Nondescript Love Story
Sometimes she feeds me. A piece of sausage speared on a fork, the
ridges where she cut it grazing my lips until I open and bite. She
slides the fork out and smiles at me. Sometimes she asks me to feed her
so I do. She says, "Can I have a nibble?" and then before an
appropriate beat can go by she apologizes and says, "No, sorry, that's
rude, eat your meal." And I say, "Please, have some, I want
you to have some." And then I feed her and she says yumm
if she likes it or says nothing and scrunches her face up like an anime
caricature if she doesn't.
Sometimes we talk to each other in baby talk. We don't recognize that
it's become a thing for us, but it really has. I read a novel last year
and the omniscient narrator sneered at some of the characters for
speaking in baby talk as adults and I refused to finish that book
because of the tone. That's the thing that made me realize how big a
role baby talk plays in our lives. We speak in speech impediments, in
unnecessary W's. Sometimes I stroke her forehead and say, "Pretty
face," in the way that someone will say "Pretty bird" to a bird, hoping
for the bird to repeat it. Sometimes she says, "Pretty eyes," to me. I
do have pretty, hazel eyes, and long, arcing eyelashes, too, and she
knows that I appreciate being commended for having anything pretty
Sometimes I get really competitive when we're out to breakfast. I
listen to other peoples' conversations at other tables and it's just
endless. They let their food get cold because they're talking. They
hold their forks up with the eggs hanging off like not even eggs could
distract them from the mutual train of thought that is happening. I
mean, Jesus, what the fuck are they saying? Do they write lists at
home? Do they practice a week of silence in bed so that they
can trot out this dialogue in public? We don't like table talk. We like
hushed eating. And when do I bring up topics they spiral into dark
things with teeth. We talk about old friends that we've moved away from
and then suddenly we are talking about all of the shortcomings of those
friends, how they think they have it together but they totally don't
and once an alcoholic always an alcoholic. Sometimes we talk about
ourselves in the future tense and I get a little melodramatic. Then she
shrugs and glares at her fingernails and we stop talking again and I
swear those chatty motherfuckers at the other table think that we're
unhappy or they look down on us, which just infuriates me.
Sometimes I think it would be cool if she was conservative or Egyptian
or something, and then we could talk in hills and valleys about
abortion or why her father would never accept me. Sometimes I wish we
fucked other people and then got really mad at each other about it, or
she strapped one on and made me cough as she pushed in behind me, like
we could be one of those couples that are idyllic, but also revolting.
Some nights she kicks her legs under the covers and slams her fists
into the pillow. She says, "I'm awful. I suck, I suck, I
suck." And I say, "No, no you're not. That's crazy. You're
the opposite of awful."
Some nights, I get a bit teary and she says, "Are you crying?" and I
say, "No" and she says, "Tell me why." So I say, "Oh, you
know, I just think I'm a piece of shit and I have no value to the
world." She says, "That's so
Those are the most important words you can say to somebody, I think.
We're planning a trip to go visit any town in any state where smoking
is still legal indoors, to sit at a diner and smoke cigarettes. It's
such a simple plan, with four walls to it. Also, we've been watching
dated television shows in bed, set in diners and we absorb what we
watch. I had a dream of feeding her neon yellow lemon pie. My hair was
oil black in the dream and her lips were red. It was the first dream I
remembered since that one six months ago where I was running from
someone through unfamiliar oil fields and I got shot in my shoulder and
it made a sound like the lowest string on a stand-up bass. I woke up
feeling nothing. I think the closer you get to something, the less
detail it has. Until it becomes like the sound of light or the taste of
Sometimes we stare at the grey bunny that lives in the bushes behind
our house. Sometimes he stares back. "Does he really exist?"
we ask each other because he is so cartoon and plump. Yesterday we were
eating baby carrots and listening to the crunch when the bunny walked
up. I got the feeling that the bunny liked being around us, so I kicked
off my flip-flops and walked towards him with a baby carrot in my hand.
Behind me, she whispered, "Be careful" and I whispered, "Of what?"
though I did feel very nervous. The bunny's ears got erect and he
crouched. He was afraid. I knelt in the grass and tossed the baby
carrot at his feet like it could shatter. It bounced to him and he eyed
it and then he eyed me and then he fled. She gave a mewing exhalation
behind me, and I said, "What?"
really sharp and defensive. Then we were both silent. I stood to move
next to her. We looked at the bushes, at the thing that had run away. I
put my hand on the back of her neck and thought of how narrow it was,
how easy to hold.
Lucas Mann is finishing up an MFA at the University of Iowa. HIs first book, CLASS A, is forthcoming from Knopf/Doubleday.
Detail of photo on main page courtesy
of Astrid Westvang.
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