Prose Trauma

Names Have Been Changed by Susan Triemert

Shot, Shot, Shot,  Joe chants when his college roommate walks in. 

My boyfriend Joe bought his first house, and we are ready to celebrate. Within the hour, a plastic cup of red wine spills, and bleeds its way deathly close to a white rug. His twin brother stacks a pyramid of empty Budweiser cans inside the garter snake’s cage. After I slam a few Screwdrivers, the party becomes a blur of broken lamps and hearts, tear-induced laughter, and drunk girls cackling down in the basement. Just before 3:00 a.m., I hear mating calls from the spare bedroom and spot a guy snuggling up to a decorative pillow in the bathtub. 

Joe and I fall into bed, and my head spins on the pillow. I wake to grey and plaid shadows, the sheen of a wrist watch. I hear the tinny sound of a mattress coil before I see what looks like Kirk, Joe’s friend from his bartending days, toppling off the foot of the bed. I recall images of Kirk–seconds earlier–trying to jam his hand down the front of my half-zipped pants. I rub my eyes as I try to make sense of it all. I had been lying next to my boyfriend, had felt safe enough to feel the electric heat of his body, to inhale his dank, boozy breath.

I rattle Joe awake, and he tumbles back to sleep. I tiptoe into the next room. Kirk appears to be asleep in the LazyBoy, with his mouth hanging open–he looks like a baby turkey vulture. I stare at his half-open mouth, imagine drool dripping from his hungry upper lip. I want to shake him, turn on the lights, wake the whole damn house, ask: Why, Why, Why?

 I stop. Have I dreamt this whole thing? A side effect of my antidepressants is that they heighten the sexuality in my dreams.

I slip back into the bedroom, shake my boyfriend harder this time. I insist that he go and check. I tell him that Kirk is faking, that he’s not asleep. Joe moans and sighs as he is ripped awake, as I tell him what happened, about the thud on the carpeting. A water cup knocks to the ground, an overhead light buzzes on, the mattress bows as he scooches out. I follow Joe to the next room, still wondering if I’d been dreaming–I did increase my dose of meds. Kirk is no longer in the chair. Joe walks to the front door. Soft flurries had collected on the mounds of hard, stubborn snow. He checks for footprints in the fresh flakes–reports there hadn’t been any. No freshly grooved tire tracks either. 

Later that day, Joe calls. How could you be so sure? he says. Your drugs make you crazy.

I bite my lip. Know he is done listening.

Before hanging up, he adds, I’d never be friends with someone who would do something like that. 

I imagine going to my psychiatrist later in the week, to inquire about the drug’s side effects. Was it possible, I’d ask, that I’d imagined it all?

 Flinch as the doctor grazes his hand over an exposed knee, across a sleeveless shoulder, and tells me it’s all in my head.

Susan Triemert holds an MA in Education and an MFA from Hamline University in Minnesota. She has been published or forthcoming in various online and print journals, most recently (mac)ro(mic), Gone Lawn, and North Dakota Quarterly.. She lives in St. Paul with her family, where the animals outnumber the people. You can find her on Twitter at @SusanTriemert