I really like TV. TV is one of the few
things here in the city that we have at
home, where there is a huge satellite
dish which gets us just about any show
we want on one communal television.
Running water and electricity in every
home still elude us, but yes sir, TV we

Here, I like the shows on Nick at Nite.
For one thing, obviously, the timing is
good, and for another, the black and
white shows are easier on the eyes.
Sometimes, I think that if we were the
ones running the world, the world
would be a lot like Dobie Gillis –
peopled with dull, bovine types,
moving between soft shades of light
and dark.
Sometimes it’s a little like that around
here, with my roommate, Bettina.

says I shouldn’t complain. It isn’t as
though I’ve paid any rent or even
done much dusting and cleaning,
which I said I would, and owe it all to
Bettina and her adoring, bovine eyes
that found me.
Then again, maybe Nuit can say that
because Nuit is one of the lucky ones.
She got a job, as a coat check at a
dance club. I was still looking, and Nuit,
who knows all those club kids as if they
were her own gaggle of sibs and
cousins, steering me in the direction of
Bettina. Bettina, she told me, was her
girlfriend Lisanne’s ex-roommate . Her
real name is Betty Ann, but she thinks
Bettina is more suited to her. Whatever,
I thought.

“You’re just gonna have to overlook a
lot of stuff that she says. Don’t take it
personally. She’s hardly the only one,
and she could make your life a little

Bettina actually saw us first, and came
over. I smothered a very mean smirk,
and got Nuit’s hard little fist in my back.
Bettina’s hair was black enough to
have been spray – painted that way.
The thick circlets of her eyeliner were
coming unglued and splotching the
skin under her eyes like black berry
juice.’ Who does she think she is’, I
hissed. ‘Neffertiti?’

Bettina didn’t notice, apparently,
because as soon as Nuit said I was her
cousin, Bettina wailed, “Oh!” and
quickly assured me that no matter what
I said, she wouldn’t betray me to the
authorities. She then proceeded to ask
stuff Nuit had warned me about. I was
already a little prepared. You get used
to it sooner or later. That crap about
immortality, and do I miss people from
three centuries ago, all that. I was
about to set her straight, too. But I
guess I am as smart as the next guy,
and every so often, a little smarter. At
that time, at least, I figured this
moment was an every so often. I said,
“Lookit, Bettina, I really want to answer
your questions, but I kinda need to
know something. I’m pretty new in
town, and I have been trying to find a
place to -“
I don’t remember much of the next
few hours after that, beyond Bettina
grabbing my hand, flinging me into the
front seat of her Volkswagen, and then
dragging me up the stairs to her
“You can stay here,” she said, waving
her arm across the space of an empty
room. “And don’t worry about
anything. I mean it. Not a thing. And I’ll
make sure nobody bothers you. I

And she did. Nobody bothered me,
because that is a privilege she reserved
for herself. I got used to a lot of things,
like the books, and the cobwebs ready
to collapse from the weight of dust,
and wrought iron candelabras, always
gummed up with wax that was always

I got used to her, and her curiosity,
which was kind of endearing at first but
the endearment was, well, pretty
mortal. She liked looking in my mouth,
sucking in a sharp breath every time, as
if she could see naked people in there.
Lots of times I could see her in my
peripheral vision, taking me in, as if I
had slithered right off the pages of one
of her stacks of novels. I had never
even read them. reading too much of
their words in their tiny mouse scratch
letters makes my eyes water.
So, I spend a lot of time watching TV,
like I said. Bettina joins me, ostensibly
because she can’t get enough of Dobie
either. She is always in her gauzy, lace-
trimmed night shirt that looks as if it
had been swiped from the set of David
Copperfield. (Another easy black and
white dream, and one which I’m
starting to identify with more and
more. I should get out more often.)

One night, she appeared, decked out
in the black make- up and the David
Copperfield shirt, and plunked herself
beside me in the aging sofa cushions
with the consistency of quick sand.
Every time Dobie or his pal Maynard
did something funny and I laughed, I
was naked to her sideways glances.
Finally, she announced, “You have got
to be the laziest blood drinker on the
“I’m sure I’m in the top five,” I said.
“Don’t you ever get hungry?”
“Yeah, of course I do. Doesn’t mean I
think about it all the time. It’s not like
there’s a ton of variety.”
True enough. Sometimes, when she’ s
not around, I go to the kitchen, pull up
a chair and just stare into the
refrigerator. I am sometimes amazed
and sometimes disgusted at it all: the
leafy vegetables with the frayed brown
edges, the milk as white and opaque as
skin, and mostly, the meat. the meat in
flat pink circles, in ragged red leaves, in
the pocked flesh of cleaned wings and
the dull fat beneath. How can they
even stand it, the stench of rot and
stale fluids? And why do they take so
much of everything and leave nothing
but some torn plastic wrappings and
wasted bones?
I didn’t ask her and I’m not about to.

She drew her knees up into the coil of
her arms. After a moment, she said,
“Can I ask you something?”
Her mantra. I only said, “Go ahead.”
“Okay. I was wondering. Who’s blood
do you prefer” Men’s or woman’s?”
“All the same,” I said.
That either disappointed her or
titillated her beyond comprehension.
Either way, it was a big lie, not the first
I’ve told her. I’ve never had either,
because back home the only things we
ever borrowed from were the deer and
some other critters.
Of which there aren’t too many around
here, of course.
It’s been a while. And you can go a
while, if your resources are stretched,
or in my case, if you don’t even know
where to look.

Can’t put it off much longer, that’s for
sure. Had the worst headache when I
got up. Thought my head would erupt
and splatter like a blueberry popover.
Before that, I dreamt that I was with
David Copperfield and Dobie Gillis, in
our worlds of black and white air and
skin, fragmented by the intrusion of

© Aisha Salim

courtesy of Storyzetu

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