You Will Be Alone for the Rest of Your Life
Eric Beeny

Rosa looks out the kitchen window, says, "I'm bored. There's so much to do. I think I might actually be too busy to notice how bored I am."

Merrill drinks coffee, looks into the swirling black hole of his cup, says, "What."

Rosa blinks. "I'm going outside."

Merrill thinks of words. He thinks of words that grow into other words, words that look like insects, words growing extra limbs—new limbs, like starfish.

          art form / ant farm

Merrill gets up and watches Rosa through the kitchen window. She works in the garden. He drinks coffee. Rosa wears a yellow dress with a pattern of blue shapes Merrill couldn't make out when she was in the kitchen. It's the same pattern he sees when he looks into light, blinking out those nebulous, amoebic blotches. He's sure he's seen her wearing this dress before.

          worn / worm

Merrill watches Rosa's fingers dig through the dirt. He imagines her putting seeds in a coffin, planting the coffin. What would grow in such a garden.

          carrot / cannot

Words like rubber, stretched and reshaped. The sun comes through the window, warms Merrill's face, one of his arms. Merrill touches the window, touching something he can't see. He wiggles his fingers against the cool glass.

          worm / warm

It gets to the point where the word "gibberish" is the only word Merrill feels he understands. He says the word "gibberish" quietly to himself. He likes the sound of the word, the sound of his voice saying the word. He feels safe understanding this word, understanding anything. He feels safe.

          warn / warm

Merrill tells himself things. You will be alone for the rest of your life. You will be alone for the rest of your life. He says this over and over, the sound a sudden forest sprouting. He says this until it sounds like gibberish, until it sounds like something else, until it sounds like something he's not saying.

And then it doesn't sound so bad.

          grove / grave

Rosa comes back inside. "I want out of this relationship," she says, looking at Merrill. "Are you coming?"

Eric Beeny's most recent book is LEPERS AND MANNEQUINS, a novel from Eraserhead Press.

Detail of photo collage on main page courtesy of Ravenelle.

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