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Loyalty

Jana Katz


“It’s not about loyalty if you don’t know what’s going on,” she said.


“That’s the point,” he told her.


“Life isn’t a Stevie Wonder song lyric,” She knew there was a chance he’d call her out for not knowing exactly what the line was but she had no filter with him; she was in love.


She continued, “So what are you saying? Are you implying it is loyalty to follow blindly? Then you’re just going with your gut, that’s not loyalty that’s assumption and impulsivity.”


“It is the motivation,” he said, “Loyalty. Loyalty doesn’t mean you’re stupid. Loyalty doesn’t make you brave. It doesn’t mean you can’t analyze anything.” He tried to explain with the fear that he sounded patronizing, “This is insane. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”


He wouldn’t be baited into sounding like a frenemy when he knew what she was looking for was passion. The conversation could be about anything, really. Gerard was just the type of character that made Daisy want to play house. They were roommates; they met a year ago this March, which is to say ten months ago. Aside from not getting involved with anyone he lives with; Gerard wasn’t that fond of Daisy. Her sexual frustration often came across as hostility and why should he be the recipient of either?


Daisy liked him from the moment she saw him on the tour to see if she would take the place. Daisy decided to sublet the room she found on Craig’s List from the roommate Gerard had found on Craig’s list. For $860 a month it was a bargain for Somerville even if there was only one bathroom and no dishwasher or living room.


Daisy first saw Gerard sitting in a wing-backed armchair in the oversized entry that was used as a den. The makeshift den got cold in New England winters like the rest of the place so she bought two electric blankets on sale in June, a his and hers, though he didn’t know it. Gerard, when she first saw him, was reading a hard copy of the newspaper, with the unread sections folded neatly in his lap. He held what he was reading like it was a giant book enveloping him. At first Daisy thought maybe he was trying to be casual, sniffing out the potential new housemate. Then she thought he looked more like a zookeeper enthralled with a dying breed or a paleontologist though that wouldn’t make much sense at all. It didn’t matter, once Daisy saw brown corduroy slacks, she was hooked.


Little did she know, Gerard was a poet. He read hard copies of the paper because he created poems out of them. Daisy found this out when she looked at the bathroom. Gerard whites out words, lines, and paragraphs to make poems and then papers the bathroom walls with his art. As if his poised stature at her entrance wasn’t enough, Daisy already began to justify why it is ok to shit where you eat. Save on gas, well that was the main one at the moment.


She took the apartment with an open mind and a heartfelt crush. Nothing overtly sexual, more like the way a pre-teen is sweet on a substitute teacher, each surprise interaction a day-maker. Her build was stockier than his and he wasn’t tall enough to make it look cute. That was actually very important to him. Gerard wanted to be seen walking down the street as part of a handsome couple. She need not be gorgeous or have a beautiful body but he wanted to make people think monogamy was back in style when they looked at him. And he was sure people would just notice their mismatched body masses and maybe the more creative onlookers might wonder what positions were typically utilized in bed. That was just it, he didn’t want to be someone’s utilitarian romance. He wanted to give strangers hope.


That was just the problem for Daisy, she picked up that vibe from him, his hopefulness. Not quite chivalry but something, thoughtfulness maybe, nudging every maternal, nurturing essence in her being. At least it was better than loneliness. She knew it wasn’t for her but just a hopefulness in general that was lovely company. Often her uncontained excitement resulted in an avoidable yet playful argument. Neither one of them dated regularly and never did they accompany each other as wing-people. It had been a cozy winter after a humid summer and when they weren’t talking, they got along famously.


“I’m going to DC for a little,” he said one day matter-of-factly. She didn’t know him in 2008 when Obama was sworn in. Daisy had a cousin who went and brought back Obama mints with Andy Warhol-esqe multi-colored prints on the front of the tin. She pictured Gerard staying with poet friends celebrating the inauguration with aperitifs and selfies.

“I think it is going to be amazing,” she said. Daisy tried to seem as nonchalant as possible. Sitting on the couch, one leg folded under her, the other bent so she could rest her chin on her knee, unaware of how unattractive it made her with bad posture. She thought it looked cute, like the premeditated everything she did, it opened a visual pathway straight to her vulva.

“I know,” he told her.

“That’s all your taking?” Daisy asked.

“I gotta go,” Gerard said. He grabbed his open backpack and tossed it over his shoulder. She stood up like maybe he would give her a hug goodbye, like maybe if she just played it like she was his mother or grandmother even, she could get a little affection. He pitied her since quarantining started, understanding what it was like to go without another human’s touch, what it means to be in someone’s bubble by default.

Gerard went in, patting her back with both hands. And over his boney shoulder Daisy peered into his unzipped bag and eyed a gas mask and MAGA hat.

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