Two of Us

(this piece is from an exercise called a “cut-up”. i took a bunch of lines from a series of poems in a box that got expanded and filled in until it became this.)

She couldn’t easily fake cowboy, her silk hair falling gently over the dry gravelly skin of my arm that she likes rub more lotion on than I ever did in my life before I met her. She used to like to play-act at being someone like me, someone who grew up poor and farmed not on a fanciful jaunt to the sticks but farmed to live. I ate what I grew, grew what I ate.

Even now, in her penthouse in the city, I can feel the distance between us. My consciousness is ancient, painful. I can feel my ancestors breathing down my neck every time I toss food in the garbage or eat a chicken whose head I didn’t pop off myself.

She’s different. Her whole world growing up was country clubs, kid gloves, and hushed conversations regarding Aunt So-and-so getting sent off to the funny farm for this-or-that (probably buying low thread-count sheets). It frustrates her that I can barely pretend to care sometimes.

She can’t use public toilets out of some misguided fear of “toilet seat disease”. She also doesn’t like when I say “toilet” in front of her family.

But I love her, and she loves me.

If I’d grown up in her family, I’d’ve turned out just like her, and it’s the same for her. We were both blessed with an amazement at existence. And I’m blessed with an amazement at her.

I can hear her in the other room now, speaking on the phone. She inherited her father’s business empire in the absence of a male heir.

“Have the acquisitions arrived?” she asks whoever is on the other end. “They what? Dammit.” It’s rare that I hear her like this. She’s very selective about her subordinates. It isn’t often that they make mistakes significant enough to necessitate a call to her personal phone. “I’ll handle it tomorrow, just don’t do anything else,” she says.

“What happened?” I ask as she climbs back into bed.

“I’m sure it’ll be on the news soon enough,” she says, sighing. “The drills did their job, but they never stopped.”

“So what happened?” I ask.

“The techs tried the SCRAM key, but it failed,” she says. “The core broke down and just…”

“Just what?”

“Exploded.”

“What’s the fallout like?”

“There was a village close by,” she says.

“Were they evacuated?” I ask, worried.

“Not in time,” she says.

“Aren’t you concerned?” I ask.

“I don’t know. This is a PR disaster, especially after I did all that press promising the public that these new drills were safe,” she says.

“Are you serious?” I ask. I let my hand rip out to crack her across the face. She gapes at me. “I can’t believe you.”

“I’m sorry?”

“You’ve essentially doomed an entire village to death by radioactive fallout, and you can’t be bothered to care.”

“What do you want from me? Sackcloth and ashes? Uncontrollable weeping?” she says, yawning. “Let’s talk about this in the morning. I need to rest before whatever is coming tomorrow.”

I spend the night watching the art deco clock on the wall. And her. The fifth-time virgin lying draped in my arms like a fainted Victorian heroine. What can I do?

Of course I stay. I’ll stay and let my head sink appropriately at her side at the press conference tomorrow. I love her, and she loves me.

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