I was having dinner when I thought, What if I were the exact opposite of me? What would I be like? And I thought of the following scenario. It isn’t the exact opposite of me in a couple of ways (and whoever can guess those will win one fabulously lousy t-shirt), but it’s close enough in most ways. This is not my usual writing, so pay attention to tags and categories if you like.
* * *
Once upon a time, there was a man very much in love with his girlfriend. One night he returned home from work very late because he had driven a long way to pick up a very special gift for her. As he entered the house he was carrying the gift in his pocket. He went upstairs with quiet steps, made his way into their bedroom and stood in the doorway looking at the moonlit shape her body made in bed under the blanket. It only took him a moment to realize she was not asleep.
She stirred and pronounced groggily, “I’m awake.”
“I’m sorry I’m so late. I have something for you. I was going to wait until tomorrow morning to give it to you, but I am kind of nervous about this… we’ve never discussed this before and I don’t… I- can you turn on the light and look at me, please?
She acquiesced as she turned away from her pillow and extended one graceful arm toward her bedside lamp. She flicked it on and looked at him as she blinked away the pain of that sudden light.
“What is it?”
He smiled weakly at her at her and his voice was nearly a whisper. “You know those are new toys they have out now… those little sexual aids for couples that- God, I’m listening to myself now, and I can’t believe I got one. I have- You know what? Never mind. I’ll return it tomorrow. It was stupid not to ask you first.”
“What are you talking about? “Sexual aid“? We don’t need that. We’re doing OK… aren’t we?”
He turned red, his eyes unblinking as he looked at her. It was obvious he was extremely uncomfortable. She didn’t know this, but it felt strange to feel uncomfortable because she was the woman he loved, the woman he was going to share the rest of his life with, and he could always tell her anything. Why was he so out of sorts?
She was now fully awake as she sat up. “Are are you talking about a dildo? D-do you want me to go up your-”
“No! No, no, no, no. No!” He started laughing, yet he seemed more nervous than ever. “It’s nothing like that.”
“So you want me to wear something? I’m fine with that. What is it? A French maid outfit?”
And he said, so quietly she almost didn’t hear him, “No. I’ll just show you.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out the box, and brought it to her.
“Well, it’s a very small box. What can possibly in there that’s helpful to anyone?”
“Look at it.”
She held out her hand and he set the box gently in her palm. She examined, as it looked like it might’ve contained a bracelet. She opened it, half hoping there was a beautiful piece of jewelry in there. That would certainly put me in the mood, she thought as she realized there was no bracelet in it, but a small man, very tiny, only 2 inches in height. He seemed terrified out of his mind, his eyes shut tightly as he trembled helplessly. She shot a look at her boyfriend, suddenly holding the box as though it contained a catastrophic red button covered in bug shit and vomit.
“What the fuck is this? It’s one of those little guys in the news, isn’t it? Those toys, those sex toys everyone’s talking about! Why? Why did you-? Why is there one in our home? Oh, my God! I can’t even- Here, take this box!”
“But it’s for you. I got it for you. I got it so we can try it out… and there was this interview with the inventor…”
“I know. We watched it together two months ago. What did I tell you then?”
He looked at her, clueless, fishing for the memory, knowing his brain would fail him.
“You don’t remember, do you. Do you? You weren’t paying attention to me, as usual! What I said was that little men as sex toys were the most repugnant idea ever. What I said was that men are not supposed to be tiny! They’re supposed to be large, tall, strong, powerful. Defenders of the realm. Look at this ridiculous little thing. How is this helpful in bed? I watched the interview. I know what they do to these little things, but… gross! Just take it, take it away from me. I can’t even look at it again.”
He extended his arm in a perfect rewind of the moment before, and took the box away from her. He stood in place, holding it like it was headlights and he the deer. As she turned to turn off her light, she said, “Are you coming to bed?
“Wait a minute, what am I supposed to do with this?”
“I don’t know. Flush it down the toilet. I don’t care, just get rid of it.”
“Okay.” He looked at the little guy, and felt a pant of guilt he knew would pass, yet he spoke up. “Can we talk about this some more?”
His girlfriend sat up with the speed of a tornado, and spat furiously, “No, we can’t. We won’t. Not ever. I don’t want that thing anywhere near my bed. I don’t want it on my skin, I don’t want it between us, I don’t want it in me or on you. I want it gone.”
There was a flicker of anger in his heart for a moment as he looked down at the little man and said to him in his quietest whisper yet: “What did you do to get in this situation? Why did you sell yourself? What did you get in exchange? Just talk to me. I know you’re not supposed to talk, but fucking talk.”
There was a little voice that came from a box, a warm, beautiful voice he’d never forget when the little man said, “I got shrunk in exchange for medical treatment for my sister. She needed a new liver, and she got it, and now she’s alive, and… I’m here.”
“I’m sorry, little dude. I am. I don’t know what to tell you. This not going to work out–at least commercially–as you might’ve expected.” The little man shrugged as the big man continued, “Actually, you’re probably better off this way, but I can’t take care of you. I work. I have things to do-”
She sat up anew, having turned into her bed again, but still listening to her boyfriend as he addressed what she only considered a disgusting bug. “What the fuck are you talking about? I work too, remember? If you’re thinking I’m gonna take care that little roach…! I don’t take care of bugs. I crush them with my feet. I put poison in their bodies. Get rid of it and come to bed!”
The man walked over to the dresser, carefully closing the box. He opened one of her drawers, as he couldn’t face putting it among any of his belongings. He chose her underwear drawer, as she was sure to see it the next morning if it was there.
No sex took place in their home that night. In other homes, many tiny people were screaming. The next morning she got up to get ready for work. As she fetched a clean pair of underwear, she saw the little box. For a blissful moment, she didn’t know what it was until the full force of the memory came back to her and she swallowed back her repugnance, looked at the box, and shoved it off her panties with the tip of one fingernail.
Unable to face wearing panties that had shared the same confines as the vermin-filled box, she emptied the entire drawerful of undergarments in the dirty laundry basket, and went to work wearing nothing between skin and suit. The next day she went full commando again, and had that day not not been a Friday, things might have turned out slightly differently.
On Saturday she decided to wash her perfectly clean underwear, and disinfect her undergarment drawer. She also planned to make the long drive to the jewelry store and return the little guy, if he was still alive. Her boyfriend was wonderful, but terrible at facing merchandise refunds. She slid the drawer open, paper towel wielded in latex-gloved hand. She picked up the box and put it on top of her dresser. When she was done disinfecting the drawer and replacing its contents, it was already lunch time. She didn’t want to open the box, as she was hoping the little guy was dead so she could flush it down the toilet, but after she ate (and with difficulty, because the stomach kept turning at the idea of having to face this insect of a guy) she returned upstairs and opened the box.
The little man appeared asleep, and looked very dehydrated. He hadn’t had anything to eat or drink, yet he was still alive. He opened his eyes and blinked ever so delicately. The food in her stomach threatened to come back up, and all she wanted to do was smash the box and its contents against the nearest wall.
Instead, she set it down on the dresser rather violently. When her gaze refocused on his shape, he opened his eyes fully, and gave her one single look of understanding. He might’ve wanted to form words, but he didn’t. He nodded slightly as she grabbed the box, and flipped it over. The little man plummeted all the way to the beautifully polished wooden floorboards.
She didn’t wait to see if he had survived the fall. She brought one single flip-flop-clad foot over his minuscule form, and brought it down on him in one fell swoop. At the other side of the rubber sole, she heard a soft crunch, and the unmistakable spread of something both soft and hard she couldn’t face cleaning. She removed her foot from her stained flip-flop and walked away. Limping indistinguishably, she visited the refrigerator to see if she had any ice cream left for dessert.