portion of the artwork for Lydia Copeland Gwyn's story

Lydia Copeland Gwyn

One day you married, and I read about your young wife and her Fulbright scholarship from the postcard you sent your mother. I pictured your wife in the postcard photo, barefoot in the ruins in Mexico by an ocean the color of cough syrup.

Your mother poured ginger ale into coffee mugs, and the two of us sipped it and unwrapped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on her lawn. The purple martins flew from their oval home to the tree above us, sitting there like small black shoes.

I feigned happiness, sincerity. Trying not to seem too desperate for details. Taking your life now in piecemeal.

Years earlier on this same lawn, you and I spent all of a summer smoking pot while your mother worked. We drank the wine she left us in the cooler and stretched out on a blanket, spinning with the hum of the Jacuzzi heater. That summer you perfected my cartwheel, held my ankles, palmed the sway out of my back until I was a line even with the line of your body, until my legs could lead me down like a star across the grass. We recited Chaucer in Middle English, drew runes up the insides of our arms. Tried out different ways of kissing. You got strep throat, and when the blisters went away you got laryngitis. I interpreted your nods and gestures, your fingers across my body.

At night we watched the clouds blow over us, the heat lightning behind the mountains. We listened to the wind in the maples and your mother’s juniper. You’d pin me down, pull my hands over my head, pull my shirt, my skirt. I pretended to struggle, biting your cheek when I wanted to stop. I’d come home late. Smelling of your deodorant. Telling everyone I was stuck in traffic.

Your mother threw half of her chocolate to the birds. They’d been waiting for this. She was telling me about your next visit. How she was planning on cleaning the poems from your room and the pinups from your old wall. She wondered if your wife would enjoy a vase of fresh flowers on the dresser by the window. If the old mattress was comfortable enough. If there would be room in the closet between your teenage clothes.

I thought of you unlacing the dress of your new wife in some sweltering room where no breeze blows through the open window and no overnight lows gather in to cool you. Where the walls don’t quite meet the floor and the street light leaks onto the feet of the furniture.

Can you see me these days? Bringing your mother lotto tickets, sitting at your family’s dinner table? Alone in my old, clunking car finding a song? Teaching my students the Parisian way to pronounce Frère Jacques?

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 46 | Fall 2015