x

Excerpt

“Those Who Wait”

Quinn Adikes

November 18, 2022 
The following is a story by Quinn Adikes from the new issue of Shenandoah . Adikes' lives in Brooklyn and has an MFA from Stony Brook Southampton, where he also taught Creative Writing.

Cover image: “Guadalicue, 2019” by Esteban Ramón Peréz
This story appears in the new issue of Shenandoah

You got on our boat and left for work. I stayed on our island and waited for you.

*

Now I’m tired. Anemic. Dehydrated. Allergic to shellfish. I wake up every morning at six and lay in bed until eight. I light nag champa and close my eyes and breath seven in five out seven in five out until I give up. I make coffee and an egg sandwich and drink a teaspoon of kratom and read smutty French poetry and I am still on our island waiting for you.

*

Via fan boat, the Chinese food delivery guy creeps out of the fog. The sesame chicken is spongy. The pork fried rice has carrots in it. It takes me five attempts to complain, because the phone number is arranged in the shape of a pagoda on the side of each container. I can’t tell where it begins and where it ends. (I placed the initial order online). When I finally decipher the number, the owner answers. I know he is the owner because he introduces himself as such. He has an Italian accent. He says, I am Luigi and I am the owner. I list my complaints. He says, No refunds, and hangs up.

*

Of course I could go find you. I know where you work. But that would be like giving up. Coming on too strong. Looking desperate. You also took our boat.

*

Other than wait, I fish. I’m not allergic to regular fish. I catch carp. Trout. Flounder. Alaskan Sea Bass. Koi. Sometimes I’ll catch a crab. I have to put on gloves before I chuck it back into the ocean.

*

My groceries don’t arrive by boat. They come via drone. I have to order them a month out. It’s fine. I don’t mind.

*

Would you please hurry up?

*

Please?

*

I will do laps around the island and look out into the water. I will never step in. I will follow old footsteps in the sand. I will think that I heard you; the oars dipping in and out; the bow cutting through; your breath heavy, carrying across the fog. Every few minutes I will stop, and I will swear that I heard you.

*

Do you remember when we found this island? We loved the lone coconut tree, curled like a beckoning finger. We built the house together. Used my savings to drone-ship materials. The house was your design. Drafted on graph paper. A-frame. Open concept. Plenty of natural light. Two bathrooms. A porch. Good view of the coconut tree.

*

The Chinese food delivery guy has been my only visitor. But I have my poems, and I can fish, and I don’t mind waiting. I really don’t.

*

One night I’m about to fall asleep and then I hear a row row row. Out in the water, a single light grows larger, its beam a road through the fog. It must be you. I jump out of bed. I’m in my underwear. I don’t even put clothes on. I burst out the front door, glide down the porch steps. Swing around the coconut tree once, twice, three times, and hurl myself towards you. I can make out your figure bobbing up and down in the dark. I fall into the sand and cry How was work?

Work? An Italian man’s voice asks. He shines the light on himself. I am Luigi and I’ve come to make things right. He moves the light to a brown paper bag with the pagoda phone number.

*

You don’t like Chinese food. You’re sodium-sensitive. So when you come back I’ll order anything. Greek. Indian. Ethiopian. Anything you want.

*

Today I will stop waiting. I hear oars everywhere. In the kitchen. In bathroom one. Bathroom two. On the porch. Even by the coconut tree. I’ve run out of poems. I can’t read any more Baudelaire. It’s giving me ideas. Reminds me too much of you. I cast The Flowers of Evil into the water as if it were a crab. I even wear gloves. Coffee makes me think. That also goes in the water. I go to sleep clear headed.

*

The next day, I place an order online. I will have five pounds of coffee and a new copy of The Flowers of Evil in exactly one month.

*

I do laps around the island and kick up sand. I tell myself that when my book comes I will memorize The Corpse and recite lines at random. I’ll sing. I’ll drown the oars out. I catch another crab and forget to wear gloves when I toss it back. My hand swells with hives. I scratch until they bleed. I dunk it in the sea water and it burns. Eventually, the swelling will go down. It takes time.

*

I do more laps until it’s dark out.

I hear oars.

I hear them. I really hear them. And I see a light through the fog. And a boat, and a figure sitting in the boat, rowing. I listen for Luigi’s voice but the light shines on your face and it’s you. It’s actually you. You turn the boat in the opposite direction, the light pointing back where you came. I’ve stopped waiting, but there you are.

How was work? I call out. How was it? I step into the water. Keep going. Up to my ankles. My knees. My crotch. Belly button. Nipples. Neck. Mouth. I keep my nose above water. Shallower than I expected.

You’ve slowed down. The oars are two hands waving me in. I’m so close I can almost grab one.

But I don’t. I will meet you here, and you will have to come to me.

__________________________________

“Those Who Wait” by Quinn Adikes first appeared in Shenandoah’s Fall 2022 issue, Volume 72 Number 1.



More Story
How Jane Austen Almost Walked Away From Writing If you’re a literary genius, you’ve got it easy—right? Wrong. Even Jane Austen, indisputably one of the greatest novelists...