Are You Telling Me a Sad Story?

Cover of Are You Telling Me a Sad Story?

 You want me to write fiction for you. You ask me to imagine our life in 10 years if we have a baby. Fantasy, for you, is the ultimate creative act. I have never allowed anyone to control my mind. To use my imagination for you is an act of brave devotion. 

I don’t know specifics or circumstance, nor do I wish to tinker with those things. I am not one to invent. I don’t fantasize stories that have not happened. But I imagine a life in moments. I want these moments with you. To imagine a whole life frightens me. But a vision of a still glass of water on the dining room table, forgotten by you because you are outside. I like this image. I am inside aware of the forgotten glass. And you are laughing. There is the sound of little feet on grass. A quick yell. My family plays outside and I am inside focused on wind, and the sound it makes weaving through the trees. I am conscious of empty stomachs wanting dinner. Of better ways to write this sentence. I sit working but will come find you soon. I have a question. 

I stand in line at the grocery. A list crumpled in my sweaty hand for a dinner I am not sure about. I don’t like cooking for groups. I wish it was just us tonight, and no others. But others will come. I wait in line for you. You run through the store in search of a forgotten item. Something essential. Our kid is not with me. Is our baby with you?

My parents do not trust you but they like you. They hold within themselves the belief we are crazy. In their eyes, we fucked up the life I was supposed to live. You fucked me. I have tried explaining to them, particularly my father, how there is no “supposed to be.” There only is. My mother threatened you when I got pregnant. I had never seen her approach someone with the intent to harm, but she did with you. I do not blame her and did not step in or protest. I was remembering instead how I asked her to be the rope around my ankle as I dived headfirst into your ocean. Having a child with you cut the rope tying me to her. My mother didn’t see that part coming.

In the morning we do not talk. Mornings for you mean quiet contemplation, and I hate to feel unwanted. Instead, our child and I take long walks. I give you the house, the bed. I do not know what you do during the long swaths of time I leave our home. I hope you feel the room to run. We each need to believe we have the freedom to leave the other. I owe our success in staying together to knowing this. I run from you in little ways. You run from me while sitting in the same room as me. Your eyes vacate in the sun as you drink your coffee black. In the early days of dating, I would strain to catch your eye when I felt you mental miles away. Now I leave the room.

What do you fear I want of you that you cannot give to me? 

Our bedroom is lit by a candle. I like darkness best, but allow some light for you because you like to watch. Pleasurable negotiations. We are bodies in cotton sheets. You run your tongue up my back, between my shoulder blades. I bite your arm, hard. When I was younger, I struggled looking lovers in the eye. Looking at you as you push into me is still an uncomfortable vulnerability. You once peeled my eyelids back with your thumbs. I was afraid of what you would see. I saw a stranger hovering over me. The dark outline of someone I will always want to know. I kept my eyes open long enough to see this before shutting them tightly against you. With time, I left myself open longer. Now I cum in quick waves with your eyes on me. I don’t glance away, though I feel the impulse still.

When I was 21, my stepmother told me motherhood takes everything from you. She said this staring at the ocean. She said a girl has got to have her twenties. Her round cheeks flushed with memories of her wilder days. An Italian lover, traveling when she made enough, falling in love with her best friend. I watched my stepmother sit shivering with her long hair hanging limply. After a moment of quiet, she admitted this was the only part of her day she wouldn’t be asked anything of. She spoke so softly, I don’t think she was talking to me. 

The kid yells for help. The kid does not need help but is helpless in the way I am helpless. And you dote on the kid the way you dote on the beauty you found in a life filled with wreckage. You look at me with teasing eyes. We stare at each other and sit still on opposite sides of the couch. Our standoff is childish; it is also our essence. Now the kid fake coughs for attention. Our kid mimics your cough, the one that has never left you, despite the years you have spent without smoke filling your lungs. With sudden gusto and demand, our kid screams on.

The heat fails again in the studio. I consider calling you to fix it. I don’t call. Absorbed in writing, I shiver and keep the solitude I worked hard to make a habit of. I have a right to this room. I am here. You are not.

Headlights swing into the driveway. Daddy’s home. Your cheeks flush from the cold as you unwind the scarf wrapping your neck. I love you tan in the winter. You kiss my neck hello. The kid squeals and you chase them around the house. I notice how those little eyes drink you in in a way they don’t with me. When you cook, as you often do, you cut vegetables with precision and care. I try, but never manage to slice such uniform reliability. 

Pregnancy grew my hair and boobs. I walk around the house wearing loose linen. Long strands of my hair cling to every surface of our home. I feel more feminine in shape, but did not expect this shedding. Or this stomach. Sometimes you kiss my belly and rub the small mound that once held our baby. These gestures help. But women will want to feel beautiful, and though I am not old, I fear you looking at me and realizing, after all this time, I am not who you thought me to be. 

I like when you leave me alone unexpectedly. You disappear without warning. I wait for you to come home. I tell myself it’s okay if you never do. To not know a person entirely brings out pain and preserves excitement.

The kid and I go to the movies, then the ocean. I leave the dog at home. In your absence, we bake cookies and watch the sitcoms you hate. I remind the kid I love them instead of checking the clock or listening for your tires on the gravel. I force myself to deep breath before the sink, washing my hands longer than needed. 

A husband and wife love each other. But can they hate too? I can’t stand you, how I still love you. 

Are you telling me a sad story?

Or maybe we are not a sad story. 

Maybe you don’t leave me alone for unknown amounts of time. Maybe I don’t resent how much I need you. You could always be in love with me. I could live in love with you. 

We could lead a life of negotiations.

Happiness doesn’t have to be a fight. 

We could make the promises we are scared to make. 

 And I will try to quiet worry, try to walk level-headed. 

But these thoughts do not come easy. Fears come first. I watch fear shape fantasy. I am writing fiction for you, but it all feels like a prayer. Your playlist for me was called “dreaming.”


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