“HORROR HOTEL” by ALICE FLORIDA XU

ONE

 

On a Tuesday, Alice decides she will be unfaithful to Peter, her boyfriend of three and a half years. It is 10:43 in the morning and rain is drumming the roof of the building where Alice works. Alice chews on a pen and wonders when she will do it, when she will fuck someone else. Alice looks at the computer. Soon, Alice decides. Alice looks at a window and her gray chair squeaks. She chews on a pen and thinks, I am going to cheat on him soon. I have to do it soon. I have to cheat on him and I have to take control of my life.

 

Alice loves Peter. Or Alice used to love Peter. Or Alice never loved Peter. At one point Alice loved Peter, probably. A year ago, or maybe two years ago, Alice loved Peter. I love Peter, Alice used to think. Then something changed. Or nothing changed and Alice never really loved Peter. Maybe loving Peter was what Alice wanted, so Alice pretended it was happening. When Alice was twelve she believed she would be a veterinarian. Alice was very sure of it because she wanted it to happen. Every day she would think, I will be a veterinarian. Maybe loving Peter was something like that. Or maybe it wasn’t. Or maybe loving Peter and not loving Peter are the same thing, or so similar as to almost be the same thing, and there is no sense in thinking about it, especially not now, especially after Alice has decided that she will be unfaithful to Peter, an idea that feels very clear, and very large, and very unlike the question of loving Peter, which is very vague, and very small, and very confusing. Someone yells something outside Alice’s cubicle. Alice stares at her computer screen. Alice stares at a graph it is her job to make. Alice thinks, I need to finish this. I need to focus on my job. I need to be a good employee so I can keep my job. I need to be a good employee so I can buy a house. I need to be a good employee. My life is not in control. My life is out of control. I need to take control of my life. Continue reading

SOUVENIR by ALICE FLORIDA XU

Billy and Oliver were their names. They lived two houses down. We went to the same elementary school and rode the same bus. (I remember jabbing one of those green vinyl seats, pushing my pencil into the yellow foam, and Oliver–or possibly Billy–laughing hysterically.) They were twins, non-identical. They had the same blond hair, but Oliver was taller than Billy. I remember their home, their backyard, their tree house. I remember Lucy, their gooey-eyed black poodle. I remember the living room, Billy and Oliver sitting Indian-style on maroon carpeting, watching cowboy shows all afternoon. Continue reading

“PURPLE HEART, 1990” by ALICE FLORIDA XU

The motel room window––thick reptile house glass––shows green and dark, a highway paved over flat land. A crash-gouged wall pokes up between lanes. Shot full of white in headlights, streaks of automobile paint go seeable for parts of seconds, so brief really only seen in after-image. A rhythm of dying flashbulb memory. Then, endless pine trees, true black against the night sky of pale dark. Continue reading