The Least of Them

The palm of my hand was fiction.  I returned home from New York City.

The trees stand like shy children.  Their leaves have stripped them bare and have fallen to the ground.  The car lights flood across them.  The silent, wet country road.  The curves and bends.  The trees and the roads.  The moon is empty behind decomposing barns.

The highways to Indianapolis are dark.  The things behind me are in front of me.  A series of images as flashes. 

"Do you remember falling in love?"
"Yes.  It lasts for only a few minutes," he sits up.  Our bed.
"What is this thing that has lasted beyond those few minutes?"
"A relationship."
"Are you going to move out while I'm in New York?"
"Do you trust me not to take what is yours?"
"I don't know what is happening when I return.  Take what you will use."
He kisses me good night.  I sleep with my back to him.  He sleeps with his arm around me.

I pass the exit to my parents' home.   I can't return there tonight.  Too many thoughts.  I don't want a handful of memories on top of everything.  So I'm driving to Indianapolis.  I'll find a place.

"I cheated on him.  With a guy from school," I confess.
"Why?  Who was he?"
"He reminded me of the poet."
"That fucking poet.  He will never stop fucking with you."
"Also, he had a favorite book.  He admitted to crying every time he read it."
"How long were you seeing him?"
"A couple of months.  We never fucked.  We fooled around.  Mostly, we went to dinner.  Watched movies.   Talked about our favorite lines."
"You're too much of a romantic.  Those things aren't real.  They're illusions that last for a small time."
"I know.  Two months."

The poet was a professor.  I met him at a book reading.  An author we both admitted to disliking.  On snowy days, he'd walk to the university.  I'd curl up on his couch.  Listen to Willie Nelson records and read poetry he tried to hide in random files on his computer.  I smoked his weed and drank his soy milk. He was the better artist.  It fell apart because of this.  I was always jealous.  He was always unable to relate.  In the end, I found myself as a section of poems in a barely browsed collection.  I was his best words.

New York is a city that loves to hear itself speak.    I get to remain silent.  The Guggenheim is a commentary on the city.  The way the circles just fall into themselves.  The dizziness.  The trapped beauty.

He was never arrogant when he read his poems.  He wanted feedback.  Expected criticism.  His desire for success was ruining him.  He drank too much.  Fucked too much.  Slept too little.  He was carving himself into a tragedy.  A Berryman, a Plath, a Larkin. When we finished the last of the joint we fucked in the bathroom.  In front of the mirror.  Against the sink.  He slid his hands down my chest, stomach, and cock.  He pulled and read into my ear.  He read from memory.  Lines of other authors.  Sometimes his own lines.  Sometimes my own lines.  We could see ourselves from the chest up.  His fingers tugging at my nipples.  My throat throbbing.  My lips split.  His eyes wide.  His chin shaking.  His collar bone splintering. We never said I love you.  We used someone else's words to say it.  We were safe.

"If this is all I had.  If this was all that was left of me… would it be enough?" He screams.
"Fuck you.  Like you've given everything.  Like you don't hold back.  It has never been close to enough."
"When did you get here?  So angry.  And over me?"
"I don't know.  I don't know an exact time.  Just memories."
"Moments that took you further away."
"Did you sleep with someone else?"
"I have.  And, I also loved someone else.  Not the same person."
"Two people?"
"You've been fucking with two people since we've been together?"
"Holding my hand in an art museum and admiring the moon doesn't mean we were ever together."
"You're so fucking cold.  You warned me of this.    I thought I'd break you.  I was going to be the one."
"And I told you that was a promise I wasn't going to keep."
"Why these other men?"
"One of them cried when we watched 'Wild Strawberries.'  The other one could quote Iris Murdoch at the drop of a hat."
"You're such a sentimental snob.  You and your fucking fiction."
"It is all I have ever been," I warn him.

I miss the feeling of loneliness.
by Matthew Williams