COUPLES by TASHA CORYELL

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His roommate called him a love junkie. There are words for too much sex, but not too much loving. Imagine being a nymphomaniac who loved everyone he banged and loved people he had never touched at all. The longest he had been single in the past five years was for three disastrous weeks. He didn’t sleep. He spent a lot of time thinking about his father.

She wonders how he had so many fucked up friends before. No one she knew in high school had gone to rehab for heroin and then relapsed repeatedly. It didn’t matter, at least he wasn’t fucked up anymore. He had never tried heroin, but she remembers a couple years earlier when he drank vodka straight out of the bottle and collapsed with his pants down in the bathroom all because he was sad. That was the first time she ever saw his penis. It embarrasses her, even now, to think of it that way: small and deflated. She’s never been sad like that before. When she’s sad she goes to the gym and runs on the treadmill until she feels better. He’s started going to the gym now too. He wears pajama pants because he doesn’t own any gym clothes.

She was a lesbian until her girlfriend got a gun. She argued, “Do you really need to have that in here and can I hold it?” The weight surprised her. The weapon that could shoot someone in the face and bang them over the head. There weren’t any bullets inside, but when the girlfriend handed her the gun, she practiced pulling the trigger.

The girlfriend put in some bright orange blanks, pointed the gun forward, and threatened to shoot her in the face. When the gun finally went off there was a faint pop and the orange plastic blank lay passively on the ground. Her girlfriend fingered the metal casing of the gun, practicing the insertion and removal of the bullets. It made her nervous the way her girlfriend held it, as if an extension of herself. The girl with gun hands.

She made the girlfriend put the gun in the trunk where no one could see it. There was nothing worse than being robbed with a weapon that’s yours. Nonetheless, while lying in bed she could feel the pistol pushing into her back as her girlfriend spooned her. She had only slept with a man once, but she could remember how his sleeping yearnings woke her up in the night, pressed against her back, hard and urgent, I’ll shoot, I’ll shoot. In the morning she woke up her girlfriend and said, “Get the gun and climb on top of me.” Her girlfriend replied, “I’ll shoot, I’ll shoot.”

Everyone tells him he’ll never find a girl like her again. He knows this. He doesn’t want a girl like her again.

It is rumored that his ex-girlfriend took her dildo, wet with her insides, and rubbed it on everything in his room. She, the new girlfriend, thinks about this sometimes as she touches his things. The claimed lamppost. The still unwashed sheets. Everyone talks about the wolf leaving its mark, but no one ever says what to do when everything has been peed on. What happens when a new wolf comes and pees in the same place? One time she read in Cosmo that it’s sexy when a girl wipes some of her vaginal fluid on her neck. When she reaches down between her legs, she doesn’t rub it on herself, but on the bed frame, marking all four posts.

She never expected that love would be like this: a constant ache that felt like the tearing of raw flesh. Perhaps wolf is the wrong animal.

He was an Older Man. They didn’t have sex, not for a while anyway. Instead they did this thing with their hands. It wasn’t holding hands exactly, it was more like a transference of energy with all ten of their fingers pressed together, sometimes their index fingers gently rubbing and she could feel this static between them, something she tried to pass off as their molecules touching, though she didn’t know anything about science. Once, as she pulled her hands away she tripped forward over a power cord and their lips almost fell together. She was glad that when it actually happened it was more purposeful, but she did feel guilty about it. Certainly this made her a Bad Person. He had kids that she had never met, in his house that she had never been to. One time, while they were sitting in a coffee shop they drew a picture of themselves turning into cats. That’s how they would know when they could really be together, he said. They would be animal.

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About the Author: Tasha Coryell is an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama. She is currently working on a novel about sorority girls. She’s had work at [PANK], The Collagist, and Sundog Lit. More work from Tasha can be found at tashacoryell.com. You can also find her tweeting under @tashaaaaaaa

Story Song: “Clench My Teeth”  by Caroline Smith & The Good Night Sleeps

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Clem/Poppy and Pinecone