1 essay

by Tiffany Jimenez

Tiffany Jimenez is from the San Francisco Bay Area. She earned her BA in Creative Writing from UC Santa Cruz and her MFA from Saint Mary's College of California. Other than being an ardent supporter of the imagination and the art of storytelling, she writes a lot, laughs a lot, startles easily, and loves potatoes.

Stacks

            What I like about Billy is that he locks me in. He kisses me goodbye, usually on the bridge of my nose, and when he walks out of our front door he takes special care not to slam it. He takes the full breath after it’s shut before I hear the jangle of his keys as they are turning the lock to lock. He doesn’t expect me to get up from wherever I am to lock myself in, and he shows in this small moment that he cares about me, that I’m precious enough to lock away for safety purposes. I, on the other hand, do not lock him in when I leave. In fact, I yell at him to do it himself. The truth is I don’t know what this says about how I view Billy as much as it tells you that I’m surprisingly careless and remarkably lazy. Or that I’m holding on to a lot of resentment. See, what I like about Billy is that he locks me in as he should and I can add this to a list of pros in our relationship.

            And then I hear the close of the apartment building’s door and his steps descending the front staircase and I might reposition my body in a meager attempt to do something spontaneous like walk outside to a store, a restaurant, a bar. I never do, though, because if I’m hungry—let’s get this out of the way now—I’m searching the freezer for anything to shove into the oven prior to preheating it, calling for Alexa to set a timer, baby-talking the kitten until I’m scruffing him by the neck because he hasn’t learned yet not to bite and attack my legs. There’s a lot of things I used to imagine myself doing while on my own or in a relationship. There’s a lot of things I’ll never get to do including get back to a normal sleep schedule (I’m constantly hearing things…). People complain that metabolism slows down as you age so watch what you eat now before it’s too late! I want to tell people that it’s the enthusiasm to do things that slows down. To worry about that instead. That daydreaming is really a waste of time. That it’s easy to lose what you never gave yourself room to understand even as you blabbed on to people about all of these things you do and want to do. You were fooling yourself. Forget about everyone else you were fooling. Age teaches you that in jarring ways. Age also teaches you that practice does not make perfect if you’re practicing the wrong things. That practicing distinguishing the sound of a bottle of whiskey from a bottle of coke clinking is not going to serve any other purpose than rob you of sleep.

            What I don’t like about Billy is that he’s consistent. It’s been three months since our wedding. When people ask how married life feels I say something smart like “you just feel a little more weighed down.” And I cover my smile with my left hand after saying it, you know, the one weighted down by my fat ring. I wonder if they understand this added effect. I do get some chuckles in response in addition to a tight grip on my shoulder from the older inquirers.

            Billy and I are approaching our one-year marriage anniversary. We didn’t tell everyone the truth, that we got married over seven months before the actual wedding, after seven years of being together, six of which we were living together, and two of which, were engaged. The logistics of eloping and what that meant wasn’t daunting until it was completed on that Friday in December that I’d “randomly” decided to call in sick for. At that time I’d been working regular overtime and though the day lost from work caused me massive anxiety, I thought getting married in lieu would remit all of the guilt. It’s fair to note that we’d tried eloping twice before, but Billy’s hesitation had killed it those two times as easily as it had with other things in our life including but not limited to euthanizing our dying cat and avoiding in-patient treatment for his alcoholism. The secret of elopement was thrilling at first. It gave us a feeling of security in our voice and confidence in our actions. We did not need parental approval to feel validated. Then tax season hit and the truth had to come out. How else would we be able to tackle filing!

            Two days ago Billy did not lock me in. In fact, two days ago Billy left before I could tell him to. And when he left, I locked both locks (when Billy locks me in, he only locks one lock). I locked both locks and I even followed the urge to act on an imagining of mine. With the encouragement of my kitten, who had decided not to bite at my legs, I pushed my double bookcase in front of the double locked door. Making sure to tidy the overflowing stacks of books once I’d done so. Within five minutes, I heard his footsteps ascend the front staircase. I heard the front apartment door open but not close. I heard him sigh as he realized the bottom lock was also locked. I heard his confusion when he turned the knob and the door remained latched (I’d quietly reached my hand behind the bookcase to re-lock the lock he’d just unlocked). I heard his frustration when he opened the door into something hard—he did this three times before I hissed at him to stop!

            Billy consistently drinks. Since our wedding he averages sobriety for five to six days. When he realized the bookcase was blocking the door, he pushed, and the bookcase almost toppled over while all of my neat stacks did. Hitting me precisely where I thought I’d protected myself.