WHALE EYED




The house got sticky in May. We woke many mornings in a film of sweat. Towards the end, things fell apart. We stopped doing the dishes; we stopped getting groceries; we flung the windows open as far as they would go. Food rotted in the kitchen and mushrooms dripped black down the back of the fridge. We left these chores for Charlie. My bike lock rusted from nights left out in the rain. Shane departed for New York without saying goodbye. One or two of the very last nights were cooler and we pulled up my pilled blankets, but I think I will remember the time as hot anyway. My clothes formed lumps on the dusty painted floorboards. I had never left clothes on the floor before. I guess the floors were painted grey.

Then there were a few where she slipped silently into my room, and I left most of the lights on and we whispered for a long time. I screwed up my sentences because I was always so tired by the time she arrived, had been talking to other people all day. We weren’t sure what we were to one another.

Years later we would walk in the rain in Chinatown and I would say “you should have invited me to come to Berlin that summer, just come for a week, see what your life was like there” and she would say “I would never have done that then.” Too far out. Instead I did other things, saw other people, forgot her until she showed back up again. Her hair shorter, her knees and hips more fluid from dancing all July. She had this way of swinging her knees that people found fascinating. She had done other things too, saw other people, fell into something she called love for a while and then, later on, didn’t anymore.

But just for that period, those spring nights we would not often later recall: the ends of some of my sentences became the beginnings of others, edging towards dreams. She said I fell asleep within moments, in the middles; it made her feel alone. Your eyes are so blue today she also said. I did not tell her I like them to be green. I had called her whale eyed in my head for two years, but did not tell her that either. Her skin was smoother than mine but sometimes I wondered if she loved me too much. I wasn’t sure anymore.

At least she was honest this time around. It was 10, 11, 12 nearing afternoon. We made shitty wet eggs or else went down the street. She watched while I ate, ravenous. She was the more frugal of the two of us. When I was nineteen she let the hours drag in bed and I resented her for wasting all of my Tuesday and Thursday mornings. We would walk into our comparative literature course together, a bit late, no one in the room knew we were sleeping together every night, and the week we read The Ice Palace she wrote in the margins in blue pen about me; I was still thinking of someone else. Then she left for good and after that I only resented myself.

So that spring we often talked about our relationship as existing within a box, or boxes. Different rectangles, no shades, two western windows with moonlight. As if we never saw each other in the day. Which we did. But mostly, by night. The world asleep, I thought, but for ourselves. 

She hung clementines from her walls and they dried and shriveled even after Clementine left us for Philadelphia. And her sheets were horrible, patterned with pickles that looked like dicks, but when I visited her studio it smelled like oil paint and a lot of light. She pulled a heavy craftsman towards me and told me how to dilute the paint. She was wearing two pairs of jeans that day and they hung off of her wide hips. She never wore mascara and it was always hard to tell how she felt about her own body. I suppose the year when she wasn’t eating well she might have had a problem with it, but there was nothing much to say about that anymore and when she told me, she only laughed and said it had been a very hard year. And I never missed her, not acutely anyway, as if I had trained my body not to long for her. My heart never leapt into my throat at her texts, as if I had trained it to never again become restless for her.

It was an easy wrenching, the sunless afternoon she left for her apartment in a city thousands of miles away with the massive windows and the branches hanging from the ceiling. You should tell me if you really fall in love with someone this summer and just wanna be friends again in the fall, right? she said. Haha, yeah, you too. We probably wouldn’t call.