Solutions Management

by Noah Johnson

She wore a dress that let the light through like an old curtain. She wore something stupid on her head, one of those old timey hats with a crumple of netting on top. She wore nothing when she slept. She wore special insoles because your feet are the foundation of your body, she said, and if they aren’t secure you won’t be either.

I asked her how it feels to be the prettiest girl in the room. I asked her if she was Irish. German? Swedish? Finnish? Nobody is Finnish, she said. I asked her what she did and she said Solutions Management. I asked her how long it took her to get here, and she said from where? and I realized that I only ever think about half the thing I’m thinking.

I had to ask her out. I had to try not to try so hard. I had to start smoking to give my mouth something to do. I had to see a doctor about some physiological difficultly and he recommended a few lifestyle changes, which I politely declined. I had to remind myself that no one was forcing me to stay.

We went for pizza—it turned out to be the wrong place but the pie was decent. We went for pizza at a restaurant run by a celebrity chef where the tomatoes came from Italy and you had to sit and be served and drink wine by the glass. We went for pizza with her family and I felt intimidated by her brother who was a minor league baseball player and a homosexual who wanted to know why I hadn’t just gone to law school.

Her apartment was on the expensive side of the neighborhood that wasn’t as cool as it was fifteen years ago, which made it even cooler to her. Her apartment was full of plants—they hung from the ceiling, unfurled in waxy tendrils across the counters, stood like sentries in the corners. Her apartment didn’t have any screens in the windows and I said What if something gets in? and she said, excitedly, Like what?

She put on some music and I was relieved that it wasn’t Van Morrison, or Paul Simon, or, like, Jeff Buckley, because I could just listen and feel nothing. She put me in a good mood, and people started to ask me about it—my mood—because, I suspect, it was obnoxious. She put her hand out and I swear to God a fucking sparrow landed on her knuckle and chirped there for a second and flew away. She put plants on the fire escape and I was worried that she had trapped me in a metaphor.

She asked me what lies I had told her since we met, and we were so close physically right then that I admitted there’d been a few. She asked me if she could move in, and I thought she was crazy because her apartment was so much nicer than mine. She asked me if I was jealous when she got a promotion and would be the only woman in the department, and I told her no and she asked why not? She asked me why I don’t like to rough her up, why I never slap her around or call her a whore.

I told her I didn’t actually like the pizza, that it was too doughy. I told her I didn’t actually have a rare blood disease that almost killed me when I was born. I told her I didn’t actually lock myself out of my apartment that night, I just wanted to see if she’d invite me to stay with her. I told her I didn’t actually ever apply to law school, either, and I didn’t actually not remember where I met her, or what we talked about that night, or what she was drinking, or where we slept. I told her I didn’t actually think we’d make it this far.

I opened the bottle of Rosé in her fridge and was proud I’d been able to remove the cork so expertly. I opened and closed and opened and closed my eyes when we lay together like I was playing peek-a-boo with a baby. I opened the cigar box on her bookshelf and there were so many pills inside that I thought, Oh, no, she’s fucked up, and not, Oh no, she’s sick. I opened all the windows and washed all the towels and sheets and still every room in my apartment smelled as if she had just left.

After we had sex she fell asleep so fast and so soundly that I worried she was the type of girl who would fall asleep with a stranger in her bed. After a few weeks I started calling her by a nickname and she asked me to stop. After work she was always tired, except when there was an event or a cocktail or a girls night, or when she just needed to get out for a little while. After a while we both were always tired.

I left before she could see me in the daylight, because anyone can look good for twelve hours. I left town just to see if I would miss her. I left out a few details, but there is only so much one can take. I left all the decisions up to her, the Solutions expert, so that I could blame her when things started to go wrong.

Noah Johnson is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. Follow him on twitter at @noahvjohnson.