What we heard wasn’t wisdom. Friends made suggestions, dumb things. I didn’t hear them or listen. I snoozed on painkillers, lay on linen. Then a private suggestion fielded me over: my own. Live together, it said. The concept was staggering—all body, no brain, by definition nonsense. I loved it. I lay in the lavishness of my own suggestion. It was like knowing something, but not even. It was some time before I could use it. I was just with it—the not-knowing, the not-wisdom. I couldn’t carry it from one day clear to the next if I tried, so I didn’t. I went truant for a while. The stopping point wasn’t clear. I’m like someone who likes to think things through to their logical end. If the scrolling news had ceased, if attempts to contact me had failed, if the line had gone dead, I’d have known what to do: clamp off like so much steam, dig in. Face down in the nape of her neck, I used my idea against her, punching her in the gut with it, so leisurely was IFrench kissFrench kissFrench kissOld Dominionthen Puerto Rican-style sluice blast! This ushered in a period of severance for old slights. I could have put a name to them if I’d tried. Eleanor was one I thought of. Protestors picketed our house with signs. I’d crossed a line, they said. A serious line in the sand. This was a beach town and I’d breached the unwritten rule: no violence. As my own rules are the only ones I take seriously, I didn’t pay those protesters any mind. I was sick of bald faces, windswept pates. I spoke in the voice of the understood—left, then right—addressing these types in measured tones, assuring them that I knew my business, and it was internal anyway, and so none of their fucking business. My girl was busy bagging. Paper or plastic, she asked. No comment, I said. See? I said. No comment. I said. No fucking comment. Now if you’ll excuse me I spoke to her directly in my poet-laureate style.
Why are you so calm? she asked.
I shouldn’t be? says me.
For you, I said.
Four out of five times this worked. This was one of those times. For you, at times that weren’t these times, you’d have hit that wrong one. But my mode was indisputable. Really I was just betting, guessing, heralding. Not a betting man, I felt unusually lucky. What followed was a brief battening down, no visitors allowed. We hung the plastic placard, laid in ample supplies pilfered from the Super Saver. She did flowers in the flower section where the chilly fridges kept them cool, wilt-free. At a little podium, she worked with scissors, cutting stems at angles. I loved to come in through the automatic doors and see her there, or wait in the parking lot in the blinding light and watch her take breaks, or stand by the red gash of meat behind glass while she punched holes in her card. I was an unemployed kid with a broken arm. She, on the other hand, was a diligent worker, if somewhat too attached to the different flower flavors. Anytime we passed a bundle of color, she’d throw a name over it. I got in the groove, too, when we took walks, attributed Latinate to what I couldn’t name. I figured if she could do it, so could I. Those were heady times, though we hardly ever left the block and I refused to let her speak to anyone. I put an end to her private lessons in the Buxtehude. Not to mention her classes in tintype, letterpress, rendering for industrial design. We learned a lot about each other once our contact with the outside world was limited. For instance, ____. Once, ____. For example, ____. Or as the Spanish poet-laureate would say, “Por ejemplo.” I appreciated our openness. We fucked good, but could barely talk. It was good being understood. Now I think: Confront people directly, and the channels for emotion will grow in them. This is the first thing I ever wrote about her and it’s a little nothing, which is exactly right.
Alex Waxman grew up in Massachusetts. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. In July, he will launch the Web site, captainfiction.com.