She arrives at half-past midnight when his hand is still bleeding. Her hair is up in that half-bun that he likes so much. She’s pinned her bangs to the side with a dragonfly-shaped clip. Flakes of mascara fall intermittently from her eyes and lie magnified under her wire-framed glasses.
She sits in the centre of his couch, the lacy fabric of her dress spreading in waves across the dusty cushions. He inherited this couch (and half his other mid-century furniture) from his grandmother, who died of pneumonia the same year he moved away from home.
She helps him bandage his hand. He doesn’t notice her wincing at the wet slick of blood that runs halfway to his elbow; he only notices her wiping it away with a dishrag.
He thanks her for coming at such a late hour. He calls himself clumsy and can hardly wait for her to insist that he isn’t. She says it’s no problem. She says her cousin’s housewarming was boring anyways. She says it’s much quieter here with him in his circa-1960s basement apartment. When he hears this, he imagines fluttery, delicate wings bursting from the small of her back. She looks at her cellphone and scrolls through a misspelled email from the supervisor of her part-time job.
He likes how her green eyes glimmer under the Craigslist-bought IKEA lamps that illuminate the apartment. He says he’s so glad he found her, speaking as if she is a jewel or precious metal that he has unearthed from the ground. He asks if she knows what a nymph is.
She says she is hungry. It made her nervous to eat at the housewarming party.
He does not cook for her but rather microwaves some leftovers from the Thai place down the block. He arranges the takeout noodles unceremoniously on his crowded table. Their plates do not match. Her wine glass, filled halfway with $8 rosé, sits on a copy of Sports Illustrated. When she looks directly down through the liquid, the cover model’s left breast is magnified just enough to look grotesque.
He adjusts his starchy collar and stares at her dragonfly hair clip. When he asks what’s new in her life, she excitedly recalls stories of late-night grad paper rewrites and getting good test scores.
He nods. He says she is very beautiful. He doesn’t understand what he’s said.
She says nothing. She finishes her wine. Then she gets up, gliding out of the apartment and into the humidity of the night. He swears he saw her disappear into a puff of smoke. He swears she flew away on dragonfly wings.
—Sarah Priscus, English and theatre student.