A pig wearing an apron slathers itself in barbeque sauce. Happy Jack’s Pulled Pork Sliders. Slow cooked pork shoulder so tender it will melt in your mouth.
Sometimes I imagine a world in which it’s them who get pregnant. Everything is different, reversed. We’ve perfected birth control. It no longer comes with headaches and a desire to combust.
A smiling person cuts off their own leg and places it on a waiting tray. They are wearing a chef’s hat. There is no blood but there is sauce in six flavors.
When I met my husband he was wearing a plaid shirt rolled up past the elbows. This was to a business meeting. I wanted to lick all the hair on those forearms. I wanted to put each of his fingers in my mouth.
I was writing copy for tea at the time. A flavor for every sign of the horoscope. As full-bodied as the moon, this black tea will lure you in with its vanilla notes, but you’ll notice a hint of pepper thrilling underneath.
He was an entrepreneur, back then. But the kind with the good buzzwords. Sustainable. Renewable. Empowerment.
A chicken holds a bucket of golden fried wings. A cow smiles out from a container of milk. Chickens serving themselves. Pigs serving themselves. High heels splashing through barbeque sauce. A parasol.
It feels so unoriginal to be angry these days. There is anger everywhere. We’re all wearing it like primer, ready to paint our other feelings on top of it.
He was married when we met. But in the process of getting divorced. Older than me but took care of himself better than all the men my age. It didn’t take much to impress me. He paired up all his socks in the drawer. Listened to classical guitar. Went to the gym four times a week.
He sold his company to a bigger one. Three months ago, we moved into their compound. I could call it by its real name, or I could call it something else, like Goliath. It doesn’t matter. He’s a programmer. They gave me a job writing product descriptions. They have programs that do that, too, but sometimes they like a human touch.
Recently, I was assigned to Grocery Delivery. The meat department. But before that, I wrote for the Goliath Travel Service. They say that people value experiences more than objects, these days. Ocean the color of an ocean. Sky the color of a sky. Field of umbrellas like poppies. A woman’s hand coming toward the camera, you’re the camera, you’re a man, I’m a man, we are all men until proven guilty.
Cody goes to the Goliath preschool. He puts the triangle block in the triangle hole. He’s got a small chip under his sternum, so he’ll never get lost. He’s globally positioned. From here he can achieve anything.
As employees, we get a discount on the Travel Service. They can take the money right out of our paychecks. We haven’t been anywhere yet, but we like to do the previews together, on the VR headsets. We skim over the waters of the Caribbean. We stand at the foot of towering glaciers, blue, blue. The sky is the color of the ocean. The glaciers are the color of his eyes.
Can you imply that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity without explicitly using the word ‘melt’?
My husband already had two children, with his previous wife. I see them only on holidays. They have her hair, black, black, and his blue blue eyes. Once the little girl had a nightmare, came and stood by our bed. I thought she was some mythological creature, a mermaid, a selkie, a changeling. If you take a woman’s skin and hide it, you can make her your own.
Surf n’ turf. A lobster cuts off his tail. Did you hear the allegory about how they turned up the water in the pot one degree at a time and finally the frog married a much younger frog and told her she was an old soul? He used to grasp me by the shoulders and look right into my eyes. After sex he’d say thank you. Thank you, thank you, I needed this.
I looked on his computer once. I thought it would take a lot to faze me. I thought, What’s the worst it could be. Men tied up, women tied up. Please, I told myself, just nothing with kids. Instead it was people being eaten. Tiny men being eaten by giant women. Science gone awry, a man being transformed into a pill. Gosh I hate taking my vitamins, she says. Oh well, down the hatch.
Our apartment has three bedrooms and a Jacuzzi tub. There’s floor-to-ceiling glass in the living room that turns opaque at the touch of a button; one wall doubles as a TV. Sometimes I like to turn all the windows to one-way glass and walk around naked and look out at the picnic tables on the grass below.
Cody likes to play games on the big wall TV. His favorite game is one where you play as an anime spy in a G-string and you shoot cartoon turtles out of your mouth into peoples’ exploding heads. My husband says the game is good for teambuilding skills.
They’re not really turtles, they’re bullets, but Cody got into the parental controls and bought himself a skin. Now we have to activate the retinal scan every time we want to let him play.
Once I told Cody to put on his pajamas and he called me a faggot. I asked him What is a faggot and he said somebody who eats their own snot.
That was a lie earlier about walking around the apartment naked. I was just telling you what you wanted to hear. What I actually do is put on my husband’s suit and practice having been to Prague.
I haven’t told him I’m pregnant again. I’ve been looking up those pictures, of the fetus at so many weeks. It looks like one half of a ying yang. It looks like nothing within something, or maybe something within nothing. It looks like a fish.
I used to bring the laundry down to the basement, eighteen floors, but it’s only seventy credits a month for them to pick it up, and for ninety they do wash dry and fold.
It’s 240 credits a month for the Silver meal plan, lunches and dinners five days a week. I never was a good cook.
To collect a cow’s milk, you first have to get her pregnant, and then take away her calf. It’s mostly illegal to film this. When Cody was born I kept seeing every appliance as a baby repository. What if I put the baby in the toaster, I thought. What if I put the baby in the fridge.
I don’t bring up the porn directly but one day I ask if there’s anything he’d like to do different in bed. He says, I think we’re doing pretty well, don’t you?
It’s sixty credits for yoga twice a week. Sometimes I do Pilates, too. Pilates is all about your core. Are you feeling it? the teacher asks. Are you engaging that core? The core of an apple, the molten core of the Earth. What makes something a core instead of a pit?
There’s no commute to work anymore, but there are a lot of projects that require staying late. Cody almost never sees his father. When they do spend time together, it seems to be all he remembers. Dad’s teaching me to play chess, he tells me excitedly, as if I hadn’t been in the room with them.
When I wear the suit I remember how on the first-class flight to Prague they served us martinis before we even took off. They said How are you sir? and I said I’ve been better, I’ve been worse.
I saw an article recently about empathy robots for the elderly. They haven’t perfected them yet, but in a few years you won’t be able to tell the difference. The article was about what to do when people start leaving the robots money in their wills.
Once I thought about having an affair, with the barista at the coffee shop downstairs. He’s got a beautiful smile and he always remembers my name. I think maybe the barista is an empathy robot, but that could be ok. It would be an experience. Once he ran after me and caught me by the elevator. He said, Here, you forgot your refillable mug. I said, Oh, thanks. He lingered, just long enough. In the elevator I twisted the ring on my finger, around and around and around.
It’s three credits for a plain black coffee, or six for a fancy one. Cody hasn’t called anyone a fag in weeks, so I buy him a snowman cookie with a smiling face.
The yoga teacher is an inner peace robot, but she has such lifelike features that I often forget. My husband’s always checking out her ass, but I totally get it; she’s got chakras like a radiation map.
Sometimes I dress up as myself and practice saying no, but it always comes out maybe.
At night I lie in the rainforest and listen to the sounds of the birds, wondering how many of them are extinct. Half asleep, I think some tropical insect has crawled on my leg. I swat at it, but it is only the tips of his fingers, grazing my skin.
For sixty credits a month we can get a maid to come and vacuum the corners where the robot couldn’t reach. For ten more she’ll bring fresh flowers in a vase.
For twenty-five a week we can have a native Chinese speaker practice with Cody on Thursday afternoons.
For thirty-five we can have unlimited toothpaste, paper towels, toilet paper and soap.
During sex I notice bite marks on my husband’s arm. They are faded and half-hidden under the hair. At first I think, Another woman, of course, but then I remember that I did it myself, a few weeks ago.
Afterwards he is the big spoon and I am the little one. The campus encircles us, a closed loop. We talk about hiring a babysitter for Cody, going on date nights once a week. They’ll take the money right out of our paychecks.
We would have spent it anyway, so it makes no difference if we carve it out of our skin, one chunk at a time.
It’s twenty-five credits a month for pool privileges, and fifteen more for the tennis courts. The pool has a row of deck chairs, neat as the cubbies at Cody’s school. There’s a wave pool, too. Heated water, heated towels. We are lucky, really. I know that. Each morning my husband kisses me goodbye and goes down the block to the office where the windows project real solar light even when it’s raining. It’s usually raining. That doesn’t affect the pool, either. The pool is inside a dome.