I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to be this anymore. So strip. Let the little black dress fall onto the bathroom floor. Step into the shower and turn on the hot water. Hotter. Hotter. Porcelain skin, crimson lips, and those damn fake eyelashes rinse off and stick to the tiny blue tiles. He’s yelling again. He jiggles the doorknob. It’s locked. I melt into the steam, no longer preserved, displayed. He asks if I’m almost ready for God’s sake. I don’t answer. I just watch the sick colors swirl down the drain—the black, the blue, the gold.
I step out of the shower, pat my skin dry. Slip on the little black dress again. The one with the long sleeves to hide the violet imprints from his fingers. I may as well comply. Just one last time.
Because I don’t want to be this anymore: a doll in a box, a trophy, a pinned butterfly.
I watched a video once on how to mount a butterfly. The butterfly is stolen from its habitat and placed inside a killing jar of ethyl acetate. Then the thorax is pinned—like a knife impaling the core—and the wings are flattened beneath glass slides. It’s labeled where it was collected: a swanky bar, a city park, yoga class.
Now. The front passenger seat of the Lamborghini. The flashy red car hugs the roads bordered with sea grass. This island is a trap. Once you’re here, you’re here. I shouldn’t have come. Nothing ever changes. At least until morning—that blue light of dawn. That peaceful time no one can ruin—not even him. I’ll hop the ferry or board a small plane—the kinds that always crash—to the mainland. The earliest departure is seven a.m.—to a sunlit field of wildflowers. I looked it up on my phone this morning.
He can’t wait to get to the next bar. He’s already had three martinis at dinner. He grabs my thigh, pushes it away. It leaves a tingly feeling. He cranks the music. He clenches his capped teeth. He’s in that mood. I hate that mood.
He parks outside the bar lit up with tiki torches and strings of lights in the shape of flip- flops. The bar television plays the movie Jaws. I spot a bachelorette party: six gleeful twenty-somethings, tanned, drunk, and glittery. I spot the bride-to-be. I want to tell her: don’t do it. They change. And then you do too.
He pulls me closer. He displays me: the little black dress, Christian Louboutins, Tiffany’s. He shows off his car to the younger, hopeful men. He hates them because they remind him of something he lost. He eyes their pretty girlfriends. They all drink and chat and laugh at a small round table outside. The only reason he stays is because he loves the adoration. His posture is proud. His head is held high. They think I have it made. I try to engage with the youthful partiers, but it feels like there are rocks in my stomach. And I’m sinking. Instead, I gaze at the shark on television and watch how the victim’s blood blooms into saltwater.
It’s one a.m., then two, and we’re hurrying along those narrow roads back to the rented beach house where I can’t breathe, where I pretend to sleep like the dead to avoid him. The black ocean flashes silver streaks of moonlight.
This will be the last time. I’ll take the small plane to the mainland before he’s up. Before he makes his flaxseed smoothie. Before he heads to the gym and pumps iron for all the twenty-somethings on treadmills.
He speeds up around a corner on purpose. He knows it makes me nervous. I can see my ending. Delicate papery wings the color of copper pennies and blue velvet, torn by forceps, discarded, forgotten. A tight ball of crushed metal. Blood on the pavement. I imagine it in detail and it’s always there. I close my eyes. This will be the last time. It’ll be fine. Really.