Letting Life Lead
In light or shadow, I watch. You rise and throw open the curtains. I can almost taste the red hot cinnamon toothpaste. You splurged on a wet bathroom remodel and a talking crapper. That wasn’t like you. Neither was flirting with the loser laying tiles. He lingered and you twisted your hair.
When I was gone, you cried in the same green armchair you made me haul from your maternal grandparent’s place when they died. Their damn Saguaro takes up the entire den’s corner, floor to ceiling. I drunk-pissed in it once. Damn thing wouldn’t die.
You called an expert to re-pot it when the monstrosity threatened to tilt over and wither.
“Just get rid of it.”
“It’s eighty years old,” you said.
“It’s seen a lot.”
“I’m not paying for that.”
You shrugged and kissed my cheek, refusing to argue. “It’s mine. I’ll take care of it.”
A barrel cactus has appeared. It’s on the side table. The damn cat doesn’t climb up there and knock over the lamp anymore. A needle in the ass will do that. The knitting basket sits at your feet. I admit, I laughed when you made thirty-six boobie beanies for the Baby Knockers charity.
I could almost touch you when you wore my cashmere sweater.
“It still smells like him,” you told your friend, Margret.
I’m trying not to be a jerk, but I can’t help but point out that you bawled harder when your foul-mouthed cockatiel kicked the bucket.
“Ass? Hole,” the dust-maker cackled every morning. For you, he had kisses and a, “Haloo, Bay-bee.”
For him you stored the cage in bubble wrap, and for me you unraveled my sweater. Bit by bit, you plucked and picked until the key thread unwound and spooled until nothing was left but a ball. I wanted to shatter windows, scream in your face, and smash every picture hung in the foyer.
I stopped peeping for a while.
When I returned full of fire and bile, you were knitting a scarf with my sweater yarn and had gotten cozy with Tile Guy. He wasn’t sitting on the edge of the couch. No, he lounged with his white socks on the coffee table. He channel surfed and drank cheap beer from a tall tumbler set on a coaster. I thought to suck him through the screen, if such a thing were possible.
It isn’t. I tried.
One night, you hover at the door. I know you are wanting to ask him to stay the night. You won’t.
“I’ve got something planned for tomorrow,” he says.
When I turn my attention away from the tonguing, I notice the selfie of us hung underneath the family portraits. I’m asleep on the ground. I didn’t know you’d taken it. I’d been angry about having to wait for you at the top of the mountain; I’d taken a nap.
“It’s really steep. Go ahead,” you’d said. “I’ll catch you up or meet you on your way down.”
The hike had taken three times as long. Why did you take that photo? You’re a sweaty mess but smiling.
You smile like that for Tile Guy.
That tool arrives the next day laden with enough winter gear to outfit an Antarctic science crew.
“I know you hate the cold. I don’t think downhill skiing is your thing,” he says. “But, I’d like to take you cross-country skiing. Or snow shoeing–whichever.”
Your face falls and you tug the scarf. “Oh! I–” Your voice wavers. “I don’t want to hold you back…I wouldn’t be very fast.”
“No, never think that. Just enjoy the scenery with me.” He cups your face. (I hate his hands.)
You come home grinning and it stays. So does Tile Guy. He beams when you score tickets to the Ski Museum at the same mountain where we’d once hiked–where I’d left you on the trail.
Soon after, you moved my picture to the altar. You aren’t religious, but you keep the tradition. Grandpa Will, that old fart, isn’t there yet.
“You believe in that?” I asked our first year together.
“No, I only hope we get to try again. That’s enough.”
My spines were sharp, but you loved me.
I can’t tell you I’m sorry. So, I wrap my hurts and regrets into the scarf’s strands. I make it warmer. You smile whenever you wear it. And, when you unravel the yarn again and knit a little blanket, I’m happy for you.
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