He is holes and rings. The cavities covering his body are eye-shaped, almond-shaped, pumpkinseed cutouts. She says not to worry, that she’s only going away for a week. “It rains there,” she says. “All the men are waxy and have bad teeth.”
While she packs, he takes a bath. It is like watching a kaleidoscope or an ant farm with all its tunnels, the way the water sluices through him, gushing past his gleaming organs and thrumming aorta. He gets a hand mirror for a better angle but no matter how hard he tries, he can’t see the holes in his head because they are up high on a shelf. When he tries shampooing his hair, the sudsy soap slithers into the craters and out through a spout near the back of his neck.Oh boy, he thinks.
He thinks she should not be going on this trip. He thinks he might call Bradley’s wife and get her up to speed. Bradley can get any woman he wants. He has a one already, why does he need two?
The clues were not a crumb trail but blatant, like someone who had marked their path in the woods so as not to get lost. A few things he found were: panties in fire engine red; citrus perfume; plum bruises inside her thighs; a pouch of mutant pebbles, all shaped like chubby hearts.
At the door he blurts out, “Bradley’s going.”
She tells him it ended months ago. She says, “If you don’t stop this, you’ll give yourself an ulcer.” But there’s a thing she does with her eyes, the way they skid sidelong when she’s lying, and they do that now as she leans in for her goodbye kiss.
Afterward, he goes back into the bathroom just as the last slug of the water gurgles triumphantly down the tub drain. In the mirror he sees how the holes have widened, melding into each other to form a single gigantic window. Now he is only an outline, like bread when people eat out the center, leaving the crust intact. He looks through himself, out the glassless window. He sees the room service cart, a shiny silver dome on top and unfinished food congealed. A foot away the mattress is moving.
When the phone rings the next night he hears it but cannot lift his arms because he doesn’t have any. His hands are faint glimpses of what his hands once were. His legs are the same way, as are his pelvis and penis. He doesn’t own an answering machine, so the telephone won’t stop ringing. He counts each one like an insomniac might count sheep.
If he’s still there when she flies home, she’ll say she called but he never picked up. She’ll ask if he ate while she was gone. “Look how skinny you’ve gotten, you’re almost invisible.” She’ll say there’s another trip in June. She’ll yawn wide as a grizzly, then kiss him dry-lipped with her eyes wide open and whisper, “Sweet dreams.”