Wednesday, November 20, 2013


            Their relationship consisted
            In discussing if it existed.[1]

            “I don’t want to talk about it,” she said.
            “What?” he said. “You always want to talk about it.”
            “Not now,” she said.
            “Why not now?” he said. “Because I want to. Talk about it. Now.”
            “No,” she said. “Not now.” She didn’t say “because I’m busy,” but she busied herself with the nail file, smoothing and shaping her long pinkie nail that caught on everything: his sweater, the cushions on the sofa, even on the dish towels so she couldn’t dry the dishes. He once suggested she cut it, but she didn’t seem to hear him—a better explanation than that she ignored his perfectly reasonable, sensible, and practical request.
            “It’s just common sense,” he had said.
            “Yes, common,” she had said and continued curating the nail. It was the only one she painted. My mark of distinction and she turned to it in times of stress. Like now. He didn’t really want to talk about it, it being their relationship, not the damnable fingernail, but he knew that was what adults did—talk about it—that’s what she always said—how mature; let’s talk about it.
            So there he was, exposed, ready to talk and she wasn’t—couldn’t? Wouldn’t? Who knew? He thought she was always ready to talk. There were times—so many times—when the words poured out of her, geysered out, and covered him with their heat and stench, words, words, words, and he had to close his eyes and cover his ears. Hiding, she said.
            Yes, that was right. But no more. No more hiding. He was ready. “Let’s just talk.” Emphasis on “just.”
            Her head bobbed as he said that, so she heard him, so he said it again and her head bent over the one damn nail (his private name for it), bobbed again, and he saw that the file was wet, her hands were wet, and when he touched her chin and turned her face towards his, her face was wet, silent tears falling across that incredible skin, that beautiful face that he did, in fact, love.
            Nothing to talk about there.
            “I love you,” he said and took her face in his two hands so she had to look at him, wet face, eyes cupping those tears that rose so easily. “I love you,” he said again, “and we don't have to talk about it.”
            “What! What happened to this story?” she said. “I thought you were going to break my nail and make me talk.”
            “I meant to,” he said. “I really did, but then . . ." He shrugged, mute. 
            “But then I cried," she said and went back to sharpening the damn nail.

©2013 Kathleen Coskran

[1] Thom Gunn

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