A short story I've been working on. I'm not sure what to call it yet. Part One:
At six o seven monday morning, a second after two tired barks of the neighbor’s border collie woke me from a horrific dream involving a friend’s grandfather’s flaccid penis, I decided to donate one of my kidneys to a stranger. Three weeks earlier, I had received a letter scribed in bubbly female cursive:
I’m sorry to bother you at a time like this. I know you must be busy with work and life and all the stuff that happens in between, but I’m desperate. The doctor told me that I don’t have much time to live. My kidneys are failing. My back hurts so bad I can’t stop crying and swallowing is a chore. I’m hoping you can help. I know we aren’t close or even friends, but I can tell you’re a good person with a big old heart and two working kidneys. Let me know if you care to give one up. I’m waiting.
The letter included a rather unflattering studio portrait of a woman staring slightly to the left of the camera’s lens. Her face, puckered in acne scars, held no expression save for excruciating boredom. Her yellow hair clung to her shoulders like freezer burn. She wore a red sweater over a purple collared shirt, metallic earrings and a thin gold chain necklace with a heart at its center.
At first I assumed the note was a sick joke, a scam letter circulating mailboxes all over the country, but the closer I looked at the photograph and the genuine imprint of bulbous blue handwriting on white, hole-punched college-ruled paper, the more I began to believe that the woman existed.
I thumbed through phonebooks and online directories to legitimize Magnificent Square and sadly discovered only the superficial necessities. She worked at the deli counter at a grocery store, she was 37 years old, she was divorced, she was a Capricorn, she had no children, she liked rock and roll. She was as real as a person you have never met can be.
I stared at her picture for days imagining where she slept, what she read, how her voice lilted after talking for hours about her favorite things in the world. I thought of her parents and envisioned them cradling her in their arms as an infant. I thought of the food she filled her refrigerator with. I thought of her lovers and whether or not she enjoyed sex. I thought of the red sweater and wondered what she paid for it. I desperately scanned the fine lines of her face as though they were part of a map that would somehow keep me from becoming lost.
A year had passed since I had been involved in an accident. The person I was with at the time, my dear friend Corrine, was instantly beheaded by a gallon of milk she had purchased at the grocery store. The milk was innocently placed - along with celery, spaghetti, apples and a block of extra sharp cheddar - in a brown paper bag in the back seat of her car. I never would have imagined that when stopping so suddenly to avoid a small child running into the street, a gallon of milk could easily become a deadly weapon.
Corrine’s head dangling in crimson threads from her sinewy shoulders made me want to purge my own insides. At the hospital I filled out paperwork that would give people permission to contact me for bodily needs such as blood, bone marrow and extra organs. After signing my name across several too-straight lines, a red-headed nurse thanked me profusely for my biological generosity and patted me on the back for the loss of Corrine. I had forgotten signing the paperwork until a week after Magnificent Square’s letter hit my mailbox.
Though I missed my friend Corrine - our Thursday night salsa classes kept me quite fit - I had moved on from the idea of helping out others with bodily donations. Besides, I was squeamish and could barely handle the thought of swallowing an aspirin for the possibility of it becoming lodged in my too fleshy inner throat. My body was as much of a stranger to me as Magnificent Square.
But the more I mulled over giving up a kidney, the more appealing it sounded. I lived alone with my cat, Fidore, and every day seemed to pile on top of other days like layers of mold. I felt like I was in a constant state of limbo, or waiting in the dentist’s office for my annual teeth cleaning. My only source of excitement came from a sliver of swiss cheese I would allow myself to have at 4 pm each day. The more I considered Magnificent and donating one of my kidneys, the more excited I became.
If one of my organs were to grace her innards, would I come to understand her deepest secrets? Would she and I become the closest friends who did things together only the closest friends could do? Maybe she would lend me her red sweater. I would insist she wear my favorite black dress. We could watch action adventure films while devouring buckets of popcorn and afterwards swear it off for healthier options like carrot sticks and lemon water. We would take strolls around parks and exchange meaningful gifts during the holidays. We would start a book club and talk about men as if they were all from far away places like Syria and Zimbabwe.
Jerry, the last man I was with, left me after a weekend camping trip. It rained the entire time and so we spent our days trapped inside his too-small tent reading our books. He thought it would be a good idea to read aloud to one and other, but I preferred to keep my reading to myself and gently told him so. Jerry, an aspiring actor who worked as a bank teller at my bank, wanted more attention than I could ever possibly give him. In this particular situation, he leapt from the tent, wrapped himself in a wool blanket, sulked under a group of pine trees and suggested we head back to the city where he could find himself a woman who appreciated his God given talents. I quickly concurred and never once missed him after he dropped me off twelve blocks away from my doorstop.
There had been others before Jerry: Derrick, the plumber who wanted nothing more than sex from behind, red-sauce pasta dinners and sports television; Diangelo, a crossword puzzle developer, lived with a sister whom I sensed he was attracted to. One day, when catching him in the kitchen caressing her left buttock, my suspicions were confirmed; Yohan failed to bath himself properly; Dwight exploded behind the wheel when old ladies took too long to cross the street; Peter, petrified of fat, threw up everything he ate.
It has been three years since my last bout of coitus with Jerry. Instead of perusing the online directories for men I more than likely would have no interest in, I pleasure myself nightly with a variety of stimulating apparatuses both fleshy and firm. There is no desperation for a man in my life. I have come to accept being alone. I see myself in mirrors and am contented with what I see: a 39 year old woman, slender, creamy pale skin, auburn hair, cobalt eyes and just enough lip to appear sultry. I’m not beautiful by any means, but I’ve been told I’m pretty by old ladies at the bus stop and frankly their opinion matters more to me than anything.
The decision to donate one of my beloved kidneys did not come easily. I fretted and flitted about my house like a maniac. Having no clue as to what purpose the kidneys served, I studied anatomy books to reassure myself that having only one would suffice. The kidney’s main function is to purify the blood by removing nitrogenous waste products and excreting them in the urine. They also control the fluid and ion levels in the body by excreting any excesses. The kidneys were anciently thought to control disposition and temperament.
If Magnificent Square’s temperament was afflicted by her failing kidneys I would surely feel the burden and guilt weigh heavily upon me for years to come. According to my doctor, whom I have trusted and known my entire life, my kidneys were in impeccable shape. This, he said, was due to my regimented diet of green things and moderate consumption of caffeine and alcohol. I would, he assured me, be just as healthy with one kidney as I was with two.
So it was settled. On Monday morning I bounced from the sheets, made myself a cup of peppermint tea, read the remaining seventeen pages of a Russian novel I had already read twelve times before, and at 8 am, dialed Magnificent Square’s phone number.