Photo by Jannes Pockele
I wanted Yes To Carrots lotion. I’d seen it in a magazine – something like Self, or InStyle. I liked how the packaging looked, and I am not normally a sucker for packaging. The bright orange capital letters and font were pleasing on my eyes. And I love carrots. I love lotion. I love saying yes. I liked the concept.
I did not buy it though, because I didn’t buy many things like that when I lived in New York.
But you owned it. It sat on the back of your toilet, the toilet you shared with him. I can remember a rush of surprise that night when I saw it in the bathroom: she has Yes To Carrots lotion! I had forgotten about it by then. I rubbed it into my hands immediately, though somehow I don’t remember the experience: the smell of it, if it felt good, or made my hands soft. It was the fact that you had it. You. Had. It.
I was a guest on your toilet. You are smart; you went to Harvard, he tells me, and you probably assumed and maybe even now know that I used that toilet, too. That I slept in your bed. Put your lotion on my hands.
That I sucked your boyfriend’s cock religiously.
No, really. I believed in it.
That lotion was one of the only things you had that I wanted. Sure, there were things that I wouldn’t have minded having of yours: your ass that’s supposedly awesome, your book about how to be a good lover, your money and your thongs.
But it was the Yes to Carrots lotion that I really liked. And the only tangible thing I saw that we had in common. Besides him.
A few months ago I bought a rip off version, at Rite-Aid, I think. It had a similar look: a white tub with the words VITAMIN E in yellow and orange. It was all right; I used it through the winter, but the whole time I wished it were Yes To Carrots, like eating frozen yogurt on a diet and wishing it was ice cream. I don’t know why I didn’t just buy the real one. Money I guess. Or I wasn’t ready for that image of you in my new apartment.
My images of you. The Polaroid of you on the fridge. The large framed photo of you in matching blue shorts and bra on the wall.
The first time I went to your apartment he fucked me from behind on the orange couch. At the same time, we both noticed that my face was about two inches away from the black and white photo of the two of you. He reached around and flipped it face-down.
We laughed. Genuine laughs. It was all still so new. It was humorous before it was hurtful. Naturally.
Your voice on the answering machine. Your side of the bed—our side of the bed.
Once I saw your bra – black and hanging over the canopy bed. I checked the size while he was in the bathroom. 32C. One size smaller back and one size bigger tits than me.
I looked through your things the mornings he left me alone in your tiny apartment. Smelled your perfume. Opened your drawers and perused your shelves and your closet. Pink disposable razors. Green flip-flops. Yeast infection cream. Receipts from Ann Taylor. Nordstrom. Eileen Fischer. Grown-up stores.
We were ten years apart in age. Two days apart on your pillow.
I asked questions—of course I did. It was worse not knowing. I know you’ve been with girls. That you’ve been a dominatrix. That one guy wanted you to shit on his face, into his mouth, so you drank a lot of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee ahead of time. Before that, you were a dancer.
Sometimes I would masturbate to these things. When I watched porn, I’d imagine Tiffany Preston was you. Now you’re an art historian, a professor, a doctor.
I’ve seen your naked body. He showed me a photo of the two of you once when he was stoned, his inhibitions low. It was black and white—headless. Your breasts are womanlier than mine. Larger nipples. Your pussy is well trimmed, small, like mine. I’ve seen the freckle on your thigh.
My obsession with you came in the healthiest of forms, because it lived without anxiety. Thoughts of him made me crazy. Thoughts of you made me calm. Your apartment was safe. You let me in.
On my bad days, sad and full of rage about being a side project, I’d Google your name: read about your thesis, your number crunching on patterns found in Mesopotamian women. I wanted to be like in the movies and go to one of your art history lectures in Boston. Watch you from afar. Approach you afterwards and tell you that I was your lover’s lover. Of course, I didn’t. The adrenaline would have been too much… diarrhea all over the museum floor.
I want to know how you did it. How did you not stare out the window of the Greyhound with anger? How did you not kill me? Kill him?
And you made quiche, and you used Arnica, and I think you worked out, yeah, I think you did yoga.
But I smoked Bugler cigarettes in your bathroom (that you always tried to keep clean, he told me, you were high energy, he told me) out the window. One time he even smoked one with me, and he doesn’t smoke cigarettes. I was sitting on the toilet; he was on my lap, my arms around him, we were drunk, of course. Your Yes To Carrots lotion behind us. Your cat the only witness.
And she’s dead now.
I figured you had more important things on your mind—your dissertation and your ending relationship—but sometimes I was curious if you noticed how low the candy jar was getting. If you wondered why the stale Lifesavers and gum were suddenly gone. I almost cleaned the whole thing out.
See, I was always so hungry after he fucked me – hungry for eggs, for bacon, for bagels. But settled for Lifesavers and Winterfresh gum, because it was free.
I read a note you wrote to him once. It was in his sock drawer. Blue sharpie. Your handwriting is curvy, girly. We are handwriting opposites. You called him perfect lover man. Perfect Lover Man. It was such a nice note that you didn’t think anyone else would read. It was only for you, for him; and now for me. It was so sweet.
I will never be like you. I will always want to be.
The night your apartment caught on fire you were out of town in D.C. At one a.m. he came to sleep at my apartment on 207th street. In the morning, you called him. I heard how he said “Good morning” to you. He never spoke like that to me. It was sexy, like there was a secret between the two of you. It hurt my ears. The longer he stayed on the phone with you, the more weed I stole from him, the more muscle relaxer I blew, the more I contemplated jumping out my sixth floor window.
He was smiling when he came back into the bedroom. It was so sunny. I was sitting at my typewriter banging mean things on the keys.
“She wants you to know it’s not weird,” he said. “She is happy I had somewhere to go.”
I didn’t know which question to shoot first. I wanted to know how you are like this. How could you be so understanding? I’d kill him. Kill me. But my mouth felt cemented shut. And we had sex in the sun.
He used to read me things about you, you know. One time in bed, after you two had broken up and moved to different places he read me a piece about a summer day the two of you had. Tompkins Square Park. I told him it was too intimate, but he read it to me anyway.
Somewhere in the piece your favorite kind of bagel came up. Garlic, I’m pretty sure it was, with chive cream cheese.
You guys used to get bagels together on Sundays. Sliced tomatoes on the side.
I was never with him on Sundays. Mondays usually, Tuesdays sometimes; the occasional Thursday.
A month or so after he read me that piece, I was blackout drunk on a bottle of rum wandering the East Village. I was crying; I was dancing; I was psycho, and on my way to the subway I went into a twenty-four hour Bagel Buffet and ordered your preferred bagel and cream cheese combination.
I wanted to see what it would be like to be your taste buds.
I didn’t remember I’d done this until the morning when I had to backtrack to find out why my mouth tasted so fucking bad. The wax paper with excess cream cheese was still in my purse.
It was strange when you moved out: More dishes in the sink. Scattered beer bottles. Marks on the wall where your photo had been. He pointed it out to me, as if I hadn’t noticed, saying, “See? The picture’s gone,” proving to me that he was telling the truth the whole time—that you were breaking up.
The bathroom was different, too: No lotion. No hairbrush. No age-rewind eye cream. It would be okay for me to leave a sweatshirt there now. Earrings.
Tonight I was at Bartell, which is West Coast for Duane Reade. They were having a sale on Yes To Carrots. I wanted to buy one of the products but I didn’t know which and felt stressed about it. I wished I had read some reviews. Face moisturizer? Body lotion? I didn’t want the same one you had. Some may call this objectophilia. Some may be right.
After dicking around in the store I ended up buying Yes To Cucumbers eye gel. Then I was sad that I wasn’t getting anything Yes To Carrots, so I got the chapstick because it was the cheapest.
So far, the chapstick is great. I didn’t need the reviews.
I bought it because I trust you. How could I not? There was a point that we co-existed, one woman out the door, down the stairs, up the street, the other woman down the street up the stairs, in the door.
It’s been days, months, a few years now, that we’ve loved the same man. Of course I trust you.
I looked for you on the street. Sometimes I’d see girls in jeans, short kempt dark brown hair. There was a morning once that I remember a particular girl standing out. Green halter-top. Sunglasses. My heart rate heightened. I know it wasn’t you.
But maybe it was.
When we passed each other on Eleventh Street, if we passed each other on Eleventh Street, I was the one pounding your Lifesavers; I was disheveled and rushing to work with messy hair and faint bruises. I don’t know what you were like. But we both had the same carrot-smelling hands.
Chloe Caldwell is a non-fiction writer working on her first collection of short stories. She lives in upstate New York