ONE THOUSAND FUCKING POINTS OF LIGHT (#2)
Maybe I’m a man like men are, chalky and underlit, and you’re a man like other men are, all salutation and no meat, maybe I’m a woman like women are, heavy with mist and gravel, or I’m an animal, or an arrow, or maybe I’m soaking wet, maybe I drowned again, I forgot my soap, I forgot to use a metaphor, like: you’re the surface ice I’ll break through from underneath.
But don’t get gothic. Gothic doesn’t put gas in the tank. Not anymore.
Don’t get gothic, don’t get scientific. I wouldn’t write a sociology paper about us even if I could. I wouldn’t write home even if I weren’t already here. I think I’m still here. I’m still something. It might be tilting.
I didn’t let you get so far away from me for you to toss me something like bone necrosis or seven year itch. My seven years is dog years, by the time you loved me I was already gone. And I still am. I’m still here. You’re maybe whistling somewhere, maybe go find a stranger to kiss instead, clean him off with Windex first, stare through his windows. “Reflective surface” is not a career choice, nor is it a vocation.
I used to mean something different when I said the word “you.” I didn’t mean “him” or “us” or “the population,” maybe I meant “no maps exist” or “proceed at your own risk.” I don’t know who’s the audience anymore, but if I hadn’t flushed all my hope I’d say I hope the audience was you. Instead I’m how much can I. How much more can I. How much more should I.
Maybe you can be thought of as a real integer. Maybe you can be thought of as a team sport.
I didn’t get this weary just by not moving when you moved. I tried on some “he had to leave and he’ll have to come home someday” and it didn’t fit, it was too tight. Wandering is no longer a legal requirement, nor can I just sleep through it. When I dream of you I always wake up outdoors, covered in dew. I think it’s dew. I used to think I thought I––
Discomfort is not a requirement, discomfort is quotidian. Minor angels heralding your arrival somewhere. Try asking them to lend you some money. Loss is not the only way to get the goosebumps. Nor is love, or terror, whichever. Babe, I got no––You’re kudzu, maybe, or the blowtorch applied carefully to such. Never let me––I didn’t ever think you––
You’re an old tire, but I still need you to drive the goddamn car.
You’re not an urge, you’re garden variety urgent. You’re the scratch I need for an itch I don’t possess. I could wait for the itch like I wait for you, I could stand outside in the rain and slowly spin, I could imagine you caressing me. But I got shit to do. You haven’t even been gone long enough for me to stop missing you, is how much. But my memories of you are palpable as you were, now. I can feel them sliding around under my skull.
You standing out in the rain, that one time. Arms open. Is how much.
Deliverance not being a factor, nor grace, nor ingenuity. The mirror’s still broken but I look into it and hope I see you looking back at me. Sometimes you do, sometimes you even smile, mostly you just stare. I’m not the shape or form of human you might have assumed I am.
I’m your woman, I’m your woman, I’m your man.
All my wires getting crossed was a yesterday thing. You’re both a yesterday thing and a next month thing or a next year thing. You’re a rare eclipse I’ve never seen, just got told about, but I know you’ll happen someday. Darker than night. Darker than death or faith. I am not the kind of scientist I know you really want, but we live in a real world, a world where makebelieve is a coherent thing.
I got a lifetime supply of makebelieve for you, and a side dish of fake.
I haven’t set anything on fire yet. Burning in effigy the possibilities that took you away from me. Is how much. This time of night is how much. This time of night I think I’m supposed to be feeling something. I’m not sure where. Absence has no nexus or hinge. It has at least half of you, that human half, the other half is God Only Knows.
Even when there aren’t any secrets, there are still secrets.
Normal. I don’t know what time of day that is. Half of normal is outdoors, the other half has to be kept out of direct sunlight. I’m not growing old without you. I’m not growing old without you. I’m not growing old at all. There used to be a thunder that I thought was part of you, maybe you broke it in half and left some in the town square where it hums like a motor. Maybe eventually––Maybe my heart is a town square. I either do or don’t hum along.
Being human isn’t just a matter of making decisions or marking territory.
I can’t find you, nor can I even find myself. Is how much.
I used to have half a mind to up and shoot you in the head. Now I have three minds: the mind that reminds me to buy peaches at Houchens IGA and practice counting backwards, the mind that imagines you small the way far-off in-sight people are small, and the mind that tries to tell me that distance is a form of pillow. I am counting backwards toward you, but zero might not be low enough, I might have to push into negative. A negative number is still a real number, and so am I, and so are you. And I have half a mind to pay attention to how tired I am without even wondering why. Everything between you and me is a distance that might contain anything, might contain ox bones and asbestos and angels.
You sleep with no sword, never did.
Now I’m only concerned with what’s provable and what’s love. The pines I see from my porch sway a little from the western wind. I could probably be simpler. Neither of us is going to last forever. Neither of us is a carnival or trill. The big old bed I sleep in still means you, implies you, indicates. The way the earth giving off heat makes the air seem to flicker, if that’s accurate science. The way the earth seems to flicker.
Neither you nor the known world are as plastic as they used to seem.
Science is maybe peripheral like you are but real like a rock that cuts your left foot. How it’s said, there is more in heaven and gunfire than––but I––but now your name’s more real than you are, even when I twist away. I don’t know where you are in the parabola from “Honey I have to go” to “but honey I’ll be back.” Waiting is not science, memory is kind of like science but not in the right way. I’d just as soon go and get an injection.
Neither here nor there the formal winter monster. Erasing all evidence of mutual silence.
I got half a mind to let go of half of you. I don’t know which half. I got half a mind to bury all my storms in cobalt dreams. Is how much. I got half a mind to beat you to the finish line, and I got half a mind to erase the finish line entirely.
Nicholas Grider is the author of the story collection Misadventure (A Strange Object) and his work has appeared in Caketrain, Conjunctions, DIAGRAM, Guernica and other publications. He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he’s a pre-med student.