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You Think You Have Me Pegged

I want you to know it wasn’t like that.

We didn’t meet at a bar.

When I met your fiancé, the scene was so unthreatening, unassuming.

It was 1:12 this afternoon, Tuesday.

It’s important for you to know today would have been my 563rd day of sobriety.

It was at a deli where I was ordering a Rueben for the simple fact I’ve never tried one.

It tasted exactly as I expected it would.

I’m saying it was a mistake.

He ordered a club which is my usual order.

His slacks were ironed, his shirt tucked in, his hair recently barbered.

I didn’t look him in the eyes.

You have to know it wasn’t like that.

I only looked at his hands which were clean, manicured even.

I don’t know who spoke first but I remember he immediately mentioned you.

Isn’t that what happened?

I probably talked to him first.

Maybe with my mouth, maybe with my cleavage.

The fact is it wasn’t his fault.

You need to know how much he loves you.

That’s what drew me to him.

I bet you’re so beautiful.

I bet your name is beautiful too.

Something with three full syllables, like Samantha or Natalie or Melody.

My name sounds like an engine trying to turn over.

Ja-nice. Ja-niiiiiice. Jaaaaa-nice.

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking I’m the kind of girl who never has girlfriends.

That’s not true, Jillian, I have a twin sister.

I know what it is to share everything with someone who isn’t a romantic partner.

I remember what it feels like to have that.

It’s not fair of you to think that of me.

That I’m a homewrecker, a woman hater, a femme fatale.

It isn’t like that.

It’s like this.

Last night I wanted a drink so bad I took that bottle of Irish Whiskey left over from André, the one bottle left in my cupboard I didn’t bother to throw out with the rest.

Then I thought I’d never be that desperate for a drink.

I came to this deli today because it’s right across the street from the AA meeting I usually go to.

I wanted to watch them file out of there, light up their cigarettes.

I’m saying I wanted to feel like today is my 563rd day of sobriety.

That sounds much better than my first day of sobriety, doesn’t it?

Or maybe it doesn’t really matter.

Does it? Natasha, does it matter that I slipped up?

Probably it’s the reason I came on to your fiancé.

I wanted to feel loveable after I fucked up.

I knew I wouldn’t be loved but I’ll settle for loveable, even in just a moment.

He looked like the kind of guy who could find people loveable despite themselves.

I mean to say he looked like a gentleman.

A gentle man.

Your fiancé, when he replied to me, said my hair is so beautiful.

He even reached out to touch it and I didn’t recoil.

He might’ve said, your hair reminds me of my fiancée’s which I would’ve taken to mean beautiful.

I know what you’re thinking, that none of this makes sense.

But please, Isabelle, hear me out.

I loved my mother more than anyone else.

So much love for her, as a child, I thought I would burst.

I wanted to become someone she would be proud of but also, I wanted to become her.

There was this day on the porch watching birds.

I won’t explain it but let me tell you: she knew how to make a girl feel special.

She was so loveable that she could pull off anything, get away with anything.

Jessica, I’m still talking about my mom, please allow me this. It’s important, I think.

When she brought over the vegetable man while dad was at work and told us he was just a friend, I knew not to say anything.

She didn’t tell us not to say anything, we just knew.

Angela and I called him the vegetable man because he always brought over a paper sack full of vegetables he grew in his garden.

Zucchini, squash, tomatoes. Once a pumpkin.

He told mom he could help me grow a garden and she nodded.

It didn’t matter that I hated to get my hands dirty.

All I wanted to watch grow up then was my sister & myself.

His fingernails were always dirty.

He pulled up ground when he wasn’t unzipping my very skin off me.

I don’t want to talk about this anymore, Cassandra.

I want to talk about going back to your place with your gentleman fiancé instead.

When I said, I have thirty minutes if you want to fuck, what I meant was I figured he had thirty minutes.

See, I have this way of giving everyone exactly what they want.

Everyone but me, I mean.

He looked away first.

He looked away like he was looking into the future or the past and when he looked back at me I almost met his eye.


But I didn’t. I knew not to.

That would make this all wrong. There’s a hotel on the corner, he said and in that second, I almost walked away.

I didn’t want some sterile bed with bleached sheets.

I didn’t want hand soap wrapped in paper.

I wanted to smell you in the air, see your face in a photo behind glass.

I wanted to be you.

I knew it would be only a moment but it could last me a while.

Feeling loved like that.

Worthy of love like that.

Not a hotel, I said. Bed bugs.

He looked at me funny, I think, but I can’t be sure.

I wasn’t looking him in the eye.

Your place, I said.

He considered this by looking at the sky.

OK, he said at last.

You know, last night when I started drinking, I started with shots.

And then I poured a cocktail into a canteen.

As I was walking toward the bar, I saw a cop car turn on his lights and heard his siren.

I thought, someone went and fucked up.

I followed and thought, lead me to this disaster.

I hope you don’t know what it feels like to feel unsafe in your own home, Sofia.

His place wasn’t what I expected.

There wasn’t any sign of you.

How could you not live there?

Maybe, I thought, you’re saving yourself for marriage.

I thought that as he walked me past his kitchen filled with liquor in glass bottles.

I thought that as he pulled his pants off in front of his leather couch.

I thought, this woman will be here when she’s ready.

I like that about you, Bianca.

That no one but you can tell you what choices to make.

I told him I needed to use the bathroom.

I opened the cupboards to find something you’d left behind.

A tube of lipstick, a tampon, a bobby pin.

But there was only bar soap and deodorant that was all crusted on the outside.

Are you coming out? he called.

I might’ve been there for a while, searching.

When I came out, his shirt was off, too.

His cock was in his hand.

It was nice enough, but I didn’t want it without any part of you there.

Does your fiancée live here? I asked.

He didn’t reply, he only looked at me funny.

I think he did, but I can’t be sure.

You know I would never look your man in the eye, Stephanie.

I wondered then if you were real or if I’d only imagined you.

Had he told me he had a fiancée?

Or was this just another man on his lunch break looking for a quick fuck?

Another man who wanted to slide his cock between my tits and watch his cum dribble down my neck.

Another man, another man, another man.

I looked around the room and it felt all wrong.

The bedroom, I said.

I couldn’t be near that couch any longer.

It smelled like gardening gloves.

My mother was supposed to protect me.

She never came and saved me.

Whatever you say, Janice, he said.

Call me Abigail.

Whatever you say, Abigail.

I followed him into the bedroom.

The closet door was open.

There, I saw it.

A dress that must belong to you.

I crossed the room, ran my hand down its length.

It was silky and cheerful and breezy.

I’ve never worn a dress like that.

It was so feminine. So pretty.

And so clean. The tags still on it.

Maybe it was a present for you.

I want to wear this, I said.

It wasn’t a question. I was telling him.

Then will you fuck me? he asked.

Then I will fuck you, I said.

Then by all means, he said, motioning toward it.

Whatever you want, Abigail.

As I slipped the dress over my head, I realized what he had asked.

I’ve come this far, I thought to myself.

Why not?

When I crossed the room to the bed, there was a strap-on laid out for me.

Another skin to wear.

I know how to do this.

I climbed into it, hiked the dress up above it.

It looked so pretty, Emily.

I wish you could’ve seen the way it moved while I fucked your fiancé.

It was so delicate, so perfect.

It rose into the air. It lifted and twirled and swayed and dipped and spun.

He made those moans men being fucked make.

I thought of what it would be like to wear this somewhere.

I bet my mom would like it.

She would tell me I look like an angel.

Rebecca, have you ever had someone look at you like you are perfect?

I’m afraid to look people in the eye.

I’m afraid no one will ever look at me like that.

I’m afraid no one will ever look at me like they’re not waiting for an apology.

At some point my mom stopped looking me in the eye.

Both of my exes looked at me in a peculiar way.

Like I had done something wrong.

Like I was supposed to be asking forgiveness.

Jennifer, I know you probably think this whole thing is leading to an apology.

But it isn’t like that.

He told me I could keep the dress.

I’m not sorry, because I wanted it so badly.

And I don’t even know you.

I don’t even know which name your mother gave you.

I’m wearing the dress tonight to the AA meeting.

I’m going to tell them what I did last night.

How I slipped up with the Irish whiskey.

I will stand up there and tell them I’m not perfect.

And someone in the room will reply, no one is.

Someone else will say, we just try to get better.

And I’ll nod.


Holly Pelesky writes essays, fiction and poetry. She received her MFA from the University of Nebraska. Her prose can be found in The Normal School, Okay Donkey, and Jellyfish Review, among other places. Her collection of letters to her daughter, Cleave, was recently released by Autofocus Books. She works a librarian and writing center consultant while raising boys in Omaha.


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