“Broke.” Prose by Bára Hladíková

Illustration by Anne Tastad

Broke.

Prose by Bára Hladíková

Every one of our appliances broke the week we were trying to break up. It started with the toaster. I had just received my results for Celiac disease: positive. I decided to eat all the bread in our apartment and then never again. That meant the seven free loaves that I had taken from behind the Sixth Street market on Tuesday. We were down to three and, as we were considering if we should live separate lives, the toaster fried. We toasted the last three loaves in the oven.

We calculated how much not-eating-bread would cost if we lived together, and how much it would cost if we lived apart. How do we calculate the cost of love and trust? I wanted to ask her. Do we put love in the bank, spend trust on wine? If we cut out free food, do the books balance? If we are always counting, can we be free? It’s time to throw down a dollar, she said, her resolution, her palm on the kitchen table. Maybe we’d have a dollar to throw down if you were home once in a while, I said as I looked at the bread turning a soft gold in the oven. She was quiet. That was the last time the oven turned on.

Next was the electric kettle. If we want money for not-free-bread, she said, you should stop buying floral summer dresses and going to the café everyday. I told her I stole every single dress I own, which was almost true, and my coffee is cheaper than her whiskey. Plus, I never take public transit. All these missing women and you want me to walk home alone at night? she said in between bites of dried plums. That’s not my point, I said, and cranked the stove to high with the electric kettle on the searing red element.

In the midst of writing a list of how we were going to contain our entire lives within walking and biking distance, public-transit-free – one column if we were going to be together, one if we were apart – the chemical smoke from the melting plastic of the electric kettle overtook us.

She was high from the fumes, coughing and laughing, stumbling out the door, melted kettle in hand. I took it from her and tossed it in the trash. We went to the library while the apartment emptied of toxins. The stove was now covered in a thick layer of melted black plastic and no longer functional. After two hours in library stacks, falling into words, watching thick rain, I started to think that perhaps we could make it; she looked good warming her hands with pages.

We came home to an expanding puddle on the kitchen floor. The freezer was melting. I asked the stars, is this even possible? I had to take a moment in the bathroom to wash my face in cold water. What would the landlord say? We mopped and laid towels, we transferred frozen food into coolers. If you weren’t always so serious we could laugh at all of this, she said.

When the heating went, she said that she had been having dreams of frozen walls. Mercury was in retrograde, the tarot whispered tower in reverse. That night we wore all of our sweaters and decided that we should probably break up some other time.

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