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It had been an awful summer. The arroyo burned down off of one stray cigar stub and I was in love with a Finnish-American bartender I’d never talked to solely for the way he looked in sweaters. I don’t like drinking by myself, but my apartment didn’t have air conditioning and Corazon felt like a meat locker, which is to say, amazing. I ordered whiskey strained over ice and watched him despondently from behind a pillar covered in those tacky papel picados none of the locals can stand. Sometimes I’d put on headphones and watch the angles his wrists made when he poured shots. The pillar framed him perfectly and I could pretend I was watching him on some secret monitor, the perfect, most stupendous TV show of all time. Usually I listened to the Smiths when I did this. It had been an awful summer.

So I guess it wasn’t really a stretch when I kidnapped him and put him in a cage in my apartment. The guys at Home Depot looked at me weird when I bought the net but that was the only unpleasant part of it. You can order ether online. Soldering irons, too.

He didn’t even scream when he woke up, which was probably a survival tactic but I’ll let myself think it’s because I look fantastic in pearls.

So, I’m Karen, I said.

Gustave. He’d made up the name—it was really Michael—but it fit him.

Like Flaubert? 

Whatever, he said.

The plan at first was to treat him like shit, make him think he had to seduce me to get out. I had it all planned in my head. I’d tape saran wrap over his mouth and shoot him in the face with a hose, wake him up every eight and a half minutes for hours by blasting Devo until he started to hallucinate.

But I couldn’t do it. He liked Devo, and besides, he didn’t act at all like I’d expected. He never begged or called me a bitch or tried to get my throat in his hands, even when I got so close to the bars he totally could have done it. When I fed him—mostly macaroni and cheese and cut-up hot dogs, comforting but not gourmet—he said thank you and ate, right in front of me, no questions about poison or hidden razorblades or anything.

After about a week I had to go back to work. I made him a shirt. I’d never made anything before but it felt right, stitching seams into flannel in my bathroom, knowing how surprised he’d be. I also put a pack of cigarettes and a cyanide capsule in the breast pocket, but that really was an afterthought. He took it between both hands, wincing but only a little. I cracked the window to let the breeze in; it was still ungodly hot.

When I got home, he was asleep in the corner, the shirt balled up under his head like a pillow and a button between his teeth. I sat cross-legged by the door and waited for him to wake up. I imagined how he’d do it—one eyelash at a time, his breath and his heart both speeding faster until his muscles caught on. It would be spectacular and slow, like watching a dwarf star vomit up the last of its light over the universe. I wanted it to take years.

He didn’t wake up, of course. And of course, I cried, fucking buckets. I thought it would be easier this way but it wasn’t; his body would be so heavy, his hair would still smell like his hair.

And then he shifted—one shoulder blade, just an inch, so his face lolled toward the ceiling. He said it in his sleep but he said it—Please, and then, never let me out.