Laura Stamp

Loss

I swallow the last bite of my
dinner and lean back in the chair.
Vegans love to eat. And we eat
a lot. Especially when the food
is this good. “I’m in the mood
for peppermint tea drizzled with
honey,” Dante says. “How about
you?” He stands and stacks our
empty dishes. “Perfect,” I say.
Rather than follow him into the
kitchen, I walk down the hall
to his guest bathroom. But
when I flip the light switch, I
freeze. He’s redecorated again,
and it’s the last thing I need
to see. I don’t know how to
explain this, except to say I’m
going through a minimalist
phase lately. A strange one.
It crept into my life one night
on silent paws like the smoke
from charred rubble. I can’t
handle excess of any kind.
Not anymore. Downsizing
rules. Even with jewelry.
Shocking news to my friends,
yet it’s true. I used to be a
bling-addicted Witch, but
now instead of eight Pagan
rings (okay, there were more),
I wear none. Instead of multiple
bracelets, there’s only one.
Gone are my necklaces loaded
with charms. Instead, a single
silver pentacle on a black cord
dangles from my neck. No
wonder Dante worries about
me. I almost scream when I see
what he’s done to his bathroom.
Hordes of stenciled neon skulls
and Gothic crosses crowd walls
sponged in charcoal black. But
that’s not all. A legion of tiny
skulls sways above my head,
each one attached to a strand of
fishing line tacked to the ceiling,
wiggling (all of them) in the
stream of warm breath flowing
from a heat vent, their mouths
(all of them) frozen forever in
toothless smiles. He’s spray-
painted the pedestal sink and
toilet an electric shade of violet
(no skulls stenciled on the seat,
thankfully). Lavender fishnet
drapes each side of the mirror,
trapping another herd of
miniature skulls. So many,
too many, too much. I can’t
escape this excessive Gothfest
fast enough. I turn off the
light to leave, and the flock
of skulls suspended from the
ceiling glows fluorescent green,
still grinning at me. “What
happened to your bathroom?”
I ask, as Dante stirs organic
honey into a pot of herbal
tea. We’re in his heated back
porch, sitting on a wicker sofa.
Above us a cloudless, late
winter sky blankets his house
with a shawl of frozen darkness
and sequined stars. “Don’t
you love it?” he says. “I was
in the dollar shop last week
and found a bin of plastic skulls
marked down to ten cents each.
I bought a hundred, maybe
more. I couldn’t stop myself.”
I stare at him, waiting for this
purchase to make sense. It
doesn’t. I must have lost
some brain cells in his Gothy
bathroom. I know I’ve lost
my heart to three bad-news
men in the last two years.
I unzip my little wristlet purse
(more downsizing) and sift
through it. Looks like I’ve
lost my lip balm, too.