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Her bathroom was a wreck. This tiny, ruinous space. The contractor had tiled the walls askew and had to start over. He’d set the tub askew and had to start over. Nothing was level. He drove her nuts. And now this: a love letter. A love email full of emoticons and JPEGs of roses in bloom. Lady Joanna, it said. The more I see you, the more I want to see you. He’d sent the email ten minutes before he was scheduled to show up for the day’s work. Did he expect her to open the door naked? This was absurd. Single woman + contractor = ­absurd. She blushed so thoroughly the heat of it stormed her arms and legs and shot out her face like dragon breath.

She emailed back immediately. Sternly, because she was often alone in the apartment with him and wanted to shut the door on his interest in lieu of a real door because the layout of her place was open and ostensibly conducive to intimacies she’d yet to experience there.

When he arrived, he bowed his head and fired up the tile saw.

By month five, he’d cracked the mirror on her vanity and had to custom-order a new one. I’m just trying to win your heart, he wrote—texted—from the bathroom while she toddled around the living room in sweatpants and a panda bear T-shirt.

She once saw him shirtless, mopping his forehead with a wad of paper towels. His chest hair was coiled tight and white against the dark palette of his skin. She was so startled she left the apartment for several hours until she’d browsed every aisle of a discount store loaded with tchotchkes and gadgets purported to hack the mainframe of unhappiness into which she was thrust every day.

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’s story “Let’s Go to the Videotape” appeared in the June 2016 issue of Harper’s Magazine and was anthologized in the 2017 edition of Best American Short Stories.

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