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Add This to the List of Things That You Are

After she has utterly denuded it by removing all her furniture and every trace of her, move from the lovely cabin you shared together. The lovely cabin in the Santa Cruz Mountains with views out over the redwoods to the sea is now haunted, and you can’t stay there. Understand that the rules you lived by are no longer true. The former first principle, time alone in the woods cures all distress, is now a falsehood. Understand that to survive this you’ll need new rules.

Create Rule Number One: Any beautiful body can be replaced with any other beautiful body.

Create Rule Number Two: Beautiful or not, always keep a body close by.

In the meantime, learn to beg. Send beggaring letters. Call all of her relatives to beg them to beg her to come back. Please, you beg.

Get back in touch with your self-destructive side. Drink Heavily. Start smoking again. Drive recklessly on dangerous roads.

Create Rule Number Three: Buy now, pay later.

Refer to Rule Number One: Call all the women you know who might possibly sleep with you. Of all the women you know who might possibly sleep with you, choose the married one. Stipulate in your oral contract that this relationship will solely concern sexual gratification.

Be surprised when the married one agrees to your terms.

Now, add home wrecker to the list of things that you are.

Add Rule Number Four: When you do the right thing, you will pay for it.

And Rule Number Five: When you do the wrong thing, you will pay for it.

Armed with these new rules, quit your job. Get back in touch with your pathetic side. Move across country from California to Wisconsin to be in the vicinity of your mother. Put everything you own in a 10×10 storage locker, the sight of which, lined with all the other 10×10 storage lockers, makes you sink down to the asphalt so that cars must avoid you.

Now, go to a foreign country. Don’t pick the country arbitrarily. Choose a country where you don’t speak the language, the country where you are most likely to be beaten for the perpetual scowl on your face. Choose Russia.

Make the mistake of choosing to travel to Russia via Finland. The one for whom you created these Rules is from Finland.

But of course you don’t find her there. So, in Finland, have an affair with a Swiss woman and pay for it later.

In Russia have an affair with a Russian woman and pay for it later.

Keeping always in touch with your self-destructive side, create the situation where one of your bones is broken just to see if that helps. Decide the broken bone hurts, but it helps. Medicine has advanced. You now have your choice of colorful fiberglass casts. Choose black.

You are smart enough to understand that there is some pattern here, but not smart enough—and this, you think, might be the tragic part—to understand the pattern itself.

So. Urge the woman whose home you wrecked to visit you in Russia and pay for it later. By now she has fallen in love with you and asks you difficult questions that violate your original contract. When you fuck her, she asks, do you imagine the other one?

Don’t ever speak the truth. Don’t ever say, Only then do you not. For now, give thanks for this time of abundance.

On the way back through Finland, prolong the Swiss affair by urging the Swiss woman to meet you there. You will pay for that later also.

Return to your own country. Learn that the Russian has been cheating. Her lover sends you a ranting email in broken English telling you he is the one that you fucked too.

Deny all offers of love. Understand for the first time this term that women use: emotionally unavailable. Tell all the women that you didn’t mean what you said.

In your own country adhere to your failed rules for another year just to see. Be surprised when another year turns into three. Continue to deny all offers of love. Realize just how long this is going to last.

Finally, empty your 10×10 storage unit. But decide to keep the unit. Locked. Empty. Indefinitely. Let the fines for unpaid debt accrue.

Admit you have become one of those who keeps a locked room he can never enter.

Add this to the list of things that you are.



Chris Fink is a professor of English at Beloit College, where he edits the Beloit Fiction Journal. He is the author of Farmer’s Almanac, A Work of Fiction (2013). A new book of his stories is forthcoming in September 2019 from the University of Wisconsin. He writes brief essays for NPR which can be heard here: http://www.northernpublicradio.org/term/chris-fink.