I keep spilling my water lately. My psychic says I’m going on a trip soon, so Arlo must be coming back from San Francisco.
When I first met Arlo, he brought out my most aspirational self. Ever since I met him, I’ve been a more attentive person. I play my guitar again, even write a few lines once in a while.
Arlo’s got a condo and he cleans it,
I rent a hole, but I dream big.
Arlo, man from San Francisco. The kind of guy who deliberately chose a job that requires a three-piece suit. I met him at a bar on a rainy Friday night. I asked him if he was from the city and that’s when he told me he travels a lot of work. I didn’t ask what kind of work it was so I would seem aloof and unattainable. He stayed with me at the bar all night, admitting later he’d been waiting for a blind date. I was wearing a low-cut blue dress, totally unsuitable for the weather. He asked if I wanted to come back to his place. I agreed without hesitation.
I had no interest in falling in love with Arlo, but I was caught off guard by his condo. Once, months later, he took me on a business trip to Milan. The hotel was on a hill a bit out of town, full of sunlight, with terracotta walls and climbing roses everywhere. But it wasn’t as nice as his condo.
By the time we grabbed a cab to his place, I was getting tired, so I didn’t notice we were making our way through the old money part of town. His condo was in a refurbished warehouse and it took up a whole floor. The front door opened on the living room, and the back wall was all windows. The living room had a fireplace and two grey couches facing it. When you sat on them, it was like sitting on a cloud.
The kitchen was new, all stainless steel with dark wood accents, and opened towards the living room. The two bedrooms were enormous yet cozy, with a view of a nearby park. Both had walk-in closets and antique-looking dressers.
The bathroom really did me in. All done up in greys and ocean greens. There was an infinity pool in the second bedroom ensuite. You stared out at the city like a god floating above it. There was a small watercolour of St. Paul’s Cathedral above the toilet. Arlo had to tell me about that, because I’ve never been to London. He said he’d take me one day.
I stayed over, and then stayed the rest of the weekend. I could tell he was happy about it, but to keep him sweet I made pancakes in the morning, ran out to get coffee and fruit, wore his shirt while I lounged on the couch. I didn’t ask him to make a fire because he’d mentioned before it was a pain to get wood in the city.
When I left Sunday night, I vowed to do everything I could to get back into that condo. It was everything I’d ever wanted in a home. As I walked down to a busier street to grab a cab, back in my blue dress, I was already imagining the tasteful abstract art I would put on the walls, the fine bottles of wine I’d buy to sit pretty on the oak butcher’s block.
The following weeks were difficult. I spent too much time with my psychic, trying to figure out when Arlo would be coming back. He tended to be vague in texts, so I feigned detachment right back. I had dreams about his condo. I dreamed we were having sex on the clean white carpet in front of the couches. I dreamed I was cutting fruit and placing it perfectly in a blue pottery bowl that sat on the kitchen’s marble countertop. I dreamed the sun shone in through the floor to ceiling windows like it was welcoming me into a new day.
I am usually able to focus in my classes, but I became scattered and distant with my students. While writing out the Dorian mode on the chalkboard I thought of where my guitar would fit in the condo. It matches everything so well.
Arlo comes back every month or so, though he never makes promises. In the early days I practiced my seduction patiently, until he asked if I’d like keys to the condo, “just to keep an eye on it while I’m gone.” I said I’d think about it. I did a dance in front of my students the next day. No better way to practice your rhythm than dancing, I said.
Now it’s been four months since Arlo’s last visit. We’ve been seeing each other for about two years. He’s been really busy with work. “The big wigs want me here,” he says when I call to let him know his ficus is improving with more water. I’ve never heard a real person use the term big wigs. It makes me wonder if the condo actually reflects his own tastes, or those of someone else.
I don’t think about it too much. His absence means I get to spend more quality time with the condo. Right after I hang up, I knock a glass of water on the floor. Even the glass on the hardwood floor glitters like its meant to be there.
Tonight, when water spills out of the infinity pool, I know to expect another call. He’s got a surprise for me, he says. All I can think of is new light fixtures, flowy drapes for the windows, a silk robe that matches the bedsheets. I smile and say I can’t wait to see him. I dim the bathroom lights. I turn the infinity tub’s jets on. I think about the condo’s new locks and feel a wave of calm slip over me. I watch the city dreaming.
"Dream Big", by Emma Bider.
Emma Bider is a writer and PhD student living in Ottawa. Her poetry has been featured in Unpublishable Zine. She's currently trying to identify all the trees in her neighbourhood. Emma's collection of short stories We Animals is available at Octopus Books in Ottawa and on Amazon.