You lose your virginity to the sweet, fast talking brunette girl from AP Calculus class, in the stacks of the high school library. You get married/break up.
You lose your heart to the English Lit major who wrote her thesis on the importance of Precambrian quartzite stones in Victorian literature. You’re a pre-med. She reads her work aloud, and it’s brilliant, but you have no clue what she’s talking about. You get married/break up.
You’re in scrubs at the hospital. A Tongan fire-eater has had an unfortunate accident, and the Fillmore Auditorium is ablaze. You and a female med student stay up for 36 straight hours, admitting and treating a dozen burn victims in the ER. Your classmate is super good at this. She shows you how to dress 3rd degree burns. After the shift is over, you go with her to the Daily Dose for some morning coffee. You get married/break up.
You fight because she thinks you need to be stricter with Billy, he can’t just sit on his bed all day watching YouTube videos, and you should really tell him to do his homework. But you are so tired when you come home from work that you want to stay in your room and watch YouTube videos yourself. That’s no excuse, she says, because she’s also a doctor, tired as fuck, yet she still practices piano with Billy and teaches him to fry potstickers and goes through the XTRA MATH workbook with him, why does she have to be the bad guy all the time–the chores too– why can’t you just pull your weight? You get divorced/tell Billy to do his homework.
You bring your wife home after her mastectomy. Everyone is tired as fuck, but no one more so than her. You don’t have to remind Billy to do his homework anymore—he does it without prompting. You hold her in bed while she sleeps. She slumbers most of the day and night. The plastic bulb coming out of her chest is full of pink-tinged fluid, and the drain tube clogged with blood. You strip her drain/take a solo vacation to Hawaii.
Several times a day, you run your pinched fingers along her drain and dislodge the clots, and empty the contents of the plastic bulb into a measuring cup. You and Billy tag team the laundry, the cooking, the trash, smiling at each other like you enjoy it. Because you do. You continue doing the chores after she feels better, after she’s back at work, even after Billy’s gone to college, and it’s just her and you at home, mixing water and oil in a pan full of dumplings.
Eliot Li lives in California. His work appears or is forthcoming in Smokelong Quarterly, Pithead Chapel, Juked, Pidgeonholes, Atticus Review, Cleaver, and others.