me on his arm, roll his eyes, and with my strangeness juxtaposed to his leading-man propriety, feel reassured of his own centrality in his life and our relationship. This seemed easier than any alternative.

For breakfast that morning, I gulped a little pool of coconut oil. I’d read it ran right through you, leaving nothing but pure energy and bright skin. I wanted to get better at letting loose what my body tried to hold. I ate a piece of bread for lunch, so I ran along the waterfront until I dropped to my knees and dizzily puked in the trash. People in Williamsburg threw away such nice things. Whole outfits! Nice suits and dresses damp with untouched delivery food. I opened a takeout container and salad dressing spilled out onto me. In this neighborhood salads were expensive. I could not afford this neighborhood, but my boyfriend could.

If my boyfriend did not marry me, or at least decide to stay with me, I would have to move to a bad neighborhood. What would I lose? Fake lady liberty, the leather furniture, the nicest bathroom I’d ever puked in. Most of all, the friends I’d made.

They were all bums. They’d all stayed in Williamsburg past when this was a place where bums lived. I liked them because I always stayed past the end of things too. I did nice things for them. I’d walk to the bodega and buy them canned drinks called Lime-A-Ritas. When they fell asleep in the sun I’d drag them to the shade under the BQE. I didn’t know their names, but I knew the feel of their underdeveloped forearms that I gripped like wishbones. I got real generous with my boyfriend’s card once and bought one of my friends a six-dollar ice cream cone. Then he told me he was lactose intolerant. I licked it and let it fall on the sidewalk.

After I puked in the trash, I noticed this same guy was lying there. He asked, “Was that bread? Bread would’ve gone good with the yogurt your roommate gave me.” Lactose intolerant my ass. I never knew when to believe my friends.

“Roommate?” I asked. “What do you mean.”

“That guy I see you up there on that balcony with.”

He pointed to our apartment. It hurt my eyes to look at the sun flaring where we lived.

“My boyfriend, you homophobe. That’s my boyfriend.”

“No homophobe,” he said. “Love fags. I am one. I was at Stonewall.”

He spooned a little yogurt.

Yeah right, I thought.

“He’s out of your league,” my friend said. “He’s a nice guy. Chiseled jaw. Like a Ken doll. Good musculature. Gives me yogurt and dollar bills. You don’t give me shit. You. You’re a menace. You’re a devil.”

He started cackling and hissing, a devil impression. I looked up at the balcony, the balcony where my boyfriend and I used to stand to look out at the world. He’d point at buildings along the waterfront and say, “I’ll buy property there and there and there.”

It was a major turn on for me, knowing he could have whatever he wanted. I’d imagine how he’d call contractors to come knock down walls, how he’d point and say “knock down that one” while I stood behind him nodding in agreement, feeling warm light come through the big windows. On the balcony, when he talked and I imagined and he put his arm around me, I’d blur my vision and let my body go limp and numb.

Under his winter coat he probably had a perfect body, a body that was barely there at all.

“Don’t talk to my boyfriend,” I said to my friend as I glared down at him. Under his winter coat he probably had a perfect body, a body that was barely there at all.

When I got home, my boyfriend was watching MMA fighting and jacking off so hard I knew he was about to come. When he noticed me, he groaned and stood, still holding himself. He said, “Where were you all night?” and went to bed. He was definitely going to leave me soon, and I had to do something to stop him.

I had another place I went, too. I taught ESL to recent immigrants in the basement of a church six stops east on the L train. I’d found the job online and signed up to prove a point to my boyfriend, something about my selflessness, but he didn’t care about my selflessness and neither did the students. Most of them had wandered in off the street looking for mass or confession or a bathroom and kept coming back because they had nothing better to do. A famous writer also volunteered there. Once I heard him ask a young black man which gangs he was in. I didn’t realize this guy was famous, and after I heard him say the gang thing, I was rude to him at the copier. We only had one book, so we had to make copies. I said, “Wait your turn,” like I was talking to a kid or a dog. Then I took a long time copying a list of “Ch” words: chubby, choke, chains.

My students were Claude and Jessica. Claude knew about fifteen words in English. Jessica knew English as well as I did. I taught them the same thing. Jessica was a single mom and a sales associate at DSW. When I went to buy shoes, I’d see her at the register and she’d say, “Hi shoe lover,” without an accent or any acknowledgment of who I was. She was white and said she came from Florida. I don’t think she knew where she was. Once, during a break, I heard her on the phone telling someone she was at college. Had I said something that made her think this was college? There were space heaters. All the chairs were folding chairs. There was only one book.

To teach them, I had them repeat whatever dumb sentences I thought of.

I said, “Let’s torch the church and go to brunch.”

They repeated, “Let’s torch the church and go to brunch.”

I said, “At every chance my boyfriend chokes the chicken.”

They repeated, “At every chance my boyfriend chokes the chicken.”

Claude only knew the sound and shape of words, not the words themselves, and Jessica just smiled. I think she thrived in situations where she knew exactly what to say, no matter what it was, and relished the absence of uncertainty. I related to this pleasure.

Sometimes I went on tangents. “This is not just about making the words legible, this is about making you legible.” I’d stand up at this part. “Legible to a system that does not want to see you as human, legible to the white heteropatriarchal State that quite frankly will never see you as human as hard as you try.”

When Jessica looked smug about being white, I’d add, “Even you, Jessica. You are a tool of empire.”

The speeches did not inspire. They clung to their insane dreams. Claude wanted to be an engineer. Jessica wanted to be a neonatal nurse. They asked me what I wanted to be. “Be!” I shouted. “You will spend your whole lives trying to be something and then the world will change what it wants from you.”

I lost four pounds in a week. The sentences I said made less sense to me but seemed to make the same amount of sense to my boyfriend: none. I looked at the yolks I cracked into the drain and said to my boyfriend, “Look, it’s the sun. An abortion of sun. Look at the albumen, the albumen’s the ghost of the sun. The ghost of the wasted days of youth!”

I cackled at that, the way my bum friends laughed when they saw rich kids struck by cars, but my boyfriend had already carried his laptop and its blood splatter sounds back to the couch.

I didn’t ask if he thought I looked better, and he didn’t try to fuck me more.

One morning, I brought my egg and carrots to the church basement in a Styrofoam container. Claude and Jessica kept pointing at it. Jessica called it “the sad breakfast.”

“My boyfriend makes me eat it,” I said. “My boyfriend is trying to fit me into clothes too small for my body.”

I’d assumed they were both homophobes, Jessica because she was so American, Claude because he was so not American. I felt bad about my surprise when Jessica said, “That’s not how a man should treat you. You’re the best teacher I’ve ever had.”

As if talent made someone deserving of love.

I was even more surprised when Claude said, “My boyfriend treats me right.”

“Who’s your boyfriend?” I asked with a kind of tone that implied, “Prove it.”

That’s when the experimental poet came in. An experimental poet volunteered at the church, too. He used to speak so quietly that you’d think you could ignore him, but he was so beautiful that you couldn’t help but strain to hear. Whenever I used to walk past the table where he sat to teach, I’d hear his students shouting, “What do you mean?” and “Speak up, please!” Recently, the director stopped giving him students because he was such a bad teacher, so he’d appointed himself as a sort of supervisor.

Power gave the experimental poet a renewed vitality. As supervisor, he would come around and listen to our lessons. He’d wait for us to make a mistake and correct our grammar even though in one of his poems he used the words “willow tree” as a verb.

“I didn’t know you were gay!” the experimental poet said to me. “You always just seemed depressed.”

I said I was both.

“Well then aren’t we just a bunch of homos?” the experimental poet said. “And you can be our fag hag.” He pointed at Jessica.

I hated the experimental poet because he was smarter than me and imbued his work with a quiet mystery, yet he could also fluently enact the tropes of gay male femininity, which made him outgoing, likeable, and unthreatening, even in his misogyny, to large audiences of morons. He had ten thousand followers on Twitter because he made jokes about anal bleaching and astrology, but I didn’t think anyone read his poems.

“I don’t have a boyfriend,” the experimental poet said, and I knew this did not mean “I’m lonely” or “I’m signaling availability.” He meant, “I fuck a lot of men.”

But maybe I could be one of them. He could probably tell fucking me would be good material for a sad poem. There was already one published poem about how sad sex with me could make a person. It had been nominated for, but did not win, a Pushcart Prize.

See, I had already begun to realize my diet was misguided. The more I saw my boyfriend jack off to MMA fighting, the more I realized he probably liked combative, muscular men. But this seemed unattainable. I could barely lift my pots of salty carrot water. If I tried to lift a weight I figured my arm would snap.

A few days earlier, I had asked some of my bum friends what they knew about boxing. I assumed most of them had at least done stints as boxers, but I was wrong.

“I only know about dog fighting,” the guy who lived in the trash said. “Do you want to know rule number one of dog fighting?”

“Yes,” I said. “That’s why I’m talking to you.”

“Punch him in the balls,” he said.

At home, I would playfully jab at my boyfriend. I’d say, “Think fast.” But I couldn’t squeeze my hand into a fist. I kind of pushed my half open hands into him. I felt like I was tickling him with a prosthesis that wasn’t mine.

“Would you quit that. What are you even doing?”


Maybe he resented that I could not hurt him and wanted to be with someone who could. I had gone about this all wrong. I had forgotten all gay men were masochists. Since I couldn’t hurt him physically, I could try to do it emotionally.

So, looking at Claude and the experimental poet, I had the idea. A double date. “Let’s all get drinks,” I said to Claude and the experimental poet. I felt light-headed as I said it. I’d never made a suggestion before.

“Bring your boyfriend,” I said to Claude. “And Jessica, I know you’ll probably have to watch your daughter or work at DSW that night, too bad.”

We agreed on next Thursday. I didn’t tell them I would invite my boyfriend. I wanted him to walk into the bar and see us already there. We would be having a visibly incredible amount of fun. He would not have a single word to say to Claude or the experimental poet. He would hate them both for their French accents. My boyfriend knew nothing of culture. In fact, he probably hated culture. He would not even realize that the experimental poet’s accent was fake. I doubted the experimental poet knew a word of French. My boyfriend would feel so uncomfortable. He’d see I was all he had, and he would see how easily I could have someone else.

We decided to meet in the West Village, where the experimental poet lived, even though Claude lived deep in Brooklyn. The experimental poet survived off of Amazon gift cards that older men sent him in exchange for short videos of sex acts, and Claude was poor, so we decided to meet at a cheap gay dive bar, the kind that had significance during the era of gay rights. Now though, it was too crowded and too sad, and though it was also too dark, the dim lights hung above each table revealed every blemish that had ever been on your face.

I got there first, ordered a martini and sat at the end of a semi-circular booth in the back. I was a little nervous. I wanted to look extremely hot. I’d worn a big sweater with a very tight shirt underneath for when we lost our inhibitions. All my tight shirts were not tight anymore. I bought a new one at H&M on the way. It was made for very hefty twelve-year-olds, and it fit me like a crop top.

I had one hour until my boyfriend would come. By then I wanted to be in my crop top and sitting in the experimental poet’s lap. I wanted to whisper poetry in his ear and to see how hard my warm, good breath and intellect made his cock. I was wearing baby blue briefs I’d had since I was in college seven years before. They were faded. The elastic was torn. They were the nicest underwear I had. I’d worn them for the experimental poet, or for my boyfriend, whichever wanted me that night.

I’d finished half of my martini and I was looking at myself in my phone camera when the experimental poet came in with Claude and Claude’s boyfriend. Had they come together? Had they gotten drinks somewhere else beforehand? Everyone was hiding something from me, cruel intentions and other attachments. As the experimental poet walked into the circle of light around our table, I saw that he had perfect skin. He probably drank more coconut oil than I did.

Everyone was hiding something from me, cruel intentions and other attachments.

“Oh my God,” the experimental poet said, more to the empty booth than to me. “Claude’s hilarious boyfriend is throwing serious shade on the government of Africa.”

“Wow,” I said. I knew the experimental poet was being ignorant, but I didn’t know anything about Africa either. I only read online descriptions of the nutrition in boiled carrots. My most recent internet searches were “how healthy are carrots” and “the newest sex moves.”

They crowded into the booth. The experimental poet took the seat beside me but did not gesture for me to climb atop his lap. Instead, he turned his body to Claude and his boyfriend. I yelled over his shoulder to make small talk. I asked Claude what he had for dinner. He thought for a while then said, “chicken and cheese.”

I didn’t know if this was true, or if these were the only words I’d given him to describe dinner, so I didn’t respond.

While the experimental poet kept asking Claude’s boyfriend questions, I just listened. The boyfriend had come to Brooklyn as a boy because of war. Now he was a bartender on the weekend and during the week he worked for Red Bull, leading focus groups. The experimental poet said there was definitely a poem to be written about that. He told us about his first poetry collection, My Diaspora, which was about leaving his childhood home to attend Sarah Lawrence.

“If the answer isn’t poetry,” the experimental poet said, “you just are not asking the right question.”

 I was starting to realize that the experimental poet considered this night to be more anthropological than sexual. He would probably mine Claude and his boyfriend for material to break into writing lyric essays that used the immigrant experience as a metaphor, and I would not get laid, and my boyfriend would still leave me. I went to the bar and asked for another martini. I asked for an olive, but they put a lime in it. I stood there sucking it, then I left the rind over my teeth, like a sheath of mold, and smiled at the bartender. He said, “Are you okay?” On the way back to the table, I tripped over a backpack. I said, “Watch it!”

When I got back to the table, my boyfriend was there. He’d taken my seat beside the experimental poet. He was in a conversation.

“I tried to find you,” he said. “I described you to these guys. They said you were together.”

How had he described me? How could he describe me if he hadn’t asked me a question in a week, if he didn’t even know I’d lost ten pounds? Had he even noticed the love my weight loss conveyed? He didn’t say anything about how he’d expected us to be alone. He didn’t try to pull me aside to the bathroom to say how much he’d been looking forward to an intimate date, where he could give me his full attention. I pulled up a chair and watched the four of them from across the table. My boyfriend turned back to the experimental poet and Claude and Claude’s boyfriend, and he said something in French. When had he learned French? It sounded beautiful. Everyone laughed, and then they each said something in French. I didn’t know French, and I couldn’t think of any English words either. When I tried to remember facts or stories or the types of questions people asked each other, I could only remember things no one wanted to know: the calories in an egg, the vitamin A in a baby carrot boiled in water with salt.

“I’m sorry we’re speaking French,” my boyfriend said.

“We?” I said. “We?”

Where did he get off being a we with my friends? I sipped my martini very fast to communicate something, but my boyfriend didn’t ever know what anything meant.

My boyfriend said, “I thought it would make Claude feel included. He seemed left out.”

In French, Claude was a real chatterbox, a life of the party. My boyfriend had brought him right out of his shell. I’d forgotten my boyfriend was charming, or that he could be. It made it all the more offensive that to me he was despotic and stifling. He held in all of his energy and humor and curiosity, so he could save it up and use it to charm other men in front of me.

I bet he’d saved up his semen and orgasms too. I tried to remember if there had been tissues on the bed this morning.

I tried to imagine what he was saying in French. The only French words I knew were ménage a trois and jouissance, so I was on the lookout for those. Other than that, I had to guess. I imagined he was complimenting Claude’s bravery and intellect, traits I was too stupid to even perceive in Claude, though surely they were obvious to someone as observant as my boyfriend. When he wanted to, like when he talked to Claude, he could see all the good in a person. In me he saw nothing at all.

I imagined what he was saying to the experimental poet. I imagined the experimental poet was blowing his mind with innovative ideas about language. I imagined my boyfriend now finally appreciated literature, even though I wrote poetry too sometimes and had shown him some. To me, he said, “I just don’t get poetry.”

Then why did he love the experimental poet’s poems, the ones I figured the experimental poet was translating into French for my boyfriend on the spot? The language of these poems was more abstruse, evasive, and yet, I could tell, as my boyfriend listened to the experimental poet recite his work from memory, he worked hard to understand it, and he came to new knowledge about life, knowledge he could never get from me. There was a new martini in front of me. I must have stood and gotten it. It was full of olives. Six of them. Floating there, an orgy of untouched prostates preserved in some scientific fluid.

That’s when Tony walked in. He was in a sweaty tank top. He was holding a gym bag.

“What’s Tony doing here?”

“Tony!” my boyfriend shouted. “Tony’s MMA gym is right down the street. He studied abroad in Paris, so I texted him to come on over. He’s been wanting to practice his French.”

Had they been practicing French together? Had they been whispering nasally French sex words to each other in gym locker rooms?

Tony slid into the booth beside my boyfriend. There was plenty of space in the booth for Tony. For Tony my boyfriend would defy the laws of physics.

“Tony, man,” my boyfriend said. “Your body is looking incredibly fit.”

He reached over and touched his bare bicep. My boyfriend hadn’t touched me in weeks.

“Bonjour, Michael” Tony said to me.

I did not respond. My boyfriend whispered something in Tony’s ear.

“Oh! I’m sorry. I mean hello Michael.”

“You,” I thought to my boyfriend. “You are an oppressive regime. You have skinned me alive, and you do not even know what I mean!”

But of course, he could not infer what I thought. Of course, he didn’t know how he made me feel. The words he and Tony said were getting quicker and quieter. They were huddling close together. I poured my drink and my olives into my mouth and chewed.

I could feel my chair rising from the floor. My body couldn’t keep it put. Then I was on the ground. Under the table I saw it, Tony’s bandaged hand on my boyfriend’s knee.

“Cheater,” I hissed from the ground. “Cheater!”

But Claude didn’t repeat after me.

“Bathroom,” I said, standing, backing away, watching all their bodies shrink and shrink until I knew I would look small to them too, until maybe they couldn’t see me at all, until I was outside and running. At a corner I watched the glowing red don’t walk hand. It was slapping me. Slap, slap, slap, but I didn’t feel it. That’s the last thing I remember.

I woke up on the sidewalk but not the sidewalk outside the bar. It was dark. My pants were gone and so were my wallet and phone and keys, which had been in my pocket. I was in my crop top. There were tiny rocks in my belly button. My baby blue briefs were dirty from the ground. I didn’t think I’d seen this street before. Had I taken off my own pants? Had someone else? Had my boyfriend come after me? Had Tony? Had I gotten in a fight with Tony? Had he knocked me out? I had no bruises. Had I been drugged and raped? My cock felt fine, not chaffed at all, and my ass didn’t hurt. I checked my legs and stomach and underwear for wet or dried cum. What happened to me and how long ago?

I must’ve gotten too drunk. I had a horrible sense of shame, which I only felt after speaking my mind, which I only did when I was drunk. I couldn’t remember what I’d said. Who had been with me? My boyfriend? 

A group of blond girls came up to me. They were wearing native American patterns sewn into crop tops. “Where are your pants?” they screamed. “This is the street! You need to wear pants in the street!”

“You’re bad ladies,” I screamed. “Bad ladies! Witches! You say you know the colors of the wind, but you don’t even listen to the wind!”

Then I hissed at them.

Then I was peeing my name onto the wall, or trying to, but I kept forgetting which letters my penis had to make, and anyway, I was too close to the wall. There was a lot inside me, but it came out slow. It made a dark descending stream. That’s when two guys in blue suits came up to me. “Someone had a good night,” one of them said.

“The experimental poet?” I asked. “What did he say about me? Was I good?”

I hoped I did the right moves and that he liked my body type.

“Once,” I said to the blue men. “My boyfriend said, ‘All your moves are from a list online.’ He read the same one, but he read it a long time ago. He had more practice with the moves. Plus he had new ones, too.”

The suit men didn’t understand. They pointed to their clothes, which were police clothes.

“Kid we’ve gotta arrest you or bring you to the hospital. You’re a menace.”

Yes, that’s it. That’s what I had been, but I said, “No, you’re a menace!”

They asked if I lived somewhere. I said, “No, but my boyfriend does.” I didn’t know if he was still my boyfriend. They asked where. I couldn’t remember where my boyfriend lived. I asked, “What if I know the neighborhood, but can’t remember the address?” I’d held onto it for so long. Was it gone? What about our bed? The chair where I’d hide? What about the MMA sounds? I missed my pots of tepid water I’d heat and reheat. What about my friends?

I said to them, “You don’t understand. You have to take me there. I still have carrots in Tupperware there.” I guess they didn’t hear me. “Please don’t let Tony eat my carrots. Don’t let him lose the weight I should lose.” I looked at my skin. I was glowing red. “This little light of mine,” I sang. “I’m gonna let it shine, shine, shine,” I sang. “I’m a lampshade from hell,” I said to the nice nurse when the ambulance came. “Jessica?” I said. “Jessica, my dear, I’m sorry I’m not who you thought I was.”

When they lifted me into the ambulance, I’d never felt so light. If only my boyfriend could see me. See me see me see me see me. I said it until the words merged together, and without space in between, neither meant anything at all.

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