The Temptation of Our Roommate

Gabriel Coffman

Houses have solid footing. But ours contained the common itch to be agravic. An avulsion sent our house through ground-level smog and handfuls of sun shrouding clouds. We ran from our beds to chase the rising tide of light from room to room as we went higher. Our roommate had taken our house without permission because he was submersed in the mirage of a distilled angel. His terror might have eaten us as much as it wronged us. Our quiet, flushed expressions, resurfaced to ask what will we do for work and food.

Stepping into an empty airport for an early flight weighed the same on us as this deliberate trajectory, crossing miles. Playing with alien sorcery in our habitat, he expected things to stay together. A house divided cannot stand, so it floats, but most don’t reach this elevation. He thought, she’ll want me back when she sees all my effort. Why wouldn’t she? How many times did she ask him to unwatch her online? There are no live broadcasts of previous relationships.

After a day, our arcing path, side by side with power lines, cast a shadow. We watched the trails we left behind in the airspace. We found the views tiresome: a squeaking American flag in the wind, rats from tombs, clogged morning commutes, untilled cornfields, the lid on a shopping center zoo, a desert containing a solitary solar panel that powered an amp, and the spectacle of a carousel. Animals reduced to orange spirits. Their gilded colors curdling.

There was a time when we loved him. That was before we left our tree line. We didn’t see how to stop his obsession. He was inaccessible when staring into his clear pond of text bubbles and photo albums. He said he would die to get his ex-girlfriend back. The first time she threatened to leave him he wrote pastel love poems. The second time he skipped out on intimacy, neglected her eyes. He stole her phones during showers, read messages, and shouted at her about cheating in the open relationship he’d suggested.

Dreams are not a structurally superior foundation for a relationship. They grow faster than hair. For a short time it could be good. But it needs to be cut. Not everyone dreams about their ex. There’s an urge but people restrain themselves. We explained how she wants nobody to find her. Your face won’t make her happy. Might hurt. We needed, but couldn’t keep him as our roommate. We tasked him to clean. Whenever his head tapped against a window, puffs of hypnotic attachment unspooled from his nape. We took and ate them off the floor.

Our cube of mixed brick, colonial in theory, landed on her bushes. We faced the cherry door of her house. He was dressed but looked like he hadn’t had a shower. We advised rubbing alcohol and to not leave the house. He stepped outside and passed through the zone between homes, muttered to himself about normality. He knocked. People aren’t tasks. Or shouldn’t be. We waited and witnessed.

From behind the door she said how she has enough migraine scarring. You put bees in my head and they still sting. His hands got near her boundaries. The walls were for self-preservation. He wanted to find her more. The door frame oozed liquid from the pressure of his grip. You said that you wanted us. Where are you talking from? I had a dream about you; let me hold you and warm you. I’d rather be broken by claustrophobia than touch you in or out of public. You said you loved talking to me, I’m showing that I care by being here for you, let me be in.

The harvest of his entitlement coursed in his veins like racks of untouched honeycombs. It accumulated and felt good and made him forget driftwood from the suburbs. He hadn’t been trustworthy, his intentions weren’t good, though how he justified them. If there had been a cliff near enough she would have jumped. Instead, during emergencies or thoughts of dying, her cheeks separated to make her screams more present. Her eyelids split into segments, as if microbladed, to flog. We looked away, ignoring domestic conflict, because our home needed work.


Gabriel Coffman is an MFA student at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a reader for the TIMBER Journal. His work has been published in Five:2:One, The Hunger Journal, and Yalobusha Review.