The Word | Meg Harris

He says he loves the word fuck. It’s the way the word feels in his mouth, the consonant of it. It’s a badass word. He says make some fucking breakfast. He smokes his cigarette with the long slender fingers of his hands. Get the fuck over here he says and smacks the cushion next to him on the couch.

He is a wound. He’s an injuring. No matter what he does he harms her, a bite mark on her shoulder, spit in the vanity sink, semen on the sheets. He looks at her like he looks at himself in the mirror, like somebody-will-fuck-you-up-little-bitch and he runs a palm through his hair. Or he looks at her with a sweet and shy kind of a shame. This makes her want to kiss him until one of them cries or he says get the fuck off of me.

The couch is circa 1940s horse hair. And she didn’t know she’d spend so much time on it naked or it would be easier on her skin. True also of the carpet, the kitchen table, the stairs and so forth.

He likes to do the word more than say it. And so does she, more than she’d ever let on to anyone. She is his victim, truly, and mostly when he curves over her in a turgid suspense edging to relief. Fuck he says at last and only then looks into her eyes. She knows then she’s got him.

In halls, at the 7-11, on short car drives, or long ones, the cafeteria, on the PAT bus to the north shore, as she dresses for work, at the restaurant in Station Square, pretty much everywhere they are together; he lets her know what is important. It’s her hair. Or it’s what she wears. It’s the way she laughs or looks at the punk across from them on the bus or the way the punk looks at her. He makes her describe her day if they’ve spent it apart.

“He was fucking checking you out, wasn’t he? Yeah, I bet he was,” he says and flicks his cigarette into the sink of dishwater. It hisses out. On the night of the hissing-cigarette-dishwater, he sleeps in a hollow sharp rage. His back to her, shoulder blades pointed at her, a cigarette waving in the dim room. For every knife shot from his being, she grows more tender. She distracts herself with her daily beauty regime. Brushes her hair for long minutes, spreads a scent over her manicured feet, her elbows, and her shoulders. Chooses what she’ll wear the next day, slips into her nightgown. “Finally,” he says and, “shut the fuck up and get in bed.” She slips in next to him leaving a cavern of space between them and drifts off wordlessly explaining herself.

He wakes her pulling at her nightshirt. “What the fuck is this?” He says insulted that she’d dare to come to bed with anything on her body and again he turns away. She slips from her shirt and curls into herself and wrapping the comforter around her she sleeps. He wakes her again; he’s thrown the blankets to the floor and stands over her in the bed. He is naked and long and lean. He stares at her body and places his hand on her face his salty thumb into her mouth. She stares at his beautiful hips. Fuck, he says, his hand now in her hair and lifting her up to him. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

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