Beginning in August 2011 I lived off Parramatta Road in Chloe’s studio apartment for 119 days, but not once did I consider us ‘a couple’ or ‘an item’ or any other romantic variation. I didn’t tell anyone at the pub about our arrangement, so we left through opposite exits and met at Central Station. We only kissed when we fucked. Besides, Chloe agreed to all this because she thought I loved her. I said it to her enough, I guess. But I didn’t love her. Of course I didn’t.
Even though we shared that tiny studio apartment I became adept at avoiding her. Downstairs, I found a vacant laundry room, dragged a table in there, and called it my writing room. On most nights I slinked down there to listen to music, smoke weed, and muck around on my computer. Seems unfair, but I didn’t force it upon her – plus, I was twenty-one and going out on weekends to take MDMA and dance before fucking a stranger on the way home.
Can’t say when, exactly, but one night I came home and found my writing room all tussled, pencils shoved about, the table flipped over, the words YOU SNAKE MONKEY scribbled across the washing machine in, I dunno, lipstick?
I trudged upstairs, and found Chloe’s door locked, her voice hushed and quick behind it.
By that Tuesday night Chloe and I had ceased talking altogether. My residency in the laundry room had become pretty permanent. I was in there, bending paperclips into paperclip men, when a grown man smacked the door open and tossed me to the floor and stomped my face with his boot and spat on me before ripping me onto my feet. He shoved a Mont Blanc, Happy 21st compliments of Godfather Marino, into my left eye, all the way to the ‘2’. Didn’t lose the eye. Which is shit and also not shit. It’s not like I’m ungrateful. Not like my eye weeps blood all the time. Not like I look like a freak. Not like just yesterday at the pub, exiting a bathroom stall, I saw a screaming baby beside my locker, more 2001 A Space Odyssey than Away-in-a-Manger. And it’s not like just yesterday at the pub I served drinks to Chloe on her day off, sitting all chirpy with her ex-husband. Not like he cared about my blood-crying eye. Not like I cared his throat was all bandaged up and he had to scrawl notes on napkins to communicate. As they were leaving, he tossed a note in the tip jar. You Snake Monkey.
Before they left the pub Chloe came over. Right outside the door her ex-husband stomped grime off his boots, staring at me. I dried a glass behind the bar. She leant across. Seemed puzzled by something. Said she was afraid of him. Of his temper. Of how razorblades got into his cereal.