You and I rented a cabin in the woods to get away from all the chaos and noise of work and the city. We thought the isolation would clear our heads. And it did. In the mornings, I would fish for Rainbow Trout from the banks of the stream that surged through the yard and flowed into the state preserve at the edge of the property. Catch and release. I’d walk out the door early and come back to eat the leftovers of your breakfast plate. Typically fried potato tacos and burnt coffee. It was wonderful. A spring retreat. In the afternoons, we’d walk the rooms naked, finding new ways to touch each other and to say I love you but with words like, “I want you to use me like an object, like every part of my body is a sex toy” and you’d say, I love you too, by crawling over me and squeezing my head with your thighs.
We were full of pollinated air and love dreams. But eventually we had to leave and go back to our commutes and our jobs and our hatred for the excrement that the drunken children of the city smeared across the subway seats.
A year passed and we thought of how nice it’d be to go back to that same cabin. So we booked a week there again. And again we were satiated by the woods, by those sneaky trout, by our bodies constricting each other until the only noise you could make was, “puhh.”
Eventually we’d leave and go home, but we didn’t like home anymore. We would lie in bed and fantasize that our home was in the woods, but it wouldn’t feel like home and all the difficulties that go with being home, like laundry days, shopping for new furniture, complaints to the landlord over the neighbor turning the shared thermostat down so that our apartment was freezing while their apartment was comfortable, fights over the last time date nights were had, claims of infidelity, mental health days from work that were taken together and used to get stratospherically drunk so that a second sick day was needed for the hangover bent over toilets and salad bowls for vomit in bed.
No, in these fantasies, each week of our lives would feel like vacation, and we’d look forward to the next week, suspecting it would be better than the last.
We’d wake up on Mondays and roll into each other’s arms and say, “I’m so glad I’m here with you. What do you feel like doing today?”
And the answer would be, “Nothing. Let’s turn up the thermostat and spend the whole day naked. The only rule of the day is that we can’t stop touching each other. If you have to use the bathroom, I’ll stand next to you with my hand on your shoulder handing you toilet paper. When we chop vegetables for dinner, you’ll grind against me from behind, your chest against my back with your chin resting on my shoulder, and your arms laced under mine as if we were a four-armed beast. When one of us needs some alone time, it’ll be with our backs pressed together.”
So we started booking weekend trips once per season at the cabin. It became our forest home. A wooden container made with the express purpose of storing our happiness until our return.
Regular life wore on us. Soon, one weekend per season wasn’t enough. And we began to go every other weekend. We booked the cabin so often that it became an issue of availability. If someone else blocked the time slot that we wanted, we’d curse their unknown names with the onslaught of venereal diseases that were so new, they had never been studied or even identified by epidemiologists. A cure nowhere in sight.
So we booked a year’s worth of weekends and banked on the website’s generous cancellation policy to keep us from bankruptcy when circumstance prohibited a trip to our cabin.
One Monday morning, as you brushed your teeth, and I showered, I said, “What if we forget work and go to the cabin today. Take a mental health day to spend in the country?”
And of course you agreed. We carried our bags down the apartment stairs and out across the five blocks covered in snow sludge over to my secret parking spot next to the elementary school where no one thought to park, drove up I-80 to 380 to 81 and turned onto the local roads that winded through dark little towns cut into hills until we found the trestle over the rainbow trout stream and the smoky little visage of our cabin. A light flurry began to fall. The cabin looked like heaven with its plume of wood smoke billowing up from the chimney. I stopped on the bridge. There shouldn’t be smoke. A car was parked in front. There must have been a mistake.
I turned off the headlights and pulled us up our long winding gravel driveway. In the window, a blonde, muscular couple stood naked, fucking with their hands pressed to the cold pane of the sliding glass door. It was dusk, and they couldn’t see out but we could see in.
I had my phone dialed for the property manager when the thought occurred, “Did you remember to book the night?”
You said, “I thought you did?”
Seeing that couple treat our cabin like a trash can for their own excretions made it change. The spell was broken. We never went again. It wasn’t ours and it never would be. And with nothing to look forward to, we despaired over the coming week. At night, after we screamed at each other, accusing the other of not loving enough, not trying hard enough to make life like the cabin, we’d dream about the good old days of trout fishing, lovemaking in the open windows, breakfast at 1:00pm, and we’d wish out loud for something to look forward to. That’s when the living room in our apartment changed.
I walked in and the furniture and cushions and sheets had been stacked to create a little chamber in the middle of the room. A getaway at home.
“Did you do this?” I said.
But you claimed you hadn’t.
I knew it was a lie, but I was so happy to go inside the little play cabin with you and retreat from our home that I didn’t even care. We played hooky from work and spent the whole day inside there.
By night we grew hungry. Neither of us wanted to leave. It hurt too much to step outside into the apartment. We played rock, paper, scissors for it. I lost.
The outside room was freezing on my bare skin. I rushed to fill my arms with crackers and cheese and all the non-perishables from the kitchen. I shuddered when I came back inside. We fought over how to divide the food to make our stay last as long as possible.
The space inside was so tight that it began to be oppressive. Our movements felt like a dance of opposition, circling each other like warring animals, scanning for weaknesses to attack.
I had an idea. To build another room within this one. Smaller so that we couldn’t sit in opposite corners. So the walls would keep us tightly together. The proximity of our bodies, intwined and pressed tight together by those walls, would spawn love.
We took chairs and cushions from the roof and made our inner inner shelter. Its size forced us to contort our limbs in order to get inside.
“Perfect,” you said.
“Home,” I said.
If you had an itch, I had to scratch it. If I had a cramp, we rolled over in unison. You would exhale, and I would inhale from your mouth. Then I would exhale and you would breathe me in.
Time slipped by unnoticed. We grew thinner. It was frightening to feel the empty space that our shrinking bodies left in the room, so we pulled the walls in closer, up to our ribs.
Occasionally, we heard knocking outside, but we refused to answer. We were too deep inside for the landlord to get to us.
In our cocoon of love we ran out of food. I ate your hair, and you sucked dead skin from my shoulders and neck. We recycled each other until our bodies began to transform into the inanimate. Life was leaving and we were becoming a feature of the room.
Our backs were the first to become walls, our feet flooring, our skulls the ceiling. We grew deeper into each other’s bodies until we were one. Our singularity. Our one body shrunk as water became more difficult to find, there being no dewy sweat to lick anymore. Breathing became our only communication and it said one thing: just a little longer, only a bit more then we can go back into the world. A little while longer. Just a little bit longer.
And when our breathing stopped, we abandoned the anxiety that we’d ever have to leave our cabin. We lived there, then and forever, and they could never make us leave.
Connor White received his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His writing has earned support from the Key West Literary Workshop, and his work has appeared in Clarion Magazine, The Des Moines Register, Postscript Magazine, The Southern Humanities Review, and is forthcoming in Guesthouse. He is the co-creator of the Be On The Lookout Podcast, featuring original horror stories. Currently, he lives and teaches writing in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Follow him on Twitter at @connorewhite.
Photo by Olivier Guillard on Unsplash