Four Million Ants
Steven K nibbles on my lip when we have sex. Not in the sensual way, but also not in the “giving you bruises gives me a hard-on” way. It’s like in a scratching-an-itch-with-his-two-front-teeth kinda way. An itch that isn’t his though, that’s for sure.
Steven K calls me at 2 PM one day and is startled when I answer. He says that he didn’t think I’d answer at 2 PM. I tell him it’s ridiculous to call me — at 2 PM — if he doesn’t think I’m gonna answer. He’s outside, an organic form wriggling on the concrete, drunk but in that sparky manner just before the drunk cry you suppress when you’re not-drunk since sober people never cry.
He’s cute, Steven K, but not cute like the guy with the nylon shoes who my roommate bullied and I let her. Now that guy was really, really cute. My roommate is always bullying the guys I bring to the apartment. She is always bullying me for the guys I bring to the apartment. Saying, “You would” or, “Of course you would.”
Of course I would.
My roommate has a big deal internship with short men who have tiny Bulgari necklaces to store their Adderall. She never has guys over. I don’t have a big deal internship, nor have I ever worked with short men who have tiny Bulgari necklaces to store their Adderall. I constantly have guys over.
Steven K scales the walkup, not panting, even though everyone always pants when they go on the walkup because everyone always pants when they walk on uneven surfaces — walking on uneven surfaces is like running on even surfaces. Steven K is indefatigable. He’s armed with carrots. Not those pellet carrots that are gross unless they’re wet, but those long earthy, stalky carrots that burlap hatted guys sell in Union Square that are gross unless they’re wet. I have standards. Steven K knows that.
He has “NEWT GINGRICH” tattooed across the arch of his foot like a letterhead if his foot were a letter, which it could be, I suppose. He rides in cars barefoot, sticking NEWT GINGRICH out the window so he gets to see the mountains too. In my apartment that day, he points to the pretty girl studying in the window who’s always there, studying in the window. Then he says she is so pretty, studying there in the window, and naturally he would as there’s nothing more romantic than what the imagination projects onto a stranger in another place.
I tell him about the guy in Connecticut with the glasses, the huge collection of Rob Schneider films, and the dirty bong but clean kitchen sink. There was also my football player high school ex-boyfriend who picked me up after my uncle’s funeral and gave me a pink plastic flask of vodka with I CAN’T EVEN emblazoned across the surface. He looked like the guy in Connecticut with the glasses, my football player high school ex-boyfriend.
I have a matching pair of hot pink panties that say I CAN’T EVEN, I say to Steven K.
I tell him about how the Rob Schneider guy slapped, pulled, left marks. He didn’t nibble on my lip but did do everything else in the “giving you bruises gives me a hard on kinda way.” Steven K hands me a carrot out of sympathy. Biting into it feels like I’m splitting a tree branch with my teeth.
I sometimes think long and hard about what it’d feel like if someone pulled my IUD out of my uterus. Simply grabbed it by the strings. Would it pull me out of my body? Would it be like one of those plastic tags that you have to pull before you get an electronic toy to do its electronic thing? What would be the electronic thing I do? Drink too many White Claws?
One time a girl in a crop top gave Steven K a persimmon in the park. A persimmon and an ASPCA brochure. I start crying because that’s really sweet and because Steven K probably fell in love with her. Who doesn’t love a girl in a crop top in a park who gives you things? Then, my mouth starts to taste like persimmons. After that, it tastes like the three cigarettes Steven K smoked earlier since coming to see me this time made him nervous and because, “Honestly, it always does.”
I curl up in his lap like a Fibonacci spiral. Like a tiny cat — what all men want! Steven K strokes my ear, walks away, and picks up the Mentos gum with Hebrew on it that I bought to meet the credit card limit at the Middle Eastern store. He takes a piece out even though I never wanted to open the container.
Then Steven K says that he wishes more people were like me and that he’d never kill himself, even if he got really sad and slept all day like I do.
He says my eyes are beautiful, warm, bulbous like a new-born turtle. According to Steven K, they’re even striking with the eyeliner I wear around my entire almond-shaped eyeball instead of just the top part of the almond like I used to. I just want people to know I’m depressed. Steven K figures that.
He says he’d kill four million ants before he kills himself, but he wouldn’t dream of killing ants if I said, “Stop that, stop killing ants.”
Steven K and I go to a 7/11 convenience store. He tells me to pick a beer and then goes to compliment the cashier on the hat he’s wearing, the striking feature of it being that it has the 7/11 logo on it and that it isn’t just a black hat.
I never want to pick anything; picking something is unpicking everything else — unpicking things makes them obsolete — but Steven K says I have to and so I do. I choose one called Raging Bitch because I’m a feminist even if I let men leave holes in my brain, even if I say the word cunt instead of “the c word”, and even if I think that picking a beer called Raging Bitch makes me a feminist in any way.
“Why that one? Psycho,” Steven K says.
Then I say, “We should go home, it’s getting dark out.” And it really is.
Lisa Cochran is a junior at New York University studying politics and creative writing. She grew up in Ames, Iowa to a Russian mother and American father, making her sympathetic to both sides of the Cold War. She writes fiction and creative non-fiction.