Note: This is a knockoff, homage, imitation of The Isaac Babel story, First Love. It’s from a class I take in college where we read hotshot writers, talk about them, and try to write like them. Isaac Babel kind of had it rough. Comparatively I can’t really say the same. If I had to choose I would say the worst thing that happened to Isaac Babel was getting shot by Stalin’s army.
When I was 28 years old I responded to an ad on craigslist regarding an apartment with an extra room for rent. The place belonged to a handsome couple named Swen and Amy. Their last names were both Smith, weirdly, because they were not married. Upon first meeting them I locked eyes with Swen and felt an immediate, suffocating desire that seemed painfully reciprocated. Amy was insufferable, ogrish, and I’d have liked it if by some miracle she had dropped dead on the spot. Instead, with full faculties, she eyed me up and down while candidly expressing her discomfort with the situation. There had been some confusion. My name is Chris and all the preliminary correspondences had been done over email. They’d assumed I was male.
Still staring into Swen’s handsome blue eyes, I did what I often do in these delicate situations, which is to say the exact opposite of what I am really feeling. “The truth is, I’m a lesbian.”
And so we lived together for some months in this unfortunate arrangement. Swen and I brushed hands at the coffee maker, stole glances during commercial breaks, and generally felt the heavy weight of misery hanging down on us. All the while I took care to stifle any overt signs of heterosexuality (moments of shrillness, romantic comedies) and accentuated the homosexual (flannel). On the loneliest of nights, through thin walls, I could hear them making love, signified mostly by Amy’s harsh commands, a voice ravaged by too much smoking and vinegar. She insisted loudly where to stick things and at what speed and duration. It caused me great agony, but what’s the use of talking about it? Our unhappiness persisted.
A mob of hired murderers ransacked our shared apartment and murdered Swen and the kittens. For 14 years of my life I had dreamed with my whole soul about kittens. Eventually, through a series of convoluted circumstances, Amy permitted me to bring home two of them, and then this unpleasantness. I found Amy there on that sad morning cradling Swen’s remains, his entrails spilling out like long strands of sausage links. When she saw me walk in, the truth of my subterfuge suddenly came to light. In revenge, she lunged toward me with a handful of red kitten sludge and smashed the mess into my temples.
“Now we should probably clean up,” Amy said. “We should clean up, Chris. Our hands and faces are covered in fur, and the fur is bloody.”