Photo by Greta Unetich
All I want is help with the dishes. No, not the ones I used to make soup and chili and muffins for myself, and then some for you, the ones that fill the sink and lay helter-skelter on the counter now, the ones that we made dinner from together. I return late morning. I know I’ll face tonight alone and sometimes the worry I feel when I’m not sleeping with you is intolerable. You’ve only been in here enough times that you could make it out in the dark if you had to. I’ve taken pretty pictures of the light coming through the windows facing east in the living room, and the windows facing west in my bedroom, golden in August, but the brightest in January. A book of Sudoku puzzles lays open on the kitchen table, with a pencil sitting on top. The kitchen is still and untouched, even though the light over the stove is still on. There’s an even number of shoes in the front hallway, but two pairs are mine. I leave to go put my laundry in, and now there are only five pairs of shoes in the front hallway, but one pair of them is still mine. Before I left, it wasn’t like I kissed you, still in my bed, saying, “I’ll be back in five minutes,” and passed your shoes in the front hallway on my way out. I return in five minutes, and there is an empty laundry hamper in the center of my room and six pairs of shoes in the front hallway once again. I fear that love is only for the good people, for the people who don’t get angry, for my roommate who lives across the hall from me, whose partner says my name whenever he says hello and goodbye to me. I think of you, and you, both meeting at the bad end of the same deal, the bad deal that is my body, a wreckage of illnesses and competing medications and scar tissue, blood too sweet and fingers too blue. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you, no dice I wouldn’t roll, except for the ones that were rolled for me. I’m dragging you through the mud trying to make this as realistic as possible for you because I know what you want, I do, but I know you can see right through to the other side, thinking to myself after I leave, “Did I really just do that? Eat a home-cooked meal off your dishes? Hand-cut those vegetables? Measure out five different spices, washing the teaspoon between each jar?” Our kitchen would smell like cardamom and bergamot and cinnamon. We would make vegetable soup, chilis, and curries, Italian dishes with rich sauces, and salads with oil and homemade dressings. There would be a large teapot always sitting on one of the stove burners. We would sleep safely with one another. I’m always leaving my Tupperware at your house, like its contents were supposed to be some kind of half-assed, fucked up I’m sorry. I don’t want to keep you a secret, but maybe we’d be a secret best kept. A secret safe with me. We are the pearl, no one’s world and no one’s oyster. Every weekend, my Tupperware that I gave you last weekend at this same time sits on your coffee table; it’s the first thing I see when I walk through your door. As far as I know, I’m wasting your nights, doing nothing new or good for you, taking your body and dumping it in the lake. You live in my mind as if in anticipation of a goodbye. A memory. You know the goodbye: the we-made-it-work, it-was-good-while-it-lasted, I-hope-you-find-what-you’re-looking-for goodbye. The future vibrates behind my eyes Last night, I had a dream that I kissed someone else and felt no remorse. I woke up and felt my throat sticky with tears. Dealer’s choice. The memory of when I’d sit on your lap and you’d squeeze me around my middle with your left arm is the knife that hurts twice as hard when you pull it out. We make a days-long list of fruits and vegetables that we each favor or haven’t tried yet. We make a grocery list of each other’s favorites that the other hasn’t tried yet, plus more to share. Your pears in the basket on the counter, your face right next to mine when I wake up.
So we’ll work our way down, I thought.
I hold the café door open for you.