Our getting together was a roll of the tongue, a curve in my nerves.
We played clever and intelligent and poetry-slam line break, smiled at our own pretentious predigested words, coffee and donuts and hardly a table between us. Your eyes flashed white and my smile flashed red and I pretended to be without makeup, and you, without frowns.
We discussed Small Things, work and play, and we discussed Big Things, God and philosophy. We faked thoughts and I made petty arguing comments just to sound like a brain was in my head.
It was perfect.
You said you believed God was a woman, for people are so wonderfully flawed and couldnt only a girl create such emotions and make things so delicate? Our trivial emotions like jealousy and rage, curiosity and adrenaline, they all had such a feminine edge, you said.
You threw in a compliment about me somewhere in there and I nodded and bit my bottom lip because God suddenly seemed very, very real.
You asked me something vaguely romantic and it hit me very far in the back of my head that you were trying too hard, that you were slightly detached from the conversation, that you had something else going on in your head. I said yes or no or maybe and you grinned with tassel flaws, a web stringing from ear to ear.
We held hands under the table and on the way out the door, sliding glass bending into metal fragments, an automatic opening.
You were calling me honey by the end of the date.
so you dont think theres something bigger than god?
honey, shes big, but what could be bigger than love?
I still remember the day you moved in.
You were made of glints in your teeth, a passive-aggressive smile hidden behind your molars, and your twinge of love for my apartment made my week. We put your things in my things and they juxtaposition nicely your tie, my underwear; your belt, my pantyhose; your tshirts, my jeans. When you leave the house, I want to wear all of your clothes.
I was glad it was my apartment because a few of your things were damaged in the move: CD-scratch nicks here and there, cut-in lines on your glassware things. I was determined to handle all of your possessions with soft hands, but the cardboard boxes didnt see it the same way, didnt have that same veiny love. Three cars loaded with your possessions, two people, and one house. We add up into five and we clasped hands to make ten, twenty forty sixty. We are a hundred, together.
You dont own a Bible, I notice, scanning your bookshelf Dan Brown Shakespeare Robert Asprin Alan Dean Foster Pullman Orson Scott Card Christopher Pike James Patterson Dave Barry, organized in the same way mine is: not at all and I wonder silently just how religious you really are.
I read up and down and tell myself that this is bigger. What we have, its love, really. Its not just nine coffee dates and one with a turkey dinner, its not months of hand-holding and conch-shell whispers, but I know, I know I can hear the ocean in your breath. This is bigger than God. There is no Bible in your bookshelf, but you are in my house.
You come into the room and tell me all three cars are unloaded, what are you looking for? You eye the bookshelf and slide your hand onto my shoulder, reading over me like a roadblock in your way.
so what do you read so much science fiction for?
its a change from the usual, honey, dont you think thats exciting?
The first fight.
It was over something trivial you bristled your wings and I sighed, you gnashed your teeth and I barked. Politics, finances, workload, stressload, where are we supposed to draw the line?
Something I had said, something I had done. I found out what kind of a fighter you were: you liked to find the places around the sides of my mouth where small kiss-corpses laid, liked to poke at them. Turned endearing things into wasps.
The way you comb my hair on the pillow you turned it into a mess of blond vomit. The way you found my shoulder during the day you turned it into spiteful grasps. The way you press my back lightly when were in a line you turned it into impatient answers.
We relayed, cross-country.
Well if you didnt
You cant possibly get mad at me for
Why cant you just
You arent seriously blaming me for this
What do you think when you
You wont pin this on me, oh no you wont
It turned into one of those inaudible catfights, except you had the claws and all I had were a pair of eyes. I watched as you leaked out small truths, and it felt like a punch into the gut.
Something I heard you mutter, bumbling out of your mouth, a stray drunk on your alleyway tongue:
We dont fight like this
And there was something about the we that told me I was not involved; you and I didnt fight like this, but we didnt fight like that, either.
When it was over, I was cowered in the bathroom, cigarette smoke in hand, my back propped against the shower bottom, pretending water was falling. You were pacing the living room, or so I assumed. It wasnt until the phone bill came that I found out exactly what you were pacing with, cord twirling your finger.
I shouldve asked who put $1.99 on my bill, but I said something else when we cooled off, my head in your hands and your mouth parted into a graceful frown.
so will you ever find it in your heart to forgive me?
dont worry, honey, Im sure god forgives you already up there, right?
You started to fade.
The next few weeks went by mercilessly and without warning: hours and days played leapfrog, played red-light green-light and childhood-discolored games. I leapt from morning to job to apartment to bed, until the days became a Polaroid picture that looked too much like someones schedule.
Our dinners, TV-diner special-serve and potatoes, a ladle of gravy for the both of us. You were unresponsive and every time I sat down with you there are seven million words skimming
Are you still upset about the fight do you think well ever recover from that you seem despondent lately are you okay do you really forgive me do you really think she forgives me who was that phone number nameless jerky on my phone bill how was your day you dont tell me things anymore has the stress the workload been too much if you need a break we can help you get it you know that dont you?
I ask if you want dessert and you shake your head, leaving for the bedroom so you can nod off before I come in and curdle up into questions.
Your silence makes a sound like seventy strangers dancing, tiptoe heels and Im afraid I dont know you anymore.
We went out for the first time in two weeks, decked out with movie tickets and popcorn-butter. Friday night special and you made faces the entire time, none of them resembling a smile.
The fight put us in a strange place: somewhere between an oval and a square, one big curve that served four sharp edges: your face, your attitude, your words, your grimace. I was a dot in the middle that couldnt be mapped, Point S for stupid or Point L for lost? (loser, loser, guess who knows your secret?)
I tried grabbing for your taut-rope forearm at some point and found I had only grasped the chairs arm. Your real flesh was bubbling somewhere beside me.
When it was over, your silence pooled around the corners in the car and I didnt know what to say. Withered flower words decorated my speech, taking up the car like a sponge, a bug that wouldnt fly out the window.
so you still love me, sweetie, right?
still is such an awfully ugly word, honey, dont you think?
The relationship became a detachment of us.
It manifested itself, burrowing outside of our bodies and into this dump in the middle of the kitchen floor, and we could only poke it once in a while before returning to whatever self-respective duties we could think of did you wash the dishes how is the laundry does the bathroom need cleaning oh, okay.
I was afraid to look at it, to be honest. The way it sat in the carpet, the way it died on our doorstep. The cat dragged it in alive, a beating-heart present, and I dont know what it is now.
You made me afraid to breathe at nighttime, curled in a queen-size with a comforter like the Great Wall, and everyone knows what side I am facing. Everything is an earthquake when its silent: I creak the bed, I move the muscles, I make it twinge. We dont make love anymore, you make snores and I make loud, awake noises.
I sighed and told myself now. Now this would break down, this thin layer of skin that wasnt quite flesh. A wetsuit to wear when youre drowning time to feel the saltwater, sweetie.
I reached out to you and you awoke like you had never fallen asleep in the first place. I called your name and I made a tornado out of the nighttime.
so do you think something has grown between us, too?
honey, I have a lot to think about, just give me some time, all right?
I gave you time until I was black and blue with reasoning with myself.
The skin grew thinner but it was there, every night, a silent bond, a telephone bill, a disclaimer on your facial sentence.
Your flesh and blood and wrinkles grew thinner, as well. It was like you were wearing shackles around your arms, but everyday you got skinnier in the hopes they might slide off your hands like moth wings, dried and crackled and full of non-laugh lines.
I remember when we used to have coffee dates, how you wowed me then, your language and your trusting glance. We exchanged air, then. We talked about God, the she-devil She was, we talked about language, how you wanted to become a therapist and work with deranged children.
You were going to save people, do you remember? You were going to give the suicides in the gutter, the daddy-touched-mes in the alley, the nobody-loves-me in the sink a place to live, do you remember those conversations?
When you moved in, it lessened. When we fought, into the second, third, fourth, and fifth times, it died.
The coffeeshop went out of business a few weeks ago.
Saturday. No work. A day of clouds.
so do you want to go out and do something?
no, you go out, I have stuff to do, okay, honey?
Our breakup was a tangle of triangles, a rush of heat.
Long day, long legs, stretched out on my nightgown. My confidence, your fingers, deathmetal grip. She was calling your name and I heaved it out the door. Her name was Sweet and your name was always, always Liar (your pants, your blue-cherry jeans on fire, oh how she would know).
Id like to think Im Sour.
I couldnt remember why I was there, I left work early I was sick I came home for lunch I just stopped to pick something up I ran away I forgot to say goodbye when I left this morning I missed you, I missed you I was thinking of you I have a picture of you on my desk, I swear you love me in that picture I know you do did will somehow
- Somehow my arms found their way across your cheek and shes yelling, falling off the bed with the blankets ever-so-gracefully copying, and I told you to get out, get out and take Sheba with you. I called you a million and four things, two thousand dirty names, not a love squished in there at all.
You looked at me and you only looked upset, and she rose from the floor with her bra half-on and said, You wouldve found out somehow, sweetheart.
How long when did this happen how did you fall apart what happened to iloveyou when did you know she was right where did we go wrong why?
Instead I said, Were over.
You turned pale and limply put your tshirt on and said youd be by next week to pick up your things, rehearsed language. Sheba said, You never started, dearie, and I slapped her on her way out with nonexistent fingers.
Sinking to the floor and clutching an invisible Bible beneath my palms, I translate a million and four sobs into my sick, God is always, always a man.
I couldnt ignore or forget the fact that I had known this all along, the thing that left but never really came: your opinion, my hands; your books, my house; your words, my smoke; your frown, my reach; your skin, my glance; it all melts down to her fingers, her fingers grazing you up and down, leaving flesh marks that wont appear on the surface.
Should I feel like a response or a result? You have always made me something afterwards. Does it scare you when I talk?
Tell me I mattered and Ill tell you a thing about God, Lair hanging from your uncommunicative telephone wire, interpreting language from sure-honey lips.
I had tried to reach out to you
so you let love die so easily?
but you were already gone.