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She didn’t care for how I’d taken to drinking myself to sleep most nights. I didn’t like her tone when she spoke to strangers, which was any chance she got. We slept in shifts. The movies were my second home.

The car radio cast our only neutral tone. We clipped the blush from rose stems that’d fall and parlay their own petals’ mischief into real trouble. “Here we never seem to go,” was my constant complaint. The drapes opened and closed. So did the garage door. All I got for my troubles was a mowed lawn and trashcans filled with empties.

“It’s only your fingers I care about now…and maybe your hair. Always loved that stylish hair you’ve got.”

“We’re separate. We’re always so damn far away. I’ll dye it.”

“No. You should eat what you want.”

“Wanting’s overrated. Besides, I’m talking about my ‘stylish hair,’ darling ass.”

We forgot each other’s ways, and then got lost in our own. Mutual admonishment. The abolition of sense. And soon we bayed at the TV’s internal testament to the droll wonder of our cherished togetherness.

“Lots of laughs, on you, at me, indivisible, two people under law, living out of grace but not in sin.”

“Deeper than violets, but less wild. A clutch of cares woven and laced into God’s hip pocket.”

“She whom we don’t believe in. Lurkers and messy dressers. Hawkers of tonic solutions.”

“I’m a bit crazy about you.”

“Fantasies about changing the natural order of things. Us? We’re the sum total of the choices we opt for, capacity for being out of love notwithstanding.”

“Of course. Of course.”

I took her hand with a dash of pepper under the armpit. Derision thumped a few troubles from its paws. Sometimes the thatched-apart breakfast stories delivered themselves to the taker in me, and I took my coffee cold, without the proper time to sip it in. She spilled ice everywhere. I used a besom of ornery twigs to clean it up.

“You’re played out. Sweeping becomes you, though.”

I whittled a clanky smile into a mushy, “Thanks bunches.”

“Sure are dour today, are we not?”

Then there were episodic rivalries, wood placard-like signs hung in the sidewalk trees reading, “Do unto others someplace else,” and, “No laughing matters in this vicinity.” We paid less attention to them than other strollers, but still lipped the words under a sieve of mumbles.

While we got roomy with our tempers the dissatisfaction between us grew. On TV trays we placed communal suppers of grievances and long, long curls of thought. When it came to the manner of our eating habits, well, it was all a real don’t-ask situation.

Repetition rears its feral tail, at last, and we’re whipped out of context and supposes.

“Could you err on this side of the valley of my mind just this once, corporal?”

“Punished to death, we are, and are not we still living in this world of convenience?”

“In it, deep. Yep.”

“Tears in the wallpaper. Pastel flowers wilting their way to the burgundy carpet. Nasturtiums? Perhaps.”

“First of kin to it. Second to everything else in the 99 percent aspect of dereliction of this most devastating duty.”

“We should just go on ahead and get good and liquored about it, shouldn’t we?”

“We should. But keep your pants on. Harvest the moment for the months-ago feelings you sold to the marrying kind.”

“Heart’s in the bedspread, again. Notch. Fumble. Wink. The usual.”

“Oh. Okay. Or oaky. Or whatever the prancers decide in the ballroom of your sad, sad troubles.”

The magic of the place was scrapped, and after too much stalling, we didn’t have a whole lot going on. But I kept a few stipulations in the rear-view of my mind’s pickup: look lost, get found, rip the rust from the girders and flee. The highway makes for a lonely crowded place when your only passenger’s gone. That was the last I heard from her, but ever since, well, we’ve been better off than ever, and ever, and some more ever too.

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