Do You Think You’ll Notice?
By: Chris Somos
I guess I’ve been missing the mark lately. Just last week, I bought those discount pleather boots from the thrift shop on Stournari. I showed you them, you frowned, typed something into your phone, and looked at me. I’d never bought anything second-hand (my mom would probably have an aneurysm), but thanks to you, I even saved some money. And helped the environment, which is what I thought you’d be most proud of. Turns out, you had just become vegan after one of your midnight research dives on that thin aluminum Mac of yours. And, according to your cell, the soles of my boots were unethical. They were glued to the rest of the boots with something called isinglass, which is made from fish guts.
I should’ve known or researched it on my phone. I’m sorry. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable around anything I wear. To make up for it, I give the boots to the man living on the sidewalk below our building.
“Thank you, sistah,” he says, and I run back upstairs to continue my apology.
I use the mirror in front of the bed we share (most nights) to place your homebrewed balm along my arid lips, making them a dusty amethyst. I pray the smell of garlic from my fingers doesn’t latch onto the balm as I apply it. I don’t want you to smell the surprise when your nose approaches my mouth. I want you to smile when you see the cheesy vegan garlic bread I made you. Hopefully, you’ll taste the time it took for me to find one of the only stores in Athens that sells your pricey Violife cheese. As you bite into the bread whose dough I’ve kneaded over and over with my hands, maybe you’ll even taste the lightness in my pockets now that I’ve spent a day’s worth of tips from cleaning your grandmother’s rooms to let.
She was right, you know. As I scrunch the olive oil she gave me into my tight bleached-orange black curls, they do glisten like fizz on top of my Coca Cola skin. Do you think you’ll notice? Like you say, I’m much better at seeing these things. While passing my earring’s fishhook through my lobe, I remember when you gave it to me three years ago. When we first moved in together. Originally, it belonged to a pair that were in the shape of soundwaves based on a recording of your voice saying, “Agapiti fili,” beloved friend. One word for each ear. I’ve lost the one, so a single stiff soundwave dangles from my left ear. I have no clue which of the two words it stands for, but it’s metal, so it’s a safe to wear around you.
I stand up and shift my weight from one foot to the next. My belly and breasts romp beneath my tight white top. It’s probably what we looked like when we were thirteen, playing under the clean sheets of your squeaking single bed. We hid under there after Mihali had kicked a ball in your face. It was the first time I licked the pain from your lips. It made you smile, and I laughed.
Your keys scratch at our door before you unlock it. I cover my jiggling bumps with the red button-up your mother bought me last Christmas. I see you, and then Mihali, walk in as I enter the living room. A weight nestles itself in the cradle between my clavicles.
“Gen!” you exclaim while walking up to me, holding his hand, and brushing your cheek against mine. Your empty hand glides over my arm hairs, and I fixate on the scar above your lip. Once your fingers reach my button-up’s short sleeve, you pull away.
“Do you know how many silkworms were killed for this?”
“Your mother bought it for me last year, remember?” I say, pausing for an answer. “I thought you liked it when I—”
“Come on, Zeta,” Mihali says. “I definitely struggled to learn all the dos and don’ts when I first became vegan.”
You mumble something as Mihali pulls you onto our couch in front of the plate of sliced bread covered in synthetic cheese that refused to fully melt.
“Oh wow,” he says looking at the bread. “Gen, did you make this?”
“Yeah. It’s nothing special… Just some garlic bread. And you don’t have to worry; I used Violife for the cheese.”
You both smile with every single one of your teeth.
“Told you she gets it,” you say, slipping your hand between the buttons of Mihali’s shirt. I sit next to you on the other side, taking my button-up off. Another gift for the man downstairs.
“Really, Gen, what can’t you do?” Mihali starts. “Not only do you write awesome poems, but you can cook as well. Your future husband will be really lucky.”
You cough through those red watermelon cheeks, squeeze the hand you have on my knee, and rip the stocking covering the leg you pulled away from Mihali’s grey jeans.
“How’d you know I write poems?”
“Zeta showed me one you sent her. I think it was about kids hiding under blankets or something.” He reaches over and grabs a slice of garlic bread.
A stream from the setting sun collapses on my cheeks. A light reflecting from the shape of your voice clinging to my ear sways from the plate of bread to our glass tabletop and back.
“You showed him?”
“Well, yeah. It was really good.”
“It could’ve been better.”
You could’ve not put Mihali there, right under my white top, under your squeaky-clean sheets.
Chris Somos is a Greek writer currently completing his MFA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. He enjoys writing and reading narratives that call attention to a story’s existence as something fictional, and that also deal with broader questions of what constitutes a story and makes it believable. Thematically, his work often deals with identity and how stories can influence one’s sense of longing and belonging. Chris is an emerging writer whose fiction has previously appeared in Two Thirds North.
You can find Chris on Twitter @PaneledProse.