Hot Metal Bridge

Current Issue : Number Twenty-Five

Townhouse

BY DAN J. FIORE

They’re a younger couple like us, but we say they aren’t married. Neither of us will admit why.
 

They have the same number of rooms as us. They have the same kitchen layout. The same exact back patio.

 

The woman works an early job. Each weekday their garage door rumbles us awake before dawn. She comes home in the afternoon wearing gym clothes, her skin shimmering with sweat. If the man’s outside, he greets her with a kiss. Sometimes he squeezes her ass.

 

We never see the man go anywhere that seems like work, but he talks on the phone all day and waters their plants at lunchtime. Every Thursday night he washes his truck. He’s seen me watching from our living room window, a beer in my hand. I nod and he waves and then he goes back to scrubbing his hubcaps while his radio plays something I like but don’t recognize.

 

They rarely cook. I now know by heart the sound the pizza guy’s tires make on the curbside gravel. The squealing melody of his breaks. They eat with the TV on, laughing along with the muffled studio audience. Sometimes we eat at the same time. Sometimes we try to find what they’re watching and watch it with them, like a game. It never quite syncs.

 

They have the same number of stairs and of course the same roof.

 

On weekends, we hear power tools and I have to leave even though I love the sound of building things.

 

I don’t cut the grass when he cuts the grass. When he comes out to cut the grass while I’m cutting the grass, I pretend to run out of gas and go inside.

 

They have the same plumbing.

 

They don’t always get along. They argue and scream and cry and we smile until it gets annoying, and when they go quiet again, we still hear them talk.

 

They have the same laundry shoot.

 

They lay out in the back together, reading and enjoying the sun. I see the rings on their fingers, but I don’t say anything.

They have the same tiny bathroom.

 

At night they fuck often, their bed moaning as loud as they do. Meanwhile, we stay silent and pretend to be sleeping. We don’t pretend for them.

 

They have the same doors in the same places.

 

One day I come home to find a framed mirror hanging on the dividing wall. After dinner I black out on vodka and put the mirror in their trash.

 

They have the same driveway.

 

They read aloud articles they find interesting.

 

They have the same closets.

 

They take long vacations and come back tan.

 

They have the same hardwood floors.

 

They listen to albums the whole way through.

 

They have the same windows and porch lights and walkway.

 

More and more we ignore them together, as if afraid in each other’s presence to acknowledge their existence. Some nights I wait for the snoring to signal I’m alone. In the corner, I slide to the floor and rest my head against the drywall. I hear nothing but electric humming, but I wait and wish they’d make some sound. A giggle. A grunt. A yawn. I hope for one of them to turn in bed or for a throat to be cleared. Anything. I just wait and want, wanting to hear something I can give meaning to.

Because they have everything we have. Just all of it backwards.

 




Dan J. Fiore is a freelance writer and editor from Pittsburgh, with work previously published by Writer’s Digest, DarkFuse, and Thuglit. His short fiction won grand prize in the 82nd annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, and his screenwriting was awarded the Pittsburgh Filmmakers Institute’s First Works Grant in 2009. He is currently pursuing his M.F.A. while finishing his first novel. You can follow him on Twitter at @danjfiore or find more of his work at www.danjfiore.com.