Eidetic [minutelovestory #88]

You are looking contemplative while picking seeds from your watermelon wedge. Your two children chasing one another in the close distance, on acid green grass that never leaves a trace of footfalls. For you, their endless game of chase is ordinary, but I marvel at the absence of capturing and holding the hunted. But mostly, I am wildly occupied with rearranging the features of their actual faces like fictitious flash cards, carrying one image into the next, but trading brown eyes for blue, blonde hair to black, seraphic waves becoming fine, bone-straight strands. My ability to recall images is near to eidetic, a problem only when it comes to wishing away your face and my memory of it so close to my own. The slipperiness of your wet hair. How your mouth moved when you’d say “beautiful girl” while pushing overgrown bangs from my eyes.

A single moonless night might have revealed you. Hearing a single hushed voice murmuring “I miss you” in the valiant darkness of your kitchen, protected by a blacked-out sky. You would not, now, be dropping seeds onto a paper plate in midday light, every so often endangering an afternoon idyll by glancing at my feet.

"The first time I saw this beach was with a man who, during our stay, compared himself to Jesus, so the trip had not been a waste of time for him. Someone else brought me the second time. We rented, for a day, a cabin across from the beach with atmosphere and damp chairs. I told him it was my birthday. He left me in the cabin, and came back carrying a piece of chocolate cake. There were no plates or forks. He watched me as I ate the cake. I said, ‘What—am I covered with frosting?’ ‘Every day of your life,’ he said, and went home to his wife."

— Amy Hempel, The New Lodger

"Suppose you threw a love affair and nobody came."

— Lorrie Moore

Hendrickson [minutelovestory #79]

We knew Dr. Hendrickson was wealthy. His backyard patio had an arrangement of outdoor furniture that included a three-cushion sofa, a settee, two armchairs, and a rectangular marble cocktail table, mimicking a very similar arrangement indoors. My sister Norah hopped onto the sofa and began stroking the upholstery with her left hand, exaggeratedly mouthing the word ‘WOW’ and beckoning me with the authoritative movement of one compelling index finger. It was camel-colored calfskin. Calfskin furniture left outdoors. Incredible. In his bathroom, he had enough white towels to open his own spa, folded into thirds and stacked in rows above the Jacuzzi tub, the front alcove boasted imitation paintings of famous paintings I remembered having seen at the Museum of Fine Arts years ago. Live people hired to render the work of dead people, framed in gilded gold.

Norah says Dr. Hendrickson fell in love with our mother’s molars before anything else, caressing her X-rays and wobbling at the knees and going faint for her overbite. Before he began pursuing our mother, we regarded him with the safe deference appropriate for one’s family dentist, but this is all changing. He still cleans our teeth, but Mom’s asked us to call him Mark.

"

I want to say that
forgiveness keeps on

dividing, that hope
gives issue to hope,

and more, but of course I
am saying what is

said when in this dark
hallway one encounters

you, and paws and
assaults you—love

affairs, fast lies—and you
say it back and we

blunder deeper, as would
any pair of loosed

marionettes, any couple
of cadavers cut lately

from the scaffold,
in the secluded hallways

of whatever is
holding us up now.

"

— Denis Johnson, Surreptitious Kissing

"I want nothing from love, in short, but love."

—  Colette, La Vagabonde

"Before too long, we were back to where we were before, slamming each other around. By anyone’s standards, I suppose, I’m bad and ill-tempered, but David matches me in that and it’s why we were so compatible. We go about our hypocrisy with aplomb. And we’re complacent, too, mostly about what we have and what we can get. He is my other. But, you know, these are the cards I was dealt, and that’s the way I played my hand, and I don’t much care what you think."

— Charles Baxter, The Feast of Love

"'You're not saying much. You hardly do, you know, when I'm here.'
‘I’m listening. I listen. I’m an ecouteur—an audiophiliac. I’m a talk fetishist.’
‘Ummm. It is erotic, you just sitting there listening.’
‘Not so odd, really.’
‘It isn’t, is it?’"

— Philip Roth, Deception

"You thought you were just a sex toy. I suppose I don’t understand the word ‘toy’ in that sentence, or the word ‘just.’"

— Carole Maso, Aureole

"

may i feel said he
(i’ll squeal said she
just once said he)
it’s fun said she

(may i touch said he
how much said she
a lot said he)
why not said she

(let’s go said he
not too far said she
what’s too far said he
where you are said she)

may i stay said he
(which way said she
like this said he
if you kiss said she

may i move said he
is it love said she)
if you’re willing said he
(but you’re killing said she

but it’s life said he
but your wife said she
now said he)
ow said she

(tiptop said he
don’t stop said she
oh no said he)
go slow said she

(cccome?said he
ummm said she)
you’re divine!said he
(you are Mine said she)

"

— e.e. cummings, may i feel said he

For My Lover, Returning To His Wife

    She is all there.
    She was melted carefully down for you
    and cast up from your childhood,
    cast up from your one hundred favorite aggies.

    She has always been there, my darling.
    She is, in fact, exquisite.
    Fireworks in the dull middle of February
    and as real as a cast-iron pot.

    Let’s face it, I have been momentary.
    A luxury. A bright red sloop in the harbor.
    My hair rising like smoke from the car window.
    Littleneck clams out of season.

    She is more than that. She is your have to have,
    has grown you your practical your tropical growth.
    This is not an experiment. She is all harmony.
    She sees to oars and oarlocks for the dinghy,

    has placed wild flowers at the window at breakfast,
    sat by the potter’s wheel at midday,
    set forth three children under the moon,
    three cherubs drawn by Michelangelo,

    done this with her legs spread out
    in the terrible months in the chapel.
    If you glance up, the children are there
    like delicate balloons resting on the ceiling.

    She has also carried each one down the hall
    after supper, their heads privately bent,
    two legs protesting, person to person
    her face flushed with a song and their little sleep.

    I give you back your heart.
    I give you permission—

    for the fuse inside her, throbbing
    angrily in the dirt, for the bitch in her
    and the burying of her wound—
    for the burying of her small red wound alive—

    for the pale flickering flare under her ribs,
    for the drunken sailor who waits in her left pulse,
    for the mother’s knee, for the stockings,
    for the garter belt, for the call—

    the curious call
    when you will burrow in arms and breasts
    and tug at the orange ribbon in her hair
    and answer the call, the curious call.

    She is so naked and singular.
    She is the sum of yourself and your dream.
    Climb her like a monument, step after step.
    She is solid.

    As for me, I am a watercolor.
    I wash off.

- Anne Sexton, For My Lover, Returning To His Wife

Lisa Says, 2011, photograph © Michael Winters

Longing / Dave’s corner booth (minutelovestory #25)

I couldn’t even believe it, my luck. Scorin’ the only girl in this tacklebait town who didn’t have a goddamn tramp stamp and a G.E.D. to show for herself, slingin’ blowjob shots at the Cock ‘n Bull and hopin’ someone real nice come along, wanderin’ in, to take her elsewhere. No, my Helen had dreams. She was studyin’ to be a stenographer. I didn’t even know what that was. But I was bigtime impressed because it sounded real important and like a Scrabble word. Helen tells me ‘bout this woman one night, over cheeseburgers, our regular Thursday date, tells me this woman’s her “lover”. Yeah, she says “lover”, like we’re in Europe or somethin’. She’s all cryin’ and won’t touch her food, her face all wet and shiny, tells me this bitch is her “soul’s longing”. I wanted to tell her to fuck herself and her skanky soul, too, but I guess I still wanted her to want me, you know? But I was losin’ her, to this bitch in heat with a sweetness I don’t have. I mean, Helen says I don’t have it, right? But maybe I can make it.

Libraries (minutelovestory #23)

When he turned the corner in the magazine racks, she was flipping disinterestedly through a Vanity Fair, feeling less than gorgeous and Thomas Dunn’s “comparisons are odious” singing like a deafening din in her head, sipping a now-cold cappuccino and feeling that she was cheating herself. His corduroys were made of moss. His smile was louder than the axiom in her head, redundant and broken, and it broke the spell. She wasn’t cheating herself, after all. The library was filled with things to learn and they were still learning, weren’t they? Wasn’t this another progression through experience, better than any mere books could offer. Today, with his mossy trousers and her cold cappuccino, they worked their way to the back of the non-fiction section, their respective bags of pens and notebooks and laptops acting as tools of deception. Her eyes dropped onto “The Best Guide to Managing Diabetes”, directly across from where she and he sat. 

He whispered, “You look wonderful.” He touched her hand, limply hanging from the chair’s hard polyurethane arm. Their fingers tangled for a moment and she was overwhelmed with nausea, a churning portent, a gentle foreboding that nothing good was to come. He smiled again.