Any Bad Thing
Any bad thing someone can do to you can be done in a marriage. Say there is a man, a woman, a dog, and scholarship money from a mid-ranked university, enough to rent an apartment and find one. You get to the apartment, where there is only one bed, and perhaps not even a couch, and the dog is there, joyous. The dog never buys the groceries and it does need to be walked, and a jealous husband might refuse to do both of those things if he has to share his wife’s love. There is a bottle of pills on the bedside table beside the photographs, curlers, and last week’s underwear. The pills are for pain. There are too many of them; the pain-relief hours, at this point, outnumber the marriage hours, but not the hours of company from the dog.
This marriage, unlike some that resemble it, has friends. The friends meet the marriage in bars. He is there, with his scholarship money, which is more than the bakery money. She is there, with him, and without the dog, and if he isn’t with her she is not there, although sometimes he is, alone with the friends and the money. On this night, one of the ones where the pill-hours still surpass the marriage-hours, they are both there, everyone is there, and everyone is having a good time until they go home. When they go home together—because they are married—they keep having a good time, which, on this night, means more drinks, all together with the joyous dog. At one point, the time is late, and at some point after that, the time is not good.
Sometimes they are out together eating ice cream, inspiring jealousy that they can be so in love, with the marriage, the apartment, the dog, and the scholarship money. Sometimes he is there without her, and sometimes she is out without him there, and sometimes afterwards there are more groceries, or there is more drunk, and there is usually less scholarship money. Sometimes the dog gets walked. Some of the friends want to visit the dog, and some of the friends start to ask questions. There are many answers available to most questions, especially with a dog to talk about, a very cute and joyous dog that is preferable to think about in most cases. The ice cream parlors are on the streets that friends are likely to walk down.
The scholarship money is paying him to make very good arguments and he discovers he is very good at starting arguments. He discovers in secret he is not as good at winning them. He says the scholarship money is paying for her to learn not to bother arguing with him, she should be grateful. The scholarship money is paying her to make more clever arguments, subtle: no start, no end, much influence. Early mornings he wakes to the sound of the pills as she becomes one to him. When he swallows it’s something that goes down much easier than her. Without a couch, there is nowhere to linger for the night while you let your desires dissipate. Say you make a promise in a fairy tale. There is always a catch: worse includes worst, sickness includes sick desires, health includes strength wielded against you, better does not specify to whom. How many more proceedings, were it not for the dog.
DINNER TABLE 1
PUT A HEAVY TABLE laying heavy on your anticipations, four legged and without a leg up. First we must thaw our fruit salad, then we can measure the wine. IN THE CENTER of your childhood was an expectation cast in sturdy teak OF THE EATING SPACE you would one day house. No number of lunches could blemish the identity of the dinner table, only a glass of water, a little too cold. Everything you wanted was LARGE ENOUGH FOR one, and sometimes larger. The table keeps its stature as the apartments shrink. You are THE WHOLE FAMILY OR the closest to it two parents could get. There is a belly we still hope to fill. Heavy is the table behind a GROUP OF PEOPLE, stored vertically until such a time as this then longer. Where will we serve the sour marmalade, where will we eat our yogurt? They are USING IT hardily, hardly, as intended.
You had some good content
We played tracks by guitar divas all summer, when it hadn’t occurred to us that women could be good, or that we could be women. One of us was too shy to add comments on the reblogs, and one of us was indiscriminate with opinions, spewing lava-hot takes. You had good taste, piping in often enough, and began to be followed. You were never too long and you were never too short, like your new height.
When the confessions started, things got even better. If all of your secrets are out there, no one can use them to hurt you. We watched movies where cool girls in pink (we didn’t know to call them rich yet) wrote in burn books. You took it a notch further, set yourself on fire. If you tell enough secrets, no one asks if you have any more.
You photographed your only things in new arrangements every day and called it an aesthetic. Orange was actually your sister’s favourite colour from two years ago, that’s why you had so much, but you made it your own. In art class we heard about negative space. Would I ever be more than a face to your vase? If you tell your secrets in public, you don’t have to tell them in person. Everyone still feels like they know you.
I went and studied literature, a specialty in the secrets of others. The indiscriminate one tamed her tongue and became an executive, or else she didn’t and became a consultant. Platforms wear out faster than shoes, as do secrets. I still wonder what you’re wearing now.
1 “Put a heavy table in the centre of the eating space—large enough for the whole family or the group of people using it.” Alexander, Christopher (1977). A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. Oxford University Press, USA.