“Casualties, or I can’t f*#!ing understand this Ikea Diagram” by Dani Neiley

Hello, everyone! It’s Friday again and we’ve got another extra thing to share. When we were all talking, we realized we’ve all shared some of our writing on this blog except for Dani, who also happens to be one of the best writers we all know. So in our ongoing quest to convince you all that, when it comes to good writing, we know what the hell we’re talking about, we’ve chosen to publish something that hurt my soul in a good way. I hope you enjoy it at least half as much as I did.

casualties, or “i can’t f*#!ing understand this ikea diagram”

början – beginning

     “I’m just looking for something casual,” you said, chewing a stick of cucumber.

     The hole in the wall Thai place I drove us to for our first date had octopus on the menu and I could barely concentrate on our conversation. If we were laughing, we didn’t have to be serious, so I stuck my chopsticks in my mouth.

I am the egg man, I am the walrus,” I said. We laughed. And that was that.

finnby – bookcase

     I could do casual, I thought. I’d been known to enjoy the smooth sound of Michael Bublé casually – at weddings, that is – and only after several martinis. I was casual in my approach to Indian food: I didn’t actively seek it out, but whenever I passed a restaurant with the scent of curry drifting outside, of course I went in and ordered chicken tikka masala. I liked reading books casually (ie: starting them, but hardly ever finishing) and casual Sundays spent watching the game show network. Applying the condition of “casual” to a person would hardly be different.

     The one thing I couldn’t do, I thought, was put together this stupid shit bookcase from Ikea. When your bookcase broke under the weight of all your waterlogged paperbacks, Faulkner and le Carré and Fleming salvaged from used bookstores around the city, I volunteered to drive to the cheap furniture lover’s warehouse of wet dreams. I had a Prius, after all. Better than your Smart Car.

     I threw one of the plastic screws across the room. “These fucking people in Sweden are laughing at us right now,” I said.

     “Of course they are.” You pushed my hands away. “You’re doing it backwards. Here. Like this.”

     The first shelf slid into place with a satisfying thunk. My jaw fell through the floor to the center of the earth.

But I’m a man!”

Duly noted.”

Woodwork is supposed to be my forte!”

Well, we’re not all aces, kid,” you said, before kissing my cheek. Then you bit my earlobe.

     Witchcraft, I thought, staring up at the ceiling five minutes later. It had to be.

minde – mirror

     There were rules, which I started to grasp upon several hours of introspection:

     #1: No affection in public. I learned this the third time we met up. Even in the darkness of the movie theatre you turned your cheek away. Out on the street, we looked like strangers in the reflection of glass shop windows. Our hands sweat, lonely, in respective pockets.

     #2: No personal information. Correction: no personal information re: me. I knew about your lacrosse-playing, meathead brother’s aspiration to become an opera singer, your turbulent relationship with your 40-year-old best friend, Oleg, a Russian who only wore Adidas track suits and cooked bacon at odd hours of the night, and how you couldn’t have sex until all the dishes in the sink were done. As far as you were concerned I was a blank slate – a body, completely separate from a soulful entity. Maybe that made it easier to fuck me. I could have been George Clooney. I could have been anyone.

     #3: Short term, short term, short term. I repeat it because I thought the future would change things. If you got to know me, really know me, know about my affinity for raspberry frozen yogurt and hatred of malls and fear of airplanes, then you wouldn’t be interested in something casual anymore. Things would be different. Things could be different.

     #4: Don’t be naïve.

     4a. (otherwise you end up like tom in 500 days of summer. that stupid son of a bitch.)

     4b. [oops, too late for that]

tickar – bowl and plate

     Sitting in my one-bedroom apartment with a single-serving TV dinner, I tried to think about the good times, but then I realized that there really weren’t any. I was being held away from the real version of you, held away at arm’s length so I couldn’t become close. It was so I couldn’t really know you: your favorite ice cream flavor, your worst fear, your most ridiculous dream.

     I became jealous, realizing that other people held more gravity in your life. My dinner, long cold, went into the trash. I didn’t want it much anyway. I can’t eat Thai food anymore without thinking of you.

lyndby – blanket

     Tuesday night was set to end in a drunken Mario Kart match.

     “Do you want to hang out over the weekend?” I asked. I figured I had to try.

     “That could work,” you said. But your tone of voice; you wouldn’t look at me. I knew I would spend another Saturday night alone with self-hatred and a big, greasy bowl of microwaved popcorn. You hated plans, hated commitment. I did, too. But then I met you, and I thought, well –

     “I just want to see you more, that’s all.”

     It was the wrong thing to say. You never replied and chose that moment to use your blue shell. It knocked me off track and I lost the game. You didn’t ask me to sleep over, so I drove home in silence.

eiver ord – duvet

     (i remember noticing that the sheets were still warm when you left for the shower and even though you never stayed in bed, after, this time you didn’t even look at me)

telefon – phone

     “Mom, what do you do when you hurt yourself?”

     “Oh, honey, are you out of Band-Aids again?”

     “Emotionally, I mean? When you know something’s not good for you but you want it anyway?”

     “You think on it, and then you go to sleep. Because it’s two o’clock in the morning, dear.”

     Before I hung up the phone, I listened for a moment to the dial tone, to the crackling static and the airwaves that sounded as lonely as I felt.

hurrig – mug

     Now, walking on the carpet in my apartment, I sometimes get strands of long hair stuck between my toes. Bobby pins, fucking everywhere. And those hair ties! But mostly, there are the mugs in the cabinet. My set of two. The ones we always drank tea in.

     “It’s not worth being sad over,” I told myself, toes freezing on the kitchen linoleum, “because it never meant anything anyway.”

     I threw the mugs out, of course. It felt amazing to hear the sound when they cracked in the trash can.

linnmon – desk

     I went back to Ikea without you and bought a new desk. I couldn’t figure out how to set it up so it’s sitting in my room, table legs and screws and screwdriver scattered across the wood floor. All the YouTube tutorials in the world couldn’t help.

     I’ve been sleeping on the couch to avoid thinking about it. So far, it isn’t working.


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