Stefani Christova


He always sleeps on his back, on purpose, his arms on top of the comforter, pulling it down—you know I like to have my arms covered or I am cold—but he doesn’t care, he thinks I am trying to get him to move to the guest bedroom, which is true, but so what? I know it’s silly, but I wonder if he could guess my thoughts, after all, his head is a pillow away, and what do you think he’d do if he knew I like to imagine him dead while he is sleeping next to me? He would make me feel guilty, that’s what, make me feel like an asshole, even though he may be wishing I were dead, God knows, I’ve caught him looking at me as if he didn’t know who I was. Hey, do you think that bitch over there, the one with the stupid Latte, can hear me? Stupid tart, I bet she is taking the questionnaire for the newest dating service, lying her ass off. Look at her fake eyelashes. Who wears fake eyelashes these days? Anyway, I’ve registered with, don’t get me wrong, just curious. Do you want my scone? Take it, I need to lose five pounds by January. I don’t know why I bother, I hate the bloody vacations. He thinks he is being nice taking me south every winter. I said I didn’t want to go anymore, but he wouldn’t listen. “You love the ocean, honey, you love the sun.” I would, you miserable SOB, if you weren’t there, if I didn’t have to sleep next to you, or as it’s the case, be awake next to you, watching the hair spurt out of your ears hour after hour until, finally, it’s time for the breakfast buffet. You are lucky you’ve never been able to afford it. It’s abominable, believe me. The days pass easily enough, you eat, drink, bask in the sun, eat, frolic in the water, drink. The evenings are what get on my nerves. Nothing to do, nowhere to go, this is an all-inclusive resort, why risk the natives? so you sit in the same lounge chair, or maybe in a different one, close to the greasy-surfaced, amoeba-shaped pool, and watch the uniformed staff tidying up, supposedly discreetly, taking out the trash, lining the bins with black plastic, collecting the empty bottles, a man with a long-handled net fishing the leaves out of the pool as another man empties half a bucket of chlorine, ignoring the family of raccoons drinking water at the shallow side, and the midst of this, the middle-aged couples walk arm in arm, promenading, pretending not to notice the thin, dark-skinned men and women gathering the wet towels the vacationers didn’t have the energy to return to the front desk, but, hey, the sun can be very tiring, and the tips are included in the price, so, tan and freshly bathed, they walk around the pool, the men in pressed shirts and khakis, the women in as skimpy getups as they dare, waiting for the “program” to begin. It makes you sick, there is no one younger than fifty-five, there are no kids, no single people, only couples, couples trying so hard to have fun, to get their money’s worth. Once, there was a group of young people, for three days only, poor, you could tell, but even so, they didn’t care for the unlimited well drinks we were entitled to, no, they went to town each night and woke the whole resort when they came back at three or four in the morning, shouting and laughing. The oldsters shouted back from their terraces that they would call security, as if we didn’t all know we were outraged not at them, but at our insomnia and prostate problems and hot flashes. We saw the young people emerge in the late mornings from their cheap rooms, no ocean view for them, nursing their hangovers around the pool, and looking so fresh, so fresh, it hurt the eyes. We gave them guarded looks from behind our sunglasses, over the edge of our books, beware our spouses, who would smirk at our flabby stomachs and liver-spotted arms if they caught us watching. Oh, I so hope he will die—peacefully in his sleep, I am not a monster—but soon, before January, or… I don’t know what I’d do, I can’t divorce him, I haven’t worked for seventeen years, I can’t start now, can I? Who is going to hire me? Maybe I’ll meet somebody online, I said I am forty-two, do you think I could pass for forty-two? They were still carding me when I was forty-two. You remember that, don’t you? But even then it was already too late, I had surrendered to it all, to boredom, to convenience, to lukewarm pleasures, to the vacations. I even didn’t know I hated them so much before those young people showed up, three winters ago, and the girl. No, it’s not what you think. She wasn’t even pretty, or if she was, it was in a most common way—young and healthy, with clear skin and thick brown hair hanging to the middle of her back. Regular features, a bit large but childlike, almost fairylike. A healthy fairy, adopted by farmers who raised her on cream and butter, and big slabs of beef. At six o’clock, the tropical night already fallen, we saw her dancing around the pool, her movement made graceful by her lack of self-consciousness.  Her heart-shaped face is upturned, she doesn’t take her eyes from what is above, the leaves of the palm trees, and the tikka trees where the sleeping monkeys and parrots hide, and the friendless iguana on a branch of the lonely acacia, and further up, the indigo-blue darkness with the Milky Way shining above us all. No moon to dim the starlight, I’ve made sure of it. I always choose the time of the new moon to go south. The girl could not have been that smart, she just got lucky. Anyway, she circles around the pool, taking big leaps sometimes, sometimes hopping like a child, smiling the whole time. I wonder what is the music she dances to, a merry tune that none of us can hear, but then I realize that she has her headphones on, so it is real music, she has not been bestowed something that we are deprived off, but it does feel that we are deprived still. She is drunk, John says, but I know she is not. Even with her eyes on the sky, the girl keeps an even distance from the edge of the pool, she twirls and hops without stumbling, and she doesn’t sway, in fact, she is steady like a horse-riding acrobat. Maybe magic mushrooms, I think, but I know it’s not that. The girl is happy, I have to admit to myself, and I feel such sorrow, such loss, when two security guards step in her way, and she must stop and remove her headphones to hear what they want. The pretty scene disintegrates. The girl is still smiling, but not as happily as before, when she tries to tell them to leave her alone, that she is fine, and what is wrong with dancing around the pool anyway. The security guards argue for a while, then one of them goes to fetch her friends, leaving the other to keep her safe, away from the pool. The girl looks sad now. She doesn’t understand. But we do. Being young and happy is not allowed in this place. Dancing while counting the stars is not allowed. Nothing neat and straight and pretty is.

            The girl is gone. We all take sips from our plastic cups. At the shallow edge of the pool, the raccoons lap the chlorinated water, and seem content. No, I am not crying, it’s just my contacts.

Stefani Christova

Stefani Christova, born and raised in Bulgaria, now lives in Colorado. Her fiction has appeared in various magazines, including Big Bridge, Connecticut Review, Downstate Story, Raven Chronicles, and others.