Sunday Morning | By Carly Taylor
Say you know. Say he’s a dick. Tell her it’s going to be alright as though you’re sure of it. As though you’re sure of anything.
Her lower lip quivers because she’s cold but also because she’s close, again, to tears. Close but determined not to cry.
Pull her to you and kiss her hair; that’s what you can reach with her face pressed into your chest and since he kissed her everywhere else it’s the one place that seems sacred. It’s the one place untouched.
You rock her and she twists against you. She doesn’t want to relax or be still, she wants to rage and scream and slam her fists into whatever she can reach but you keep her close, knowing how much she’ll hate you for resisting her. For saving her. But it’s worth it because you think of what she’ll say, ten years from now when her husband (who isn’t you) talks her into seeing a therapist and she goes. She’ll talk about the friend who held her while she refused to cry, who rocked her and made her be still. She’ll say it made all the difference that night. She’ll say that’s what saved her. She’ll realize halfway through a sentence that her husband (who isn’t you) should have a different face.
But tonight this is just a shadow of thought at the back of your mind. Tonight you’re fighting past six shots of cheap tequila and there’s so much noise in her tiny, silent bedroom. The window is open and icy cold is seeping in, attacking the weak spots in your sweater and it’s all you can do not to stare at her mostly-bare skin brought to life, billions of goose bumps all of which you want to feel beneath your fingers. Tonight you can barely force out two words but you have to say something.
It’s uncomfortable on the floor, but you can’t ask her to get up, you can’t ask her to let you onto her bed where he was an hour ago. You check your cell phone with her face still buried in your sweater, feel guilty because you only wanted to know the time and put it back down before she notices your lapse in attention. Her breathing is shallow but steady; you just wish she would cry.
He didn’t mean to hurt her and you guess you know that. She knows, too. She knows she should have voiced the no, knows she can’t take it back, knows she’ll smile tomorrow when she passes him. He’ll think tonight meant something else. You know that his not meaning to hurt her doesn’t make her not hurt. She’s far away. He has earthquaked her out to sea—she’ll develop her own dialect in absence of the mainland, a language for coping. You can’t kiss her mouth into the shape you wish it was.
Say you’re here for her. She nods. Say you’ll do anything. She nods.
Grey light filters through her crooked plastic blinds. The temperature has dropped further but you’re curled against her back on the floor beneath the quilt her grandmother gave her. Her head rests on your arm and you can’t feel your fingers.
Her makeup is smudged; a single eyelash balanced on her pale cheekbone. You want to brush it away but it will wake her. You can’t bring yourself to wake her.
The hangover isn’t as bad as you would’ve expected but your head still pounds. Your phone is feet away on the carpet, face up, just out of reach. Your shoes are still by the door where you left them, under the mirror with the picture from the photo booth at the movie theater on the edge of town, next to the bookshelf overflowing. You’re just here filling space she doesn’t need.
She stirs in her sleep, lips parting and one hand moving to encircle your wrist. She’s clinging onto the solid thing in the room. You wish you could kiss her into wakefulness, know it would build up a mountain between you, know you don’t have any experience summiting mountains.
Tell her in a whisper that everything will be okay before laying your head back down and drifting into uneasy dreams.
You wake with a chasm between your arms where her smallness should be.
She says it’s almost two in the afternoon. She says even though it’s a Sunday and there’s nothing much that should need doing, she needs to get things done. Polite and cold, she encourages you to leave.
Your legs are shaky but you heave yourself up. You ask if she’s okay. She turns away, fusses with the quilt on the floor, still flat where your bodies were warming it minutes ago. You ask again.
She says no.
You ask what you can do.
She says nothing.
You ask her to let you in.
She smiles, says that’s what got her into trouble last night.
You walk down the stairs and out into the world which, last night, was barren but now glistens, bright white and frigid. Trees naked, street pockmarked, an echo where there used to be breathing and the morning so different from the night. It would be a wonderland on any other morning, but today it is bones. Cold wakes you as it jabs through the worn patches in your sweater and you wrap your arms around yourself to shut it out. You intend to go back to bed until the headache subsides so that maybe you can pretend last night didn’t happen. Maybe you can pretend a love without shadows; maybe you can pretend her a heart still open. Maybe you can make faceless the men who still touch you in dreams.
As you walk, stare straight ahead. The sidewalk is uniform, rough, rough, rough, by squares; you don’t think to wonder at the glossiness until your feet are out from under you. For a moment, you are suspended, weightless, immune to gravity, staring up at too-white sky. It’s a shock when you’re sprawled on your back on the pavement. Everything hits at once. The tequila headache has spread to every inch of skin, the ground bucks beneath you and stars pop before your eyes. Damned ice, you think, as the throbbing in your skull punches harder.
Wiggle your fingers. Follow suit with toes. Blink in the snow-reflected sunlight, breathe deep. The frigid air burns in your lungs. You try to speak, to test: laughter and a low, guttural cough splutters up from your throat. You are a woman in a thin sweater lying on her back on an icy sidewalk laughing and there is sanity in that.
Your phone buzzes inside your pocket. With the fingers you now know you can wiggle, you raise it to your ear without checking who wants to talk. Still laughing, you say hello.
Thank you, she says.
Carly Taylor is a first-year in the MFA Creative Writing program, focusing on poetry and nonfiction. She earned her bachelor’s in Creative Writing and Dance Studies from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where her enthusiasm for collaboration and interdisciplinary art were also sparked. She is originally from Boulder, Colorado. Her writing can be found at Rag Queen Periodical, Door Is A Jar Magazine, and Allegory Ridge, among others.
Featured Image: Author Contribution