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© 2010 N. God Savage, " The Waterfall"

The Spaces between Us
By Harmony Neal

 

The difference between you and me is that I can imagine a future for us, dressing babies in mismatched outfits, driving to the grocery store, talking philosophy and writing over dinner. And you cannot. You are teetering on a wire, suspended over want and unwant, good times and responsibility. You are in it for the fun, that’s all.

And when I said “the difference” I really meant “a difference,” because the differences are vast and multicolored, and I know that when I write “I can imagine a future for us” you read “I want a future for us,” and I could explain the difference between those phrases to you, but you’d be stuck, rolling over my inadequacies and hyperadequacies and thinking about our trip to California and how to keep from making me mad so that I will still go with you, because you don’t understand that of course I’ll go with you. You see me as a 5-year-old to bribe with candy, and I see you as someone who just doesn’t need what I have or won’t know until it’s too late, but probably just doesn’t need so much, while I am bubbling over.

And when I say I can imagine a future for us, I am saying that I can imagine little dark-haired dark-eyed babies, a happy family, a man who understands I mean well and do my best, but it’s only a fantasy some days, and what I’m really saying is I am 26 years old and I’ve been around and I know what I need and what I don’t and what is good enough, and I know what it takes and what it has to lack and my side looks good, but I think your side wants a different view. I don’t mind, it’s only a fantasy, and I think (hope) that if you don’t really want me there is still someone who does and I’ll get my little dark-haired dark-eyed babies one sperm or another.

I am evolving and you are here, along for the ride, or not. I never knew what attracted you to me in the first place, and I still don’t. On snowy days when the air makes me cough, I think you just wanted someone who was along for your ride, and I’m probably right. I used to be so pliable, and I can still run along, but I’m stiffening around the edges and you and I both know the difference between fresh putty and putty you’ve been prodding and swirling between fingers for weeks.

And I’m writing this now because I feel that space again and it’s a bad time and not worth talking about and your eyelids are red and drooping and there’s so much to be done before we leave and you wouldn’t want to talk about it anyway and I can’t see getting into it because I don’t know what there is to get into and we never hear each other in those moments, though we fail to recognize it at the time. You try to be so careful with what you say to me, afraid I’ll collapse and cry and start refusing, and I try to be clear with my words so you know where I stand, but you always expound on the least important points.

I am writing this now because I didn’t accomplish much today and I was lying in bed staring at my hand, now 26 years old and starting to crease a little, dry out, the lines in my knuckles more prominent, more wrinkles in the meat from good use. I was lying in bed staring at my hand, wondering if I should write about it, comforter pulled over my head, and I said “Please help me” aloud, and I didn’t know why or to whom, so I said it again, a few more times, but soft, like pages turning in a book. And I was supposed to be on my way to the bath, but I wasn’t making it and I was thinking about my writing and all my work, then I was thinking about you and whether or not I wanted you there, and then I thought these first few lines, so I put on socks and a bathrobe and came to the kitchen and put water on the stove and lit a cigarette.

For all I know, it’ll be over when we return. But I’m not worried about that now. Who am I to worry about a future I can’t see, but only imagine?

 

 

 

 

 

Harmony Neal lives in Illinois with her dog Milkshake, but wishes they lived in Detroit. She’s been published or is forthcoming in places like Georgetown Review, The Gettysburg Review, Gulf Coast, Alaska Quarterly Review, Fiction Fix, Sou’Wester, and Prick of the Spindle. Three of her flash fictions are being made into short films in Hollywood. She’s working on a novel set in Detroit.

 

 

 

 

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