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5

“I killed a man before, you know.”

It’s 3:12 pm, an awkward time for us to be preparing food. I’m not sure if we’re making a late lunch, an early dinner, or just afternoon tea. I’ve been struggling to open a plastic case of Granny Smith apples; meanwhile, he’s been slicing some tomatoes to add to the salad. I pause as his words finally register in my mind. I glance up at him, my fingernails still jammed between the sheets of plastic. He’s calmly slicing those tomatoes. Chop, chop. Meticulous. The V of every wedge of tomato looks like it measures the exact same angle. The afternoon sun is radiant, turning his dark brown hair almost reddish-brown in its golden light.

“What?”

He grins. Chop, chop. The veins on his arms are prominent—not bulging, as that would imply some kind of force or effort. His forearms are just always that veiny. He holds another tomato with his left hand as his right carefully drives that knife down through the taut skin. I can almost see the blood pulsing through those veins. They’re unnerving, yet fascinating; I’m always afraid he’ll catch a vein on a zipper and rip himself open if he’s not paying attention.

“I killed a man before. In cold blood. With a knife, just like this one.” Slice. “Stabbed him forty times in the chest.” A seed covered in yellow-green ooze pops out of the pink flesh. “Blood everywhere.”

My heart pounds loudly in my chest. Slice. Chop. Ooze. We’d just celebrated his thirty-fifth birthday last week. It’s not a particularly special age. We’d gone to the new Italian restaurant around the corner, ordered a couple of dishes that were different enough to give us a false sense of adventurousness while, at the same time, familiar enough to still be comforting. And we’d had a couple glasses of red wine, enough that we were giggly on the walk home and warm despite the chilly autumn breeze. Overall, it wasn’t anything special. We’d sat on the living room couch afterwards and watched whatever movie was on HBO until the buzz wore off. We made love afterwards; he came a half-second too early, and I a half-second too late. The night wasn’t dark enough to hide his poochy tummy, a remnant of his college days. He’d suck it in whenever he saw me looking, though.

I’d snuggled up to him afterwards. We had the comforter covering us from only the waist down; the room was still warm and stuffy with sweat. I cradled my head in the crook between his shoulder and chest like I did every night, and I fell asleep. He’s warm, and my head fits there perfectly.

I let out a single laugh. More like a scoff, really.

“I don’t believe you.”

I slide my fingernails between the plastic and finally find a gap under the clamshell. With a tug, the case pops open. I take the apples over to the sink and run them under the water.

Slice. Chop. I glance over at him from the corner of my eye. His grin falters, and an inexplicable expression crosses his face. His brows soften from the happy arch they were in before. He looks sad, almost. Distant. The blade of the knife rests against the skin of the tomato; I can see the dimple in the reflected light where that thin edge is pressing down against the tension of the skin.

“No one does.”

Rendez-vous

Image of Rendez-Vous, September 2019 issue
5

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