Back to Issue Thirty-One

Dinner with Craig



After we spent most of dinner talking about his recent breakup, Craig asked how everything’s been going with me. We were eating at this awful buffet-style restaurant near my apartment. Craig is a man, which is the type of person I sometimes have sex with, but luckily I’ve never wanted to have sex with this particular man, my friend Craig. I was nodding at the right times and not saying much otherwise, and for once this was the right thing to do—I could tell by the way that he, Craig, continued talking and moving his face in a way that indicated he felt heard and supported by his friend, who in this case was me. In this human interaction I was frankly excelling. But when Craig shifted the subject to things happening in my life, my ears started ringing and Craig’s face blurred and the room swelled and then snapped back into place.

“Well,” I said, and I knew that here was where I might mention the snake, which had grown to almost the size of my apartment. I mean it was getting hard to step around it. I had to step on it, in fact I had to crawl all over it. Every day I had less non-snake space. I’d been thinking of maybe going inside the snake, but only after I’d obtained assurance that it, the snake, wouldn’t refuse to open its mouth again once I was inside and thus start digesting me, whether it meant to or not, some things after all, such as stomach enzymes, proceeding independent of the human construct of intention. As long as that didn’t happen—being annihilated by snake digestive acid I mean—I was thinking it might be convenient to move my stuff inside the snake, to set up my apartment in there so long as I could emerge at regular intervals, rather than how it is now, eking out a life in the diminishing gaps between the snake’s body and various walls.

So, “everything’s good,” I told Craig, instead of saying something, really anything, about the snake when I had the chance. I said something else then, about a popular TV show I had been watching. Craig hadn’t seen it. I kept talking about the show a little too long. Craig said “well” and pushed back from the table and put his coat on and said he should be getting home, though he didn’t say why, and I recognized that my chance to have told someone about the snake was no more. Because of these choices the fact remains that no one knows about my situation with the snake in my apartment which appeared one day several weeks ago as a normal-sized but eerily calm and intelligent-eyed green snake sliding up out of my toilet and which has grown day by day to encompass my apartment, and that’s probably for the best, that no one else knows about the snake I mean.

A week later and I’ve got my furniture all set up inside the snake, me and the snake having come to a sort of understanding. My apartment looks pretty much the same as before except now it’s inside a snake. The snake helped by swallowing, and then it moved so its mouth is right against the door, so when I walk into my apartment I walk straight into the snake’s mouth. Those gestures made me feel like the snake was in this thing with me. I mean I felt less victimized by the situation than I otherwise might have, if the snake hadn’t seemed to make an effort to swallow my furniture into itself, and anyway the snake can’t help how it’s gotten so big, it’s another thing out of anyone’s control just like with the stomach enzymes. It’s dark and kind of wet in the snake but I have flashlights and once you’re in the main room it looks more or less the same, only much darker in spite of the flashlights, and yeah pretty wet. I do have to leave every few hours, like with permit parking, because that’s when the stomach acid starts to settle into my skin and if I let it go too long it does corrode my flesh, but again, that’s hardly the snake’s fault. I still have to leave the snake to shower and of course to leave the apartment and do the things I do during the day, which admittedly have become fewer since I began living in the snake.

I went out for dinner again with Craig tonight and he’s got a new girlfriend. Actually, it’s the old girlfriend, but he swears this time it’s different. I say sure, I’m sure it is, and I mean it. I believe in Craig and I believe whatever he tells me. “What’s new with you?” Craig asks.

“A snake came up through my toilet and has grown to encompass my whole apartment,” I say, impulsively. “I live inside a snake,” I clarify.

“Okay,” Craig says. “What’s that like?”

Like me, Craig is a good listener. I explain how it works between me and the snake.

“Well, I should be getting home now,” Craig says when I’ve finished talking about the snake. I bet Craig wants to get back to his girlfriend.

“I should be getting home, too,” I say, though to be honest I’m not looking forward to going back inside the snake. “The snake misses me when I’m gone,” I inform Craig.

Craig nods with tight lips like he doesn’t believe it about the snake missing me, but it’s another lie we allow to sit there between us unrefuted, same as Craig’s relationship. It’s not so bad, with the snake. I open the door and find its mouth already open, a moist void for me to step into, which is all any of us can really hope for, I think. When I need to get out again I tap the roof of its mouth and its mouth opens like a garage door, so I can imagine I live in the suburbs and have a family et cetera. The stomach acid is whittling my flesh to bone, sure, but that’s not the snake’s fault. And the snake can’t grow any bigger than this, because it’s now the size of my entire apartment, unless its mechanism of growth proves robust enough to shatter the walls of the building, which seems unlikely. It could be worse, is all I’m saying. It could be a whole lot worse.

Kate Folk‘s work has appeared most recently in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Zyzzyva, The New York Times Magazine, and Tupelo Quarterly. She’s received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Vermont Studio Center, was formerly an Affiliate Artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts, and is currently a Stegner Fellow in fiction. Originally from Iowa, she lives in San Francisco.

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