She came for a marriage, but the salesman said that the model she wanted was no longer available. Down a labyrinthine hallway they walked, past rows of closed doors, rusty water fountains, a long expanse of plastic grass. “When I was your age, people wouldn’t even look at a marriage.” He unlocked a steel door and led her into a light-filled room, silvered with nostalgia, where there was a table with two cell phones and linen napkins. The flora was better than she had expected; the foam insulation, a surprise. Ivy had overgrown the bed.
“If anything should go awry,” he said, “we offer thimble gardens, hypnosis, a two-week fragment of inauspicious lives. Of course we want you to enter the relationship with confidence.” She had a reservation, but when she tried to voice it, he gathered the plumbing magazines from the bed, removed the frozen pizzas and the scissors. “Listen, take five minutes,” he said and helped her lie down. “I’m going to dim the lights.”
On the coverlet she lay and stiffened her heart. Was this a marriage? Mariachi music played, then the sound of water trickling on stone. Then snoring and the smell of maple syrup and something animal, musky. As if miles overhead came the long mournful cry of a gull. The sound of a hundred vacuum cleaners. “Yes, I’ll take it,” she said huskily, impulsively, and tiny drops of rain, or something wet, spattered the room.
Sara Levine’s recent fiction has appeared in Nerve.com, The Iowa Review, Fence, and other magazines. She won a Bridport Prize in 2008 and been anthologized in The Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction. She teaches at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.