You throw out your sheets. Tear them off the bed and bury your face in the soft cotton before dropping them into a black plastic bag and taking it to the curb. You sleep on the floor for the next three nights. The mattress stands in the corner, blocking the window which faces out to the alleyway between buildings.
You take the mattress down to the beach one night to throw it off of the pier. Its sluggish weight presses onto your arms as you push it over the railing. There’s a second where you could take it back and pull it away from the edge. The mattress falls into the water and lands with an ugly crack against the waves. You expected it to be different; you expected it to force the rot out of your stomach and make you feel light again. But you’re left feeling the same, like you should’ve gone with the mattress into the ocean and made the thing inside of you drown. There are tears now.
Your body, not used to crying, heaves you to the edge of the boardwalk and forces you to throw up blood and water. You’ve got no food to throw up, but your stomach twists in on itself anyway. Your phone buzzes against your thigh and your heart jumps for a second before you realize it won’t be her anymore. Concerned friends calling you to go out and see a movie, do something, anything. Forget her, they chorus into the phone, she was a bitch anyway. You didn’t even try to get to know her, you say, shaking as you press the red button and turning your phone on to silent.
She sat at the kitchen island with her head in her hands, asking why your friends never wanted to meet her. Is there something wrong with me, she said, why don’t they want me coming with you? Baby, you say, I don’t know, glancing away so she doesn’t see you lying.
Of course you know, but what good would it serve to tell her? It’s more comfortable that way. As you drive home, you wonder if the mattress will wash up on the shore and if the town will pick it up.
You sleep on the floor every night now with one blanket underneath you and another one on top. The empty bed frame stands out on the curb until a couple of college students lug it into their pickup truck one Saturday morning. The railing at the pier collapses after a thunderstorm in August. The town seems to breathe her name into your ear.
You never told anyone about her but now it seems even more urgent that you do. She grabs your throat and shakes the words out until you call your mom, who doesn’t pause until she’s finished a story about your grandfather’s eye surgery and you try so hard to get a word in but by the time she’s done the name has sunk into your tongue. She asks you why you called but you stutter an I love you Mom and hang the phone up. You forgot to ask how to unclog the kitchen drain. Little pools of grease float along the top, broken only by the small drops of water that cling to the end of the tap, stretching down like syrup until they fall into the dirty water.
Two bodies writhe around each other in an oval orbit, brushing together for seconds before quickly hurtling away in the bubbles that envelop them. They float in puddles of glowing fluid. As orbits intersect, thin threads extend and link two souls with pulsing light. One at a time, the orbs pop and a soul is brought into the world while another is lost.
That’s crazy, you said, and you know the next thing you’re going to say will be chokingly sweet, something like I love crazy, but before you open your mouth she curls her fingers away from yours.
You don’t understand, she says, you don’t even try to.
I do, you assure her with a smile and try to touch her wrist again, you didn’t let me finish.
She closes her eyes and her face becomes warped like wood, the angles of her jaw jutting out in silent frustration while her nostrils flare open. Like a child, she stalks off to the bathroom and slams the door without another word.
Do you peel back her curls and slowly sift through her thoughts, the lives that sit inside her head and jump between her words?
Fear chains you to the table as you sip the coffee that she left behind. If you dig deep enough, to the center of her, will you find a space that has your name? Or will you be left floating in the dark?
You are gone. The door is left ajar, a spirit of two women floating back and forth through ruined walls that crumble like Roman ruins. You call yourself widows, although both of you are trapped somewhere in between life and death. The photos in the hallway gather dust but the wet rag in your hand drags behind you. Drops of water on the dark wood pool together, spreading out on impact and then retreating into each other like amoebas.
The moment is comprised of two poles. Simplicity divided into two possibilities, two outcomes, two options. You repelled her, she drew you in, exchanging roles and leaving chaos in the chasm between. There were nights of brooding silence that stank of mold and decay. Some mornings, you lay in tangled sheets together and laughed about the brightness of the sun, the shape of the clouds, and the flower-shaped birthmark on her neck.
You would sit together in the park and slowly comb through bags of sunflower seeds, snapping on them and getting the shells stuck in your gap toothed smile. She was a picky eater with nimble, fluttering fingers that twitched through the paper package. You were constantly balancing on a scale; her anxious, flitting interests and airy words floating around your heavy head. Your anger settled in the pads of your feet. It poured into you and sat there, shifting and boiling when she spoke too fast or threw away another plate of food.
Guilt and sorrow nest in your heart, building a life together that seems to push everything and everyone else out. You invited them in when you first told her you’d be home by eleven; opened the door every
time you sat your friends down and told another story about your girlfriend, man, she’s, like, crazy. The other day, you said as you sipped your drink, she let a pigeon into the apartment and it shit all over the couch. She’s obsessed with birds, you said and everyone laughs.
Why’d you even let her move in with you, asks a voice from the small crowd.
I don’t know, you said, I guess I felt bad for her. She’s so clueless. Anyways, it’ll be over soon enough.
There’s a choir of empty words surrounding you as everyone orders another round of drinks and repeats that cursed word over and over again, she’s crazy. You said it first, here, two weeks ago, and now it follows you into the apartment as you lock the door behind you. It slinks through the cracks and puts its withered hands on her mouth, stifling her shallow breathing and running its hands through her thin hair.
It will soon replace you. It will sit with you at the table and drum devil’s trills with long, creaking nails as she speaks to you, unaware of the creature that has joined you for breakfast.
Are you feeling sorry for yourself? You did this to yourself, she says. I’ve started seeing someone new.
You nod politely to this version of her and ask her if she’s happy.