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“Bloodflowers” excerpt 4

April 18, 2013

“Are you okay?” James asks again.

“Yeah. Are you?”

“Peachy,” he deadpans. “So will you get up off the floor?”

I exhale a sigh, and get myself to my feet, declining James’ offer for help. “Let me get you something for your lip,” I say finally, “and let me, like, clean up and shit.” My head is pounding as he follows me upstairs. He’s going to at least stick around for an explanation, so I’d better think of something. I dig around in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom for some cotton balls and peroxide. I never use the stuff myself, but I think that’s what you’re supposed to do for cuts. “Do you want a different shirt?” I ask him. Some blood has stained his collar, though it’s hard to tell on the black shirt. Maybe I should just lie to him, tell him I don’t care about him at all, tell him this was all just a game to me. Too bad I’m a pretty awful liar.

“Sure,” he shrugs, soaking his lip with the cotton ball and wincing. I look away, ashamed, and wander to find some clean clothes.

“T-shirt okay?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll leave it on the bed. I need to jump in the shower and clear my head a little. If you’re gone when I get out, I understand, and again, I really am sorry.”

“Bryan, on a scale of one to ten, how angry do I look to you?”

“Not nearly as angry as you should be; that’s all I can say.”

“Go shower. I’ll be here. I hate this phrase, but I really do need to talk to you.”

“Ugh. Lovely.” As James exits the bathroom, I shut the door behind him, fill a glass of water and pop two Klonopin. I haven’t taken any for a while, so I figure James will have about 30 minutes of talk time with me by the time I get out of the shower before I start mumbling incoherently and pass out.

I’m in no real hurry to shower, but feel rude leaving James alone, so I make it quick, brush my teeth, and pull on the plaid flannel pajama pants I had left hanging on the door hook. In the bedroom, James is on the bed, reading a book from my nightstand, his back against the wall and his knees drawn up to his chest. “Sorry,” he says, putting the book down. “I’ve never read Jane Eyre before. I was curious and it didn’t seem like too much an invasion of privacy.”

I pull a t-shirt from a drawer. “S’ok. I read it a lot. It’s a good book. I like the old romantic crap.” I sit on the bed. “How’s your lip?”

“Not bad, actually. It bled a lot, but seriously, no real harm done. It’s not as bad as it seems.” He smiles a little, and then grabs the shirt from my hands before I can put it on.

“James, I just tried to bite your lip off. Now you’re sitting on my bed, smiling, and stealing my clothes away from me. I think both of us should have our heads examined.”

“Maybe so, but you look good without the shirt” he says, handing the shirt back with a shrug. “Where did you go?”

“Huh? Just now? I took a shower.”

“No,” he clarifies, “I mean downstairs. You said, ‘Oh, fuck me,’ like you you had just remembered something bad, and then the next time you looked at me, your eyes, like, just stopped seeing. Where did you go? What happened?”

“I really can’t tell you. I can tell you I’m not on drugs, and I can tell you I’m about 90% sure I’m not crazy, but I can’t tell you more than that. I can only say I’m sorry, and that I didn’t mean what I said, although it’s probably true. You really should leave.”

James looks at me thoughtfully and moves toward me on the bed. He wraps his legs and arms around me from behind, and rests his chin on my shoulder gently. Against my better judgment, I lean into him, closing my eyes. He kisses my neck softly, and then there is stillness and quiet. “I don’t want to leave,” he finally whispers. I don’t want him to leave. I don’t say that, though, and just let his words hang there for a minute.

“This could end really badly, you know, right?” I finally ask him. “I mean, media attention aside, this could be a really bad thing, you and me together.”

“Are you scared of that?”

“Of what? Us being together? Media? Me hurting you?”

“Take your pick,” he says, and holds me tighter.

“Of hurting you. I am seriously, seriously effed up, James. I worry that I’d do far worse things than break either of our hearts.”

“But you’re willing to try this? Us? Together?”

I pause to give this some serious thought. I’ve never been very good at dating, so while I’m pretty sure there is some unwritten rule about jumping into a relationship after a first date, I don’t know it. “Yeah. Together.”

“Together means starting with honesty. So tell me about it,” he says softly. “What happened tonight?”

I sigh, knowing he’s right, but I am expecting this to become the shortest relationship in the history of man if I tell him the truth.

“Honestly, James, I’m not sure where to even start. It’s going to sound insane. Even I think it’s insane. But it wasn’t me downstairs for a minute. I know everything that happened, and I tried to stop it, but it wasn’t ‘me,’ you know? In my mind, I was begging and pleading with you not to listen to what I was saying, praying you wouldn’t kiss me.” I pause, astounded by just how asinine this sounds now that I’m speaking it aloud. “It wasn’t me that kissed you, and it wasn’t me that bit you.” I’m so happy that he’s sitting behind me and that I don’t have to look at him. “I’m sorry all the same, so effing sorry, because it IS my fault, but I promise you that it wasn’t me. I couldn’t do anything to stop it, and that’s what has me the most worried.”

He says nothing for a moment, and I’m curious what he’s thinking and what his facial expressions would reveal if I turned around. I decide it’s better not to look.

“Okay,” he finally speaks. “So it wasn’t you, you were possessed or something along those lines. Any idea why? Who? How? Anything?” I’m amazed that his tone isn’t mocking in any way. Thank gods.

I take a deep breath before responding. “David.”

“David? Your ex-husband?”

I untangle from him and turn to face him. I don’t say ‘ex-husband.’ “Yeah. David.”

James takes my hands in his and smiles a little, trying to ease my obvious tension. “I take it he’s not pleased about us, then.” He squeezes my hands, and I can tell that he doesn’t mean to make light of the situation, despite how it sounds.

Again, I sigh. “Honestly, I don’t know. Things are getting really, really weird, to say the least, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that no, he’s not particularly thrilled about us dating.”

“I can imagine that, sure.” James is being awfully rational and accepting of this. I find myself questioning his sanity for believing what sounds too incredible but which I know to be the truth; it isn’t really fair.

“The thing is,” I stop to think how I want to say this without sounding any crazier. “The thing is… he told me to go to the Humane Society. He led me to you without telling me why I was going there. I don’t understand what he’s doing, James, and it scares the hell out of me. Dave was never like this when I was with him. And until tonight, he’s just been making my life hell by living inside my head. He’d set me up for happiness, then tear it apart. Tonight, though, he broke a promise to me, and he also made me hurt you. I’m scared,” I say, my voice starting to catch, “that no matter what I do, he’s going to follow through with what he said about fucking everything up, destroying everything.” A tear runs down my face, and James wipes it away.

“He’s silent now, though, right?” he asks me, all seriousness, and I’m still shocked that he’s taking this as well as he is.

“Yeah.”

“So maybe he does feel bad.”

“Whatever you do, James, if you seriously believe what I’m telling you, do not make excuses for him. I don’t care if he feels bad. I don’t care right now if he rots in hell. I’m tired of being set up, and I’m tired of being in love with a dead man who’s so disparate from the one I fell in love with in the first place. This. Shit. Is. OLD. And I’m done.” I hope Dave is listening, and I hope he feels my fury as intensely as I could feel his when he decided to play at demonic possession tonight. And more than anything else, I wish I could stop loving him.

James eventually goes home when we’re both entirely exhausted. Apparently the Klonopin has no effect on me. It’s been a long night, and coming from someone who’s had more than his fair share of long nights, that’s saying a lot. It seems like days ago that I let Dave talk me into going to the Humane Society, but it was just this morning. I tell James he can stay, and I try not to look to desperate, but he declines. He says that if Dave is still watching us, he doesn’t want to piss him off more. He says he doesn’t want Dave to think he’s trying to replace him. I feel like this is the kind of conversation that takes place between a mother, a child, and a new stepfather, but I start to confuse myself when I try to figure out who the child is and who the father is – Dave appears to be both in this case, which is almost as pathetic as it is confusing. I must look sad when James and I are finally standing at the door, because he pulls me to him and kisses me in a way that leaves no mistake in my mind that when he says he’ll call me tomorrow, he means it.

***

I lay in bed and wait for Dave to say something, but he doesn’t. “David,” I say to the dark, “You made a promise and you couldn’t have broken it more if you had crawled out of the goddamn grave to come knocking. What the hell were you thinking?! What the hell is your problem?!” I wait. No answer. “You wanted me to move on. You wanted me to be happy. So now that I might actually like someone, you’re going to try and fuck everything up?!” I seethe. “What the fuck is your fucking PROBLEM?!”

It must be harder for him than he thought it would be, I think to myself, allowing him a few seconds of pity and excuses, even though I wouldn’t let James do it. I feel like my brain is buzzing, or more accurately, like something is buzzing around inside my skull where my brain ought to be; something’s waking up inside me. I assume it’s Dave, though he still says nothing to me to admit his presence.  There’s just the slight buzzing, and it stops for a moment when I say, “David, if I could take it all back, I would. If I had to go back as far as high school and never speak to you in order for you to be alive today, I would. If it would bring me to you, I’d slit my wrists to be with you.” Jesus. I mean it, even though it makes me sound like stupid 15-year-old goth girl. If I had a guarantee that we’d be together, that he’d be happy, I’d do it without a second thought. There’s no guarantee beyond belief, though, and I’m starting to think maybe the afterlife isn’t all it’s cracked up to be anyhow, judging on how it’s affected Dave. I won’t tear more lives apart over a hope and a prayer.

“So if you’re listening, I can’t take it all back, and I can’t undo it, so I can either do what you want or not. You’re either stuck here or you’re not. Should I just invite you to stay? Is that what you’re effing waiting for?” I feel like an idiot, talking out loud in the dark, even though I’m alone except for maybe Dave. “Fine. You’re invited. How do you like that?” The buzzing starts again, very faintly at first until I can’t stand it and actually shake my head as if I could shake out the buzzing. It stops.

I’m surprised to feel myself smile suddenly, and even more surprised when I raise my left hand and run a finger softly over my lips. “Oh, goody!” says Dave with my mouth. “This is going to be so much fun!” Oh SHIT. What have I done?

***

There is an indescribable, paradoxical loneliness that comes from being two people. I’ll try to describe it anyway. You are never alone, and it’s a serious pain in the ass to sort out one person’s thoughts from the other’s. I imagine that if I walked into a roomful of people – I picture a gala at an art gallery, I don’t know why – and everyone started talking at once, all with my voice, I would feel like I do now. At the end of a day, I am exhausted, and more than anything, I wish I could just say how I feel without the other listening in. As it is, I can’t think it without him knowing, because that’s how it goes when you’re two people at once, and so out of self-preservation (self-self-preservation, maybe?), I eventually stop thinking about it at all and just let things be the way they are.

There is also the strangeness of feeling the existence of the other. When you get right down to it, there’s actually some mortification involved, because one of you might have to piss, but the other doesn’t, and this leads to an epic battle of the bladder control wills. If two other human beings ever shared a body, I sure don’t know about it; since I’m in uncharted territory, I find it’s easier to just let Dave have his way. Most of the time, he’s not abusive of such control, although sometimes he’s still a dick and swats stuff out of my right hand with my left hand, just to get me fuming. I consider myself blessed that he doesn’t do it in public, and blessed that we are on equal ground now at least, vis-à-vis control of what I still think of as my body. He cannot take control without me fighting back. So there’s that.

Finally, there is the impossible sense of truly instantaneous communication. It is this very communication that makes it sometimes difficult for me to remember who’s who within me, and I know Dave finds it as unnerving as I do since he can’t hide anything from me more than I can hide anything from him. We agree to let ourselves think to each other, lest we become like an old couple that finishes each other’s sentences just to be annoying. It’s stupid, though, and I can only compare it to hitting send on a chat message to a technician working on your computer remotely. Hitting send is as ridiculous as our bothering to consciously think to one another; the technician on your computer can see what you’re typing as you type. And if that’s not enough of a mindfuck for you, imagine you are both computer techs, and you are both on each other’s computers remotely. We are mirror images of our minds, and yet we are separate entities. It gets confusing, hence the exhaustion.

I don’t tell any of this to James, of course. David calls him J. like he called me B., but I’ve come to hear it as “Jay.” The first time I hear Dave call him “J.,” I want to rename J. Grunt Mitchell. I am annoyed, and okay, maybe a little jealous, that Dave shortens James’ name like he did mine; Dave is jealous of James because I know I can’t change Grunt’s name without hurting James so I don’t. Jealousy is toxic; we will drive each other completely mad if we continue like this. Out of self-self-preservation, I hear “Jay” when Dave says “J.,” and I pronounce J. Grunt Mitchell’s name as “Hey, Grunt Mitchell,” and I tell James that I’ve decided Grunt needed some latino flair, that my “Hey” is the Spanish “j” and so we’re all okay with this arrangement. We’ll stay okay until the next round of jealousy.

One morning while James is out of town for a photo shoot, Dave thinks to me, You know that thing I brought up once about ghost sex?

Um, yeah, that was weird, I think to him.

I was joking about it back then.

Good to know.

But, you know… he pauses like I don’t already know exactly what he is going to say.

I cut him off. No, no, no, no, no. NO.

Seriously?! Like I didn’t watch you jerk off and call out for me for soooo many months. What’s the big deal now all of the sudden? Don’t you even want to know what it would be like?

I roll my eyes. He rolls my eyes. We roll my eyes in different directions, and it makes both of us queasy. Two things, I think. First, please don’t ever roll my eyes counterclockwise again. Second, I have a boyfriend.

And you think clockwise doesn’t bother me? And no, honey pie: WE have a boyfriend. Besides, he’s the one poaching. You and I are still technically married.

“And you are still ‘technically’ dead,” I say out loud. “Pissing is weird enough. Sharing James with you is weirder. Please don’t complicate this further than it already is.”

You’re such a buzzkill.

I realize this means I will likely never jerk off again, except that Dave could really try to push the issue if he wanted; he knows I’d punch us both in the dick, though, and since we’d both really like to avoid that altogether, he drops the subject.

I’m still stuck on the idea that people might only roll their eyes in one particular direction their entire lives. Until today, I had never even noticed, not in 22+ years, what direction I roll my eyes in. My mind is blown. This is the sort of stuff I think about now.

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From → Bloodflowers, fiction

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