Prose: Jeremy Glazer
A year ago we suddenly had a bunch of flies.
I thought there were holes in the screens, but Lisa said there must have been eggs in the walls. She said it was a seasonal thing and had happened in her last apartment too.
I didn’t believe her, but I guess she was right because they came back exactly a year later.
“The flies are back,” I said.
“I’m leaving you,” she said, staring at me with those green eyes of hers.
Well, it wasn’t like that exactly. I’m sure she said more. We had talked about it all for weeks and for months, but it came down to this. One sentence we were together, the next we weren’t.
The funny thing was Lisa had always been fascinated by how people break up. She would wonder over how sudden it seemed, that no matter how drawn out, there was always a clear line. One day you shared a bed, the next you didn’t. I was never fascinated by it. I’d see people die at the hospital. Gunshot, liver failure, old age. I knew the how didn’t matter. There was always one last breath. Alive, then dead.
“I’m going to sleep at Jennifer’s,” she told me. “I’ll come get my stuff soon.”
“You always wondered how it happened,” I reminded her.
“Yes, I did,” she said.
We sat there on our blue chairs, by the window. The silence five minutes earlier had felt so much lighter, but I could barely remember it now. This silence was pressing down, squashing me into the chair.
“I wonder how I’m going to get rid of those flies,” I said. I didn’t have anything else to say.
“You’ll figure it out,” she said.
“I know Boots likes to chase them, but I can’t just watch them butt into the screens until they die.”
She crinkled her mouth into a smile that turned into a sigh that turned into a headshake. She went into the bedroom to gather some things, and then left. Our black and white cat followed her to the door. When Lisa walked out, Boots, who had finally gotten used to another human, stopped and turned around and looked at me. Her eyes (or maybe my mind) asked: “Is that all you’re going to do?”
The sound of flies bothered me that night. They were slamming their little bodies into the screens, desperate to get to the light outside. In the morning, the window sills were littered with dead and half-dead flies, spent from a night of trying to escape. Whenever I tried to pick up the living ones, I’d end up killing them by accident.
Boots was fascinated. She liked the half-dead ones, and batted them around on the wood floors with her paw. She was old.
“I’m sorry, Boots, but I have to do something.”
Boots looked up, rubbed against my leg, and walked to the kitchen. She had begun to think that any comment addressed to her meant she was going to be fed. Lately we had been feeding her too much. To make up for something, I guess.
I heard buzzing and caught a fly against the screen. I cupped my hand around it, but it escaped through the space by my thumb. I trapped another one. As I closed my hand around the fly, I felt it struggle, jumping back and forth between the screen and my hand, tickling my palm. I made the cup of my hand smaller and smaller and tried to grab the fly in my fingers as they came together, but I ended up with only the wings. The body thumped down to the sill. Boots walked over. She wanted a go at the fly that no longer could, but that didn’t seem right. I flushed it down the toilet.
Lisa called me at work.
“I’ll be by to get everything tomorrow,” she said. “I packed it up today. I didn’t want you to be surprised.”
The place was half full of boxes when I got home. She was really going. Boots was on top of a stack, on her favorite blanket.
I started to pack some stuff Lisa had missed—her Q-tips, some bath salts she liked, Tums, a Mexican purse I had gotten for her, plastic containers from Rosie and Ting’s on 2nd Avenue. She loved their soup.
The containers gave me an idea. I picked one up and trapped a fly inside, against the screen. Then, I slid a piece of paper between the screen and the mouth of the container so I could pull the whole thing away from the screen, using the paper as a lid to keep the fly in. I walked it downstairs and outside. I lifted the paper away; the fly hopped once and flew away.
I went back to catch more. Boots followed me around while I caught a few.
That night, whenever I heard thumping, I caught them and let them out. I went outside in my underwear, but it was summer and no one cared.
Lisa came over the next night. When she walked in, Boots rubbed her leg and walked over and rubbed mine. I showed Lisa my fly-catching contraption, but I couldn’t find any flies to demonstrate on.
“I knew you’d figure something out,” she said. “You’re good at saving things.”
“Not everything, I guess,” I said.
Boots jumped back onto her blanket on the stack of boxes.
“I’m sorry about this,” Lisa said.
“Yeah, me too.”
She closed Boots in the bathroom. We started carrying boxes down to the U-Haul. Her friend Jennifer was sitting in the front seat, absently playing with her tangled blond hair. When we were finished, Lisa went back up to say goodbye to Boots. I stayed down with Jennifer. We looked at the ground.
Lisa came over and put her hand on my arm.
“I’ll call you,” she said. Then she and Jennifer got in the front of the truck and drove off.
That night, I didn’t hear any thumping.
I guess they’d finally all gotten out.