She’ll be the waitress with travel plans, the liberated middle class brat who reads articles on cosmological physics like it’s poetry and poetry like a Ouija board message. I’ll be the obliquely handsome nonbeliever, the sardonic intellectual contemplating a full-time job as a grocery clerk while dabbling in alcoholism and screenwriting.
And the baby will be our medicine, our devil’s advocate.
But where to begin?
According to her, time isn’t a straight line. It isn’t a circle either. It’s more of a mud puddle that human perception has stuck a foot in. According to her, the beginning of us and the middle of us and the end of us was, is, and will be a soup of caramelized moments on the dinner table of spacetime.
I’ll begin with her mouth.
Light was against her rules, so were names. I took to finding her by her mouth.
When placid, the perpetually pink line of her lips hung like a clothesline where she’d draped sad thoughts to dry. When wild with a smile, crow’s feet carried her green eyes.
When she spoke, her tongue did a three-legged race with her thoughts.
“Have you ever noticed that if you linger in a place you normally wouldn’t, like the middle of the road or your neighbor’s parking space or the flower bed outside the courthouse, that the world looks different and new? That’s what I want with you.”
Inside the bathroom the light is off, or as she says, the dark is on. Outside the bathroom is a cleaning closet. Outside the cleaning closet is the bar that glows red.
“You should do a film called, ‘Quintessence and the Rate of Our Expansion.’ It could be an anti-apocalyptic, anti-love, love story.”
The color of our encounters was always black, blue, or taboo violet—that was her rule. Other rules: no sobriety, no saying oh god when you come, no fussing over the stars in the language of clichés.
“I don’t believe in suicide because yesterday I cried at the thought of having to brush my hair every day for the rest of my life and today I had the most delicious peach.” She was chewing with her mouth open and blacking out words on the menu with a Sharpie to leave the lines: fried local tired of tossed, looking for Bleu smoke, classic taste wanting authentic mouth-watering.
When I met her she was drowning. I was alone with a fifth of whiskey on the beach and she was flailing in the bay. At first I thought she was a seal, then the whiskey suggested a mermaid. The moon was bright and full enough to show me at last that she was pretty and finless and sinking. She threw up salt water and wine after I pulled her out and I asked her, “what the hell?” and she answered, “yeah, that’s what I was looking for.”
She asked me to get her pregnant. I didn’t think she was crazy. I didn’t say no.
“Life used to feel like a deep dark garden.” She shivered. “Something’s missing, some mystery or adventure or love, I don’t know.”
I told her we both know babies don’t fix that.
She nodded. Her mouth was practicing its penmanship.
“Then what will?”
I told her I didn’t have any ideas.
That’s when she told me about the dark.
“I like to pretend I’m fixing my make-up at house parties then masturbate in their bath tub.” With eyebrows raised her smirk escaped in handcuffs. “I like kitchens and bathrooms. The white sculpted porcelain, the plumbing hidden in the cupboards and walls like the spirit behind the veil. Sanctuaries for eating and shitting. A perfect place to love someone.”
Did I love her? I remember a long drive with my parents where they didn’t say a word to each other. I asked them if their silence meant they were getting a divorce. They laughed and said no. Then a deer ran into the road and my dad swerved causing us to hit an oncoming car. There was a lot of blood but no fatalities. It was enough to shake them up, make them feel the excitement of possible death. A few weeks later they separated.
I don’t know if I loved her but I know she’s not my mom or dad in that story. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel towards the deer.
Pretending to be strangers in love who fuck in dark corners ended the way our more normal relationships ended. It got boring. We started to fight just to have something new to say.
“Your life is a predictable script and I don’t want to be in it.”
I told her she was pretending to be crazy to avoid the reality that she was a small town philistine with jaded ideas. She turned on the lights so I could see her anger spitting from her clenched teeth. She told me she was pregnant. I chose not to believe her.
She left the bar that glows red and I didn’t look for her after that. I didn’t know her name.
I don’t look for her. But sometimes I linger in the produce section and think about gardens. Sometimes I look at sink drains and see black holes.
She’ll be the college drop-out giving lectures to her lovers on the existence of souls, a middle aged mom dropping acid or a barren skinny-dipping criminal cloud watching from the roof, an electron’s biggest fan. I’ll be the one who plays it back and plays it back and plays it back.
According to her, every possible outcome occurs in alternate universes. According to her, there’s a universe where she’s an overweight high school English teacher with no tattoos, another where I get promoted and buy a used car, another where we have the baby and rent a house with a yard, another where I’m famous, another where she drowns.
Lindsay Brader studied creative writing at Western Washington University and now lives in Moses Lake, Washington, but only until she saves enough money to get out of there again. Her work can be found in Black Heart Magazine, The Bookends Review, and on her blog at measuersinmentalmud@blogspot.
–Art by Marta Bevacqua
–Art by Alphan Yýlmazmaden
–Art by Seamus Travers