After Airdra divorced me, I gained forty pounds and killed our parakeet. I should have let Airdra take her beloved bird but inflicting pain was my top priority. The parakeet was collateral damage. I did not slice its throat, only watched it die of neglect. His ochre curved beak pecked as I stuffed handfuls of Black Forest torte into my maw, smeared cherries on my chin, washed it down with chocolate syrup. I devoured boxes of imported Schnitzler’s marzipan, inhaled bowls of quince jelly. The bags of premium feed remained untouched next to his cage. Feathers fell out and one morning I found him at the bottom, unmoving. I disposed of the body but kept the cage. I may get a hamster.

Three months later I passed by a mirror and shivered.

This afternoon after a therapy session, I am shielding my eyes from gusts of snow and bump into her as she stumbles out of a cab, arms filled with Christmas beribboned packages. She agrees to pop into Sebastien’s with me, hiccups when she tells me she’s radiantly happy with Gabika. After two glasses of kir I excuse myself and purge in the Muzak-filled bathroom. Research claims only nine percent of bulimics are men. I have gained expertise on bulimia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Japanese knives.

When I return to our table I lean in and tell her since she moved out I’ve slept with seventeen women and thirty-three men. She spears a slice of watermelon radish, takes a delicate sip of Ty Nant. Her blue eye is brighter than it used to be, her grey one darker. Both say she does not believe me. Our marriage was not filled with wild abandon. I offer to rent a room upstairs, show her a new side.

“The sun has set, look,” she says. “Gabbie will worry.” She brushes a crumb off the table, collects her booty. I have a bruise on the left cheek, a deep scratch on the jaw, souvenirs from the men I’ve loved.

On the wall of my therapist’s office hangs a tanto dagger, next to a black belt certificate. I project a sword snatch-and-slash, or a snap of her swan-like neck. When I told her she lifted an eyebrow.

While we wait for our bill, I tell Airdra I’ve been weaving rugs, that I’m working on a butterfly.

“You always had a keen eye for color,” she says. She does not offer a cheek to be kissed as she leaves and I open the bathroom door.

I dry-heave into the toilet and the half-feathered parakeet swoops down and flutters his wings next to my face. He shakes his head balefully. “You have much to learn, don’t you? Looking in all the wrong places.”

One more heave. When I reach up to grab his neck, the thin air cackles. “Repent, Miro, repent.”
I push out of the restaurant into the jingle-belly throng facing the ice pellets and allow it to carry me towards the dance of the lights.


Andrew Stancek
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