Thursday, June 5, 2014

Memory and Recollection

    There were good times, too. Cracking jokes with each at the all night grocery store, always at the expense of unaware strangers. Taking walks around the most interesting place we could find; I always tried to go hiking, she always opted for a pleasant stroll in a place where she could window shop. Embracing after we had sex; one summer afternoon we lay naked in our bed, uncovered and sweating, with the sun beaming in on us. We were writhing against each other on moss green sheets twisted beneath us, for hours and hours. Eating at a new restaurant. Seeing her reaction when she first tasted the new dish she had ordered. Dancing together without caring who sees us. Dancing with her and her alone. Watching her bathe on the banks of a river in her black and gray bikini. Quiet conversations as we spooned with each other on the couch, on the floor, in front of the heater when we went swimming too early in the springtime, wrapped in my blue sleeping bag on the linoleum kitchen floor. Her, listening to the words spilling from my mouth -trivia about the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of western Australia- looking up at me and smiling her incomparable smile. Us, sneaking into the botany greenhouse on campus, where I saw countless numbers of succulents and cacti; plants that, until that very moment, I didn't know existed; a fern whose leaves shivered and closed on floral instinct at the touch of a human finger; a creamy purple flower shaped into a bowl that catches light misting rain; plants known to be carnivorous in the right climate. Watching her watch The Red Shoes for the first time -Emeric Pressburger, my god! you were a genius- her stunned gaze at the dizzying final dance sequence. The curve of her nude hips in the bright yellow sunlight, casting new illumination on where we lay; my hand on the small of her belly, just below her navel...
    "You're a liar. You have wasted my night...with passive aggression."
    "Make an excuse; you know I've hit the nail on its head."
    "You took advantage of my kindness. You treated it as weakness."
    "It's your turn to prove yourself to be worthy. Worthy of my love."
    "I'm tired. I've been through hell and back with you."
    "I try to be honorable. Dependable. Stable."
    "Yes, I have faltered, but I have constantly proven I can redeem myself."
    "You have fucked me over enough times for me to turn gleefully against you, you bitch."
    "I hope the rest of your night turns out sour. I hope you realize you have no one left to turn to because you will not know where I went." Jed said in a cold and strangely clear tone.
    Steph sat at the table in her thin brown slip with her head sunk towards her bare and bruised knees. "I..." she began to speak, but then fell silent.
     It was dark in the kitchen, and Jed was standing in a hunched posture. He was a silhouette cast completely in shadow by the bare white light behind him. It was the only light on within their railroad apartment. Jed was looking at the back door with his entire body trembling with fear, shame, and rage. The back of his neck was flushed red and hot in his darkness. "You were with him again." His voice quivered. Tears were beginning to stream down his face. He looked back at her still sitting slumped in the kitchen chair. He wanted to hit her. Then he looked down next to his leg to see their dog, Jack, looking up at him, wagging his tail vigorously. Jack was expecting to step outside with the human he somehow trusted. "Well?" He asked Steph without looking back up at her.
    Steph began to weep. "I don't know what to say."
    Jed stepped out of the back door into the night without the dog, without Steph, and without another word. He descended the deck stairs briskly without a destination and without believing he would ever come back. He walked the streets of the city for hours alone because he could not manage to sort out his thoughts. He didn't want to love her anymore. He did not want to love her anymore. But he did. "God damn it." He whispered as he circled back towards the apartment he had left nearly four hours before. He sat at the first worn wood step of the deck, facing the darkness to the west, There were railroad tracks, warehouses and factories, suburban sprawls and strip malls, schools and parks, and of course the river that washes through it all, catching all the spillage and snaking it away towards the polluted Midwestern water shelf. All of this and so much more he knew were out there, but he could see any of it in the darkness of that night. He did not know how to end this awful and unfair situation. "God Damn it." He whispered again.
   When he finally went in, he discovered both Steph and the dog were gone. On the kitchen table there was a piece of paper folded in half with "Jed" written on the outside. He opened the bifurcated sheet and discovered that the inside was blank.

Aaron C. Molden 

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