Steve Gergley ~ New House

My wife and I bought a house, an old Dutch colo­nial with a hand­ful of dormer win­dows and a stur­dy gam­brel roof. These were words I had nev­er heard before and didn’t know the mean­ing of, despite spend­ing the last thir­teen years of my life rat­tling down the street in the cab of a garbage truck while sim­i­lar look­ing hous­es loomed above me in the frozen, bluish-black gloom of the ear­ly, upstate New York morn­ing. My wife, Krista, already knew all these archi­tec­ture vocab­u­lary words thanks to the numer­ous col­lege degrees she had acquired over the course of our twen­ty-five-year rela­tion­ship that began when her My Little Pony eras­er bounced under my desk on the sec­ond day of home­room in fifth grade. Krista has degrees in art his­to­ry, inter­pre­tive dance, exer­cise sci­ence, archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ry, cin­e­matog­ra­phy, and a few oth­ers. For years she had told me learn­ing was her great­est pas­sion in life, but two weeks ago, a few min­utes after we made love for the final time in our old, dis­gust­ing, card­board box of an apart­ment, she admit­ted she had lied to me for the past twen­ty-five years, and her true pas­sion in life is wast­ing her stock­bro­ker dad’s mon­ey by acquir­ing var­i­ous col­lege degrees and ignor­ing them com­plete­ly. Despite feel­ing used and angry and sad and betrayed, I told her it was okay. I told her I under­stood. I told her I wasn’t mad about her twen­ty-five years of lying. What else could I do? I’d still be liv­ing at home with Mom and Dad if Krista’s eras­er had bounced the oth­er direc­tion and end­ed up under­neath Andy Carr’s desk instead of mine. But now that me and Krista have bor­rowed more of her dad’s mon­ey to buy this par­a­lyz­ing­ly expen­sive house togeth­er, I won­der what else she’s hid­ing from me in her sud­den­ly exot­ic and unknow­able insides.

Mom always says that no mat­ter how much time you spend with some­one, you can nev­er tru­ly know who they are. Mom also pass­es her days stum­bling from room to room of my child­hood house, dodg­ing Dad’s watch­ful gaze, and steal­ing gulps from the bot­tles of brown Listerine she hides in the linen clos­et and the pas­ta cab­i­net and behind the wash­ing machine. Despite all that, I’m pret­ty sure she’s right about the secret nature of the self. Because as much as I love Krista, her inter­pre­tive dances, and her many use­less degrees, I can’t deny that my true pas­sions in life have recent­ly changed as well. In descend­ing order of impor­tance, they used to be Krista, the buf­fa­lo wings from The Luna Café, and watch­ing the Rangers game in my reclin­er with a twelve pack of Corona at my feet, but now my true pas­sion in life is our real-estate agent, Astrid, the breath­tak­ing woman who intro­duced me to all those mys­te­ri­ous archi­tec­tur­al words I had nev­er heard before.

Astrid is a six-foot Norwegian beau­ty with an intox­i­cat­ing accent, a sharp bob of plat­inum hair, and a half-inch gap between her two front teeth. Each time she led me and Krista on a walk­through of a prospec­tive house, her words inject­ed into my mind the image of a jagged out­crop of black, vol­canic rock squat­ting in the mid­dle of a Nordic snow­field. I don’t know why, but this image, paired with the sound of her voice, always wiped away all the anger and depres­sion I felt that day, and swad­dled me in a won­der­ful feel­ing of calm and relaxation.

Because of these emo­tions, I called Astrid on the phone almost every day of the five months me and Krista searched for a house. But ever since me and Krista made the down pay­ment and moved into the new place, things have changed. I still call Astrid every day with some pho­ny ques­tion or con­cern, but now I have to hide in the linen clos­et or the laun­dry room when­ev­er I talk to her, because the sound of her voice gives me an erec­tion. Once the call ends, I get a nice lit­tle buzz going by guz­zling some of my green Listerine I have hid­den there, and then I bite down on my thick leather wal­let and mas­tur­bate into a bath tow­el. Though I know Krista could catch me at any moment, I can’t stop. Astrid is the only thing left in my life that is beau­ti­ful and sacred and exciting.

I haven’t told Krista about this new awak­en­ing in me. Instead, each time we make love, I close my eyes and imag­ine the sounds Astrid would make in the throes of an orgasm as pow­er­ful as my tow­el-bound ejac­u­la­tions. I imag­ine her whis­per­ing strange, ice-crust­ed words into my ear. I imag­ine her breath­less voice huff­ing alien excla­ma­tions in her native tongue. I imag­ine her repeat­ing the words gam­brel roof, gam­brel roof, gam­brel roof, as if it was a mag­ic spell that could trans­port me away from here, and res­cue me from my life.


Steve Gergley is the author of QUICK PRIMER ON WALLOWING IN DESPAIR: STORIES (LEFTOVER Books ’22). His fic­tion has appeared or is forth­com­ing in Atticus Review, Cleaver Magazine, Hobart, Pithead Chapel, Maudlin House, and oth­ers. In addi­tion to writ­ing fic­tion, he has com­posed and record­ed five albums of orig­i­nal music. He tweets @GergleySteve. His fic­tion can be found at: