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The 2016 Fiction Issue

'Love Stories' by Ottessa Moshfegh

Power oscillates between a man and woman who are trying to make something happen, but can never quite get there.

by Ottessa Moshfegh
Dec 5 2016, 9:25pm

Photos by Daniel Arnold

Photos by Daniel Arnold

This story appeared in the December Fiction issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.

1.

At Fulk's, the girl ordered Guinness and Joe said, "This will take a while because Guinness pours slow, like ketchup," and the girl said, "I love ketchup," and Joe said, "Oh yeah?" and the girl said, "I drank a bottle of ketchup before I came here."

2.

Joe was a bartender at a bar called Fulk's and he'd just shaved his beard and cut his hair and a girl came in wearing a green shirt with silver chain mail on it and she said to him, "You look ten years younger than yesterday," and he said, "What can I get you?" and she said, "Guinness."

3.

Joe was tending bar at Fulk's and a girl was playing a game of dice with some drunk people and she ran out of dollar bills so Joe gave the girl a dollar bill and poured her some more beer but the girl lost the dollar instantly and finished the beer in one sip and then sat there looking miserable for a few minutes and left.

4.

Joe was tending bar at Fulk's and the girl who always drank Guinness was there with a friend and when the friend went home the girl stayed and when Joe asked why she drank Guinness most of the time she said, "Because it doesn't taste good, so it takes longer to drink," and slid the glass toward Joe for more.

5.

Joe was tending bar at Fulk's on a rainy Thursday night and a girl sat in front of the taps drinking Guinness and reading some ripped-out pages from a magazine by candlelight and when Joe asked, "What are you reading?" the girl answered, "A bunch of bullshit," and crinkled the pages up into a ball and threw them on the floor.

6.

Joe was tending bar at Fulk's one night and a girl came in wearing a bikini top and jeans so he asked her, "What can I get you?" and she answered, "I'll take a vodka," and then she said, "I just got back from vacation and the carbon monoxide alarm is going off in my apartment and I need you to come home with me and turn it off," and Joe said, "Now is not a good time," and she said, "Actually, I'll have a Guinness."

7.

Joe was tending bar at Fulk's and the girl came in with a blond boy and said, "This is my friend who just moved here," and the blond boy ordered tequila and Tecate and the girl ordered gin and they went and sat outside and talked and smoked and the girl said, "I want to get drunker," and so she went inside and ordered tequila from Joe and then more gin and pointed outside and said, "I lost my virginity to that mother," and Joe said, "Looks like a nice guy," and the girl said, "Whatever," and Joe said, "Eight dollars," and the girl said, "I love you," but Joe didn't hear her.

8.

Joe was tending bar at Fulk's and the girl was drinking Guinness and smoking alone and talking to a jerk and the jerk went home and the girl switched to drinking vodka and lost her voice and the moon went down and the sun came up and someone was saying, "I'm a photographer" and someone was saying, "You have good hair," and the girl said to Joe, "I want to drink more," but Joe took her glass away and went outside and pulled the metal gate down halfway and came back inside and said, "Go home, everybody," and the girl suddenly looked around at all the stupid people and grabbed her coat and ducked under the metal gate and stumbled off into the street.

9.

Joe was tending bar at Fulk's and the girl was drinking Guinness and the blond boy was drinking tequilas and Tecates and they were ordering drinks and taking them outside and sitting and smoking and talking and coming back for more drinks and each time the blond boy came in he'd order a shot of tequila and drink it at the bar and then order two more and bring them outside for him and the girl, and the girl would say, "But I don't want tequila," so the boy would drink both tequilas, and when the girl asked him why he always got so drunk he could barely walk himself home he said, "I love you," and stumbled off into the street.

10.

Joe told everyone at Fulk's that his band was playing at Stewie's the next day and the girl stayed and drank until sunrise and stumbled home and ate a bowl of rice she'd used as an ashtray earlier and when she woke up she took a shower and put on a see-through shirt and went to Stewie's and got a beer and went and stood and watched Joe's band play and afterward waited for Joe to come out so she could say something to him and when he saw her he kissed her cheek and she said, "That was amazing," but what she meant was, "I love you," and then she went home and took ten Benadryl and went back to bed.

11.

Joe came home from bartending at Fulk's one night and found an email from a girl and in it the girl wrote that she didn't understand why he didn't ask her out on a date and Joe wrote back and said he didn't know where to take girls on dates and that he had herpes and when the girl woke up she read his email and was embarrassed and wrote back, "Woops," she wrote, "See you at the bar."

12.

Joe came home from bartending at Fulk's one night and got an email from a girl he'd seen many times at the bar and it seemed, in the email, that the girl was saying that she loved him, and he wondered why she didn't just say that to his face, and then realized that she was probably too shy to do that, and he thought that she might be less shy with a few drinks in her and then realized that all he ever saw her do was put drinks in her, and he wrote back and told the girl he had herpes.

13.

Joe went on tour with his band and when he came back he wrote an email to the girl that said, "Let's get lemonade," and the next day he called the girl and she said, "Where are you?" and Joe said, "I'm at Mallory Ben's," and she said, "What are you doing there?" and he said, "Drinking beer, and before that I was cleaning my bathroom," and she said, "Are we still getting lemonade?" and he said, "I don't know where to get lemonade," and she said, "I knew something like this would happen."

14.

Joe went on tour and came back and called the girl and she was on a deck watching a parade with a married man who had just said, "I love you," and Joe said, "I'm at Mallory Ben's," and the married man said, "Don't wave your ass at me like that," and the girl said into the phone, "Tell me where to meet you, Joe," and Joe said, "Gustaff's," and the girl thought she shouldn't sleep with the married man but was worried if she didn't she might look desperate on her date with Joe.

15.

Joe called the girl and said, "Meet me at Gustaff's," and the girl went to a bookstore with a married man and they got into a fight on the subway and she went home to change into a dress and asked her roommate for some pills and the roommate's girlfriend said, "Are you going to sleep with this guy, Joe whatever?" and the girl said, "No, I'm going to marry him."

16.

Joe ordered a beer at Gustaff's and sat at a table in the back garden and waited for the girl to show up and when she did she was 15 minutes late and wearing a dress and brown suede ballet slippers and he stood up and the girl said, "I've already decided not to smoke around you."

17.

Joe sat across from the girl in the back garden at Gustaff's and asked the girl, "How's your mineral water?" and the girl answered that it was refreshing and Joe told her about all the mineral water he drank on his trip to Italy with his family and how he'd like to travel around Europe some more and the girl replied that her grandparents lived in Italy and that she'd take Joe with her the next time she went and that her grandmother was bedridden and dying and that as a teenager her grandmother was raped and battered for a few years in a Nazi prison and barely escaped with her life and that Italian beaches were beautiful and she'd take Joe and they could lay on the hot rocks all day fucking and sleeping and swimming when it got too hot, and Joe took a sip of beer and looked at the time and said, "You hungry?"

18.

Joe and the girl walked down the street while the sun went down and there was a parade going past and the girl said, "It's a funeral," and Joe said, "It's a firefighter's funeral," and the girl said, "I believe you," and Joe said, "It's Sunday," and the girl said, "It's Saturday, I thought," and then she said, "Hang on, I want to buy some cigarettes," and they went into a bodega and the girl bought the cigarettes and some cherry-flavored lozenges and said, "Lozenges help me smoke more," and she put one in her mouth and lit a cigarette and asked Joe if he believed in God.

19.

Joe and the girl were walking down the street and the girl was eating lozenges and smoking and Joe was telling the girl a story and the girl thought it was supposed to be funny but didn't feel like laughing because she was in love with Joe and felt solemn and worried about what would happen to her heart, and Joe said, "Can we eat Japanese food?" and the girl said, "We can eat anything you want," and they walked toward the Japanese restaurant they thought was called Miyako, or Misaka, or Tomo, or Takomo, or something like that.

20.

Joe and the girl went to Austeen's after dinner and there were firefighters dressed in formal suits at the bar and someone playing guitar and Joe ordered a Budweiser and the girl ordered a seltzer and they went into the back garden so the girl could smoke and eat lozenges and Joe told the girl a story about punching the wall when he was a kid and breaking his hand and the girl said, "Your poor hand," and Joe stretched out his fingers and shrugged and the girl said, "Your poor, poor hand," and Joe drank some more Budweiser and looked over his shoulder at all the people.

21.

Joe told the girl about these warts he had on his hand when he was a kid and how his parents said, "Say a prayer to St. Jude and kiss this statue every night after your bath and your warts will go away," and he did it and it worked and the girl said, "Do you believe in God?" and Joe said, "Depends on what you mean by that," and the girl asked him if he'd mind it if she smoked.

22.

Joe and the girl were drinking in the back garden of Austeen's and talking and the girl was smoking and she imagined she was saying, "I have been in love with you for two years now," and Joe saying, "Me too, but I had to wait until now to be with you because God said so," and the girl saying, "Oh, that makes me feel better," and Joe saying, "I thought it would," but instead he got up and tapped her bare shoulder with two fingers and said, "Do you want another Guinness?" and the girl said, "Sure," and then she turned and said, "Thanks," and watched his narrow hips as he walked away.

23.

Joe and the girl were drinking in the back garden of Austeen's and talking and the girl said, "I used to be really sad all the time," and Joe said, "My dad died," and the girl said, "Do you like video games?" and Joe said, "I love video games," and later they were sitting at the bar drinking gin martinis and the girl's crossed legs were between Joe's knees and his hand kept grazing her thigh when he'd reach for his drink and there were firefighters dressed in suits drinking Guinness and raising their glasses saying, "God bless!" and the girl said, "God bless!" and raised her martini glass and drank it and pushed it toward the bartender for another, chewing her olive.

24.

Joe and the girl were sitting side by side at the bar and they turned to face each other and the girl's crossed legs fit between Joe's knees and Joe put his hand on his own knee and his fingers dipped down toward the girl's knee and the girl pressed her knee into Joe's fingertips and he drew them away and she pulled her knee away and then the girl put her hand on Joe's knee and then on her own knee and Joe put his hand on his knee and she hooked a few of her fingers onto Joe's fingers and got it so his fingertips sunk a bit into the flesh of her thigh and then she pressed her leg against his and meanwhile they had finished their gin martinis and Joe said, "I don't like these martinis," and the girl said, "Well, we were kind of kidding when we ordered them anyway," and they switched back to beer.

25.

Joe ordered a shot of tequila and a mineral water and another pale ale and drank the tequila at the bar and brought the other drinks back outside into the garden at Austeen's where the girl was taking a pill and she said, "Do you like video games?" and Joe told her a story about how as a child one night he stayed up late and nearly beat a video game that he'd been trying to beat for a year but lost just barely and was so mad that he punched the wall and broke his hand and the girl said, "Your poor hand!" and Joe stretched out his hand and the girl bent her face down and kissed the tips of his fingers.

26.

Joe and the girl were drinking at Austeen's and there were firefighters in suits huddled over the bar and the girl said, "They must have come from the funeral," and Joe said, "What books do you like to read?" and the girl ate a lozenge and smoked and took a pill her roommate gave her and said, "I love you," and went out and stumbled off into the street.

27.

Joe and the girl were at Austeen's and the bar was closing up and the bartender called out "Last call!" and they walked out onto the street and the girl said, "Which way to the subway?" and Joe pointed down the road, and when they turned the corner he didn't say anything and when she faced him to say goodbye he didn't say anything and she said, "It was nice seeing you," and raised herself up on her toes to kiss his cheek and skipped down the subway stairs.

28.

Joe and the girl walked down the street toward the subway and the girl threw her cigarette in the gutter and they talked and Joe kept butting his hip into her and walking so his bare arm swept against hers, and when they turned the corner he didn't say anything and when she turned to face him he didn't say anything so she said, "This was fun," and raised up on her toes to kiss his cheek and he embraced her and they kissed for half an hour by the station and people passing by hushed and looked away and then the girl skipped down the subway stairs.

29.

"Be safe," Joe told the girl, and she said, "No, you be safe," and she skipped down the subway stairs and saw him only once more years later on a street corner, but they didn't recognize each other because it was winter and both had scarves covering their faces.

This story appeared in the December issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.