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by Todd Zuniga


I finally agreed to sleep with Anissa.

The morning after, she wakes, leaves early, a forehead kiss goodbye. An hour later, I wake to my alarm, discover that in her place is a sprinkling of sand. Tiny black coal-colored flecks of it.

I use my hand as a broom.

It sweeps away so easily.

Anissa writes me an email and a text message that afternoon. Both sum up that she doesn't love me, she was just curious. I had slept with lots of women, but not her. Why not her? She just wanted to know. Now she does know, and it's not like she's in love with me, now, she says, but maybe.

Four days later she sleeps over for the second time, wakes early, a cheek kiss goodbye. The sand, again, but more of it. I feel it against my legs, arms, naked chest.

In a state of half-sleep, I circle it with my arm in a lazy way; pretend I'm making glass.

At a party she pulls at my arm, the one linked to a drink and the drink spills onto my hand, into my sleeve, all the way to my elbow.

"You don't have to love me," she says, "but why not?"

Shaking the wet from my arm, I open my mouth, tell her, "—

"I know," she says, cuts me off with a finger over my lips. "It was a rhetorical question."

She kisses her finger, my lips. Granules of sand on my tongue crunch between my teeth.

My friend asks, "She any good?" and I tell him to shut up.

"Whatever," he says.

I tell him that he doesn't know everything.

"I know she's giving you something you don't want, and you're giving her something you don't want her to have."

I tell him she's shrinking, a third of her is missing, and soon:  then what?

My mother dies in a horrific car accident. Seventeen people in all, on a highway. Babies, young children, a Doberman.

I decide not to fly home for the funeral, and panic the day-of when it's too late.

Anissa comes over with chicken noodle soup. She says she doesn't know what to say. We eat in silence and after I try to have sex. She tells me I don't have to try, that it's actually a bit weird that I'm trying at all. I go to my room, to bed, fully clothed. Anissa comes in, lies next to me.

I turn my back to her, go fetal.

The bed feels enormous; me wound into a ball, Anissa, now, half her size.

The next morning she wakes early, a lip-kiss goodbye.

I tell her I can't bear to be the source of anyone's disappointment. She says,

"It's a bit late for that."

As she closes the door behind her, I say, "What I meant was … ."

I sit upright. There are handfuls of her in my bed. I sift her through my fingers until my alarm sounds, and after.

I ask Anissa to come over. Three night's straight she stays. We bury ourselves in Kleenex — her stuffy-nosed cold, my grief. She asks questions about my mother and I parry with half-answers. We sleep, wake, blow our noses, sleep more.

"Are you going to ask me anything, ever?" she asks.

I shrug my shoulders and look down.

"It's come to this."

"To what?" I say.

"To nothing."

In the morning, she's gone, no kiss.

Wadded Kleenex cover the floor.

Sand covers the bed, a beach in place of the sheets. There is so much of it, so soft to touch — the kind of sand you'd think you could swim in. The kind you'd think no way it could ever hurt you.

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Articles in this Issue

The Things We Make, by Mary Phillips-Sandy
The Sting and the Honey, by Edmund Eugene Mullins
Richard and Anna Wagner, by Douwe Draaisma
323 Prospect Place, by Josh Jackson
Letting Go: Highschool, by Jeff Steinbrink
Geography, by George Konrád
Literature, by Todd Zuniga
Risk Management, by Peter Joseph
March 2007


Todd Zuniga, a Pushcart Prize nominee, is the founding editor of Opium Magazine and the editor of ESPN Video Games. His work has appeared in print in Small Spiral Notebook, Sweet Fancy Moses, and online at McSweeney's and elimae.com.

Where loss is found.

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