Christopher was the nicest man I had ever met and so I was engaged to him. We got engaged during his residency and I told people we would get married when he became a doctor, but he never became a doctor he became a physician-scientist at the university researching von Willebrand disease because he thought this way he could help many people at once instead of one at a time. He often told me just how many people in the US alone suffered from von Willebrand disease, but I forgot immediately because I was not the type of person who retained facts.
This was our sixth year being engaged. We were eating Speedy Steak Fajitas from our Tuesday meal kit in our studio apartment that smelled like sesame oil. Our apartment smelled like sesame oil always because on the day I moved in I spilled a bottle of sesame oil on the carpet and Christopher never changed the carpet to prove to me how okay he was about it, how I could spill things and it would be no big deal now, no big deal for the rest of my life.
We took turns squeezing the quartered lime over our plates. We talked about the baklava shop down the street that had abruptly closed and about baklavas more generally. Then I told a story about the time my ex-boyfriend and his parents took me along on their vacation to Istanbul: We went to see the Hagia Sophia, but I’d seen it by myself in the morning so I sat outside because I didn’t want to see it twice. This man came up to me—
Why are you laughing? I asked Christopher.
Who doesn’t want to see the Hagia Sophia twice? Christopher said.
That’s not what I meant, I said. That was what I meant, but now I knew that a person who does not want to see the Hagia Sophia twice is a type of person, and I did not want to be that type of person.
I meant I’d seen it from the inside already, so I wanted to see it from the outside. Anyway, I was sitting in the grass and this man—
Christopher stopped me. Christopher said he knew this story, he knew about how the man came up to me. And how the man said I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, and would I like to see the Hagia Sophia with him? He had a special ticket that would let us skip the line. And how I said I’d already seen it. And how he said, Me too, many times, but not with a beautiful woman. And how he promised he wouldn’t ask me to do anything other than stand near him and look at where he was pointing if he pointed somewhere and said, Look. And how there was this gesture he did when he said beautiful woman, that included me and also some of the grass around me. And how I said, Sorry, I can’t, and he said, Okay, and sat down a few feet away from me and looked at me while I looked at the Hagia Sophia.
Then Christopher said, You can tell it again if you want.
You love telling that story. You tell me that story all the time.
No, I don’t.
Christopher’s eyes widened and he said, Okay, in this quiet voice, because he could see that this was important to me and not important to him, and I decided then that I was going to kill him.
I thought it would be easy because Christopher was the nicest man that I had ever met.
That night while Christopher was sleeping, I used his laptop to book a cheap last-minute flight to Istanbul. I was thinking I would see the Hagia Sophia again. I was thinking I would kill Christopher as soon as possible, the very next day, while the desire was fresh and the momentum like a pony, and then I would make my international getaway. I did not plan further than that because I was the type of person for whom planning resulted in the loss of momentum.
The next morning I told Christopher I wanted to go to Lowe’s to get tools for a project and Christopher said, It’s good to see you being more active.
He said, I have to admit that sometimes when you don’t leave the apartment for weeks at a time I get a little worried. But I understand you know your own needs best.
He dropped me off at Lowe’s and rolled down the window to wave goodbye and rolled up the window and went to work.
When someone asks Christopher what he does, Christopher says he’s a physician-scientist and stops there and says, What do you do? If someone shows continued interest and asks what he researches, Christopher says, Von Willebrand disease type 3 and pauses, trying to decide whether it would be rude to explain what it is or rude not to. I have told him that nobody will be offended if he assumes they do not know what von Willebrand disease type 3 is, and he says, You’re right, but I know he still thinks, But what if?
When someone asks me what I do, I say, I convalesce, and most people decide right away it would be rude to ask me from what. I can tell some people think that I have von Willebrand disease and Christopher is my personal doctor somehow, like if you are sick you go to the hospital and if you are very sick you become an in-patient and if you are very, very sick you get engaged to the doctor. This is fine with me. I do not ask, What do you do?
I walked up and down the length of Lowe’s leaning heavily against my cart. I scanned the aisles for something that could help me, my mouth open in an effort to look as lost as possible. I had seen women complain on internet forums about men offering unnecessary advice at hardware stores and I was hoping this would happen to me, but there was no one there on a weekday morning. I was planning to say, I live out in the woods and there is a wild boar who attacks my livestock which I understand is the nature of wild boars and cannot be helped but I must put my own needs first so could you please tell me what I can use to kill it quickly and humanely?
In the Power Tools and Woodworking aisle I looked at the tools that oscillate and the tools that rotate. I tried to imagine hacking Christopher apart with each: the concrete driller, the sander, the planer, the saw. The warm smell of blood. I felt sick—I was no good with gore. I wanted something neat but we did not have a gun and none of our friends had guns because that’s the type of people we were and the type of company we kept. Two of my eight ex-boyfriends had guns, but one loved his gun very much and would never let anyone touch it, much less borrow it, and the other had blocked me after one last text asking me to please not rob him of closure, please. When I was a child there was a gun in the attic that I found out about when I told my dad I loved my stuffed animals more than him and he brought it out to shoot Bashful Velvet Turtle Frankie, but my dad had died a few years ago from pneumonia which went unidentified because he also had lung cancer, and I did not know what happened to the gun afterward.
I picked out five of the bigger tools that looked a little like a gun and went to check out. My cashier had a teeny body and huge dark circles under her eyes. They looked painted on, sudden and purple, whereas the rest of her face was a single gray note in the fluorescent light that was mostly nothing by the time it reached her from the high ceiling. The dark circles were by far the most dominant feature on her face, especially because her eyes were so itty bitty, though I tried not to notice this because she was Asian.
You look really tired, she told me.
I’m buying these for murder, I said.
She smiled. Oh, murder, she said. I hear that one all the time.
I put the tools on the check-out belt. The cashier stared at them as they made their way toward her and piled up against each other. Then she put the heels of her hands against her face and rubbed her eyes slowly and forcefully like she was trying to push them out. Her plastic nametag said Elaine and it had a small NASA sticker peeling from one corner.
Did you know, Elaine said, still smiling and rubbing her eyes, that we have a no-chase policy at Lowe’s? That means you can just walk out with all of these and I’ll get fired if I try to physically stop you.
I had not known this. This was a new fact.
But don’t use the carts, Elaine said. The wheels lock at the door if there are unpaid items inside.
I had the money to purchase the tools, or rather I had Christopher’s money to purchase the tools, and I did not like taking risks because I was the type of person who got caught but Elaine was looking at me expectantly and I felt I owed her something for accidentally thinking her eyes were itty bitty although this was an accurate observation. I gathered the tools into the crook of my arm where they crowded and pinched.
Will you get in trouble? I asked. I was whispering, even though Elaine was not whispering.
Give me your number, she said. That way if I get in trouble, I can say I know how to contact the shoplifter.
I gave her my number.
I don’t need to write it down, she said proudly. I have a really good memory.
She did not try calling to verify it was my real number, which I thought was stupid of her, but I had given her my real number, which was even stupider.
When I got home I got a text from Elaine: Hi, it’s your Lowe’s cashier. My heart quickened. I texted back, Elaine? Are you in trouble? and the reply came, No I was just bored. A few minutes later: This is weird to say but I’m kind of touched you remember my name!
Elaine said, I want to get to know you, and I said, Haha.
The kinds of questions Elaine had for me were like the ones in an online quiz that tell you what kind of bread you would be. Sometimes I told the truth and sometimes I lied and sometimes I told what the truth would be if I were someone else.
At some point she asked, What do you do? I wrote back, I convalesce. From what? she asked. TRAUMA, I wrote, thinking that would be the end of our conversation. But the reply came back right away: Oh haha me too. Then she sent a short video of herself scratching her wrists with a lime green X-ACTO knife. When a cat leaned into the frame, she pushed it out, saying, Get out of here Mister Mistoffelees. Little beads of blood came up and she squeezed for more, but the wound was shallow and had nothing more to give.
Wow, ouch, I wrote.
Von Willebrand disease is when someone cannot stop bleeding, like hemophilia, but rarer. A clotting factor concentrate can be used to stop bleeding episodes, but some people with von Willebrand disease type 3 develop inhibitors, which cause the body to reject the clotting factor. These people bleed and bleed. These people are the ones Christopher’s research might benefit one day. I think some people just have to be let go. I told Christopher that once. That was the one time I made him cry. Other than that, I have been a pretty good girlfriend to Christopher, considering everything that has happened to me.
Because of Elaine’s texts I forgot to charge up the power tools and nothing was ready when Christopher came home.
What are you planning to make? Christopher asked, looking around at all the plugged-in tools.
I can’t tell you, I said.
Okay. He opened the refrigerator door and asked, Should we have Chicken Gyro Couscous Bowls or Plantain and Bean Tostadas?
If I did not want to talk about something Christopher never pushed. I want to do what you want to do, he always said. We got engaged because I wanted to and we delayed getting married because I wanted to. One night I said, Christopher, engage me, and the next morning when I woke up Christopher said, Will you marry me? and I said, Yes, but later. Some months after that he said what he liked about me was how I knew what I wanted and asked for it directly.
After Plantain and Bean Tostadas Christopher said, I just want to check: are you aware that you bought all these drills but no drill bits?
I said no. No, I was not aware.
Would I like it if we went and picked up some drill bits for me, right now, so I could get started on my project?
Yes. Yes, I would.
While Christopher cleared away the dishes I put my passport in a backpack, along with a few items of clothing and all of my underwear.
What’s that? Christopher asked in the car.
I can’t tell you, I said. I had the backpack on in the front, and I held it tenderly like it was a part of me that was in pain.
Christopher reached out toward the backpack and I slapped his hand away.
Sorry, he said, putting his hand back on the steering wheel. He looked like he might cry but he didn’t. A slap on the hand seemed like nothing compared to getting murdered, and I felt he was getting off easy, too easy.
At Lowe’s, I told Christopher I wanted to wait in the car. I rolled down the window to wave goodbye. I waited until he walked into the store. Then I climbed over to the driver’s seat and drove myself to the airport.
I was boarded and flown, ferried and taxied, and then I was where I wanted to be. The Hagia Sophia was closed because it was night. I had never seen it at night before. It was beautiful like the postcards, but a little worse than the postcards, which had better control of the angle and lighting and made everything around it a soft blur. I sat in the grass and looked at the Hagia Sophia and felt unmoved until Christopher called.
Where are you? he asked. Are you okay?
He sounded angry, which made me cry, loudly.
I’m on our honeymoon, I said between gasps. Why aren’t you here?
The tourists walked in wide circles around my crying.
Months after all this, after Christopher and I came home from our week in Istanbul, after we signed the papers and got married, after we redid our flooring so that the apartment no longer smelled like sesame oil, I was still getting texts from Elaine.
Hello, are you done healing yet? I’m not, she wrote.
I did not answer. But she texted me a few times a week:
I’m sad a lot even though I don’t really have a good reason to be.
Sometimes I wish I would get really sick so I could say that was the reason for all of this. Something rare and dramatic but genetically predetermined so it’s not my fault at all.
I’ve been wondering, what did you need all those drills for? No offense but you don’t seem like the type of person who would build something.
Hello? I’m bored. Do you shoplift because of your TRAUMA?
One day I finally wrote back: Hello, Elaine. I do not know why you are sad. Did you know there’s a disease that causes people to spontaneously bleed, and certain strains of this disease become very difficult to treat because people develop inhibitors that cause the normal treatment to be ineffective? It’s called von Willebrand disease. I study it. I am a physician-scientist. When you text me you are taking me away from my research which could help many people. Do you know how many people in the U.S. alone have von Willebrand disease? People die because of this disease Elaine. They bleed and bleed, ok? Why are you sad when you don’t even have this disease?
Then Elaine found my address and came to the apartment and tried to slash me with her lime-green X-ACTO knife, but luckily Christopher was home and he grabbed her by the wrist until she dropped the knife and said, Ouch, you’re hurting me, and Christopher let go and Elaine cried and promised to never bother us again and ran off. Christopher put her X-ACTO knife into an empty coffee can and put the coffee can in the trash and thought about calling the police for a few days and then didn’t.
How did you know her? he asked years later, when I was calm.
She was my cashier at Lowe’s, I said.
It’s not fair, Christopher said. You get so unlucky.
Christopher listed some of the unlucky things that had happened to me that he knew about. One of them was being harassed at the Hagia Sophia by a creep. Christopher was the type of person who used words like harassed.
Nothing bad ever happens to me, Christopher said.
Hedgie Choi is an MFA candidate in fiction at Johns Hopkins University. She received her MFA in poetry from the Michener Center for Writers.