What people who disapprove of premarital sex for religious reasons consider cohabitation/shacking up to be.


This house used to be a great house, with its willow-draped patio and its miles of parquet. He helped her move in and they slept on her floor that night, watching the bullets of stars shoot across the skylight. Now it's years since the floor has been clean enough for that. She won't get out of bed without putting shoes on.

It started with him staying over nights. His clothes began piling up in corners with shopping bags full of novelties purchased cheap and forgotten. She found beer cans on bookshelves and under the bed.

He moved in and brought his dog, who didn't see any obligation to hold it when he had to pee. The legs of her chairs and couches were stripped by urine. The dishes piled up, the clothes piled up. They hired a maid, but that only set the bar lower. How much filth could two people make in two weeks?

She wasn't always a dirty person, she tells the maid. She just never cared for picking up other people's messes.


Their words smash against the air. The neighbors can hear them, but they're beyond caring who hears. Sometimes every night, a thoughtless gesture sticks in her mind and his defiance grows until he is bellowing and storming out. She tells him, don't come back, and he calls the cops when she won't let him in the house.

Usually it's a few hours, but sometimes it's closer to a week. They pretend to walk away, both of them knowing they're trapped and that's what they're really angry about.


She's sure he does it just to make her cry. Always leaving. It feels like dating a shadow. Out with the boys (or out with the girls). The less he gives the more she wants, and the more she wants the less he gives. He's sure she's trying to suffocate him.

She says he should bring her flowers. He says she shouldn't think about things so hard, and shouldn't try to make him change. The one thing they can always promise each other is disappointment.


He makes sure she knows she's lucky. He advertises an airbrushed version of himself and flaunts the attentions of girls younger than she's ever been to him. But even a hint of infidelity makes her sick to her stomach, so she can't get him back. Instead, she lies awake thinking about how it would be if she could. When he comes home drunk and finally wants that thing they got together for in the first place, she curls up in her jealous anger and pretends to be asleep.


They can't do anything together. He likes to drink, she likes to read. In the name of spending time together, they go to the mall. Every weekend, they bring home bags of things they don't need, which sit on the couch. She makes dinners for two that could feed four because it feels almost like taking care of him. He buys drinks until neither of them can stand because it feels almost like chivalry.


He's not going to be the one to change.

She's not going to be the one to change.

I did fine without you. I could get laid every night if I wanted to, and I could go out right now and get laid. This is how I am. If you can't deal with it...

They talk about meeting in the middle. They'll get around to it if they ever stop running in opposite directions.


Not in this house.

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