It was above the delta, a bridge no one calls by name, when Eric realized he was on acid, hours after taking it, minutes after deciding to drive, seconds after looking up at the bloom of snowstorm only upstate embraces with nonchalance and gripped by what he describes as rampant fear, he drove only slower but allowing flakes to shutter what light the city spared from lampposts—little generosity of the district outside of sleep, and now knowing what worked out or didn't, what couldn't end, but did, wouldn't he look up at the snow for longer than he did.
She tells a story about a copperhead taking a shovel to the neck. She will specify the color of some things, and I do not tell her snakes represent the future. Some books say they are strange keepers of what most won't know. I say that snakes are more deadly when they're younger, when they haven't yet come to the understanding that they don't need to spend all their venom at once. It's the color that repeats: worn tan; Appalachian spring; chestnut glade. The story ends with a woman losing her foot and having a baby. Old cat-eyes, hundred pacer.
Mitchell and I are in the country to decide the fate of our marriage. At the inn, an old man spends hours each day tending to the pool, skimming it slow and snail-like, scooping up clumps of debris and dropping them to the concrete with a tap-tap-tap. “He’s so slow,” Mitchell remarks. “They should have a machine for that.” One morning, I approach the pool cleaner in between tap-tap-taps. “Butterfly season,” he says. “They’re all suicidal. They go straight for the water and drown unless I pick them out. Beautiful, foolish creatures. Sometimes, I spend an entire day saving butterflies.”
The signs of a psychopath are static yet dependable: charming demeanor, arrogance, lack of empathy, selfish, impulsive. But nothing ever happened: This is in your head. Manifest Destiny is an alluring concept based upon tyranny, justified by Christianity. Thump! A Cedar Waxwing flies hard into an anonymous glass door. The bird appears stunted, flapping on the patio floor then pushes into the sky to become a coal black fleck against the spectre of the sun. I put on my bordeaux cape and move deeper into the thick forest—delicate hands chafed. Rage arrives solo. The spring air: randy, exploited, fickle.
Shortly after starting to date a girl, she arranged a holiday weekend for us. We didn't book a hotel, and spot rates were so high we had to share a room. I didn’t bring condoms – normally this looks chivalrous, and a shop can be easily located. But here, no. Awkwardly, she decided she just wanted to touch herself to release the heat, and I was banished, naked and masturbating, to the bathroom and its full-length mirror. Perhaps you think this story has a poetic end. But the only real lesson I learned was to always carry condoms.
With your head firmly on my shoulder, I reach— stiff as an announcer’s smile —for a full glass of Santa Monica red. My eyes locked on the T.V., I ask what music you like. Your dimples dig into peach-fuzzed cheeks. “I’m into Love Songs on the KOST,” you grin. Now, I’m swaddled in the sheets your mom bought you in high school. With a ruler’s length between us, my feet protruding off the bed, I investigate your wall. I imagine you, arranging maps and keepsakes from Brown's cross country meets. Rolling up scotch tape, careful not to leave a mark.
The pawn shop man said, sure you wanna sell that ring? Fetchya only forty bucks. Still she twists the white gold from her finger, a formaldehyde frog of skin underneath. Last yank a knucklebone bruise. Girdle of Venus, Mound of Apollo. Fist smear on a dust thick window. Dune grass tumbleweeds skip down a washed out road. Fat grey ocean pukes out hypodermic needles, tangled heaps of seaweed and rusty crushed horseshoe crabs. Cheap clink on the glass counter. She’d hoped for Platinum. He counts the stained crumpled bills onto her open hand. She asks: how much for the violin?
Flossing until gums bleed, meeting the enemy for coffee, taking shoes off at the door, memorizing O'Hara stanzas, removing the silk blouse, sliding between people in a crowd without causing a scene, answering the policeman's questions, playing rough, keeping quiet after the train wreck, noting failure, googling the hell out of it, throwing up, reconfiguring the sub-par, running, burning evidence, double-knotting, letting the rant turn uncomfortable, jilling around, dodging, returning as someone else, getting a divorce, turning into ash, rejecting self-righteous clarity, knocking before entering, defending freaks, dumping trash, using throwing stars, being a human sundial, double-crossing, asking for it.
On Thanksgiving, everyone meets at the pubs in our hometown. It’s loud, and people are repeating conversations about work, or who has a baby now. The neighbors’ babies are 21 now, here for the first time, sipping on a pint and texting. But now, it’s April, and you can walk down Main St. in anonymity. It’s chilly, and by the pier a man does magic, pulling chain necklaces out his nose. On the grass, there are so many benches with their backs to the ocean with plaques in memoriam like a yearbook of all our friends who never grew up.
This happened : twins, conjoined at the pelvis, legless, their body formed a V. In the post-delivery photograph: smeared from being born, foreheads touching, eyes clenched shut until they’re merely seams. Each half screams. Each mouth open: mere inches apart, wide as they might go. Cyclical: scream of one girl, the breath, the painful noise, the noisy pain, each screaming into each, re-entering the sister. No extant record for survival, no certificate of names, nothing but a snapshot, an anecdote. They were the prompt of a prayer for an end to come quickly, for god to fix what he miswrought.