i. Description of a Struggle
You knew as soon as you’d accepted her offer that it was a bad idea.
It had been less than twenty-four hours since the date with House. It didn’t go exactly as planned, nothing
that involves him ever does. And welcome to Allison’s unsatisfying life.
Now there’s Cuddy. You can only
imagine what she wants. Still, you scan the dimly lit bar looking for her telltale dark hair and forlorn expression. You spot
her at a table in the back nursing a brightly colored margarita. Sweaty palms smooth the skirt adorning your hips and you
begin to navigate tables, weaving towards her.
You sit down and she signals the waitress.
You’re not sure what to make of her outside of a work environment. At first glance she appears exactly
the same, not a hair out of place and the cut of her blouse is so low it’s nearly below sea level. Then you take a closer
look and are startled to see that she’s smiling.
“I’m glad you came back to the hospital. You’re
a good doctor,” she says, taking a sip of her drink.
You sharply turn your head to the left and crack your neck.
hearing a lot of that lately,” you reply. “You and House should start a club.”
now. And as you watch her lick salt from her thumb, you cross your legs with the realization that her power over you isn’t
Three drinks and two olives later her tongue is in your mouth. Your palm is flat against her spine,
inching up with every hitch of her breath. The lights are dim and you slide a hand underneath the hem of her skirt while your
slightly impaired mind thinks you can get away with this. When your fingertips skim along the edge of her panties she pulls
“I’m not …”
Hot air escapes in gasps from between her parted lips. Your
hand moves further up her leg, slowly, until she moans. Then you stop. She wants this and she wants you; malleable, she’s
putty in your hands.
She shakes her head. “I’m not House,” she says.
The look in her eyes,
you recognize it instantly. House. She wants him as much as you. Maybe even more.
You tilt your head. “And neither
This is probably the closest you’ll ever get to House, fucking his boss. You laugh at your twisted
sense of logic and grab your purse.
While you slide back and forth in the taxi her salty lips dance over your skin,
fluttering around the curve of your jaw and bowing down against the accelerated pulse in your neck. Her hair falls into your
face, smelling like oranges. Always with the women and produce.
The car screeches to a definite halt outside your
building. You pay the taxi driver, and having just realized your underwear is in the back seat, include a big tip.
inside you kick off your shoes and drop your purse on the floor next to them. Cuddy is looking around as if she can tell what
kind of fuck you’re going to be from the décor. Whatever. You stopped with the deep thoughts the minute you stepped
foot outside of the hospital.
You take her wrist, “Lisa,” and smile. “Let’s go to the back.
I want to curl your name around my tongue.”
You take her to your bedroom and back her into the bed until her
calves hit the baseboard. That’s when you push and she goes down, not for the first time that night. You undress her
and then yourself, leaving a big ‘dry clean only’ pile at the foot of your bed.
She’s softer than
you thought; you’d forgotten not everyone has an endless supply of sardonic comments and knowing glares. It will be
anything but fast; she’s going to be writhing underneath you before you’ll even consider her before yourself.
had been rocking against your flicking thumb for minutes, but it’s only when you lean into her, humming a line from
‘Gloria’ (wild card up my sleeve, thick heart of stone. My sins my own, they belong to me, me) against
her shoulder, that she comes with a shudder and a death grip on your neck.
You’re in a panting pile of tangled
sweaty limbs when your beeper goes off.
Cuddy smiles against your stomach. “Back to work.”
reach your arm over the edge of the bed and delve a hand into the pile of clothes searching for your beeper.
yourself from her, you half stumble out of the bed and grab your clothes.
“Yup,” you say, running a hand
through your hair.
She rolls over.
She’s still lying in the same position when you leave. And you’re
glad. You’re in a hurry, all the time, with people. In a hurry to leave a room, leave a conversation, leave them before
they leave you.
Two steps into House’s office you realize you’re not wearing any panties.
a change of clothes in your locker but the coffeemaker is in plain sight. Underwear or coffee? The question is pointless because
you’re already walking to the machine.
He has a pronounced limp and never shuts up; nonetheless, he manages
to sneak up on you while you’re pouring coffee.
“New case,” he remarks, holding up a folder. “Where’s
You shrug and put the coffeepot down. “On their way? I don’t know.”
Then he squints and leans closer to you. “Hmm,” he murmurs.
You arch an eyebrow.
smell,” he pauses. For affect no doubt. “You smell different. New perfume?”
You bite your cheek and
think about Cuddy helping you bury secrets among sheets.
“Not going to tell me what it is?” he asks.
turn away from him. A lie is a lie, regardless if he’s a bastard or not. You turn back when you feel his finger on your
neck, tracing the angry red marks Cuddy left behind. You shiver under his touch.
“I know,” he says, pulling
his hand away.
You’re not sure whether to believe him or not, but. There’s no smirk planted firmly on his
face, no quip tumbling forth from his lips. He looks at you like he’s face to face with a secret.
and it’s gone. Folded up and tucked away for later.
Later when you don’t smell like sex and he doesn’t
hate you for it.
ii. The Silence of the Sirens
You don’t like her. She walks out the door. You’ll
Two days later Vogler almost chokes on a piece of steak. For an entire month you have boxes of steaks sent
to his office. He doesn’t find it amusing and hires someone to make you even angrier. Everyone makes you angry nowadays.
Sartre was right.
Her name is Molly; she’s smart enough and does her job well. After she’s been working
there three weeks Chase starts showing up to work with ligature bruises around his wrists. No one asks because, frankly, it
grosses everyone out. Foreman does join you in making fun of Chase. You both take turns; it’s a bipartisan relationship.
entire year passes before you hear Cameron’s name again.
“It’s hard to believe Cameron’s getting
You pause your video game and from under a furrowed brow look at Wilson.
know … Cameron? She left because you’re a jerk.”
The videogame is turned off.
argue with logic like that,” you respond.
He knows better but doesn’t say. Good man.
getting married later this morning. St. Helena’s Church.”
“And you just happened along this information?”
in the newspaper.”
“Did you say St. Helena’s?”
“I know it’s drastic, but
most people do get married in churches,” he replies with a smirk.
You stand up quickly, spilling your coffee
in the process.
“Give me your tie,” you say to Wilson, holding out your hand.
a wave of your fingers, “That ugly piece of fabric around your neck. Come on.”
He takes off the tie and
hands it to you.
You start hurriedly walking towards the elevators.
Wilson always needs a goodbye. “You can’t just leave!” he yells.
“Watch me,” as you step
into the elevator.
Wilson runs to the doors.
“What about Cuddy?”
“Tell her I’ve
The doors close.
Cameron’s parents live ten minutes away from the church
(you were curious once) and you run three red lights on the way to their house. People and hastily parked cars everywhere,
you realize you didn’t need Wilson’s ugly tie to blend in with the guests. It’s another thing you’ve
done for Cameron without even realizing it.
You walk the path to her front door, barely avoiding bossy decorators
(NO! Over there!!) and laughing groups of children that couldn’t be up to any good. Once inside you spot a stairway
to the left. She’s up there. You know she’s up there right now, in her old room with a few girlfriends fussing
over her because she’s getting married. Damn, this is a hell of a way for you to make an entrance.
and you don’t know what to do. The hallway splits off in two directions. You look to the left and then to the right.
You hear something coming from the left end of the hallway. You strain to hear it again, and you do. It’s giggling.
That’s got to be her room. It was Wilson’s gossip, thirteen steps and now twenty feet. That’s all it took
for you to get back to this point, she’s within your reach again, on the other side of this door.
You don’t understand the impulse you have to be here on her wedding day, it’s sure not
to walk her down the aisle, but you’re here.
You rap on the door with the handle of your cane and edge it open
with your fingertips. The hinges squeak in protest. Too bad.
Cameron is sitting at a vanity, two women standing behind
her. Judging by the bathrobe she’s wearing you’d never think she was getting married, but her hair’s pulled
up off of her shoulders and there’s no mistaking the look in her eyes: she’s on the edge of a dream.
The two women step closer to her as though they’re aware of your less than sensitive nature. You’ve
made yourself known.
She stares at you and you stare back.
talk,” you offer.
She’s already shaking her head no, so you cut her off.
“It’ll be quick.”
smiles sadly. “But not necessarily painless.”
She exhales loudly and you’ve got her.
you leave us alone for a few minutes?” she says to the two women behind her.
They leave the room slowly, as
if trying to remember what you look like in case something bad happens. The door shuts behind them; a trap of your own making.
take a few steps across the room. You never feel comfortable being alone in a room with her. She gives you the distinct feeling
she wants to bear the brunt of your soul.
“It wouldn’t have killed you to send me a letter,” she
You roll your eyes and then look to the ground. “You have no idea what’s killing me.”
crosses her arms but doesn’t respond.
“Don’t get married,” you say, more a question than a
She’s doing the staring thing again, this time with her mouth open. She gets up from her chair and
walks to the door.
“You should leave,” she says, glancing at her watch. “I’m getting married
in two hours.”
You walk over to her and stand directly in front of her.
“I don’t – you’re
giving this guy the rest of your life,” you say. You reach a hand out and straighten the collar of her robe.
grabs hold of your wrist as you pull away. “House-”
“The rest of your life,” you repeat. “Spare
a few minutes for me.”
“Fine,” she replies, tightening her hold on your wrist. “But no sports
Two months. That’s how long you think it’s been
going on for.
Being in such an unhappy relationship yourself, it’s easy for you to spot other people in similar
situations. Awkwardness that goes unnoticed and forced smiles, but it’s frightening to be without them. That’s
when the relationship is over for good. There is no caring less if you can’t even be mean to each other.
sitting outside eating lunch. It was necessary for you to get out of the hospital. All its soothing colors and rehearsed apologies
to patients on behalf of their own body’s biological betrayals, it’s stifling, every now and then. You wanted
to choke somebody, take a life, not save one. But that’s not what you do. And so you don’t.
The wind dances
with leaves of the surrounding trees. You’ve always hated effortless movement, anything purely instinctual. Because
you’re so used to holding back.
There’s no use in pretending to read the newspaper when you don’t
have one. Instead you stare off into the distance and think about House. House and Cameron, really. How it all started and
how it’ll probably end. It’s a big fucked up circle.
Julie had kicked you out for the fourth
time in two days. The logic in those numbers eluded you as you walked to the car. It was a relief to be kicked out because
you wouldn’t have to spend time with Julie. She’s a nice person, a wonderful person. But when you two are together
everything changes. It was so good at one time. If you squint you can almost, almost remember it. It’s more a feeling
now. The memory is gone for the most part. With every day that goes by something is slipping through your fingers and you
make no effort to get a tighter grip, to fix this. Relationships should be hard work, an eternal compromise. You draw the
line at impossible. You’re no one to break the mold.
After opening the trunk to make sure that your ‘just
kicked out’ suitcase is in there, you slam it shut and drive to House’s.
You’re at his front door,
hand poised to knock (you have a key but usually knock, a habit instilled by your mother), when you hear screaming. Not House’s
usual frustration fueled yelling, but screaming. Guttural. You put your ear to the door, straining to hear what’s going
on, but the door just makes the noise unintelligible. Worried, you unlock the door and walk inside.
You drop the suitcase
by his piano and walk around, listening for any sounds. You pause mid-step when you hear it again. It’s coming from
To the right of his bathroom door there’s a framed picture of an old fighter plane. You never asked
him about it, why it’s there. When you were growing up you lived close to an Air Force base. It was far enough away
that you never got a good look of what went on there. But the planes that were always flying overhead, they shook the house.
The table would rattle during meals and your bed would shake you to sleep.
It was when you had been standing next
to that picture, afforded a clear view of his bedroom door, that you had realized how big of a mistake walking unannounced
into his apartment was. It appeared as though the screaming you’d heard was House and Cameron arguing about something.
The fighting had apparently escalated into sex. From your standpoint in the hallway you have a pretty clear picture of them
just going at each other. It was almost vicious. The grabbing and the way neither would look each other in the eye. You’d
swear on a stack of Bibles that you heard Cameron growl. You left quickly before you were noticed.
in the car, you were shaking. You’re not sure as to why. They were devouring one another and you should’ve gotten
there sooner. House can make his own decisions, but he doesn’t need another messed up relationship. They could be all
kinds of bad and you’ve just witnessed its genesis.
You ended up going back home that night. Julie left the
door unlocked – her way of apologizing without actually saying anything. Lying in bed with her fingers curled around
your forearm, you were still thinking about House and Cameron. It was such a bad idea. But that’s no reason it should
be keeping you up nights.
Life goes on.
You talk to House, ignoring the bite mark on the side of
his hand or his bloody lip. He seems to have resigned himself to the fact that everything should cause him pain. You? You’re
just resigned. Cameron and you don’t talk as often, obviously, but you can’t help but see House all over her.
In her limited movement and the shake of her hips when House walks behind her.
This can’t go on much longer.
They come into work looking exhausted and are barely civil to each other. It’s like they’re trying to piss off
one another on purpose. You imagine them together. Skin and scorn and apologies while their clothes are still on the floor.
day you get it. You’re in the room with House, Cameron, Chase and Foreman. They’re tossing ideas back and forth.
After they ruled out several types of cancer you stopped listening. That is, until Cameron started to speak. House was glaring
at her like he wanted to mow her down. Steal the breath from her body. And suddenly it was planes flying overhead; you shook.
That’s when you realized: you were jealous. Jealous of them! It’s a sad punch line to an unfunny joke.
They’re everything you and Julie aren’t. They scream and have angry sex, they’re reaction and potential
energy. You and Julie have been dead on your feet so long; you’ve been waiting for Julie to shatter into a million pieces,
to break at the sight of you.
You see his hands wrapped tight around his cane and the side of Cameron’s face
is furiously twitching. Tonight they’ll probably scream some more, but there are apologies hidden in the tone of their
voices and hesitant touches. Julie has nothing to apologize for because you’ve brought this all on yourself.
left with a passive-passive relationship that, legally, is a marriage. Go through motion after motion until Julie’s
gone. (Number three; you’re now a pro.) There’s work, the illustrious-when-not-compared-to-anything-else career.
You’ll do your job. Frown and nod, telling a patient that there’s a good chance they may die, while you silently
hope there’s a chance for you to live.
iv. The Bachelor’s Ill Luck
You read an article about
erosion the week you hired her. It predicted that by the year 2034 miles of the coastline would have been lost to the ocean.
How each year every tide that recedes takes a small part of earth with it. Cities will disappear in the future; they’re
vanishing now but not enough to notice. Inches and feet will turn in to miles – square miles of land, chunks of cities
stolen by the sea. There’s always talk of saving the Earth from people. What about saving people from the Earth?
strolled into your office and sat down, legs perfectly crossed, intersected above the knee. She drummed her fingers on the
soft leather of her purse, one two three, one two three, increasing towards an accessory crescendo. Always, you always went
with a gut instinct, and so you hired her.
That’s when this all begin. There’s no name for it. To apply
a term to it would be acknowledging it in a way and you’re hung up on erosion.
You nod your head
again. She’s been talking for five minutes and you haven’t listened to a word. You move to accommodate the increasing
pain in your leg. Your shirt is tight across your shoulders. She manages to make everything strange by behaving normally.
no flourish, her hands go to her waist and her head tilts to the side. She shifts her stance a bit, her feet a shoulder’s
“Why do you make everything so complicated?” she practically shouts.
at you. It’d be unnerving if she didn’t do it quite so often. Anger is nearly radiating off of her, taking up
presence in the doorway.
Times like these, when she’s a step away from a one-victim murder spree, you think of
erosion. It’s her erosion, at times, the slow destruction of her heart. Or it’s yours.
from saying ‘please’,” you mutter.
But she’s moving through the doorway. A thick expanse of
brown hair trails behind her, a plait of breadcrumbs. You two never finish conversations. A shout or a whisper, but one of
you always leaves in lieu of the other’s response.
The date was a train wreck full of proper etiquette
and witty remarks. It would’ve been perfect if you two were different people. She wouldn’t have quoted Freud before
you had consumed a large amount of wine and you definitely wouldn’t have answered her question by listing all the things
that you thought were wrong with the both of you.
Hannibal Lecter had just bitten the nose off of a nurse’s face,
in high definition glory, when someone knocked on your front door.
You found that at certain
times of the day cursing could be relaxing. “Fuck fuckity fuck,” you said to the door.
one of those times.
“I know you’re in there,” she yells through the door.
you reply as you get up to answer to door. “I live here,” you tell her, swinging it open.
from dinner. Jeans and some kind of shirt that is tight and loose in all the wrong places. Thank God she changed out of that
dress, it’s not like you want to see her legs or anything.
“You’re an asshole,” she says, by
way of a greeting.
You lean on the doorjamb and pretend you’re not too old for this.
to be the consensus,” you reply.
She glares at you with her arms crossed. She glares at you like she hates you.
And she does, sometimes.
“You bring out the worst in people,” she says, “even me.”
know it’s true, that she wouldn’t lie; it’s true, without a doubt. You wish you knew how to stop. You think
of the future, coastlines eaten away by the sea, and wonder how much is left of you for her to actually hate.
to the left of the doorway. “Come in.”
She looks at you but you avert your gaze to the ground. She comes
inside and takes a seat on the couch.
“It’s what I do,” you tell her, from your spot near the door.
You sit down next to her. The leather sofa is an enemy; as you sink low into its cushions you slide to each
other. More erosion.
She’s shoved against your side, tucked in but for lack of wanting. She’s
warm and you want to press the palm of your hand to the side of her face. So you do.
And you take her to your bed.
you wake up she’s still there, but, even now, she hates you. It’s not because she works with you or that she regrets
last night. It’s not your leg or that her husband was nothing like you. You leave her exposed; there is nowhere for
her to hide with the press of her lips to your temple or when she’s cursing your name with every thrust you make inside
Her eyes open. “Morning,” she says, a bit gruffly.
You touch her face and remember erosion,
losing pieces of each other to circumstance. You wonder if you’ll ever be able to love someone without first breaking