An Unwelcome Gift by Claudia Lundahl

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Emma’s mother-in-law has just sent her a package containing five pairs of lace underwear –
white, gray, powder blue, rose, and beige.

Emma doesn’t want to read into the gift. She knows her mother-in-law wants grandchildren and she tries not to see the package of underwear as a critique of the sex life that her in-laws must assume she has…or doesn’t have. As if because she hasn’t born children, she hasn’t been having sex. She can’t blame them, they are Irish Catholic after all. She cuts the tags off the skimpy garments, washes them by hand in the sink and then hangs them to dry on the tap handles in the shower.

Emma pours herself a cup of milky Yorkshire tea and sits on the couch with her legs folded
under her. She thinks back to when she lived in the yurt.

She wasn’t allowed to bring meat or dairy into the yurt because the commune was vegan. She wanted to try being vegan, too, but around week three her body was craving animal protein. She interpreted this desire as a weakness and tried to stave it off with cigarettes mostly but also tofu, seitan, and other chemically processed plant-based alternatives. It wasn’t that she didn’t like the substitute meat products, they just didn’t satisfy her urge. Her desire to consume the body or byproduct of an animal felt carnal and disgusting. It felt like another reason for her to hate herself.

She remembers sitting on the bench of a laminated booth in a bar across from a man who is in his late forties. The man orders a whiskey and coke. Emma orders a vodka tonic because it’s what Scarlett Johansson’s character ordered in Lost in Translation which is her favorite movie. Her face puckers as she takes a sip because she doesn’t actually like the taste of tonic…or vodka. The man eyes her over the rim of his glass. He’s married and Emma isn’t attracted to him but she swirls her tongue around the straw and makes eye contact with him because she feels most like herself when she’s doing something she knows she isn’t supposed to do. The B-52’s are playing from the speakers above their booth. She taps her finger on the glass and tries to name all fifty states in her head.

Later that night he got in his blue Prius and drove home. Emma walked home barefoot, holding her espadrille sandals by their straps, the cocktail swimming through her bloodstream warming her. The night sky was vast and trembling. Emma felt like she was in a diorama and glanced up at the crepe paper moon, marvelled at the sprinkling of sea salt stars sopping up celestial ink. When she got back to the yurt she picked the tiny pieces of gravel out from the bottoms of her feet, wrapped herself in a blanket, and fell asleep in her clothes.

“What was better?” Emma thinks, taking another sip of her tea.

****

Claudia Lundahl

Claudia Lundahl is a writer from New York. She studied Language & Literature at the City University of New York and her work has been published in several marvelous places. She now lives in London, United Kingdom where she is learning to make the perfect cuppa. Find her on Twitter @claudrosewrites.

Cover Image by langll

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