On Halloween we watched some horror movie with blood and guts in it. My boyfriend complained the whole time that there were no scenes with snakes in the water.
I said, “what the fuck does that mean,” but because I was drunk it came out cruel. He looked at me sadly, because he was drunk in a different way.
“I like when there’s a snake in the water and the actors are in the water with it,” he said. “It’s scary.”
I didn’t care, or somehow showed that by falling asleep. I guess my boyfriend turned off the TV sometime around 3 AM.
A couple Saturdays later, my boyfriend asked if we could watch Anaconda.
“It’s the preeminent snake in the water movie,” he said.
I was surprised he could use the word preeminent. Somehow that showed in my eyes. “What’s wrong with you?” he said.
“What do you mean? All you want to do is watch a fucking movie with a fucking big snake.”
“In water,” he said.
We lay together in the same bed. He slept. I didn’t.
At breakfast, he told me about the time he was in a K-hole and saw himself die in thousands of different ways, each one more torturous and prolonged than the last.
“Let me guess,” I said. “In one, you were in a river and a snake ate you.”
But that hadn’t been one of his visions.
I grew more tired every day. My tongue turned to sludge. To raise my eyebrows took concerted effort. All I could really do was wash the dishes and quietly fume when my boyfriend left his plate on the table. All I could do was drink water and pee and nod when my boyfriend asked me a question, or shake my head no.
I stopped laying in the same bed as him. In the living room, I slept the whole night through and woke up like it hadn’t even happened, like that sleep had passed through my body like a draught of wind, leaving nothing but cold bones behind.
“What’s wrong with you?” my boyfriend said. He said it more sad than he had before. I shook my head ‘no’ and washed his plate.
It was dark outside because it was 3:45 in the thickest part of winter. He turned on the TV and bought the movie Anaconda on Amazon. He pressed play.
I kept washing dishes. I heard the sound of a mighty river coming from the TV, and the quiet, elegant cut of a boat moving through water, and pretty soon J.Lo was talking about a documentary she was making in the Amazon. Her voice filled the apartment with a soft, rounded grace. It was easy to listen to. The dishes were done, so I put them in the drying rack and I dried my hands on my shirt and sat down on the couch.
“I think Jon Voight has killed people before,” my boyfriend said, then nodded to the screen. “Here we go. The anaconda is coming.”
The anaconda came. The horrifying, majestic way it moved through the jungle had to be seen to be believed.
When it finally got into the water, slithering or swimming toward J.Lo’s boat, my boyfriend grabbed my wrist.
“I saw me shooting myself when I was on ketamine,” he said. The anaconda’s head poked out of the water, and its eyes were glassy but real. “That was one of my deaths. Isn’t that really scary?”
I gave him my other hand because they were shooting at the anaconda and it was tense. “Don’t ever do that,” I said.
“I won’t if you won’t.”
He put his arm around me. J.Lo was all wet. She was screaming. Her not-yet-boyfriend Eric Stoltz was sick in his cabin and couldn’t save her. My boyfriend watched with glee. He looked so happy sometimes. Like when we had gone sledding the December before. He looked like that when he looked at me.
“Jennifer,” I said to the screen. “Get out of the water.”
We stayed awake and clapped when the credits rolled. I said, “There were actually less snake-in-the-water scenes than I thought there would be.”
And my boyfriend nodded. “I think it’s because J.Lo isn’t a convincing swimmer.”
We went to bed. I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I was still too tired out.
But my boyfriend started talking to me, in a sleepover whisper. He told me some of the other things he saw while on ketamine. He told me that before those deaths, before anything horrible was spiked into his brain, he had visions of great power and beauty. He had cracked open the Sun and drank water from Mars. He had tasted candied music and sniffed up the left-behind air of storm clouds.
“And none of it even came close to how I feel with you,” he said.
I thought if Eric Stolz had said that to J.Lo at the beginning of the movie, they would have turned the boat around immediately and bunked up together in some jungle hotel, documentary be damned. Not one person would have been killed by that anaconda. I told my boyfriend that.
He slept. I slept.
Wilhelm Sitz is a writer from rural Oregon. Now he lives in LA with his taxidermied animals.
image: Alan Tenhoeve