Mechanisms in Faulting
Grime coats the grocery store’s flooring. The grime is punctuated by the fluorescent lighting, which buzzes more powerfully in the summer heat. Lucy’s dirty white sneakers crunch over the tiles and she runs her tongue over the front of her teeth. Their hands are sweaty when they’re pressed together like this, or at least Lucy’s is. Maybe it’s just her hand that’s sweaty.
Lucy’s other hand grips the basket that holds their groceries. She’s trying to hold it without swinging it back and forth, but it’s harder than she expected it to be.
He pulls his hand from Lucy’s and reaches across her body to take the basket from her fist. Mason holds the basket in the hand that’s closest to her so that they’re unable to hold hands anymore. She glances down at the basket, at the things they’ve placed in it: gluten-free bread, a carton of eggs, a box of chamomile tea, and a bag of apples. She thinks, is this what our life is made up of?
As they’re in the checkout line, she notices the hole in Mason’s jeans. She can see the pale skin of his upper thigh. It’s hairless. She looks down at her own jeans. They’re pristine, lacking any holes, dirt, or errant threads.
Lucy loads the minimal bags of groceries into the back of the car while Mason sits in the driver’s seat, probably queuing up music from his phone. She returns the cart to the stall and huffs as she sits herself down into the passenger’s seat. Mason doesn’t say anything, the music already playing, and begins to pull out of the parking spot, arm slung across her seat, head turned directly backwards, like an owl.
They don’t talk on the short drive back to the apartment.
Lucy met Mason while she was waitressing at a bar downtown. Her name tag read “Amelia.” Mason was with a tall, blonde girl who had a big nose and equally big eyes. They didn’t touch the whole evening and Mason kept calling Lucy Amelia with an insistence she didn’t think was exactly normal.
The tall, blonde girl ordered a small salad and a vodka soda with lime, which Lucy brought to their table along with Mason’s hamburger and draft beer. As she set the food and drinks down, she observed the blonde girl’s clavicle, sharp and protruding, which she thought explained her order. The blonde girl thanked Lucy profusely, following her eyes, while Mason did not, though his fingers brushed Lucy’s hand as she set his beer in front of him. The blonde girl gave a brittle laugh, sensing some tension Lucy didn’t yet detect.
Mason caught her by the bathrooms. How long he was waiting outside the door she can’t guess. Up close, Lucy could smell his peppermint breath and she saw a smattering of pimples lining his jaw. His face was charming. She smiled despite herself. He told her his name and that he “barely knew” the girl he was with. She nodded and took the napkin he had written his phone number on. It was trite, but endearing. Lucy looked over at their table. The blonde girl was gone, but she couldn’t tell if Mason knew that or not.
When she got home that evening, she tucked the napkin underneath a lamp, determined to forget about it until at least the next evening, which she was almost certain would not work.
But the next day was unintentionally busy and by the time she laid down for bed, she had forgotten about the napkin and the whole interaction with Mason altogether.
It wasn’t until a week later when Mason entered the restaurant, no date in tow, that Lucy remembered the napkin still underneath the lamp. She strode over to him, which she could tell pleased him immensely, and apologized, telling him she didn’t mean to ignore him.
He asked for her phone number instead and said he had it memorized after she repeated it three times.
“You’re sure?” she asked.
When Lucy heard a ding from within the shower later that night, she knew it was him. The text message was a simple “Hello, it’s Mason” followed by a smiley face. In order to appear less eager than she actually was, she only sent a waving emoticon, which was immediately met with a typing bubble. She admired his directness, all of the faux shyness that he displayed at the restaurant gone.
Lucy sat at the edge of her bed, phone in hand, typing and receiving messages in return. It seemed as if the world turned quickly and without notice in a direction she didn’t quite expect.
As soon as they enter the apartment’s threshold, Mason leaves Lucy to unload the few groceries while he goes to use the bathroom. She sighs, expressing her displeasure this way, but he doesn’t notice, or if he does, he doesn’t respond.
Lucy puts the bread on the counter, the eggs and apples in the refrigerator, and the box of tea in the cupboard. She does this slowly, as if placing these things in their proper spots will rectify the messiness of their relationship for the past eight months.
She places herself neatly on the couch, suddenly aware of her body, of the space it takes up. Mason is still in the bathroom; she hasn’t even heard the flush yet. Lucy stands up, walks over to the kitchen. She begins to remove everything from the cupboards, banging the doors shut as she does so. Lucy wipes out the cupboards, and replaces everything, making sure it’s organized in a way she likes but in a way that will confuse Mason the next time he opens the cupboard.
She doesn’t usually do things in the way that she likes, especially in a spiteful way. Lucy supposes that when she lived alone, before she met Mason, she had to have done things in the way only she liked.
Lucy thinks back to a piece of reading for a geology class she was required to take for her still unfinished degree. She generally disliked the book, found it boring, but she remembered one line that read, “Faults allow the rocks to move relative to each other.” Lucy thinks about how she likes that idea, the idea of only moving because of someone, something else.
When Mason gets out of the bathroom, Lucy is still in the kitchen, rearranging the refrigerator, throwing out old lettuce and freezer burned ice cream. After wiping down the shelves, she again places everything back in the refrigerator, only in an arrangement she likes. When Mason notices her sticking the eggs on the top shelf, instead of in its enclosure on the inside of the door, he snorts, and asks her what she’s doing.
“Cleaning,” she said.
“Well, the eggs don’t go there.” He extends his arm to move the carton, but not before Lucy’s hand lays itself on top of it, keeping it in its place.
“I like them on the top shelf.”
He huffs. “You’re acting weird.” He shrugs. He sits on the couch, turning the television up loud, much louder than what they usually listen at. Lucy stops cleaning and sits with him on the couch. He’s sitting in the center, but she forces herself between him and the arm. He shrugs again, as if convincing himself he’s unbothered by her presence. She doesn’t say anything, and they watch the television in silence.
After forty-five minutes, Lucy pushes herself up off the couch, washes her face in the kitchen sink with dish soap, and goes to bed.
She falls asleep before Mason comes to bed hours later.
The next day, Lucy wakes before Mason. She doesn’t bother being quiet as she moves around the apartment. Her keys jingle in her hand as she locks the door and bobs down the stairs to the car. It’ll make Mason irate that he has to walk or take the bus to work later that morning, but she doesn’t care. The car smells like Lucy’s day old perfume. She glances back up at their apartment window and vaguely sees a dark shadow cross the room. She knows it’s Mason, but it feels as if it’s some remnant of herself.