Credit: Daniel Fishel

Michael valued his cashiering job at CVS as if he were an investment banker. His dream was to work at the national office, despite my insistence that I would rather be dead than live in Woonsocket-where-the-fuck-is-that, Rhode Island. Every night, he ironed his employee polo, then used my straightening iron around the collar for an added crispness. I sat cross-legged on our bed, watching him spray a fine, even mist of distilled water over the navy cotton, following it with the smooth, sweeping movement of the iron. Michael would recite all of the current sales, as if I gave a damn that the Fleet Adult Enema Twin-Pack was 50 cents off. I feigned interest and focused instead on the tautness of the muscles in his ironing arm.

After 20 minutes, Michael would methodically hang his polo on the back of the bedroom door and brush his teeth, all the while sharing that the toothpaste was only $1.22 or that I should stock up on tampons while the store brand was buy-one-get-one. I suffered through his garbled, foaming sales pitch, studying the curve of his back as he bent over the bathroom sink.

Finally, he would turn to me. We made love slowly every night and without a condom, since they were rarely on sale. Michael was the only cure I had ever found for my chronic insomnia. So long as we made love, I fell asleep sweaty and tingling.

One winter night, Michael came to bed uninterested. I slid my hand down his abs beneath the sheets, but an inch from my destination, his hand seized mine and brought it back up to his chest. “Babe, do you remember Tim from Nebraska?” he asked, continuing before I could answer. “Well, I ran into him today in Skin Care. He’s a pastor now and we had a long conversation about abstinence before marriage and it started to make sense . . .”

His voice trailed off, but I didn’t need to hear the rest. How dare “Two-Timing” Tim bring his newfound God into our lives? Michael rolled away from me and began to breathe heavily. I offered this God a deal, praying for sleep in exchange for chastity. As Michael’s breathing turned to snores, I begged.

The next morning, beams of sunlight slipped through the blinds and landed on my burning eyes as Michael leaned over me and whispered “goodmorninggoodbye” in my ear. After I heard the click of the front door, I grabbed our shopping list and slipped out the back. By the time Michael’s shift was over, all of his belongings were on the snowy curb, neatly packed into Walgreens bags. As he tried his key in the new lock, I took a drink of wine every time the buzzer sounded.  v