This is a piece of flash fiction I had published in 3:AM Magazine.
The Cheap Flat
We negotiated the rent down with the landlords on the understanding that they would provide everything we needed in the flat, but nothing that we wanted. They clarified this by providing a quote from Wikipedia, which they stencilled on the ceiling above the bed.
‘Needs are distinguished from wants because a deficiency would cause a clear negative outcome.’
This made our sex life more efficient.
We found ourselves talking in these terms to each other.
“We need a new fridge because this one freezes the mushrooms.”
“Yes, but is pouring boiling water over mushrooms clearly negative?”
“I need you not to get drunk every night.”
“I want you.”
What we wanted became privatised, a luxury.
When I became unemployed, we were told that one small income could cover all our needs, We laughed at that familiar word but then we were hungry.
So we wrote:
We need to not pay rent until our financial situation improves.’
‘With regards to your recent request, please provide the details of the clear negative outcome a deficiency of “not paying the rent” would cause.’
We wrote back straight away, “Death by starvation.”
Then we waited, ten working days.
When the answer finally came, we realised our negotiations had been hollow all along and that they didn’t care about our needs or lives.
Thus, abandoning our binary we lay under the redundant stencilled letters and gave each other what we wanted, which at least made us happy, for a bit.