I come home to the smell of meat. Not the subtle wafting of sirloin tips or pounded cutlets sautéing as a prelude to being served with thick sticks of asparagus, but the concentrated odor of raw meat—pungent, sweet, overpowering—as if our front door led to the killing room of an abattoir.
Briefcase still in hand, overcoat across my shoulders like a cape, I follow the broken trail of Styrofoam packaging and plastic wrap through our cramped shotgun apartment to the bathroom. Chops and shanks, roasts and ribs oxidize in a brown heap next to the space heater.
My boyfriend, a firefighter who's recovering from a bad time, hunches in our cramped tub drizzling the remains of one of the packages through his thinning hair. When I ask what has happened, he smiles beatifically up from the tub.
"I spent a hundred and seventy dollars at the butcher shop," he says.
He is nude. His pubic hair is soaked flat against his body. A pool of thin red fluid has formed beneath him and rises nearly to the tops of his pale feet. Although both insane and wildly inappropriate, this macabre spectacle reminds me of the time my little sister Carol got her period in the pool.
"I am being washed in the blood of the lamb," he tells me finally.
My boyfriend is relaxed. Unconcerned with my reaction, he keeps on, wringing what I believe to be a shoulder chop across his hairless chest a little below the nipples.
"That's a metaphor," I tell him. "That means if you go to church, God will forgive your sins."
"Are you so sure of that?"
And although in fifteen minutes I will call the psychiatrist and Louis will spend several days under observation before returning home with a Zyprexa prescription, for this one luminous moment, the way he looks up at me from his pool of watery redness, the relief etched across his face as with numinous acid, this man I love makes me wonder.