‘Don’t tell me you’re still thinking about Auschwitz? We’ve been back for two hours. I knew you were too sensitive to go.’
The silence of Birkenau with its blur of gaunt faces and wasted children washed over me. I felt a pang in my belly.
‘Don’t you feel anything?’
He kissed my forehead and slipped his hand down my jeans.
‘Seriously, don’t you feel anything? Stop! We have to check out at five to make the flight.’
He pulled me to the bed, pinned my wrists above my head and ate my lips like they were drenched in the cherry vodka he’d gotten drunk on the night before.
‘I just want to eat you up, you have no idea.’
My skin tingled as his little pools of slobber melted my foundation and I was ashamed by how easily he could wash the Holocaust away with it.
‘I love you. I love you. I love…’
He unbuttoned my shirt, clawed into my breast and melted mid-sentence into his mother tongue.
‘Ti amo. Ti amo.’
‘I love you too.’
‘Let’s make a baby.’
I laughed as he pounded himself against my thigh.
‘I mean it.’ His eyes softened as he looked into mine. ‘Amore, I want a baby with you. C’mooon, make me a baby.’
‘You’re talking shit. Let’s find a place for the wedding reception first. We need to be out of here by five.’
He spread my legs. I tossed my head back, closed my eyes and held a feather pillow to my face.
We checked out at six.
It was also around six when I checked out of my head and didn’t return for a good nine months. He was in the shower prepping himself for his usual Friday at the Ivy while I curled up to read. His phone buzzed on the nightstand; he must have forgotten it. It was her. She wanted to know if she should wait for him outside of the Ivy or the front of Kaz Café on Sussex.
I listened for the slapping of water and put in his passcode—he had no idea I knew it. The phone unlocked and my eyes widened. I swiped left and right and zoomed to be sure I was seeing it. I put the phone back, carefully.
When he came into the room, he kissed me on my forehead and playfully flicked my chin.
‘Cutie, sure you don’t wanna come?’
After he left, I took a walk along Ramsgate Road and stopped by a medical centre. I told the doctor I was a cellist and needed something to calm myself for large audiences. He gave me a prescription for Valium.
My eyes jerked open around midnight and a heaviness squatted on my diaphragm. He’d stayed in Adelaide for a funeral and my mind and body decided to play tug of war. I didn’t want to leave the bed, I hadn’t slept well since Poland, but my legs hauled me out and dragged me to our walk-in robe.
I sniffed at his shirts for lingering perfume and examined his collars. I flicked open the shirt pockets and unzipped the ones in his hoodies. I tipped out the bin, emptied his drawers and placed everything neatly back. I rummaged through boxes, sorted through receipts, clawed into the ripped lining of his trench coat and picked out his underwear from the dirty laundry to check for semen.
He’d left his MacBook in the study. I’d often narrowed my eyes to slits and pretended to be asleep to watch the things he did without me present.
I punched in his password and the desktop lit up. My hands trembled and I couldn’t type and I couldn’t breathe and my big toe cramped and curled in my slipper and I felt the sudden urge to shit. I’d only ever wandered the outskirts of his thoughts and admission inside them was a few clicks away. My mind picked me up like a mother cat scruffs her kitten and carried me back to bed to reprimand me for my conduct.
He dodged the vase I launched across the room.
‘We’re more affectionate in my culture.’
‘I don’t care where you’re from, cousins don’t text like that!’
He crumpled to the floor and squeezed a chunk of his hair in fist. I tried to maintain my demeanor, but when I heard him sob, I contemplated falling to my knees to undress him and fuck my behavior away. I knew he wouldn’t let me touch him.
He punched the wall then pounded at his head.
‘Stop it! You’ll hurt yourself!’
‘Look what your paranoia is doing to me! Look!’
I pulled his hands from him and blotted his knuckles with little kisses.
‘Do you want me to stop talking to her? I will.’
His cheeks were moist with tears and snot dripped down his lip. He couldn’t look at me. I’m not sure I wanted him to.
‘I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.’
I didn’t know where to go. I instinctively fled home for Canberra but ended up at Haberfield.
I came home with cannoli for him.
I stuffed my underwear and toothbrush into my handbag and announced I was leaving. He snatched my keys. I knew he was about to block the doorway.
‘You’re crazy! You need help! You’re not going anywhere.’
I shoved him. ‘Move! Give me my fucking keys!’
He clutched at my arm; his nails left dints.
‘Let me go!’
‘Shut up! The neighbors will hear you yelling and think I’m a cunt.’
I yelled louder and smirked. He rammed me against the wall and my skull clacked against the brick. I tried to kick, but he was like a stone on tissue paper. He pinched my nose and forced my lips together until my eyes rolled back and my knees buckled.
‘Shh. You fucking done?’
I gulped down a pocket of air.
He nuzzled his face into my breasts and wept. I stroked his hair.
I’d forgotten to take Valium with my breakfast juice when the words fell out of my mouth.
‘I saw the photos.’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘I’m talking about the album of my pussy on your phone.’
‘Vagina, figa, concha, cunt—which language would you like?’
‘So? You said I could take them.’
And how could I have when I was holding a pillow to my face while you were eating my pussy and stopping to snap photos, you sick fuck?
‘No. I didn’t.’
And where did you hide the engagement ring you insisted I lost? The one I cried for a month over? The one you punished me for, where is it?
‘You’re joking! You make it sound like I’m a pervert.’
Because you’re a pervert. Because you pretend to be taking a shit, but you’re in the bathroom getting off on women’s feet on Instagram. Because God knows who else you’re fucking. Because you want to fuck your cousin.
‘Okay. Maybe I said you could take them.’
I bet you cum in her arse as contraception. I bet she loves it. I bet she begs you to.
‘No, you’re right, I did say you could. I remember. I’m sorry.’
Christ, I love you. We should’ve made the baby. Let’s make the baby.
‘I’ll delete them if it bothers you.’
What are you doing with photos of my open cunt? This is what you’re going to blackmail me with if I up and ruin your chance for citizenship. This is why you won’t let me leave.
I felt the need for a shower. I turned the tap on and stepped in. There was a thumping at the door that almost broke it in.
‘Why are you looking through my phone, bitch?’
‘Shh! The neighbours might hear you yelling and think you’re a cunt.’
I sat in her office eight kilos lighter than in August. Dates, memories, facts, words and places all knotted into each other and I couldn’t untangle them. My stomach rumbled.
‘I need to know I’m not crazy.’
Look at the things you’ve conjured up.
‘Have you ever heard of gas-lighting?’
I was fixated on the photo on her desk; she looked nothing like a psychologist in it.
‘Are you listening to me?’
I twirled the ring that had gotten lost in his drawer around my finger.
‘You should wear your hair down like in your photo.’
Nicole Stojanovska is based in Wollongong, NSW and from a working class immigrant family of Italian and Macedonian descent. After a period of time as a professional jazz singer, she devoted herself to writing. She studies creative writing at the University of Wollongong.