Treacherous Body

She does not like being made of muscle. Too solid, too accessible to the world. Sensations meet too directly, too tender. Tenderized. She does not want to be cutlet or a steak. A meal. The feeling of her own hand against her thigh makes her think of words like sinew and flank. She does not want to be animal. She wants to be ethereal, but it is too late. She wears flannel pajamas under her baggy jeans; this helps a little. Winters are preferable. She has three pairs of snow pants.

She prefers not to leave the house at all. She is happiest when Pie is with her and they are at home, alone.

"We've got to get this place ready," she says to Pie. "Can you pick up some of those chains for the doors? Check the prices on window locks?"

"Go get some yourself," he says. He picks up his coat. He's on his way to work. "The hardware store is, like, a hundred steps away."

"I know," she says. She smiles a little because she wants him to have a good day at work. Things are easy for him--all his muscles work in accord with his mind. His body is joyful in its actions, and she doesn't want him to worry about her. His name isn't really Pie. It's Pierre, but no one is named Pierre and it is a name out of place. Pie makes him likable. He is often invited to cookouts and bachelor parties.

Pie kisses her and squeezes her shoulders. Shoulders feel good today. She leans into him to prolong the touch for a moment. She watches him jog to the car parked outside the garage.

Her name is Dolores. Also out of place, too old. Old even as a child, it never occurred to her to go for a nickname. Be a Dolly or a Lola. Lolita makes her stomach turn. Long Island Lolita. Long Island Iced Tea. She has never been to New York. They live in Trout Gill Grove, Wisconsin. Pie drives an hour to dump gravel into a landfill. It's a tight-packed small town. Sardines. Newly absorbed by the suburbs so that their neighborhood, once Main Street USA, is now the quaint part of a winding chain store-laden expansion. The increase in population and traffic make Dolores nervous. She used to think about having a baby to fill her days, like Pie fills the landfill, but now she thinks about securing the home. Homeland security. The body politic. Secure the body.

A mental list, made while seated on the couch:

• Two doors.

• Wait, three doors (forgot the porch entrance).

• Nine windows that can be opened.

• Four windows that don't open, but could be smashed.

One night, after it was dark, a neighbor knocked on the door. A new neighbor who could afford the increased property values with a fancy car and purebred dogs. The knock rocked the walls, shook the framed pictures. Pie answered and, using the cursory language of men faced with crisis, discussed shovels and sand. Pie invited him in to warm up for a minute while he fetched his boots and gloves.

The neighbor had cheerfully introduced himself, but Dolores lost his name while he apologized for the intrusion. He was not tall, but he was big, with a thick neck that was red from the cold and lack of a scarf. He glanced around. Nice place, he chirped as Pie returned. Together they went out to free the fancy car from the ice and snow of the intersection. Dolores went to the door (checking through the window that no one was approaching the house) and stood in the entryway. The ice from men's boots had melted into her socks.

A mental list, what is seen from the door:

• Kitchen: Mugs on the counter, built-in microwave, bag of coffee, old toaster, coffee maker. Oh Jesus! It was brand new. Chrome, even. Shiny. Tempting.

• Bathroom: Towels, hairdryer by the sink but no jewelry left out. Okay.

• Bedroom: Just a dark doorway. Nothing visible. Okay.

• The Study: Leaning forward, back of the computer visible. Shit.

• Living Room: Couch, speakers, coffee table with remotes. Holy crap. The TV well out of view, but worse if left to the imagination. She would rather the world know about their old TV with cheap DVD player and rabbit ears than be left to imagine a big screen plasma and home theater.

From the couch, alone with her skins, she calculates her homeowner's insurance, what will it cover? She is home, alone, for another eight hours, maybe eight hours and 25 minutes if traffic is bad.

On the other end of flesh feeling are her breasts. Her breast. She thinks of it as one thing, one endless span of discomfort. Too large, too soft. Always in the way like being trapped in a net. Like a fish that can't find its way home. This treacherous body. Hatred is not what she feels, hatred is too strong to be an everyday feeling. She touches her forehead. This is the simplicity that comforts her. Cool skin against bone without subtext, pretext or any meaning or value at all.

About the author:

Robin Rozanski lives in Minneapolis and teaches at The Loft Literary Center. Other pieces have appeared in The Cypress Dome, The Gihon River Review, and in brochures at an electronics retailer near you. She has a MA in creative writing from The University of Central Florida.