Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Five Syllables

            She drank yesterday’s coffee.  He complained. That’s how it started.
            Small things. She left the cupboard doors ajar, drawers open, the dishwasher gaping. He hated the way she brushed her teeth, the splatters on the mirror, the snake of her floss in the trashcan.
            At night, in bed, she breathed audibly—too low to be called a snore—but he could never forget she was there. It was more than the hump of her body, her heat, the curl of her back, the tug of the sheet balled in her fist.
She suggested marriage counseling. Her idea like everything else, so he was rehearsing his part, making a list. He couldn’t rattle on mindlessly as she could, laying down a stream of words in no particular order, thought leap-frogging thought, so that when she finally stopped with that brilliant smile, he had no idea what she’d just said.
He wrote down: “That smile.” Top of the list. How to explain? That smile pulled him in the first day, lassoed him, made him pause at her table in the library, bend his head to her book where she was pointing at a phrase: The ineluctability of being, smiling and saying, in the voice of a siren—another complaint, the subversive rhythm of her voice—she was saying, “How do you say that and what does it mean?
Ineluctability, he had said. “Seven syllables. You must say each one to get it right.” He pronounced the word again, and she stared at his lips, absorbing every movement, her hazel eyes almost touching him with their luminescence.
Should he add the disturbing eyes to his list?
No. Maybe that was the one thing she couldn’t change.
In-e-luc-ta-bil-i-ty. Her lips—oh, those lips—write it down. Her lips tasted every syllable, slowly, with his, and then again, a little faster, then in a rush—ineluctability— ineluctability—twice, fast—and then that laugh again, the laugh of delight. He was being fair. Her delight had delighted him, but it still felt like a trick, one of her tricks.
He wrote down trick.
“But what does it mean—ineluctability?”
“It’s something that can’t be avoided or resisted,” he had said. “Something inevitable.”
Ah, I see,” she said. The laugh again. The eyes. The smile. “I perceive,” she had said, “the ineluctability of coffee with you.”

He crumpled the list. What was the use? They were together. Ineluctably. Five syllables.

© 2012 Kathleen Coskran  first appeared in Water~Stone Review 2012

1 comment: