Mornings, Penelope awakes to an inexplicable pain in her thighs, as if her legs have been stretched in opposite directions. Nights, she is convinced the loneliness will swallow her, but, like the morning aches, the feeling fades when she rouses herself from bed.
On her mantle is a picture of one of her two children, a daughter, smiling reluctantly, face blotched with pimply youth. She keeps Jeanine encapsulated in her picture frame, frozen in time, seven years prior. Mitchell has earned nothing more than one small photo from high school graduation, tucked into her wallet.
Nighttime, her children are very real to her. She wonders if Mitchell, that rambunctious child always running, the winds stirring in his passage and blowing her taxes off the kitchen table, has finally settled down. She hopes that Jeanine’s amorphous boyfriend musters more enthusiasm and tenderness when the two are in private than when they are visiting.
By morning, they are memories to accompany other faded memories. Her children two stretch marks, pulled tight across her body, from the times she ripped herself open so that they could live. Her children two sets of blinking eyes on an ultrasound screen, full of roundness and hope. Her former husband a salary that temporarily supported them, until the first layoff.…
We sat together
on opposites ends of
a booth near the window
of a fast food chain,
miraculously open on
for those in the services,
those who drive trucks,
and those who find
on opposite ends
of the booths.
We’re nearly sixty
he’s lived my life
but our jokes are
timeless, and our
timing is youthful
Last night she looked me in the eye and told me she’d do anything I wanted, go anywhere I wanted. Before sunrise she tried to stab herself in the belly with a little knife. Not the sharpest knife in the place – but still. I had to hold her down for a while.
“Honeybee, we can’t keep doing this,” I say. “We have to stop.”
We are sitting on the floor at the miniature table in Charlie’s room. We are too big for the white chairs. We don’t want to break them, even now. You might not think we’d be in that room, but it is the most comfortable place to sit. It has the softest carpet, anyway.
“We’re no good, babe,” she says. “I feel like we should just die.”
She is telling the truth, as far I can see.
We sleep a little, right there on the green carpet.
The sun is up when I open my eyes. She is awake too, but she hasn’t moved.
“Do you want me to fix us a drink?” she says. “So we can figure this out.” “Sure, honeybee,” I say. “If that’s what you want.”
She gets up and takes the two empty glasses from the table and opens the door and walks out of the room.…