…I awoke, amid sweaty sheets. There was a weight on my leg. I looked down; dark colors, blurry. A weight on my left leg; snoring to my right. I nudged the snoring thing. “Wha,” said the snoring thing. It was my girlfriend, Akiko, wrapped up in sheets like she was in a cocoon, a burial shroud. “What?” she said, the question soon enough merging into “What the fuck?” I was pleased. I hadn’t known for sure who was sleeping next to me; what a relief.
I arose, finding it harder than normal. There was this metal thing clasped onto my left leg, metal with rusty iron chains, making it hard to stand up. I was too hungover and unawake to register it beyond the fact that there was something horrible that must be dealt with. It was an anchor, I saw, like an upside-down metal cross. So I dealt with it. I lifted it heavily, and walked into the kitchen, where awaited the comforting chrome rectangle of the sink. The anchor was small at least, small but heavy; human-sized, at least.
I poured a glass of water, taking care to also pick up the bottle of Jack Daniels next to the sink. I hate Jack Daniels. I like Jameson instead. Why do people always fall for Jack Daniels; idiot people at parties trying to prove something. The bottle was about 1/8ths full; not great, but not nothing, after all.
Cigarette butts everywhere. Crushed into red and blue plastic beer cups, dropped into soda bottles, sometimes crushed into an actual ashtray, just for a change of pace. The anchor on my leg was heavy. It was an anchor; I had assimilated that concept now, without actually thinking about it.
“Seriously,” Akiko said.
She had entered the kitchen without my knowing. I was swigging down water while simultaneously finishing the 1/8th bottle of bourbon that remained. I felt that this was the practical thing to do, considering. She was glaring at me for drinking. Akiko was a bitch, which was part of the appeal.
I attempted to remember the previous night. Flashes of me singing a karaoke version of the “Sesame Street” theme song, into the microphone of our Playstation 3, in the apartment. This seemed like a funny thing for me to have done. I felt that I should have received some bonus points for doing well.
“Seriously what?” I said. “You’re as drunk as I am. …Or hungover. There’s still beer left, in the fridge.” Akiko was hangover too, swaying back and forth, with just panties on, and an absurdly random black undersized T-shirt. “I AM AN OSTRICH LOVER,” the T-shirt said, in silver glitter letters. The T-shirt had come from some thrift store.
“I don’t want a beer.”
“No? You want to stand there, hungover, and pissed off?”
Why throw a party anyway. I am an ostrich lover. I kept staring at it. The words were assuming the quality of an indictment, a haiku — hiding one’s head in the ground, but then, love. “You’re holding an anchor in your arms,” Akiko pointed out. “What the fuck, what the fuck? WTF,” she really said, pronouncing each letter.
“I dunno.” I had forgotten how heavy the anchor really was. I was doing alternating shots of water and Jack Daniels and it was nearly impossible, what with the weight of the anchor, and on my fourth try, I dropped the glass of water to the floor, where it shattered.
“I’ll get it,” she said. But I had already bent down to get “it,” was trying, riskily, to scoop up the pieces of broken glass with my hands. But she stopped me with her words. They were so mean, when clearly I was already scooping up the glass. I was mad, but there comes a time when seeing a beautiful girl’s bare legs is enough to stop one’s anger. Akiko’s thighs were dusky, svelte; in that moment I forgave her everything. And early morning light was pouring in through the kitchen window like the signal of forgiveness. ..And kingdoms have fallen, men have died, knights met their doom, for nothing more than the sight of a pretty girl in a short T-shirt.
She pushed me away, slowly, but with determination. The gradual moving away was meaner than if she had just shoved me.
“I’ll fucking get it,” she said.
“Is there some decision on your part to be as big a bitch as you possibly can?”
“You’re wearing an anchor,” she said. Her voice was very flat. “What the fuck.” She was skillfully sweeping up pieces of broken glass using a dustpan brush and a piece of funneled-up typing paper. “What the fuck.”
I gradually lowered my arms. I knew the anchor would clunk when it hit the floor, and I wanted to minimize this as much as possible. Still, it clunked pretty hard when I released it. I stared down. The anchor was rusty iron, but beautiful. If I could remove it, we could use it to decorate the apartment, in a retro sort of way. I tugged at the metal clasp around my leg. I could not remove it. It needed a key. “Did you see a key?” I asked her, feeling the hopelessness of the question, and the hopelessness of her inevitable response, and then of my response, and then the hopelessness that lay over and above and beyond that.
“No,” she said.
“Yeah; no. What I said.”
“…It’s heavy,” I whined. “So who put it on?”
“You did it or one of your idiot friends did it. So?”
During the previous night’s party, she meant. “Do you even recall even seeing an anchor? At the party. I mean, an anchor!”
“Doesn’t that make you curious?”
She had finished scooping; she funneled the glass shards from the paper into our large plastic garbage can, which was a huge dull black plastic thing; the largest thing in the kitchen, a huge thing more meant for piling endless piles of raked up leaves, for shrubbery, for enormous empty dog food bags, and then also for bunches of single clean Chardonnay bottles; for pleasant lives in the suburbs — but these were not our lives. I walked toward Akiko, which naturally involved hauling the anchor back up into both my hands, my arms; heavy. I tottered towards her slowly.
“I’d better go see a locksmith,” I said.
“I’d imagine,” she said.
“I think there are problems in our relationship,” I said.
“Yeah, duh, how.”
I was so disappointed in the moment. …This could be amazing! I thought. This could be beautiful! Magical realism! Me holding an anchor in front of my girlfriend; heavy thing weighing down my arms, me only wanting a kiss on the cheek, some touch of human contact. But she would ruin it, ruin it inevitably, somehow, and that’s the moment, the moment where you know, where every moment is a fuck you, everything is transmogrified into the worst; a beautiful flower stuck underground, reversed, petals mashed to earth, only the ugly roots showing, and screw that, fuck that noise.
“Fuck you,” I said.
“Go and find your thing,” she said.
“I love you,” I said.
“Yeah, well, fuck you; I love you too,” she said. She paused and then thought: “Also. As well.” She turned her face, her cheekbones flashing nicely in the sun. “…And?”
“Okay,” I said. “Okay you bitch. But before I go, there’s just one thing–”
Goddamn the anchor was heavy. She waited a deliberately long forty-five seconds.
“…Yeah?” she said.
“There’s just one thing left to say.” I held the anchor; so much weight. Had I put it on myself? So doubtful, it seemed. But also it seemed so very highly possible.
“There’s just one thing,” I said. but the weight blanked out my thoughts.
“Here it is–” I said, but I could not, could not for the life of me; not for the life of me — for the life of me I could not think of one single solitary thing to say.