The refrigerator makes noises of upset at her hands. She serves him white things: the rinds of old parmesan, unadorned pasta from a ceramic dish. He sits at the counter and then on it and then leaves to walk down her narrow hall. Come back, you’re hungry, she says through the door, and does not feel herself deadbolting it. She does this and then undoes it and then thinks of being locked outside her family’s sinking wooden condominium when it was warm enough for the snow to melt. In a book with photographs, she had read of staying warm tunneled in the snow like animals. Her clothes had been wet for days because she would not take them off and the wood of the house had rotted.
The girl is much younger than he is: when he holds the door for her to walk into his apartment she waits, moves with her shoulders, waits again. All of the lights are on and they are different, some grayer and mostly yellow. They are ugly and her soft hidden cheekbones are ugly in them, but he says, This is the book I was talking about, and hands her a novella. It had been in the oven, like the rest of the books he does not want to sleep in the same room with. I did this when I was young, she says, I would give my mom the books I was too afraid of at night and she would keep them somewhere, I don’t know where, I think it was just in a drawer or something so they could still get out. So I can read this now ’cause they already got me. When you were young? he says.
On the days when he is allowed to see the house he gives attention to the air, tries to smell if there is something separate or better in it. There is not, or else he has traded something away unwittingly. He can see children walk slowly through the grass next to the house, though there is a small path of brick. He’s making phone calls, most days. He keeps the blinds down.
At breakfast he pulls the appliances toward him and hates the size of the room when he has finished. His wife comes in and turns on the light, but it will not work because he has tangled cords about himself and his body. She returns with something in a paper bag, which she shares with him, feeding him pieces of sugared risen bread through the refrigerator door.
His body grows paler. They watch it, the two of them, he and his friend. What is it? his friend says. Look! He points to himself, to different parts of him. His skin is thick and translucent like the white of an egg. It moves under itself. Soon, with his friend’s palm against his shoulder to keep him there, he grows too white to speak; his friend is relieved.