We were still in love—Noah and I—when the stain on the ceiling appeared, the size of a peach. I noticed it on my back with his mouth on my thighs. We joked that there should be a tracking app for it, like the ones for pregnancy.
Your ceiling stain is the size of a toaster.
Your ceiling stain is the size of rolling suitcase, too large for the overhead bin.
Your ceiling stain is the size of a mid-sized German Shepherd.
Today the stain is the size of both of us, intertwined, like those couples still holding each other at Vesuvius under all of the ash. I feel small when I look up at it. I feel small because I could crawl inside of it. The stain has space for both of us. The stain has too much space for just me.
I watch Noah pack up his things in paper grocery bags. I thought it would be hard to split up our collection of books, but he takes almost all of the books written by men, dead and white. I think about telling him that the handles are too flimsy as he fills bag after bag with his flattened version of the canon, but I like the idea of the brown paper giving out and splitting as he walks to his car. I like to imagine the Jonathans and Davids and Charleses spread out across the sidewalk like a stain.
“Why don’t you take the stain with you?” I joke and Noah doesn’t laugh.
“The stain. On the ceiling.”
“Oh, you really should get your landlord to do something about that.”
Your landlord. Your landlord. Your landlord. Not ours. Noah’s name was never on the lease. It was always just my apartment. I wonder how many things that felt like ours in my brain were just his and mine running in parallel.
“I’m working on it.”
I wish that the stain was a metaphor, but there is nothing metaphorical about the dirty water that drips brown into my steaming mug of tea as I read in bed. There are no allusions in the wet droplets that splatter across paper pages like tears. There is just a leaky pipe in apartment 2R that water logs the space between their floor and our ceiling. An issue deemed “not urgent” over and over again by the landlord as he juggles monthly reports of the two hoarder-filled apartments on the third floor that seem to be passing back and forth the same set of bed bugs.
It’s girl’s night and I am tangled in a knot of friend limbs on top of my comforter. We are searching for shapes in the stain, eyes sifting through a constellation of rot.
“Maybe it’s a leather jacket, motorcycle style, smooth like butter, too expensive, but you found it at a sample sale and convinced yourself you’d wear it every day of your life?”
“Maybe it’s the sex scene from Black Swan.”
“Maybe Noah left because he met someone else.”
“Maybe it’s Senora Urbina, the Spanish teacher we all wanted to kiss.”
“Maybe it’s that feeling you get when a song on the radio makes you feel like you’re about to cry, but then the person in the passenger’s seat turns the radio dial and the cry just sits there heavy in your sinuses.”
“Maybe Noah never really loved me.”
“Maybe it’s the ghost of every cute person you saw on the street and didn’t approach.”
“Maybe it’s the first time you ever orgasm and you realize that your body is this hot and wet thing that feels and floods.”
“Maybe I never knew Noah at all.”
The women rub my back and run fingers through my hair and tell me that they know how I feel. They tell me they have been there, like heartbreak is a disappointing Spring Break destination we have all been talked into visiting. Like love is a shitty timeshare, never as good of a deal as it seems.
A damp clump of plaster the size of my hand falls from the ceiling and onto the soft pile of our pajama-clad bodies. We scream and scatter off of the bed, as if we have been touched by something grotesque and alive.
The plaster leaves a brown mark on my comforter that blends in with the floral pattern.
I find bits of plaster, brown and cream and off-white, on my clothes and in my hair.
I mute Noah’s twitter, but I forget to mute his twitter bot.
Jane Austen forgot sports.
There is a reason that men feel all of the words that constitute great albums of the 2000s.
My girlfriend knows everything except how to:
There is ceiling in my oatmeal, but I still scrape the side of the bowl with a spoon to get every last bite.
One day, I am reminded of the structure of a boner joke—is that an X, Y, X in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? Am I crying or is my face just wet from the water dripping out of my ceiling?
There is more stain than ceiling now. My floor is 75% Tupperware containers brimming with cloudy liquid. I dance around them to get to my dresser, dance back when I decide not to change out of my same pair of sweats—heavy with moisture. I am a water cycle.
I wonder if the stain judges me when I flop onto my drenched mattress and set my Tinder to everyone. I only swipe right on couples bold enough to look for a third, but shy enough to only post photos of their torsos, no heads. I swipe right on chests that remind me of Noah.
I invite over a couple—R & N—who like travel (plane emoji), tacos (taco emoji), and sex with women (unicorn emoji). I imagine that N stands for Noah, that Noah has already forgotten my face enough to swipe right on me with his new girlfriend. I tell them that I have a water bed, and they tell me that they want me to drown in R’s pussy while N fucks me in the ass. Half of our conversation is the water droplet emoji—wet, wet, wet. I tell them I’m already drowning. I don’t tell them that I mean this literally as I walk in waterlogged socks across the floor.
R’s name is Rachel and N’s name is Nick.
“This is…cozy.” Rachel wades through the water, up to the middle of her calves. She kicks at a book by a Margaret or Maggie that floats by.
“It’s not quite what we expected,” Nick sit on the bed with a loud squelch. “But it will work.”
They bring a water bottle filled with lukewarm vodka and orange juice. It’s soft plastic, a sports bottle from their kid’s soccer league. Nick pops the mouth part with his thumb, opening it up to squeeze the liquid into my mouth.
We keep sliding off of the bed, so we align ourselves on the floor. With Nick behind me, he could be anyone, any N, any torso detached from a head. I close my eyes, and even though I can feel the hardwood against my knees, I feel like we are floating in the water that inches up and up and up.
“Noah. Noah. Noah.”
I repeat like a prayer as Nick slams into me in splashing thrusts.
“Noah. Noah. Noah.”
A rushing in my ears.
“Noah. Noah. Noah.”
The ceiling opens up, and I am grateful for the flood.