It is hard seeing him like this, in the morning newspaper, above the fold. Miranda waits until she is inside to shake the paper out, then opens it completely at the kitchen table, smoothing the wrinkles with the flat of her palm, his face smearing ink onto her proximal ridge. As she runs her palms across her worn, flannel pajama pants to rid herself of residual ink, she reads the headline: Bat Boy For President.
It had been a misunderstanding, their break-up, she thought again as she did almost every day for the past twenty years. She stays home on Friday nights, still expecting him to come over as he did every week with a pizza, half anchovies, half sausage and mushrooms, ready to watch new episodes of the X-Files with her. As the years went by, she understood it was a permanent departure without a proper goodbye. Miranda had thought that maybe in a few weeks they would get back together like all of the other times they had separated and returned. Bat Boy always came back to her, always accepted her for who she was, and sometimes, she just wanted to date someone with an apartment and a car who could take her out for dinner and tell her how beautiful and smart she was. He didn’t always tell her those things, those things she felt he was supposed to, and she knew he was sorry: he told her he would do better. And they both believed this.
That October night, she expected that he would go to the Chucklehead concert with his friends, have too many drinks, meet someone else, and come back to her in a few weeks. She even imagined how he would return: windswept, with a single rose, or a stuffed animal as an introduction to his apology. She would open the front door and want to be mad, but would instead be relieved. She had written him a poem this time because, this time, she was truly sorry deep down in her gut. She knew she had been wrong, but she didn’t know how to take anything back, to stuff the words inside of her mouth, behind her teeth, never to escape again. But, instead, he had told her they were broken up.
She remembers that night so clearly, even now, sitting at her own kitchen table. Back then, she sat on the ground, plucking at weeds, with cars roaring overhead and the smell of exhaust and asphalt in the air. She hardly visited the underpass near Kenmore Square because he always seemed embarrassed he lived there. It always smelled faintly of rancid protein. He tried not to eat there, but sometimes, she knew he was hungry, and the rats were plentiful, and she could not blame him for wanting to sit down and have a meal alone. To lick his long, tapered fingers in the privacy of his own space, without her asking him to wash his face and then brush his teeth twice before he kissed her.
And that was it—he was a man, a beautiful man, and had not been Bat Boy for a long time, but the name stayed. He was Robert, her Robert. It was his private name, the one he never shared with the media, not even his fans. She looked at his photograph in the paper again, and through the ink smear she could see that he stopped shaving his head bald; his hair now covered the tips of his pointed ears. She would often lick the tips, convinced they tasted differently than the rest of him, that somehow the tips had captured the essence of the night air that she, too, wished she could fly through with him. She had wanted him to make her a vampire, but was terribly disappointed that he wasn’t that kind of a bat. He was primarily fruitarian, he explained more than once. Miranda never understood how he liked anchovies and rats, but not mushrooms and sausage. There were a lot of things she didn’t understand about him and now regrets she never asked.
Her eyes are wet. She wipes them with the backs of her hands and looks more closely at the photo. She sees that he is not alone. Slightly behind him and over his left shoulder, there’s a slender, two-dimensional version of the woman Miranda is still waiting to become, with thick, straight brown hair skimming the shoulders of her sleeveless black shift. There are also two little girls in matching blue polka dot dresses, red ribbons in their hair. Miranda draws the paper closer to her nearsighted eyes, wondering if the ribbons are covering the pointed tips of the girls’ ears, but the photograph is too pixelated.
Miranda hears shuffling behind her and smiles. Her life is nothing like she expected it to be, yet here she is, this morning, still with ink-stained hands, and folds the paper over so he can’t see the headline. Mahigan yawns and growls, scratching his upper back, his shirt lifting. He wraps his arms around her, and she burrows her face into his torso, the smell of wood smoke still clinging to him. She inhales and lifts his shirt.
“Want some breakfast?” she asks, kissing his belly. She tries to stand, but he tightens his grip around her, fingers digging into the fleshy part of her upper arm. She will need to trim his nails later. She lets herself go limp.
“No, thanks, I’m still pretty full.” He loosens his grip.
“A man cannot live on foraging and rabbits alone,” she reminds him, standing to wrap her arms around his neck. She combs her fingers through his long hair before catching it into a ponytail, pulling an elastic band from her wrist. He looks down at her through slatted, sleepy eyes, his smile slowly widening, his canines gleaming.