It is a cold snap when we drive up to Jack’s cabin. I am in the passenger seat trying to keep the temperature in the car from fogging up the windows. Jack keeps up a constant chatter as he steers along the roads he is familiar with, the blur of trees and snow so soft-looking that it melts into one long reel of green-white.
I was thinking of Jack recently. I was on a trip, wandering around a museum, and his tooth was in my pocket. I rubbed it absentmindedly like a talisman. It isn’t easy to remove a tooth, it requires a lot of persistence. The ligaments hold out longer than you think.
In the car I turn to Jack, tell him to pull over. From the trunk I fish out the duct tape and make four circles around his head with it. We continue the trip in silence. I’ll let him talk when we get there. Or maybe I won’t.
The cabin is Jack’s year-round home. It serves its purpose as more than just a home; it gives Jack a ready-made excuse to bring girls to the middle of nowhere. I can picture them here, shivering from the cold, their pink nipples hard. I know how he sees them, because how he sees them is how I see them, and I like to think as I walk up to his cabin that I can see the prints of their bare feet still etched into the hard ground.
From the cabin we make our way on foot, our tracks covered by the falling snow, nature abetting our crimes. It’ll be like falling into a pillow, a soft, welcoming cloud of a bed, a pristine almost-grave. I tell Jack to stand still and I count 20 paces like we are duelling. I really don’t know if this is enough, but I pretend to Jack like I do, and really, every experiment has its premier iteration, how else are you supposed to learn these things?
Afterwards Jack sits up, leaning forward, left hand feeling the right side of his chest tentatively. I think you broke my ribs, he tells me. He spits blood onto the white carpet of forest floor. He looks pale by the time we return to the cabin, he wants to leave. Don’t worry, I say, you’ll be fine. I’ll even drive. Just wait a little longer.
What I really want are my trophies. I make him wait long enough for the bruises to appear, purple blooming into black, and the photos of them come out so well. I still have those pictures, the secret spot in an empty moisturizer container, a tiny flash drive on which Jack is posed, naked, grimacing, mine forever.