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Literature Text

There are cracks above the bed where I am laying, waiting for you to come home. Outside the window where the sodium glare of the streetlight flickers in, I can hear cars passing. A train whistle sounds in the distance. Farther off I hear the whine of sirens and briefly I wonder if they are bringing you home to me where I will nurse you back to sanity, back to yourself. Before the front door swings open, letting a moth in to dance over your head, I am long asleep. And in the fifteen seconds before I wake up, you can watch me dreaming in our bed.

I am on a train with a stranger whose name escapes me on waking. We are drinking whiskey and the world is flipping by the way you change radio stations in the car before settling on a static backdrop for your latest rant about how they never play anythng good. He reaches over to hold my hand and briefly I wonder what it would be like to be that child outside running through the sprinklers in her parents' backyard. We eavesdrop on the conversations all around us, giggling, a little drunk, as the girl in the seat in front of us asks her father if there are clams in the pool of water trapped between the ocean and the land beneath the railroad tracks. I want to explain to her about how nothing lives there; they are devoid of life, but at this moment the stranger kisses me and my life flashes before my eyes. Not the past, the way it happens when you are about to die, but the million possible futures that stem from this moment. This little infidelity seems inconsequential when faced with the possibility that I could be the nice girl with an apartment and a dog that someone will want to marry some day.

I wake up as you are climbing into bed, pulling me into your arms. Anyone else would worry about waking me, but not you. You only know that you can not sleep without our hearts and breath in synchronicity, without the perfect contact of my naked back against your somehow more naked chest. More naked for knowing you need me to complete your puzzle, to help you find peace. Somehow the cracks in the ceiling seem longer, like they could swallow the intruding moth and our fragile happiness with it.

Where have you been tonight? No sense in asking, your secrets are your own. But I can tell you are dreaming of her and the way she calls you to hold her pieces together. You can tell when she's been using by the electric sharpness in her voice, and you can tell when she's been out fucking faceless anonymous men by the lazy drawl in her voice. You can still read her stories the way you once read her body. It is almost as if you are reading her mind, which I have always seen as a coverless book, pages out of order, scavenged from a thousand better stories. I think you loved her for being crazy in a way I could never be. My lunacy is of an entirely different breed. I slip slowly back into sleep.

I am with the stranger driving up the coast and I can tell you every detail of the night up to this point. What color were the eyes of our waiter? Blue, like the ocean at midnight. How does he smell? What did he order for dinner? All of this is carefully catalogued in my scattered mind. He points out Orion, the only constellation I know, and when he kisses me it tastes like chocolate malt, like Ovaltine over vanilla ice cream. His mouth tastes of jukeboxes playing Patsy Cline, sock hops, and surf guitar. The startling difference between your kisses and his pulls me awake again. My mouth tastes of your kisses, your nicotine and espresso tongue, the subtle decay of your spirit is sweet in my mouth. You mumble in your sleep, restless as ever. I can feel you stop breathing, a doctor would call it sleep apnia, but I know you're merely holding your breath, bracing for the fall, suicide shared by the warm and familiar weight of her small hands in yours. On the wall, mixed in with pictures of our friends put up the afternoon we moved in, when nothing was unpacked but this bed and these photographs, I can make out the delicate shadows in her eyes as you kiss her on the cheek. Despite the way you talk about her as being tougher to break than your heart, she always seems impossibly fragile. In my mind she is like a porcelain doll, every self-inflicted wound opening onto a hollow space easily shattered on impact. The cracks in the ceiling are still growing, opening wide to swallow me and provide a further diagnosis of my imperfection, the reasons you could never love me as deeply as I need.

Growing weary of my self-abuse, I get up, moving carefully to let you sleep. Who knows, this could be the best dream you've had in years; you'd only resent me for waking you before it ran its course. I splash water on my face in our bathroom, hoping to wash away this empty feeling. In the dining room, I can see the sky growing lighter off the edge of the balcony. I grab a beer out of the fridge, am reassured by its solid weight in my hand, the same almost protective weight of your hand on the puncturing sharpness of my hipbones.

Quietly I ease the sliding door open, remembering nights locked away with nothing more than this cold taste and your company, too wasted to walk, making friends with the tile floor. Sitting down in the cold, the bottle already half-empty and only marginally more frigid than the pre-dawn air, I light a cigarette, inhaling the dizzy feeling and exhaling corpse blue smoke, hoping to purge this melancholy.

Again I toy with the idea of self-destruction, of shattering this bottle against the railing to catch the fragments of glass like falling stars in my hands. I could sever something truly vital and still feel this dead inside. The ground seems so far away, but maybe if I just think happy thoughts, I won't hit the rocks below when I jump. Unlikely scenario, but I'm too lethargic to move and test my weight against gravity. I turn again to thoughts of the stranger in my dream, wondering if his face came from someone I fell in love with when my brain wasn't looking, sinking into my subconscious only to arise when my heart cries out for medication. Perhaps she fills the same purpose for you, a safe place to turn to, a history you can recreate and reinvent, rewriting everything to fit the dreams you had when she was yours. These tiny fantasies somehow soothe our larger discontentment with every day life, with the ordinary paths we seem to walk every day. The love that has settled into something unruly, but safe, like a carefully trained tiger.

These infidelities make us what we are.
a night in the mind of a woman pondering what makes a love worth staying for.
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