by Robin Wyatt Dunn
I never wanted to kill my father. When they got divorced in 1984, I was five, and it was not anger that came into me. No, what filled me was a strange kind of resolution. A determination that nothing, ever, would last.
She’s already out the front door, running a thousand errands, smiling at a thousand faces that know her. I knew when I met her that she’d be good for me. Sane, confident, self-aware, practical. All the things that I wasn’t. I was aware, in fact I’d made a kind of study of it, a private study, of the levels of self-awareness. But it didn’t bring me any closer to myself. While I took myself apart, she was learning constantly her new strengths, her new talents.
“Joey, stay here till I get back, OK? The plumber is supposed to be coming over.”
Already I did not love her. I loved fucking her but it was a vague and uncharacteristic act, a shadow in the dark that did not assuage what never stopped hurting. She loved me, of course.
I wished that she were elsewhere, in her head, some place where we might send out the occasional messengers in the ether and parlay without sadness or rancor, without feeling. In the dark then we could lift our souls out of our bodies and remind ourselves that sometimes things were peaceful, even if the fatal arrogance of time would kill us all in the end.
Now the plumber is huffing his way into the kitchen downstairs, and I make an odd wave to him from the upstairs landing that stops his own wave halfway up. I always have this effect on people.
I go downstairs and watch him work, silently, looking at the light that has finally broken through the clouds outside and remembering a moment when I was four, and the Crystar Palace had been the thing I most wanted for Christmas, and it was there, under the tree, the biggest box. And I built the cheap cardboard castle and played with the action figures that accompanied the set, imagining the dualistic universe of Crystal vs. Magma, Krystar vs. Magmar, an eternal struggle for dominance. My parents were the same way, I thought, and in the struggle to understand one another they had laid their lands to waste.
At the door:
“Hey, Joey. Look what I got you.”
In her face, there is an epoqual quiet -- a serenity that seems to define an era of Man, an era of my time and will on the streets of American cities. I watch her smile at me and know that I will never leave her, never love her.
It’s a new fancy brand of coffee and I smile dutifully and kiss her cheek and turn away a fraction of an instant too soon, leaving a fragmentary shadow at the corner of her mouth, a nanosecond’s pain in her eyes, that drips down into a well she’s been saving of that particular feeling, a monument to the two us together. I grind it and make the rich drug of 500 years of western civilization.
“I saw Sally out at Kroger’s.”
“Oh, she says hi, and she wants to know what you did with her book, that romance novel thing.”
“It’s not a romance novel.”
“What is it, erotica?”
I laugh, pour coffee, pour her some, stare into her eyes.
“It’s The Plague. Camus.”
“Oh Jesus. She loaned you that?
“Yeah. Her favorite book, she said.”
“She likes you, you know.”
“Would you do her?”
“I do you.”
“I know you do. Quite well too. But if I weren’t around?”
“I don’t know. She’s kind of strange. Not sure we’d get along.”
“She’s not strange! What’s strange about her?”
“I don’t know. Something.”
I do not want to look at her any more. I do not want to look at the plumber any more. I do not want to look at the house anymore, and I go upstairs and she’s saying something to me, and I’m saying something back, and my voice gets louder and hers gets louder and then I crawl into bed and pull the sheets over my head and everything gets very very quiet. Except for the sound of my breathing. It’s always there, a counterpoint to pain and doubt and light, seeping in through 300 count sheets.