by Lindsay Hunter
My brother is a fish, I tell Yesenia.We're sitting by her pool. Yesenia is wearing a black bikini and when she stretches I can see her pubic hair. I'm wearing jeans and a sweater. Her weight barely makes a dent in the pool chair; I'm so heavy that if I move slightly I can feel the concrete deck under my ass. We're tanning under the gray sky, smoking the last of the pot we found in her sister's sock drawer. Every few minutes I think I hear thunder, or a garbage truck.
Yeah, she says. Wait, a fish? Then, holding her breath, she says, You're high.
Right now, I hate her. The way she smokes like she's not really smoking, like she's just mimicking something she saw in a movie, squinting her eyes and laughing like she would if she was dying of laughter—huc huc huc huc. . . but I press on.
It's not like he has gills or anything, I tell her. But he's been staring a lot, and sometimes when he's really deep in thought his mouth opens and closes, like he's gasping for air—and his feet are really flat and wide, like flippers.
You mind if I cash this? she asks, holding up the joint, and then cashes it. You love your brother, she says.
I want to tell her something that would shock her—something like, I had a dream I was licking your dad's hairy chest, or, The lightning in your eyes looks like cinnamon floss, or, You're ugly. Something to make her listen. Something to make her see me differently. But I just say, Yeah, I love him.
Let's go inside, she says. I'm freezing. My nipples are like little rocks—huc, huc, huc. Plus, she says, winding a towel around her dry hair, we can weigh ourselves on my mom's new scale. It's digital.
My heart sinks. I'd rather not, I tell her. I had a breakfast burrito and I don't think it's digested yet.
Whatever, she says, walking away, her bottoms creeping into her asscrack. Then she wheels on me. You think I care? she hisses. Her hip is cocked; her towel is so tight it makes her eyes turn up. She doesn't elaborate.
No, I tell her. I don't think that at all.
I follow her in. Thunder. Definitely thunder.
In her mother's bathroom, Yesenia stands naked on the scale, her bikini crumpled in the sink. I make a point of looking anywhere but at the scale. I concentrate on a picture of Yesenia's mom and stepdad standing in a combed white desert, smiling and sunburned.
I hear her dismount the scale, then mount it again. Godfuckingdammit, she whispers. I stare so hard at the picture that their heads come alive, floating out from the frame, circling each other. They get so close I notice what looks like a peppercorn in Yesenia's stepdad's teeth.
Get on the scale, Yesenia says. She's standing in front of me, arms crossed over her belly. I can't get her into focus—I can still see her parents' heads floating around, zooming in and moving away, until they finally settle onto her breasts. And then I realize I'm staring at her breasts.
Get on the fucking scale, she says. Her face is red and wet, tears streaming freely.
Yeah, okay, I tell her. I get on the scale and she crouches to read the numbers. Her spine sticks out and in the bright light of the bathroom little shadows collect under the bones.
Ha, she says, standing. I still weigh more than a hundred pounds less than you. She takes her bikini top out of the sink and wipes her face with it. Let's go find something to eat.
In the kitchen she piles a tub of ice cream, spray cheese, Doritos, a six-pack of diet Coke, and pretzels onto a tray. We put it between us on the couch and she sits, cross-legged and naked, and watches me eat. Is that good? she asks. That looks really good.
I eat slowly. Every once in a while applause soars from the television and I mentally bow. I don't even know why the television is on—she watches me, and I watch the food.
I eat until I can't eat anymore. I'm done, I tell her.
Okay, she says. Good. She puts the tray on the floor and scoots closer. I give her my hand and she sucks my fingers clean. The thunder is so loud it drowns out the television, but I watch it anyway—a talk show, a woman openly sobbing, a child stunned by the lights, the host stabbing the microphone into the audience. Who has something to say? Say something, say something. Yesenia's mouth is warm, and even though I can't say I like it, it's soothing, and it feels good.
When she's done she flings my hand into my lap. I try not to be obvious about wiping it on my jeans.
This is a dumb show, she says.
I know, I tell her.
She leans in and kisses me, licking my lips, probing my mouth for bits of food, sucking my tongue. I keep my eyes open, watching the fading dots of her parents' heads dancing around the room.
She finishes, leaning back into the arm of the sofa, rubbing her arms. I'm still cold, she says.
So get dressed, I tell her.
You're not a dyke, are you? she asks.
I shake my head. No.
She nods to herself. Good, she says. You should go—my stepdad's going to be home soon.
At the door she says, See you tomorrow.
I leave my bike at her house and walk home. The thunder is so loud it sounds like hunks of sky are crashing all around me. I make it to my street before it starts raining thick drops that sting my skin. I'm drenched by the time I can see my brother at the window, staring out at this sea of rain, his mouth closing, his mouth opening, his mouth closing. I lay on my back in the yard and let the rain fill my mouth. I wonder how long I can stay like this before he thinks I'm drowning. Probably forever.
Lindsay Hunter is a writer living in Chicago. She is the co-founder of the Quickies reading series, and her work has previously been published by Nerve, MAKE, Featherproof Mini-Books, Smokelong Quarterly, Thieves Jargon, and Hobart, among others.