This afternoon, we go to Crazy Noodles and order one of everything on the menu. Tomorrow, you say, you’ll probably be puking from anesthesia, so now you have to get it while it’s good.
At first, I was hungry for every detail about you. I collected them like evidence of an afterlife. You told me you once thought I was someone who went to bed early, the sort of person who untied his laces before removing his shoes. It made me crazy to know you had been thinking of me then, even if what you were thinking was wrong.
The morning after your mother died, you came to my parents’ house. Your hair was shiny and you were wearing jeans and your favorite sweater and you looked pretty and bright.
My mother said, “Oh, honey, I am so sorry.” You smiled. People thought you were crazy, that smiling was the pre-cursor to throwing things or screaming or cutting your wrists. But really, you said, it just happened, on its own. .
“This is some fucked up advice I’m about to give you,” my father said. We were alone in the kitchen. “No matter how scared you are, no matter how much you want to run away, you cannot let her know. This is not the time for honesty.”
At the funeral, I held your hand and rubbed your shoulders and brought you something to drink and answered questions from your startled relatives. When everyone was gone, we went down to your basement and fooled around, another Sunday night spent getting sweaty and optimistic. “But your mother just died,” I heard myself say, as if that explained anything. “Don’t worry,” you whispered, breathing onto the skin below my ear, “There’s no one watching.”
The philosopher Martin Buber was abandoned by his mother when he was a young child. He spent the rest of his life thinking and writing about something known as a miss-meeting, when you reach out and there’s no response. You can not think about it for a while, but eventually, you will go back to the wanting.
They don’t let me come into the office with you, but you pretend it’s fine. When it’s your turn, you squeeze my hand and take a deep shaky breath. You don’ t look at me to tell you it’s okay, you know better that to expect that. You know I’d say that it’s only wisdom teeth. It happens everyday.
When we knew it was over between us, we were sitting in grass in the park. You cried and shook your head, indignantly, and your hair flew around your face. You said, “You’re right, of course. None of it was real. I made you up. Up, up, up, like a balloon.”
I drive you home. It’s my father’s car, all of the radio stations are programmed to classic rock. You turn to NPR, and argue with the commentators, but it sounds like there’s water in your mouth. As we climb the stairs to your apartment, I keep my hand on the small of your back. We always walk this way, your small body swaying against me, tucking in like a puzzle piece. You crawl into bed and close your eyes. It wasn’t the surgery you were afraid of, but the part that comes afterwards. You have always believed that you were stronger than her, that pain, the physical kind, could not carve its way inside you , separate you from yourself. I listen. It’s the least I can do.
When you have finally fallen asleep, I watch a television program about a haunted house in Connecticut. Books fly off their shelves, walls drip blood, the inhabitants are stricken with inexplicable, life threatening fevers. It’s a demon, a medium says, it’s doesn’t matter if you leave, what’s here will follow you.
You have a wonderful knack of drilling into relationships that gives the reader a nice feel for the characters. I like the end paragraph that offers just one explanation of the narrator's loyalty and gives a metaphorical view of life events. Nice work.
I assume, firstly, that this is the 'hidden workshop' where comments are welcome -- if I'm incorrect, I will be corrected.
Structure: the para that caught my eye was the reference to Martin Buber. I didn't know that about Martin Buber, and given the lodestone quality this reference has for a story like this (or an autobiography, or a memoir, or a ?) I'm ENTRANCED by the idea/word 'miss-meeting.' This is something very specific to psychoanalysis -- I've read one group of 'post analytic' writings from a fellow named Herzog, "Father Hunger." My sugg. is to pivot this whole piece off 'MISS-MEETING' that's the end of the intro; the segue from the objective 'third person' into the subjective 'I / you' / 'we.' . . .
The events: it seems the speaker meets a girl whose mother dies, and the relationship falters coincident to or as a result of an operation. This 'surgery' is undisclosed; in a short piece, this bit of latency might be better in the light. What kind of operation? What's the cause? What's the prognosis . . . (other than lost love). While it wants to remain ineffable for the writer, pin it to us readers -- make us own that surgery (we can all identify with being a victim, and operations make a 'victim' of us).
Your heroine: It's clear there's attraction and respect and a kind of love here, what's not so clear is how 'definite' she is as a character -- 'shiny hair, jeans, pretty & bright.' it's almost a picture. maybe drop in a spice of dialogue (I'm mean count the grains of pepper in your hand, not 'to taste'). It's weird to say this, perhaps be MORE specific with of and about her -- not BRANDS (please, we're a collection of consumers already). How does she walk, what does she smell like, what are her tics (other than that penchant for self-mortification). You have a wonderful gift from writing almost gender neutral, while never letting go of the author's maleness -- I had to read it twice to make sure I got the genders right. This is also a neat mimetic trick -- the sublimation of genders in a relationship (I'm afraid this is where criticism becomes 'additive').
Be painterly: if this is a landscape, it's not quite a JMW Turner in it's atmospherics (then again, what is); but it has the potential to be something beautiful with a tiny bit of grotesquerie.
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