Knock Knock Joke | Creative Non-Fiction
I wake up craving fried chicken and detesting the sun with a hangover like a hammer. My bed is so empty it may as well be a Siberian tundra, untouched white wilderness of animal stains. Something inside me cracks open and twists when I feel the cold space next to me, making my soul boil. All I want is a kiss on the forehead, but I thought that I was twenty and didn’t need comfort like that anymore. I want to slap myself into emotional independence. There is no sound in the apartment but water dripping from a leaky faucet.
“Can you chill here until I’m off my shift?” she asked. “Or you can leave and come back. I just want to see you tonight.” Her voice was all iced tea poured right onto my tongue, complete with the Southern drawl that rolled over a lip piercing. The way she spoke made me feel like a kid’s lemonade stand. I offered her my number, but she said it would be easier for me to just come back around two in the morning.
The faucet is proof she was here because anyone who knows me knows that you have to screw the knob back extra tight. How long has it been dripping? A while, if the bed is cold. I picture her out there, in my kitchen. Maybe I’m wrong and she’s making us chocolate chip pancakes. Maybe I’ll walk into the kitchen for a kiss on the forehead. Doubtful, as the apartment is graveyard-silent except for the drip. I need to fix that.
Did she say her name was Vivian? Or Victoria? Vivian sounds more right. I roll out of bed and the shag carpet squishes between my toes. And the cat’s tail. Fuck, I stepped on Wednesday. She yelps, jerking her tail back towards herself. She licks it, soothing her wounds. I should do that. But where would I lick?
I sat in the corner of the bar, slowly going through a bowl of french fries. They made my face feel greasy, but Vivian sent them over and winked at me, so I have to finish them. I don’t have to, I want to, even when the salt burns my lips. She sent them, and that makes them perfect. A real-life girl who really wanted to do that without me asking. A few men came over to chat and I told them that I was taken. For every handsome man I dismissed from my vinyl throne, she blew me a kiss. She was a winner.
There is a half-empty water glass on the counter. I am alone and all that’s left of her is half a glass of water teeming with her mouth bacteria. Disgusting. Incredible. It’s the dumbest cliché; half empty, half full, none of Viv to be found. Would she have liked that nickname? Or would it have reminded her of an ex or a parent and leave a bad taste? I assume she left her number somewhere because that seems like the proper thing for her to do. I scour both rooms of the apartment for it and find nothing.
After the bar was empty and the lights were on, she put the music from her own phone on and we danced as she cleaned. The doors were locked, and she wrapped me up. The damp washcloth pressed against my thigh, but I didn’t care because her eyes were the same color as my childhood dog’s and her smile was candy. We danced to obnoxiously soft indie music and her hand slid up my dress with a song’s crescendo. It was a languid kind of dance, the kind Robert Frost once dubbed “an expression of a horizontal desire.”
After I give up on finding her number, it is 11:13 in the morning, my hangover is still pounding, and I feel like I am going rabid. My mouth is dry, but I don’t want water because something about that cup makes all of the water her water and I need something of her to keep that’s more concrete than blurry memories made four shots in. I hope for a minute that she shed a hair on my pillow, but I also know that I would have seen a long, black hair on the white sheets immediately. The bed isn’t stained, and there’s none of her here except the cup. I remember kissing on the sofa, and I can’t find anything there at first, but when I flip over a couch cushion, there it is: a hair. One strand. Soft, flexible like a contortionist. My craving for fried chicken gets worse, and I almost drool. Maybe I’m just drooling over the memory of her, but she didn’t taste like fried chicken at all.
Her hands were like nostalgia, strong and soft. And I was so wrapped up in it that I pictured a future with the two of us. It was in another city with a bigger bed and Wednesday the black cat’s hair on every fabric surface. I’d known her for maybe four hours and knew less about her than any other stranger but something about it just felt right. The sex wasn’t great, but you have to like someone for them to disappoint you. Only a promise can be broken and maybe it was just a promise of an expectation and that’s something so we can be something. I think I’m in love.
I recall Victorian hair lockets. Intricate gilding, gems, anything to turn a semi-anonymous hookup’s waste product into a saint’s relic. When I wrap it around my fingers, it snaps. I examine the ends and see the pieces curled in on themselves, split like a lip after a punch. There’s nothing I can do with this piece of proteins strung together, even if it was art done by her perfect biology. I toss the hair onto the floor and give up. I can feel my whole fantasy collapses in on itself like a dying star. The dead star in my heart is not the cool kind that leaves a black hole and gets studies written about itself. Instead, it collapses like the kind that little kids wish on long after it’s gone and lost its wish-granting power because the light took so long to travel. I briefly download a lesbian dating app and looking for her on it to say, “Hey, I really like you.” After ten minutes of swiping, I reconsider. It feels too desperate, and I delete the app before making the account. I know when her shift at the Vortex is. Could I visit her at work? No, that’s creepy.
When I hear a knock at my door I nearly faceplant scrambling towards it. I picture Vivian in a fresh t-shirt, holding two cups of coffee and a takeout baggie. For some reason, in this imaginative discourse, she knows I’m lactose intolerant and preemptively orders a soy latte. She is attentive and smiling and everything I want in a future wife. I open the door fast enough to catch my own shoulder, and there’s no Vivian to be found.
It’s the mailman, delivering the vibrator I ordered last week.
Kendall Krantz is a writer and undergrad at Brown University. She is pursuing a combined M.A./B.A. in English and Judaic Studies. Her work can be found in publications such as McSweeney’s, Vice Motherboard, and a forthcoming Kurt Vonnegut Literary Magazine, among others. She has a poetry chapbook entitled Clockwork Android.