You and your boyfriend move into one of those houses that is so small everything has to be more than one thing. The only piece of furniture is modular. Your couch folds out into a bed, and then folds a different way into a bookcase, and then folds a different way into an exercise machine. The house is only one room, except for the closet, which has all your clothes hanging in it, and below that, a toilet. If you take all the clothes out of the closet and remove the bar that they hang on, there is a showerhead, so you can shower awkwardly half-kneeling on the toilet seat.
To move into the small house, you and your boyfriend had to get rid of many of your possessions. You bagged everything up, planning to donate to Goodwill, but your boyfriend said you were thinking about your possessions in the wrong way. He un-bagged everything you had carefully decided to donate and put it back where it belonged. He gave you one medium-sized box. “Put everything you want to take with you in this box.” After you filled the box, which only held half of what you really wanted to take with you, your boyfriend helped you load it into your car. Then, he locked the door to your large house, splashed a little gasoline on the outside, and lit it on fire.
“Being minimal requires commitment,” your boyfriend said.
You made a list of the things in the house you would have liked to sneak off with, things that didn’t make it into the small box. The heat of your burning house bathed the front lawn in a kind of desert heat. “You remembered to get the dog out, right?” you asked.
In the small house, even the dog is pulling double duty. You can’t keep more than one pet in the small house, so the dog has to be more than one pet. You decide that, from the right angle, the dog looks a lot like a cat, a bigger, hairier breed of cat, like maybe a Maine Coon. You name the dog Julia, and the cat Suzanne. When the dog chases its own tail, you imagine that the dog is chasing the cat.
It is immediately apparent that your boyfriend is not prepared for your cramped life in the small house. He is used to reading on the couch while you nap in your bed, but because the bed is also the couch, you can’t do both at the same time. When he wants to get a book, he has to wait for you to finish your set of bench presses. The few possessions you kept fit awkwardly into the house. Everything is visible all the time. To your boyfriend, it looks like clutter. One day, when you come home, you find your small box of possessions sitting on the curb with your trashcan. The trashcan is almost as big as the house, you think. From outside, you can see your boyfriend through the windows. He is trying to make dinner and trips because he left the wrong drawer open.
Later, all the drawers are empty and taped shut. Together you and your boyfriend share one pan, one bowl, and one spoon. One person eats first, and then washes the dishes, and then the next person eats. Your boyfriend always eats first, which you think is unfair, so you make a color-coded calendar with an eating schedule and a dish-washing schedule and even a weightlifting and reading and napping schedule. After one day, the calendar disappears, and you never see it again. Your boyfriend tells you that the dog ate it, but you haven’t seen the dog in a few days either. Your boyfriend tells you that the dog ran away.
“I wish I could run away,” you say.
“Don’t be shitty,” your boyfriend says.
Without the dog or any possessions, there seems to be more room in the tiny house. But you and your boyfriend still get in each other’s way, bonk heads or crack shins. You decide that this is just a natural part of adjusting to life in the tiny house, but your boyfriend is temperamental, furious. He is determined to make this work. He keeps saying that, I am determined to make this work. He stops sleeping as much, sitting awake next to you, and when the sun rises, he has dark hollows around his eyes.
Soon, you get sick. You can’t seem to keep food down, instead throwing up all day. You throw up at your job while people look nervous. Eventually your boss sends you home because you are throwing up every hour and it is very discomforting. When you get home, you head straight to the tiny bathroom. You have diarrhea all afternoon. You sit on the toilet with your head smothered between two of your suit coats. One of them is slightly damp, you discover, because the showerhead leaks.
This illness lasts for some time. You get sicker and sicker. You get very thin. You take up very little space in the tiny house. Most of the time you sit on the toilet, in the closet. Occasionally you go out and drink water and eat some of the food your boyfriend has prepared for you, soup and crackers and big bottles of red Gatorade. The red Gatorade makes it look like you are vomiting blood. The toilet closet starts to smell bad, and then the entire small house starts to smell bad. You lose your job, but that’s okay, because you’ll probably die very soon.
You’re glad you moved to the small house; it is very economical and your boyfriend can afford to keep living there alone.
Zachary Doss is a fiction editor for Banango Street and former editor of Black Warrior Review. His work has appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Fairy Tale Review, DIAGRAM, Caketrain, Paper Darts, and others. He tweets at @thisyearsboy, and you can find more information at his website.