Trigger Finger

by Heather Hall

I rescued a dog, and I’m unsure about the ethics of masturbating in front of him.  I scoop him in my arms and dump him outside the door, to lie on top of the blanket. I try to think of you. How your eyes gather in everything but me, how it’s dismissive and how I fit perfect in its invisibility.  It all began with an introduction, a bookshelf needed to be built, how you leaned too long and effectively against the wall. His type of good looking I’d always recoiled against, scared I’d forget how my brain worked or books worked or the blender. I’d always preferred fumbled men, who'd read me Barthes or Yates or tuck in some drowned poem in my purse, and whom leaving felt like absolutely nothing.

This man had no safety of those men; he was not a cerebral convenience to mark the passage of time. He was to be a container for all my inept longing, and my particular brand of longing was infinite, stoic, erupting at every angle.

But there I stood, watching him hammer wood, reaching into his collection of tools like it somehow didn’t hurt me to not be reached into. This was how the first day was spent. Perhaps I could have stopped it then-my dereliction of desire that had crept and unfolded and collapsed. But of course not. I couldn't stop.

He’d come again, greeted with pie, coffee, egg rolls, everything I had, his. He’d eye whatever made up project I hired him to build, and I’d practice flattening myself against a corner, trying not to balloon out. I didn’t necessarily enjoy what he had built but rather how he built it, and how after he left, it wouldn’t, some relic of wasted desire to watch me undress. It’s not that I’m bad looking, its just this a town that insists on great looking, and with the composite of his jaw, mouth, tip of nose, I may as well be a hollowed out canary. At the end of these days, he’d give me one long hug, something I’d try not to envelop myself inside of, and then throbbing.  A binary ache- one that thwarted me from space and then dropped me back into it.

There had never been a person more built for longing than myself-a childhood spent in resignation, which had resulted in sharp absent attractions. When I was little I had hoped someone would come shoot me or save me, pulling up in some promised Cadillac, anything to avoid the low level throbbing that I now come to prefer. Christ, even pay for, as I slid check after check towards him for what had quickly become some sort of woodworking hell inside of my house. But desire is not faint, as I constructed more complicated projects, things unneeded, unused, often detested. Friends appeared concerned, dragging their hands along bed frames, unfinished flower beds, some monstrous sculptural apparition that appeared to me once in a dream.

“Whats going on in here?” one asked.

“I’m trying to go visible. I mean, not my heart, which has become a boil, but my limbs at the very least. Does that make sense?”

The dog is relentless, scratches at the door until I open it, and all that remains is the envy of the wood I tried to be carved into.

About the Author

Heather went to Pratt Institute and then got her Masters at The Art Institute of Chicago. She makes video essays for Northwestern and has been published in various anthologies.