I need to figure out a way to touch you without losing half of my hand. It sinks into your skin like a child falling into the myth of quicksand, and I am undone so easily. I only have so many bones, and you’re taking them all into you. When you’ve consumed all of my parts like a landgrab, how will I ever touch you again?

These are the things you don’t think about when you decide to steal me, and I can’t tell you. I can never tell you what I’m thinking because I know what you’ll say, or what you won’t say when you’re thinking what you’re thinking about what I’ve said I’m thinking, and I can’t even think about the silence that would sit between us.

You’re looking at me now, expecting a response to something you did say, and I can’t respond since I never hear what you do say, and the silence here now is a different silence than the one I am so afraid of, but it is still a silence and silence can destroy us as swiftly and completely as anything true I could say. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what you said. I can’t end the silence. I can’t say anything true. I can’t say anything else. I’m trapped in my stupid head and this silence without a border and I am going fucking insane and I don’t know how long the silence has been sitting here, this uninvited guest with feet kicked up on the sofa we need to replace. How the fuck does silence hang around long enough to grow feet? I look at you one more time and you are speaking. You seem to be speaking. Your mouth is moving and we aren’t kissing and you aren’t eating so I think you’re probably speaking, probably saying something you want me to hear, something you want me to say something in response to, and I am panicking already, I can’t hear you, I don’t know what you want from me.

Your mouth isn’t moving anymore but your eyes are, they’re moving into me and under my lousy skin. It’s clear I have to reply. I have to say something in response to all the something you’ve presumably said while I wasn’t hearing anything but your mouth was moving and making shapes.

“I think it’s possible that the entire music establishment has severely misjudged the vast majority of Paula Abdul’s work. History is going to show us that she was a genius, an avant garde artist trying to teach us something valuable about how we relate to sugary yet sexy pop songstresses. We saw her and we bought her records, but we thought she was the thing she was showing us on the surface, we were too stupid to realize that she was living art. She was trying to warn us about the essential worthlessness of this empty bubblegum we consume so readily. I think it’s time we tried to show people what they’ve missed.”

I say all this into my hands, my mouth about six inches away from them, close enough to hide in but not so close that they muffle my voice. I’m afraid to look at you. I don’t know how far off I am. I don’t know. Maybe you were talking about pop music. Maybe you were talking about drug addiction in Hollywood. Maybe you were talking about what, precisely, is the matter with kids these days, maybe you were comparing and contrasting the value of Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper. Maybe you told me you have cancer. Maybe you told me you want to sleep with someone else. Maybe you told me you did. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, and I don’t want to look at you to find out. I just wait for the heat of your voice on my neck. I feel like there will be a difference in temperature to solve the mystery. If I was close, if I was somewhere near the town your voice, the one I couldn’t hear, was visiting, then I’ll feel a soft warmth spreading. If you were closer to the cancer end of the spectrum, only the fact that a neck can’t really fall off the body very easily will save me from the consequences of frostbite.

I’m waiting and I’m waiting and I start to think that if I looked up, if I lifted my head from my hands and angled my neck so I could see your face again, your mouth would be moving again in the way that makes me think you’re talking to me, and I’d have to face the possibilty that I have gone deaf now, that it isn’t the not hearing you that I have so often, but a brand new not hearing you which really means not hearing at all, and I’m bracing myself to do this when I feel your finger touching me, or at least what I think is your finger, insistently pushing itself into my shoulder without even coming close to sinking in. I wait to see if this maybefinger will stop before I finally raise my head just enough to see what the maybefinger wants, what it is trying to accomplish with repetitive motion and increasing pressure.

It is your finger, and it is the same as your other fingers, even the ones attached to your other hand, except that it is not doing the same thing. This one finger is poking me while the fingers at the end of the other hand are holding something, holding it out to me like an offering, and I reach what is left of my hand out to grasp what your whole other hand is holding out to me, or in my general direction.

I take whatever it is from you and I am afraid to look at it. I can’t imagine what it could be, what your finger wanted me to have so badly, what it worked so hard to get me to notice and then take. What if it is the end? What if it is the thing that tells me that there isn’t any more us and there won’t be any more chances to figure out how to hear your voice and even make one of my own that talks about things other than rapidly declining pop stars?

I look at your face to make sure that it isn’t making any of those word motions, and to delay having to look at the thing that might be the end, and your face surprises me, which I did not know it could still do. Your face is smiling, and your face is waiting, but your face is waiting in a way that doesn’t make me wring and work these halfhands. This waiting in your face does not make me want to stall and delay and figure out a way to lie without lying and without being caught. This thing your face is doing makes me want to see what your hands gave me, and I find the courage to look, and I am holding Paula Abdul’s legendary and misunderstood 1988 album, Forever Your Girl. It is on vinyl. It is an import. I’m thinking about never lying to you again.

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