He had a thing for Amy Winehouse. He liked the way her hair piled up on top of her head like a garbage strike gone mad. He said the beehive reminded him of his mother. My hair is just a loose collection of uncooked spaghetti, but I tried. On our fifth date I pushed steel wool, tin foil, and expired coupons under my hair and sprayed until a small head-shaped hole appeared in the ozone. He liked it. He touched the hem of my ruffles with one slender phone-home finger.
“Give us a twirl.”
He said it, and as I did, the lights dimmed and his whole body went all disco ball, lighting up from the inside. That’s his thing. I like it. A lot. It went well with every ABBA record I owned.
My friends would always ask why he wore clothes. That was the second question they would ask after the sex question, and we’ll get there, but first the clothes. That was one of my favorite things about him. He didn’t have exposed genitals (we’ll get there), so there really wasn’t any need, but he, like me, had a flair for the dramatic. One Halloween I dressed up as dead ET with white papier mâché skin, and he was the government official in a Hazmat suit. We won the costume contest. In summer he would drink pink champagne our way (Raspberry Fanta with gas station white wine) from his curly straw proboscis while wearing a Weekend at Bernie’s uniform: linen pants, striped tee, sunglasses. I’d open the window on the city side, so he could fan out his reflective neck flaps and sun himself like a 50s housewife.
We turn down the lights and put on a record like all the good Americans
As to the sex question: we did it to Dancing Queen. Or I should say we did it the way that we do it, which is this:
We turn down the lights and put on a record like all the good Americans, and then we pull out the Q-tips. He takes two and cleans each of my ears simultaneously. Before inserting a finger, he whispers marzipan down each tiny mineshaft. Once the fingers are in my ears, my head is glowing. Really glowing. And then I see blue and then green and then red and then a writing desk. I take a drink from a glass of cold rosé and write a sentence I’m really proud of. A sentence the New Yorker would be proud of. A sentence that makes me feel like a woman. A sentence that makes me want to fuck my brains back in. I turn to read it out loud to him, and he tells me that that sentence tastes better than this marzipan. And he feeds me the marzipan, and I say, “Shut the fuck up, no it doesn’t.” And then a slushy float back to reality, a sweet taste in my mouth, and his hands soft on each side of my face.
Song: Dancing Queen by ABBA
Illustration by Annabelle Carvell
Annabelle Carvell is an illustrator from the UK that never thinks of herself as an ‘illustrator’. She particularly loves to draw hair and female features, mostly working with fine-line pen and pencil colours. You can find her artwork on the wrists of best friends, or for sale on Society6.
Shea Stripling is: the author of No One Will Ever Believe You: Poems About Bill Murray (Hypertrophic Press), a former marching band member, and a permanent fixture in the middle seat of the plane.