-ality

Histories

by

1.
We met last night at a Cambridge birthday party. It is the sixties, the air hot, my hair blonde and headbanded as I stand quietly against the wall next to the record player. I wear a sweater, you stand close to me, your body at right angles to mine drinking (gratuitously) a brandy and talking about your hatred of late Schoenberg. In this life I would have known then, but in that life I didn’t, and later that night our backs velvet together like two halves of a ring case.

2.
None of your friends like me. I think they are pompous. They think I am a naive, hysterical woman, they dismiss my recitations of poetry and smirk pityingly when you whirl me around the room: what use is a woman who trips over her petticoats? I assume we are in Vienna at the turn of the nineteenth century; perhaps you are Beethoven. Then you take your clothes off and sit naked on the couch, and I grow confused. When did your hair get so long?

3.
Our children are always hungry. There are ten or twelve, all named Mary or Michael after the saints, except for Rosie, who is not. They cry constantly from the damp and hunger, sounding like sparrows that have become trapped inside a wall. It never stops raining, no food grows in our garden, and my mother is dead. When I look at your black hair, or your faraway eyes when you lean against a stone wall to rest, I can tell that you love me, although I have never heard you say the word. Of all the stories I think this is my favorite.

4.
I never wanted to live on the moon, but I also never wanted to grow up. Here, I get one of my wishes, at least.

5.
You dug this warm hollow with your own two paws, and you are proud. The dirt floor is beaten hard from our long traversing of its small dimensions. Although we are old, our fur is still shiny, and I take care to make the beds every morning, turning the faded quilts wicket-straight. Your favorite food is ham with roasted turnips, your favorite book, War and Peace.

6.
An arrow of golden light comes through the kitchen window and falls on my dough-covered hands. In this life it is so hard to even imagine being happy that early in the morning, but here it is natural. My feet are bare and cold, as usual, and as usual I do nothing about this problem. The air smells clean and sweet, and I am alone. You are elsewhere, but I know that you are coming soon. I decide to stay.