The way we watch each other in the bathroom door full of want and worry, your strained face beautiful and frightening because the cords underneath are taut; we live at our limits in absolute humidity. Your arms wire with veins under a cooling cable of water, coiling under the streets and floorboards we pace. It races on command to us, water. To find your hot palms and comfort you with an underground, nighttime cold, water. To rinse the sheen of ink from your palm's flank. I want to be water in my next life, I think, when I see it flow through your hands the way I wish my hair did, silken, not tangled with humidity, not catching you up in scribbles. The ink of a pen is only so much water, set thick on destroying paper under your exacting hand sweating water that you wipe against your jeans when we try to plan how to survive this life and I love you and this want we feel. Even this worry, beautiful and frightening because it reveals our care for life and its vesseled capture. I want to be water in my next life, though I know water is not alive. Life is a series of channels, veins and pipes and sinews and paths that connect us to each other. There is water on the inside of your chambered veins, too, pipes where I would also like to be tucked, like a nautilus, tickling your worry away with my existence. Tickling, trickling. I want to be water in my next life because I don't believe in next lives and yet I know this is an achievable goal, to water into the nothing silking over your skin. We are all we've ever been, membrane over membrane, molecule by molecule moving visibly and hidden through vessels we mistake for what they contain. The faucet creaks, inside the pipes the water once more waits. Only one drop remains clinging to the cold water handle. Well after you have turned to towel, it shivers on, in secret conversation with me.
A filthy coin-purse pinched open: me after the divorce.
Marriage a vintage curiosity, my dead grandmother's clutch precious with ghost aroma of pastel butter mints still heavy with a Kennedy half-dollar's palpitatingly handsome profile the profile of the man my grandmother loved and my grandfather melted down for the silver both of them hoarding in their own way the profile of the man hiding his blown-apart half I flipped over for brains and got spread-eagled instead.
Wedding for the thrill of the masked ball, the cubic zirconia clip-on earrings I filched from my dead grandmother's dresser before my once-dear cousins could and wore something-old something-blue something-blackout-forgotten at the after-after-party bar, returned in the palm of the best man's hand glimmering forbidden, lab-created rainbow the day my groom went back to work.
Groom the handler of horses.
Bride who boils their bones.
Clutch of eggs in my loins formed in the body of my mother before I was even born of an egg formed in the body of my grandmother our pearled thread to antiquity. The closest thing to fate is the farthest thing from free will.
Hide the horses in the myrtle thicket. Ride at dusk.
Wife: an heirloom no modern use just a dusty rose coin-purse in the credit-card age terrifyingly unprepared for the total at the register, unprepared to register the totality, twisting a wedding band to call for assistance.
Husband an old-world word that once meant tiller of soil husbandry breeding livestock, husbanding his strength in never wearing his ring but noticing right away when mine was lost. I was always lost always losing always. Pink satin liner spread wide, shaken empty. A profile in courage, the distant gaze of the man on the coin that grows louder while settling in smaller and smaller circles the Kennedy half-dollar begging to be put into circulation to live for the moment before the moment ends at oblique angles intersecting the parade route. The profile of the man is not the man.
Vows: a liner in a drawer buried under a clutch of batteries we didn't know whether or how to throw away bleeding acid on documents we didn't know whether or how to throw away. Promises and promissory notes and corrosion creeping in.
Separation. Found lost found again the handbag smudged with nude lipstick I stole from the Dollar Store oh I was always stealing something where I could, a look a breath some color in my cheeks greedy with the air the light the blue views where the clouds moisten and bulge. Nude is the color of nothing and everything, nakedness dressed. The pigment was licked with lipliner I only wore while he was away, neon-sign kiss flicked on in the fog of absence, my mouth a plum crime scene outline.
Dusky forensics of desire there in the liner of my grandmother's bag, it was all there, my dossier my A.K.A.s, my conspiracies scab-clinging to coppery tissue I clutched to my nose in the car wreck after he elbowed me and didn't mean to in the argument that was my fault anyway because intention is everything ideation is everything even if I didn't do it because what did I want because what did I really ever want.
A pink satin liner blackened by the grease of a stranger's dirty change and rent inside out in search of a powdered fragment of a pill to explain the dark-circled changes, the changes and the rent and where it went. A stranger's dirty change.
But the smell of tarnish is a dead man's sweat, and the change offers only a procession of men with no brains only birds of prey only war birds clutching arrows and olive branches, weapons and peace offerings as though they were the same as though it could go either way, sickness, health, rich, poor, heads, tails, only eagles with bird brains and shields where their hearts should be.
is a writer and artist in Huntington, West Virginia. Recent work can be found in (mac)ro(mic), Atlas & Alice, The Normal School, Feral, Still: The Journal
and elsewhere. Say hello on Twitter @ediemeade