Wednesday, October 08, 2008


She came out, sat across from him in the shadows, crimson glow in her cheeks from the wine, a burning color, same as that which had gone out of her eyes, even in the firelight. Insomnia, she said, which set off alarms in his gut. He's heard this before. Lies to cover lies, grabbing for a branch hanging over the swirling rapids, any one will do.

He held his breath and waited. She picked at the the cotton shirt handing off her shoulder, pursed her lips around her index finger and avoided his gaze. Two feet between them and miles away from each other.

Her eyes were wet. Couldn't sleep. Came to him in a cloud, tonight and always, and pressed those lips around him when she thought he'd speak. Silent but for involuntary moans. She looked at herself in the mirror, at both of them. Her throat caught, tripped on a curb, and he reached out for her. She turned, held herself, and he sighed across the canyon. He knew better than to ask.

He hadn't understood her from the start. Couldn't bring himself to run, even when she said, "I love you so much I wake up wishing I didn't."

He tried, threw everything he had. Lied himself, to not offend. Soothed when he felt like shaking her, agreed when he wanted to spit. For the few moments, when the flames burned blue and hot and true, before she scorched him, before she locked the igloo of her heart and plunged it deep where it was before, unknowable fathoms down, covered by the years and the tales.

Inside, the fire crackled still. She was asleep on the couch. Couldn't move after telling him. More crying and hateful justification. "You can stay tonight," she'd said. "But just tonight." He sat at the kitchen table, piece of charcoal in his hand, yellowed parchment in front of him. The way he saw her way back then, guileless smile, surprised, looking back over her shoulder, the eyes black on the page, like in the shadows, but he saw their deep blue anyway. She'd gave him that much. Once or twice. He brushed the charcoal over the page, filling it in, corner to corner. Softly at first, then harder, until the ragged edge of it tore at the paper. The veins in his arm leaped and he took the paper in his hands, relishing the crushing of it. She would have liked it. Fawned over it, the likeness, the art.

He tossed the paper into the fire and watched it burn. Saw it curl when the greedy flames attacked. He permitted himself one last look at her, happy that she didn't see the look on his face or know the twisting inside of him, kinked steel. He grabbed his keys and quietly slipped out the front door, not concerned with what he was leaving behind. It would vanish like the smoke coming from the chimney. He wished the same for himself.


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