What She Wanted

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What She Wanted by Stacey Richter      

She wanted the ones with amputated limbs. She wanted the ones with suspicious gaps in their employment history and borrowed handguns on the top shelf. She wanted the ones who slept on futons on the floor and washed their sheets annually, who kept hatchbacks in the yard, up on blocks. She wanted men who painted portraits of Bazooka Joe on plywood and used beer cans for ashtrays and walked down the street, just at dusk, penises hanging out of their flies, pissing. She wanted a pro-wrestler with a name like Animal Man the Younger. She wanted men on parole with great big arms who didn’t listen when she talked and said the names of their sisters or cousins when they fucked her through gaps in her clothing in parked cars under streetlights. She wanted sickly ones who refused medicine. She wanted ex-servicemen with the puttied faces of prizefighters who’d entered into business arrangements with their mothers for the purpose of selling drugs. She wanted overweight rock singers in crash helmets with self-inflicted cuts on their inner arms. She wanted junkies who pulled the minivan onto the shoulder in order to vomit. She wanted psoriatics repulsed by the wetness of kissing. She wanted the men who didn’t shower before, during or after the act of love.


She wanted them to call her up. She wanted them to mention her with fondness. She wanted them to straighten up and shave and wash their linens and dishes and cocks for her. She wanted them to realize she was the one single solitary fine thing in their broken lives and thank her and sob with gratitude upon her shoulder. She wanted them wailing with grief at the thought of her leaving, driven away by two a.m. phone calls and bail outs and foreign thong panties wandering into her wash. She wanted them to write songs for her. She wanted them to tattoo her name on their biceps and pectorals and trapezoids and quadriceps. She wanted their buddies to pull her aside in amplified barrooms with sticky floors and spray flecks of spit on her as they drunkenly proclaimed what a good influence she was. She wanted to be inside them. She wanted to fix them up and show them off and finish their sentences in front of her mother and father and sister and brothers. She wanted to keep them.


Because she trusted it. Because it smothered the gaps inside her. Because it made her feel featherlight, like a little girl carried sleeping from a car. Because it helped her figure out how to act, where to sit and what to do with her hands. Because it made her feel smart and pretty when she rode the bus. Because it let her ignore large chunks of her life for long periods of time. Because there was nothing on TV. Because she was afraid of ghosts and roaches and having food stuck in her teeth. Because she wished she was dead. Because she couldn’t stop thinking, she couldn’t stop wanting, she couldn’t dream of any other way to get close.


It worked rather badly. She was forlorn and wretched at night, then wired on coffee or crystal meth during the day. She bought a belt. She baked a pie. She put the phone in a box and the box in a drawer. She wore a clip-on fall and sucked smoke through a holder. She wandered residential streets at all hours though it was pointless and dangerous to do so. She leaned on walls in nightclubs and waited for things to happen. She ducked into the bathroom where girls spraying their hair looked like bursting hydrangeas beside her tattered violet. She drank some wine. She ate some salad. She drove her car across a bridge, just at sunset, in a swell of rosy light. It made her feel something. It made her feel empty.


She packed up. She left. She put her bag in the trunk and drove for miles across the prairie, touching herself to stay awake. She thought of being fucked by a man in a mask. She snorted speed through a coffee stirrer and remembered every conversation she’d ever had. She said the words aloud. She blew through small towns and imagined being forced to live there. She’d call the mailman Mick and loathe everything, everything. She spun the knobs on the radio and rolled the windows all the way down. She wondered if she was driving on the wrong side of the road. The radio told her to stay in a Holiday Inn. She took the suggestion. It was the center of nowhere, surrounded by cornfields. High school seniors in prom gear danced on the concrete skirt of the pool. Their clothes were cheap and ruffled and pink, yellow or powdery blue. She went to her room. She put her bag on the floor. She locked the door and tried to sleep through the music.

For more Stacey Richter, read:
What She Wanted
When to Use
The Ocean

Stacey Richter is the author of the collection My Date With Satan. Her stories have been widely anthologized and have won many prizes, including three Pushcart prizes and the National Magazine Award.

© 2000 Stacey Richter and, Inc.