My girlfriend was sitting across from me on the floor, blinking expectantly as she placed a flat brown box in my lap.
“Happy birthday.” Lisa said happily, poking at the box, “Open it! I want to see you smile!”
I nodded eagerly and slid the ribbon off the top, lifting up the lid, I saw a neatly folded stack of….cloth. Oh. She got me clothes.
“Do you like it? Wear it! Put it on!” She cried, clapping excitedly and I made sure I was smiling as I lifted the dark green fabric out of the box.
It was a one-piece pajama outfit.
I felt my insides curl unpleasantly and I stood up carefully, holding it out in front of me so I could properly see it.
It was an alligator and it was ugly.
The fabric was thick and heavy and the hood even had teeth.
Did she think this was cute? Because it was not.
“Thank you. I like it.” I lied, nodding politely at Lisa who wasn’t looking at me. She was rummaging through her overnight bag and to my dismay, she pulled out another animal-themed pajama. This one was white and it had long ears. A rabbit.
“This one is mine!” She exclaimed excitedly, “Let’s sleep in it tonight! You never wear anything exciting to bed!”
“Right,” I said quietly, thinking I would rather wear nothing to bed, but I humored her because I am a good boyfriend.
I got changed and slid into the bed, instantly feeling too hot. Lisa laid beside me, curled up warmly under the sheets, clearly not minding the heat.
I decided I would not complain.
Lisa was looking very cute in her rabbit pajamas, and I felt ridiculous.
I tossed and turned, feeling Liza fall asleep beside me, her breathing soft and even as I grew hotter and hotter underneath the comforter. I drifted off into a restless sleep, figuring that I would find a way to tell Lisa that it was still summer and I wanted to wait until it got colder to wear her gift to bed.
I woke up the next morning, drenched in sweat.
Lisa was nowhere to be seen.
She had left a note on my nightstand.
“You looked very handsome as an alligator! I’ll be back soon to make breakfast!”
I threw note aside and stumbled towards the bathroom, almost tripping over my own feet because the pajama was so big, it made me clumsy.
I peeled the pajama off my body which was sticky with sweat, disgusted when huge balls of lint clung to my skin. There were huge red marks on my chest from where the buttons had pressed into me during my sleep.
Dye from the fabric had also transferred onto my skin in large, abnormal, patches; staining my skin an unearthly color of green.
Cursing, I stepped into the shower and stood very still under the water, watching the dark balls of lint swirl down the drain around my feet. I scrubbed at my skin hastily, trying to ignore the thick, slippery feel of my own sweat.
I quickly pumped soap onto a washcloth and rubbed roughly across my skin, sloughing the remnants of the green dye off my body.
Finally, I felt clean.
Gritting my teeth, I stepped out of the shower and got dressed, picking the pajamas off the floor, I threw it into the washing machine with a vengeance.
Just as I did so, I heard my phone buzz.
I ignored it and hit the switch, starting the washer, listening to the mechanical whirring sound with intense satisfaction.
I vowed would never sleep in that ugly alligator suit again.
I would find a way to kindly tell Lisa that her present was not for me.
Relieved to know that the filthy, sweat-soaked pajama was in the wash, I threw myself down on the couch and grabbed a game remotely, switching the TV on, intent on losing myself in the game.
My phone buzzed again and I reached for it with a sigh, annoyed to see that it was a message from Lisa.
“Hey, handsome! I’m coming back! I’ll bring my giraffe pajama set tonight!”
I set the game controller down quickly, responding with:
“I put Mr. Alligator into the wash because he’s dirty. It’s too hot to sleep in such thick material!”
The washer was still churning loudly as Lisa replied,
“YOU CANNOT WASH IT!! It will lose color! It was expensive! HAND Washes ONLY!!”
My eyelid twitched and I leaped to my feet, rushing towards still-spinning washer.
I frantically pried open the lid and roughly shoved my hands into the wet load, wincing as the cold fabric stung my fingers.
The lock clicked and Lisa rushed into the house with her arms full of groceries, shrieking at me, “Did you wash it?! You washed it! It’s ruined now!!”
My mouth went dry and I quickly apologized, desperately trying to correct my mistake. There were no care instructions on that thing!
Would she break up with me because I had gone ahead and washed her present without asking her?
But that would be ridiculous.
It was dirty, so I washed it! Logic!
“I’m sorry,” I said hastily, yanking the green fabric out from the washer, feeling the cloth weigh heavily into my hands, “Please don’t be angry!”
Lisa dropped the groceries down onto the floor with a heavy thunk, crossing her arms and glaring at me, “I am angry.”
“Look, baby, it’s fine!” I protested, floundering as I held the pajama up for her to see.
It was not fine.
It was shedding green lint everywhere and it was even dripping with green dye; the liquid pooled into the carpet in small puddles. The fabric had even shrunk slightly and was shriveled. And Lisa looked extremely angry.
“I’m sorry…” I repeated, feeling stupid.
“Your punishment,” Lisa said mischievously, her eyes flashing as her arms remained tightly crossed, “…is to wear it while it’s still wet.”
I bit my tongue and felt my eyes water. Fine. I deserved that. And she looked like she was about to laugh, and I didn’t want us breaking up over something as stupid as this…
“Okay,” I said carefully, peeling the fabric apart, unbuttoning slowly.
“Naked,” Lisa said spitefully, sounding amused.
I blinked, thinking about it for a long second, I agreed, quickly shrugging off my pants and tugging off my shirt.
Wincing, I stepped into the soaking wet pajamas and shivered, feeling the fabric slide thickly against my bare skin.
I slid my hands in through the sleeves, tensing as the cold liquid dripped down my body. I grit my teeth finally managed to slip my arms through the sleeves, shivering in the cold.
“Button it up.” Lisa said devilishly, “Put it on properly.”
I set my jaw and nodded stiffly, carefully clasping the buttons across my chest obediently. If this would make Lisa forgive me, I would do it.
My fingers were stiff and I finally managed to button the last button all the way up to my neck. Feeling very wet and uncomfortable, I managed to smile charmingly at Lisa, “How do I look?”
“Handsome.” Lisa said absently, uncrossing her arms and staring at her nails, “I’m so glad you like my present.”
I nodded, feeling relieved, tugging irritably at the sopping wet fabric that was clinging stubbornly to my skin. Now I could finally take this off.
Suddenly, I felt a piercing pain stabbing into my chest and I doubled over, letting out a frantic yell, my eyes watering heavily. My chest constricted painfully again and I gasped, “Lisa! I think…I’m having a heart attack!”
Lisa wasn’t looking at me. She was still staring at her manicure, extremely uninterested, “No, you’re not.”
“I am!” I insisted, tugging at the wet fabric which stuck firmly to my chest. The pain got worse and I fell to my knees, feeling my entire body sting and grow numb.
Shuddering and trembling, I stared down at myself, slowly watching the dye on the fabric turn a muddy, brown color as it grew tighter and tighter around my body.
It was squeezing the life out of me!
The outfit was shrinking, sticking solidly to my skin.
Terrified, I tugged at the buttons and looked down, realizing that they had fused into my chest, turning my skin an angry red color.
I squirmed and tugged, falling over onto my back as Lisa’s shadow panned across the floor as she stood over me, looking sorrowful.
“I really liked you.” She said softly, her eyes wide, “I’m glad your favorite animal is a bear.”
“Wh-What?” I choked, feeling my throat closing up as the cuffs of the pajamas sealed tightly around my wrist, meshing firmly into my skin. The pain was becoming unbearable and every breath was a massive struggle.
“I’ve always wanted a bear for my collection.” Lisa continued adamantly, “Bears are cute. I definitely like bears more than alligators. And that alligator was an annoying boyfriend.”
I blinked and gasped, feeling the room dip down beneath me as my vision began fading in and out. I leaned my head back into the floor, trying to worm my way out of the suffocating trap, but it was no use.
The fabric only got tighter.
Every way I twisted, I would feel the cloth melding into my skin, causing a burning sensation to shoot up across my entire body.
Lisa reached forwards and fit the hood snugly on my head, giving me a reassuring pat on the shoulder, “We’ll still be together this way. I will enjoy wearing you so much!”
I couldn’t respond. The fiery pain had consumed me the second she put the hood on my head. My vision went dark and my limbs became numb, my head throbbing with sharp jolts of electricity.
Then suddenly, the pain stopped and everything was quiet and still.
I blinked, but I couldn’t see anything.
I tried lifting my hand but found that I still couldn’t move.
I closed my eyes and opened them again.
There was an odd tearing sensation in the middle of my chest and felt as if a thick snake was slithering into my body, stretching me out lengthwise, sliding through each of my legs and filling in my arms.
I felt full and warm.
I heard Liza’s happy squeal echoing in my mind over and over again.