In an Armchair Facing the Door
by Hannah Rego
In the waiting room of the ocean systems, I imagined. Our house, all rooms and no doors. In other words when you hug me with one of your hands snug on my hip I can hardly keep balance. Even with all these cities between us I’d be scared of bikes. I’m trying to map the difference between thought and feeling, even though science tells me it’s a bunch of fluid processes. I’m sorry I cannot be combined with any other information. Then, I walked so that my shadows would meet in front of me, but every step brought me closer to another streetlight. I multiply, I multiply.
It’s the year everyone believes in astrology. (Who can blame us for blaming something so far off and small) (We forget the panopticon is not in fact a monolith but a body made of bodies) I rented an apartment alone to impress you. I grew out my hair. We met for coffee and I listened to you. I checked your horoscope. I checked my horoscope. We met for drinks and I listened to you, and you listened to me. It was late, and you danced, and in my oven you broiled a grapefruit with a little brown sugar on top. That year I ate foods whole and by themselves—avocado, sweet potato, frozen patty of something. I walked under the underpass in the heat instead of asking for a ride. You trucked the ugliest streets in the half-city and it must have been gallons of squares and squares.
I brought you a pill in the street. Then another. What do you call the second just before one magnet flips over the other, leaving one stuck behind? The moment before, a tremoring, a pressure failing. We met for drinks, drag, meat, and you listened, and I listened. You left before morning. You joked you’d find me a gun. You joked you’d show me someplace in Utah that looks like the moon, and I believed you. You said stay with me like a puppy in the cage of the phone. (but everything burns) (but when our hands brush I still feel they’re made of water) I cut my hand on my suitcase. Even now my hand smiles. When I tried on all your glasses, and you tried on all your glasses, it was the folding and unfolding of all those little arms. Stare into the sun a little, you said. I squinted. I picked a caterpillar off your shirt.
I wanted to want what you wanted, which was to want nothing, and the nothing I wanted was full of you even as I wanted the gas light on. I wanted to want the year in reverse, to have lived a year of having never known you. The weight of the year’s eye contact put on a scale. Our gaze on a graph, on a well-marketed bar graph beside a pie chart, in primary colors, at the end of a documentary film about veganism. I wanted to want the credits set to Elliott Smith covering the Beatles and for us all to return to our cars. When all the explaining is over and I can see all at once what I’ve always known, I wanted to want your name in a woman’s mouth, a mouth you could love without confusion, a doctor mouth, an older, well-recited mouth, a mouth that mouths whatever. I wanted to want a shared nothing, but I want you to admit it: me only an embarrassment.
Could I draw myself in profile? I’ve been on TV for months, a reality spin-off airing only for me, but this is not about the weeks that led me to the hospital; this is me listening to a song you played that I can only assume, by the sound waves, as a bottled message from you to me; this is about the playlist of odd-houred lunches. I want you to carry me from the car where I’ve fallen asleep and lay me down and when you see my eyes open, that I was awake for it all, I want no anger. Maybe at the end of the universe I’ll know what it means: that I cry out apologies to you in my sleep; that you refused to reject a marriage proposal I didn’t relay; that your mouth—before on my mouth—your mouth on my neck.
Sometimes you don’t notice a still life of raspberries until another looks on at them and you think, he’s looking at the raspberries. Why do I always write ALWAYS and SOMETIMES as if there are any other rates of occurrence. I think INTENT, then I think WANT, and how I wanted to live without intention but no amount of intending nothing can stop the want from not just creeping in, but from pushing you all the time forward into—Hannah. Glass peaches. and cherries. Nothing stops glass from sitting behind glass, on display.
How in the mornings I wanted to make myself breakfast. It was enough once for you to show me a picture of someone I would never meet as a child. It was enough to just make up the bored lives of coffee shop people as if they were missing out on the big life secret.
I took note of my hands and didn’t claw them so much into the sides of my face. I curled in an armchair facing the door, hoping it would open, hoping you would open it without asking if you could. I didn’t know then how you’d learned not to take anything as a sign.
when i cried and shook, or when i didn’t move at all and just stared at the wall, at the specks of light bounding like so many bouncy balls from the gumball machine of the brain, I had some greater knowledge of the interiors of gingerbread houses. I had gumdrops in my shoes. I said GOOD MORNINg to good dogs, and the dogs looked on ahead of themselves in the morning.
Long before the liquored sleep, you’d said when people have sex, they start lying to each other, and I knew then I had already grafted silhouttes of my faces over the shaft of my face. there’s a long drop into lying down in the dark if you’re not careful. But you saw my piles of pain like an inch of snow inside the doorway of the garage. I saw yours twisted up; but the edge of the nowhere always opens up like a new pair of jeans in the megamart of the sky.
I’m sorry for assigning you to the up and down arrows on the control pad of my treadmill. I kept walking and running, and when I needed water I called you the sea like romance is adorable and not the worst iteration of the strip mall ideal. We both know there’s strength in the undertow, but I couldn’t stop cutting out photographs of magazine people reaching for cartons of eggs. I couldn’t stop leaping up from wherever I wasted my time to answer your calls.
There were other things– there were days I picked apples without you. There were days without you I adjusted the strings on a harp or a bow. I circled adds in the dull shore of the internet. I lifted bars but never over my head. I wanted other people to need me, but it never felt as important as withdrawing some savings to buy you weed. I’ll never forget when you ran from the room or when you stayed in it for hours. I’ll never forget when the room never became the highway or the steps of a cathedral on another continent.
We joked about Bjork’s old house in Iceland, but I wanted it, then.
Why wouldn’t I want to consummate the impending disaster?
Every skyline becomes the churches ripped up by the claw machine claw of war.
I’m sorry for this. I’m sorry for this and for all I can’t sorry.
Think not of the house, but the door leading out of it.
The word illegible, the word illegibility
I’d like most to explode the personal; to take what I have felt as heartbreak and expose it to myself and to you as The Way We Love failing me. Me, or anyone.
You are certainly, I’m certain, aware the bees are dying, or perhaps, if you’re reading this in the future, dead. Recently my father and I admired a handful of small honeybees feeding on a hydrangea bush. The hydrangea flowered white, which matters. My father said I haven’t seen honeybees like that in a while. I agreed, that now that I’d seen them, I could suddenly know I hadn’t seen them in a while. Otherwise I would never have noticed their absence. So of course it all stung.
I remember when I couldn’t walk across a field without having to look down for them, he said. There were so many in the clover.
It’s like that.
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Hannah Rego is a writer from Louisville, Kentucky. They have an MFA from the University of Arizona and are a founding editor of ctrl+v, a journal of collage. Their writing is anthologized in Bettering American Poetry Vol. 3 and Best Small Fictions 2020 and appears most recently in terrain and smoke and mold.