And then, just like that, it’s over.
He hits the wall and turns to you, cold and hard in the face of the face you love with a voice you know like your own. I’m done.
You don’t believe it at first. Walk behind him, stepping over the debris to where you parked the car. Breathe through a cigarette. Drive him home in the dark. Tomorrow he’ll forget. You’ll be sorry, you’ll do better, you’ll be better. You’ll be someone else. Don’t be done.
He lets you stay in his bed, far away from his flesh with all the shrapnel and blood between you. The night is fitfull, full of fever. He doesn’t touch you. Even dreaming he clutches close his rage. Your skin is paper roses. It’s the end of the world. Gun of loneliness in your mouth, metallic on your tongue. Empty tank. Failure. Fuck.
The shouting has stopped. Even the echoes of shouting have stopped. Salt stains your faces white, fingerprints brush, strumming pain. Your bodies wrestle in smashed orbits, swirling sorrow, brushing against each other and goodbye. I’m done. You will never hold his head like this. Please don’t say that. You’ll have to burn me out of your sheets and comb me from your hair.
It happened over dinner. You were trying again. Work it out, push on through. Maybe this time. Go to the same place, sit at the same table, order the same bolognese from the same waiter. Talk, but be careful what you say. But you’re never careful and always careless when you drink too much and say all the wrong things or all the right things maybe but he doesn’t want to hear and your rage hurricanes across the table and you know then that he is done. You don’t admit it but you know that you have lost him, killed it. You’ve been dying together for a long time; slowly bruising fruit in the sun with the flies swarming, but you severed the head in that moment. You needed that drink. You needed everything.
And then the longest night and you lie there wishing for an earthquake. You suffocate, flailing like a fish on burning land. You break everything in your mind. Try to surrender. Sleep for a minute or an hour. Look over at him in the shadows and feel your pulse slow to a stop. Don’t be done.
In the middle of the longest night you wake up thinking about the stupid yellow chairs he ordered and you can’t bear it. You’ve never even seen them. They’ll be delivered on Saturday when you’re already gone. Some other girl will sit on them and he’ll tell her he loves her too. And he’ll mean it when he says it because he’s not a liar. The yellow chairs for the parties he’ll have without you in some blue dress he told you he likes, playing his girl. White picket fence fairytale you tried to shape yourself around. Broken plastic toys.
Don’t be done. Reach for him through the twisted sheets in the clammy morning. I won’t go to Paris. I don’t need to move in. I’ll stay in this stupid town with its perpetual fucking smile and get a dog and stop drinking and be consistent. But you’ve lost him. It doesn’t matter, you won’t do those things. And you know it’s true but you beg why not? Because they’re not you. And you know he’s right and you can only cry down there at the rocky bottom.
You hold each other in the empty space between the door and the bed and how you won’t ever forget his face when you look up. His mouth so wet you have to look away. The black rims of his glasses. His collar where it grazes the skin of his neck. He says he’s sorry and you say you are too. What else to keep him here. Grasp grapple grip. We don’t have to do this.
I do he says. And leaves.
You crumble. You melt. You burst into flames.
Out there in the world it’s sunlit and warm. People are doing people things. Some are laughing. Some are loving the way you tried to love. You are not the only broken thing right now. You are not the only one who can’t remember how to breathe. Maybe you’ll still be here when he gets home from work, a salty puddle of sorrow. His girl, liquefied.
You tell yourself these things. Out there in the world you will pick yourself up later or someday and some new thing will come. You tell yourself you will pay more attention. You will grow up. You will not trade everything for a handful of magic beans. You tell yourself you will know what you want before you ask. You will tear down all the walls. You will do better. You will be better.
But today this is all you are.
A puddle. Crumbs. Ash.
somewhere in the storm I let go of your hand and the wind whipped me against the wall and I lost sight of you. now it’s been such a long time but I am still following your scent. where are your shadows and what have they done?
so now you want to talk about ghosts. butcher pumpkins and paint your skin like bones. puh-lease. I wear black every day and face the east and wail in the faces of witches. I’m not scared of your blow-up plastic spiders. I don’t need to candy corn it or parade my wasted fool. I wake up every day to the freakshow on my pillow howling your name.
I drove past your house. it looked different. all the work they were doing, I guess it had to end sometime. your truck was there. it looked alive to me but then trucks always have. I was afraid it would recognize me and say something. I wanted to hug it so badly. the ghetto birds were circling and I thought you might hear them too. i thought we might have shared that.
I can’t chop tomatoes without thinking of you. the radio screams your code. I am haunted until I jerk out of bed to chase you down. I find it so hard to let go of your hair. don’t stay hiding in your closet, come out and play. no don’t, I will always forget it’s a game. better stay in and water the roses. best to keep our voices down. I’ll just smoke one more cigarette before I go.
I could have reached out and touched you. I could have said remember baby? this time last year when we were trying so hard and failing so gloriously. that night when I put on high heels and you wore a blue shirt and we looked like a couple. you know the kind you see and think they look right and even andy said you seem like you’ve been together forever. and it felt like we had but so much of it was broken from the start and strung together with wishbones.
when you miss me which pieces do you miss? I would like to know so I can send them to you to keep in the bottom drawer of the dresser I made you buy to prove your love. you could keep me with your soaps and your socks.
you had given me a present that day and lord knows I love a present. it doesn’t matter what it is. it was a purse. black leather and bright green inside. made in LA like neither of us. inside were pot candies and you were already high and sweet and loved me till i thought it would bust me open. but I held it together for dinner and put on my face and we went out into the wild with the top down and our hands cold and you said be careful not to hit any children.
and then how everything unraveled so gloriously. remember? teeth crumbling in my face, your eyes melting. I was holding up too many lies. who knows what you were holding up. I’ll get to say I’m sorry soon but I have yet to understand what for.
it’s halloween again and my hands are cold and my purse is full of something else. I whispered to your truck how much I miss you. that if I had any fight left I would tear up those steps to your door and hold your nightmare so hard you would forget how gloriously I had failed.
I’ll dream you at the party with all the others. your face will be hidden by some cheap mask but I’ll know you by the way you sit broad and hunched at the bar. you will disturb me but I’ll love you anyway. you will be rotten but I’ll want no one else. take my hand in the storm, whip me against the wall, never let me go.
the fleas have come to strip our bones. we are dying in the gutter and no one can remember if there were ever any stars. we want to drive like the boys do. we want to work like a man. we are guilty for not calling our mothers. our fathers are up in the mountains alone. we have been very bad girls. all the men are starving and we are sure it’s for our souls.
take us from here. give us an open road and a reason. our hearts are wrecking balls and we will eat everything whole. we want to smoke all the cigarettes and burn the forests to the ground. we want to make a bloody mess. we want to be left alone. we are suffocated by your need and can’t bear how you leave us. if we take off our masks will you look us in our faces? we are hot and falling apart. our skin is crinkling like pages in the flames.
we are doomed. we want our money back. you can’t have our souls because we don’t know what they are to give. we gave everything and never enough and we don’t know what to ask for in return. we have had enough. we want no more of your anything. you can take us as we are or nothing at all.
let us drive as far as the eye can see. let us drive as the crow flies, let us die as the crow dies and land on your doorstep to remind you what love is. we have no idea what love is. we are a picture of a shadow of a shell of a girl. we are underwept and underslept and black of eyes and lung. take down the beams and let the whole thing fall down. we keep drawing horses, red and white and brown and black. have they brought the fleas? we do not want to be alone. take us from this place.
take yourself she says from way up there. she’s been hiding and we didn’t know she was a girl. we didn’t know anything but the sound of our arms breaking over his. we have oceans in our throats and they are swelling. we are hurricanes of loss. remember what is real she says. the fleas. the wood. the air on our skin.
here we can be our own mothers. here we can be papa too. we need time to work like the boys. it is so hot and we are so untethering and drifting from the shore. do you want to know the truth of why we have drifted from the shore? do not ask unless you want to know. we have drifted from the shore because we are scared and you scare us and most of all we scare ourselves because we know that when the masks come off for good there will be never again be nothing left.
it is time to go into the world and bravely she says. it is time to wash the salt off our faces and breathe of other things. we are not alone. we are not trapped in the wood with the fleas. we can leave. we can wash ourselves in oceans. it is time to go. you can take us as we are. you can take us as we are or nothing at all.