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Inside a house far back from the street dwells a man with a cross to bear. He’s an even-tempered man, albeit a very reclusive man, who may or may not dose himself with MDMA, psychotherapy-style. If we could see through his curtains, which are perpetually closed, we would see him reading by the fire. In fact, he’s reading this very blog, on an iPad, with his slippers propped on a mid century table.
His living room has a distinct Twilight Zone feel; it’s as if we went back in time. But we haven’t gone back in time. We have entered a parallel dimension.
I met Teddy on okCupid four years ago. He messaged to tell me he “consumes” my writing, and likes it. Nothing ever happened with him back then, though, because he fell off the face of the planet. Until, just recently…
Do you experiment with molly? is the text Teddy sends me. Hm, Teddy, what ever happened to you? goes through my mind as I type a reply. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing the interior of Teddy’s meticulously mid century abode.
I drive to Teddy’s house expecting a chill evening. As soon as I pass the Audi dealership, I know I’m far from home. Snow falls from the sky in heavy clumps.
“Good evening,” I say into my phone, walking the long, snowy path towards Teddy’s garage. “I’m here.”
I see Teddy’s diminutive figure emerge through a square window in the door, which he unlocks and holds open.
Teddy is fortysomething, with hair both thick and spliced with gray.
“I was just making rosemary chicken,” he says. “Come in.”
Teddy leads the way into his kitchen, where the walls are clementine orange. Coordinating pans hang above the stove, along with all the homey trappings of a 1950’s kitchen – containers excavated from estate sales, their contents labelled on the outside, and a really-old looking coffeemaker.
“Interesting place,” I say. “Why don’t you give me a tour?”
Behind his black frames, Teddy looks serious. In fact, he looks exactly like Dr. Thredson from American Horror Story. He calmly leads our way to the living room.
Vodka and gin are stashed on a bar cart, along with various shakers and glassware. Schwing! Three old typewriters are displayed on a shelf. The walls feature framed movie posters from Bye Bye Birdie, Psycho, and the like. All the furniture is mid century modern and pristine. The room is a page torn from a catalog.
“I had this sofa reupholstered,” he says as I walk down the hall.
“Is this a bathroom?” I turn a doorknob slowly.
“No,” Teddy approaches from the right. “You can’t go in there.”
“I’m curious now. What’s in there?”
“Nothing,” he says. “It’s just, nobody can go in there.”
“Ok, all right,” I say. “Is it a sex dungeon?”
Teddy is quiet.
“I’ve been building one in my basement for a while now,” he says. “But if I take you down there, you must submit.”
“I knew it,” I say. “I knew you had a dungeon.”
“I’m a man who needs control,” Teddy says, coming closer.
I go back to the living room and sit on the couch. Teddy leaves for a minute, and eventually returns with a bottle of wine and two glasses.
“I don’t usually have this around,” he says, “but I went and bought some pinot grigio.”
“You’re the best,” I say. “How did you know that’s my favorite?”
“I had a feeling,” he says.
Teddy places another log in the fireplace, and it cracks and flickers and pops, before he sits on the other end of the couch. He’s wearing a cashmere cardigan and Hermes cologne. Ancient Christmas music emanates from the stereo. I start to ask questions.
“So what do you do for Christmas?” I say. “Any family traditions?”
“No,” he says.
“What about your mom?” I say. “Where does she live?”
“I haven’t spoken to my mother…” Teddy trails off. “My mother and I don’t talk.”
Teddy stares at me in silence from the other end of the couch.
“Ok, sorry…” I say. “I’m sorry.”
Teddy pours the wine.
“So, since this is my inaugural Writer’s Seance,” I say, “What kinds of things do you write about?”
“See those six boxes under the TV?” I look at the shelf , and sure enough, there’s a bunch of boxes there, from typewriter paper or something. Handwritten labels are taped to the side of each one. “Those are my manuscripts,” he says.
“Oh, cool,” I say. “Can I read them?”
“Do you want to read some to me?” I drink my wine. “Even just a sentence or two?”
“No one has ever read any part of them.”
“Do you think I can, someday?”
“No,” he says, heading towards the kitchen. “If I ever catch you looking at them,” Teddy’s head pokes from behind the wall, “I will have to remove you. Physically.” I follow Teddy into the kitchen. He’s chopping mini potatoes.
“Do you have any sparkling water?” I ask, opening the fridge. There’s nothing inside but dozens of cans of Vernors.
“Actually, yeah, here’s some water,” Teddy pours water from a pitcher on the counter, lemon slices floating inside, and hands it to me. “There’s only a small amount of roofies in it.”
“Gee, thanks,” I say, walking around the kitchen. It’s a kitchen that makes one think robotic Stepford blowup dolls will emerge from a closet at any minute to sweep the floor like an LSD-influenced Fantasia sequence. “Does it ever get lonely out here?”
“I stick to myself,” Teddy says, arranging the potato slices in a pan.
“Aw,” I say, and give him a hug. Teddy’s head snaps to the side to look at me quickly, his spatula raised. He taps it on my nose.
“Ha ha,” I say, and go back to the living room.
“Dinner will be served in twenty minutes,” Teddy says, following me to the couch.
“I really appreciate you making me dinner,” I say.
Twenty minutes later, Teddy brings out the rosemary chicken, the roasted potatoes, some silverware and cloth napkins. I unfold a napkin across my lap. Teddy devours everything in five minutes.
“Wow, Teddy, you have an animalistic appetite,” I say.
A white, artificial Christmas tree glimmers in the corner as we eat and talk, talk and drink, and I get the strong sense I’m being psychoanalyzed. Hours pass while watch movies. Teddy’s decor is having an opiating effect on my mind.
“Let’s open another bottle of wine,” he says, standing up.
“Um, only if I can sleep on your couch.”
“My couch?” Teddy says. “What about my bed?”
“I don’t really know you that well, so…”
Outside, snow continues to fall in clumps and I know I won’t be making it home tonight.
A little while later, I’m tucked in on the reupholstered couch and everything’s dark. It’s the middle of the night. All I hear is the ticking of a clock. I sink into a deep slumber. My body and mind go in separate directions. I dream about plastic wrap, prescription drugs, and nuclear warfare.
Odorless vapor drifts around the living room. I open one eye. Teddy’s in the armchair with his e Cig in hand, staring straight ahead at the wall, and his mouth is totally flatlined.
“Teddy?” I rub my eyes. The clock on the wall tells me it’s 7:30. “Do you sleep? Or just stare at the wall?”
“What the hell kind of question is that?” Teddy gets up and starts making coffee.
I get my stuff together while Teddy stays in the kitchen with his back turned.
“Well, I’m going to go brush off my car,” I say. “Teddy?” Teddy doesn’t react. “Well, bye.” I stand there as Teddy walks into the living room without giving me any response.
Kathy Bates, Norman Bates, and now this fucking dude, I’m thinking as I drive past the Audi dealership on my way home. When I’m safely in my bedroom, I call my friend Eleanor despite the fact it’s 8 a.m.
“Eleanor, hey…” I say. “I think I’ve met someone…”
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