Screwmates(2)

By: Kayti McGee


“Bourbon,” I’d reply. And then we’d get to know each other.

Except I never saw him Saturday. Or Sunday.

I texted Ava, nonchalant, like. Your cousin is an invisible roommate haha.

She wrote back almost immediately that he was not only in the middle of earning his doctorate, but went home to help out his mom on weekends.

Well, well. Hot, smart, and a good son. Cool. I could work with that. And really, I don’t even like bourbon, so.

But right then, I had to actually work work, because ComicCon was only a few months away and an aspiring comic artist like myself hustles like a motherfucker at those things. So one week blended into two pretty easily, between my day (night?) job and my art. Then one month became two and then a lot more and it honestly shocked me when one day I saw a stack of his graduation invitations sitting on the kitchen table.

Ten months had somehow meandered by in a parade of frames and frames (bad screening/artist joke, sorry) without ever getting the chance to get to hang with Marc. Don’t get me wrong––I saw him all the time in passing. We just never once fulfilled my pizza night fantasy.

Fantasy? No, that made it sound tawdry. My expectation, that was better. Because who lived with someone for nearly a year and never Netflix-ed and chilled?

Wait.

I meant actually watched Netflix while chilling. I did. I swear. Because, literally, who lives with someone for nearly a year and never has a boring couch night?

So it was weird, maybe, but it was what we did and it was no big deal and actually I hadn’t even thought about our embarrassing first encounter in months. Really.

Except maybe occasionally when I had date night with my vibrator.

But it wasn’t like he ever knew that’s what I thought about.





One





“Madison? Hey. Madison.”

I sat up with a jolt, my sketchbook falling to the floor.

“My boobs! Did I pass?” I was having That Dream. The one where I show up at school a frazzled mess with pencils sticking out of the messy brown bun on top of my head, my glasses on crooked, and ink stains all over my hands and arms that whisper rude things at passers-by who think it’s me. The one where the self-portrait I spent all week working on has somehow morphed into a picture of the dog I had when I was in elementary school only with my mom’s head on top, and I’m now entirely certain I’m going to get an F.

And that Mom will not be pleased. Did I mention I’m also nude in the dream?

I hate that dream.

A solid four years since I’d graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute, and I was still having that recurring nightmare. A psychologist might have said that was a reflection on how unprepared I felt in everyday life.

But I majored in art, not psych, so that psychologist can suck it. I prefer to swallow my feelings, preferably with Cheetos, and let them turn into low-level anxieties and weird inspiration for canvas and paper and T-shirt designs, like a normal person.

“I’m not sure if you passed,” Marc said, picking up the sketchbook and trying his hardest not to look at my boobs. “But your alarm is going off.”

Sure enough, a loud blaring was sounding from my room. Shaking the fuzzies from my head, I ran to turn it off. This wasn’t the first time I’d fallen asleep on the couch while working on a project. It also wasn’t the first time Marc had been the one to wake me. Maybe eventually I’d learn my lesson and work in my bed. Or move my alarm to the living room. And maybe wear more presentable PJ’s.

These sweats probably date to the year of my birth.

“Orphan Black?” Marc asked when I returned, referring to the image I’d been working on. Don’t correct him, don’t correct him, I thought. Don’t--

I took the spiral book from his hands. “It’s Jessica Jones.”

He snapped his fingers. “So close.”

No. Not close at all. I bit back a laugh. Though my roommate and I were near strangers, I’d learned enough about him to know he was not as pop cultured as he could be. Not that anyone expected a history professor to know the difference between Orphan Black and Jessica Jones.

Correction––soon to be history professor. According to Ava, he’d been finishing up his masters this past year with the intent to teach at the university level. He was too busy learning the difference between the Hundred Years War and the Eighty Years War to be cool.