Lovesick

They made me raise my right hand.  They made me swear on a book that I don’t believe in…that I’ve never believed in.

But I know you do.

“I  killed Lee Truett,” I heard myself say, breathy and hoarse.

No gasps, no voices crying out.  And if any other eyes besides yours moved, I didn’t notice.

But yours.  I could see the whites now..  Your hand flew upward to your mouth, like a magnet thrown onto an old truck door.  Maybe a shout was trying to escape? Or were you attempting to keep the awfulness out and away from your insides, like preventing an infection?

I wanted to reach out, to explain…to make even the feeblest attempt to quell your confusion.  Hot rage clawed inside the walls of my torso.  An anxious desperation began banging its head against the hollow of my throat.  The only sound my person could muster – the unmistakably metallic cold clink of cuffs.

I’m pushed out of the room wondering if the tear welling in your eye ever left a wet trail next to your nose or if it was sucked back into its duct, by the void, by the vacuum of whatever had emptied me from your heart.  It shook me out like refuse from a can.

———————————————————

You and Lee had decorated for Halloween.  Your pumpkin, with Jack Skellington carved into it, now beginning to prune and pucker, squatted next to Lee’s Darth Vader-inspired gourd on your porch.

The house belonged to you, your heart had been ferociously yours – you never shared it with me and you had made it very clear.

The year previous, Lee had laid claim and moved into both.  I couldn’t ignore the stabbing in my sternum when I saw the moving truck in your driveway last June.  My lungs felt like they were imploding as I stood in your love’s wake, watching out my window, a hollow echo – empty, where what you needed should have lived.

————————————————————-

I tried to pretend I didn’t hear the glass break from across the street.  But on a clear, cold night in November, it rang out and echoed down the pavement like a car wreck.

Screaming.  Not words…just sounds.  Raw, pained, livid and vivid…like a dying feline.  You stepped onto the front porch, stooped to set your glass down and steadied yourself as your mouth opened for a cigarette.

Your lighter shone a blaze of fury onto your face but your lips fooled me with softness – even clenching a yet unlit Winston between them.  More sounds of glass tinkling and deadening into a trash bag.  You don’t flinch.  The gunslinger of your wrath, you hold steady and wait.

As you sit, knees together, arm hanging hanging down, the smoke dangling between your fingers, I saw resignation.  And I saw frustration.  I waited forever for you to cry.  Finally, I stepped back from the deadened purple street light coming through the faux wood blinds and ugly wept.

———————————————————–

Your hand was on mine.  There was an empty bottle of pinot grigio and a half-empty bottle of Makers Mark on the floor in front of us, sitting cross-legged, backs against my bookshelf.  The corner of Charles Bukowski’s Post Office was jabbing me in the back, I had heartburn from hell, but the only sensation that ever mattered was your goddamned hand, warm on mine.

The hurt on your face had vanished shortly after my door opened and the cork came out.  Whatever had surfaced between you and Lee was standing silent in the corner, ignored by the easy light and the long legs on the wine. My head was drowning in the fuzzy and warm alcohol, the smile in your eyes was keeping me afloat.  The room became small and pressed in around us.  Your mouth was soft and wet.  Mine ached to get closer.

Surviving the next moment must be what the moments after a lighting strike feels like.  When I opened my eyes, you were leaning away, mouth agape and eyebrows knitted.  Your hands were in front of your chest like you were trying to calm a vicious, rabid dog.

“Ohmygod, I’m sorry.  I can’t…you know…  I’m with Lee, right?  I should…maybe I should head out,” you said, grabbing for a shelf to stand, knocking Albert Camus to the floor.

My eyes tried desperately to signal you, watching you flit about the room, gathering your things, like a dazed butterfly that was just hit by a car.  My mouth flooded with saliva as I commanded myself to not puke.  I couldn’t utter a single damned word before you whirled away, already halfway through the yard before my screen door slammed shut.

I watched as you retreated to the other side of the street, not even fumbling with your keys as you disappeared behind your front door.  I turned off the porch light and jettisoned vomit into my hands, retching as I gasped for any lingering smell of you.

————————————————————

I am twelve.  My hands are filling with vomit and my father is standing over me, screaming.

I don’t remember what he was saying or how long I knelt there.  All I can recall is the warm, heavy contents of my stomach sliding through my fingers and my father’s hot spit raining onto the fuzz of my neck’s nape.

As I run to the bathroom, I hear my step-mother clearing dishes in the kitchen, ignoring the din and shaking floor as my father continues his rant through the dining room.

I’m trying to shake the vomit left in my hands into the toilet and I hear feet in the hallway.  My father’s belt buckle jingles as he yanks it out of the loops.  The door to the bathroom swings open and he stands in front of me, shoulders back, his knuckles white from clenching his leather belt.

My face scrambles to convey…what?  Fear?  Loathing?  Helplessness?

As the leather stings my skin, tears never come.  And even as the pain gives way to numbness, I can tell I’m bleeding.  And I can feel him smiling.

That night, my step-mother comes in to change my sheets; blood is seeping down into the mattress from the tears in my back.  I stand in the dim amber of the nightlight, trying to be still and wanting the night to simply swallow me.  She balls up the stained sheet in her hands, tosses a clean, folded one on the bed and begins to walk out.

She stops.  Turning toward me and tightening her lips, she says in a hushed voice through clenched teeth, “Ruined your daddy’s belt, too.”

————————————————————-

It was cold for late April.  Somehow though, standing next to you, watching you talking to your friends, your arm linked inside Lee’s, I could tell you weren’t cold because I could smell your perfume, warmed on your wrists. I smiled, standing in the breeze, just breathing you in, swaying slightly to stay in that lily-infused jet stream of smell.

Lee went to get another round of beers and you turned to me, the chilled breeze easing up as your honey-colored eyes met mine.  I said something that made you smile and I felt my insides twist and then unravel.  Something inside of me wanted to reach out and turn the love that you found in Lee upside down.  My brain was raging a war on my diaphragm as I forced myself to breathe: it’s not too late for us.

A few months later, that would still resound with such clarity even as I stood in a courtroom and uttered a few words.  It would still clamor in my head as I was being cuffed and dragged away to a non-life.  Without freedom.  Without you.

It’s not too late for us.

————————————————————-

I had sprinted, blood rushing to my ears and fists, after hearing you cry out from across the street.  The thought of Lee standing over you, smiling at the fear fostered inside you from the insults, the bound up fists, the broken glass, the sadness you were commanding to retreat into the darkest part of your guts…it rendered me useless.

Never smelled blood so strongly before that night.  I wanted so badly to take that stink away from you, to lift any part of that night out of your memory.  I felt a hollow pang in my stomach knowing that I couldn’t, knowing you’d wake up every so often from that hell in the middle of the night, sweating and shaking.  I was nauseous knowing you would have to try and stretch lids over your eyes that have cried to much and too hard, to try and conjure sleep to survive, to beg sleep to drive away the madness and guilt, to plead with sleep to try and escape the red waking dream that ran over and stained your palms.

One cannot fully appreciate five liters of blood until they stand in a room where every bit of it has run out.  An exact snapshot where the love has gone dry, re-wet in strokes of velvet red and forced outward with all the velocity a beating heart can put behind a fluid.

I don’t remember crossing the room to reach you, exactly and I don’t remember pressing your face to my chest on purpose.  I could feel you shaking, I could hear the snapping of the skin Lee coerced you into, like a crackling of a house burning down all around.   And the pain like when the blackened skin scuffs from a burn.

Lee was the burnt flesh, now rubbed away.  So fucking gone, now.  Pink like a new baby, a rawness wrapped around you and you stayed against me until I could pull the Smith and Wesson 1911 from your heavy hand.

If Lee could have, she would have said, “It’s not too late for you two.”  Lee always had the right words a little too late, you’d think to yourself.  And we’d have a chuckle.

But Lee didn’t say it.  And we didn’t chuckle.

————————————————————-

I’m on the stand in courtroom 6B as pictures flick across a large, white screen.  A confetti of crushed, velvet blood had exploded inside your house.  We were there once.

It’s not too late for us, still.

There’s some talk about a gun, some back and forth about latent prints and shoe impressions.  The words, “gruesome,” “cold-blooded” and “jealous, love-crazed” floated around the room as my eyes rise to meet yours.

They were unmet as yours were on that screen, watering and wavering oases threatening to fall over the dams of your lashes.  Those dams, structurally sound, never faltered.  I know that now.  Had my confession convinced you, too?

“I killed Lee Truett.”

They made me raise my right hand.  They made me swear on a book that I don’t believe in…that I’ve never believed in.

But I know you do.

So I lied.

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2 thoughts on “Lovesick

  1. Wow. Moving. And i adore this line: “…I had heartburn from hell, but the only sensation that ever mattered was your goddamned hand, warm on mine.”

    Like

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