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She lies—a word that depends heavily on the word that follows—in (of course in, she lies in something, not about something, not to someone, for that would make her a liar, and she is not that, except to herself sometimes) the middle of the bed beside her quote-unquote Boyfriend of seven months, whom she fell for (as if she did it for him, on his behalf) immediately, but who refuses to call her his Girlfriend for reasons, she is sure, other than the fact that he is thirty-eight (several years older than she) and too old, as he says, to have a Girlfriend, which, she argues, is merely semantics, and though no one loves language, loves semantics (the way a word’s meaning shifts and changes around other words, the way a word—like a person!—means one thing here, another there) more than she, his quibbling seems somehow silly, so she spoons (the verb!), pressing her body against his until she begins to fall (or was she already falling) asleep, but as she falls deeper into sleep (as if sleep were merely a holeintheground into which one falls deeper and deeper, and not the most PERFECT DIMENSION where everything is made of words that need only be spoken to be real), she rolls, as she falls (she must admit that it does feel quite like falling), away from her Boyfriend, which she calls him anyway (when he’s not around), and faces the other side of her bed, where—could it be?—her Ex-Husband, whom she divorced in A State of Desperation and Panic after only two years of marriage and whom she misses (terribly!) but has resolved (firmly!) to live without, is, and he’s wondering why she’s with the Boyfriend—at least someone’s not afraid of the term!—and in reply she grunts, which her Ex-Husband (who always understood her completely) understands completely and to which he adds (he always knew just what to say), “When you should be with me,” but she has already ruined things with him by falling apart so utterly and leaving the way she did, which pissed off His Mother who will never forgive what was done to her son, and so she says quite aloud: “But what about Your Mother?”—which causes the Boyfriend (for, really, what else is there to call him?) to roll over and say, “What about my mother?”—and to which she absently replies with a light pat on his forearm, “Don’t worry, not your mother,” before turning back with full attention to her Ex-Husband, who is still there, or not there, and she thinks of how she wishes she could undo the mistakes she made when she was young and freaked out about living in a Ranch House on a street called Valley Wood Road adjacent to Forest Hill Road adjacent again to Brook Farm Road, where every word was a noun except for the ones disguised as adjectives, and about having to do alliterative things like Weeding on Weekends (With The Mother), and about Starting a Family, which, though not Alliterative At All was no less terrifying, and which all of her friends are doing now, five years later, and which she would like to do more than anything, but which is hard to do when your Boyfriend won’t even call you his Girlfriend not to mention Wife, but, alas, she can’t undo what she did back then (she can’t unfall apart or even fall together), and even if she could make things O.K.—but what do these letters stand for?—with her Ex-Husband (and right now, as she falls deeper into sleep, it seems entirely possible that she can), she could never make them O.K. with His Mother, and it could never be the way it was, for she would be instead like Hester Prynne with a Scarlet Letter—perhaps, why not, her own initial “D”—that stood for something like Deserter, Destroyer, Dumbass (The Mother would have, no doubt, unlimited suggestions), and even though, in her bed, in her sleep, and always, she, the X-Wife (as in Wife with an X through it), was sorry, as repentant as she could be (which, by the bye, Hester Prynne never was), and even though she still loves her Ex-Husband and fears she always will, there is just no undoing the past, and eventually she falls (she thinks) asleep, sleeps restlessly, and so wakes up groggy (one of her favorite words, but only when it doesn’t describe her), and it occurs to her the next day, the next morning—it must still be morning, the Boyfriend always leaves first thing in the morning, even when it is raining and she asks him to stay—it occurs to her then, soon after the Boyfriend has gone home, when she is standing at her sink watching last night’s dishes and washing the cold rain—no, wait, washing dishes, watching rain, cold rain—fall (it’s the only thing rain can do, fall, like she does, fall for the Boyfriend, fall asleep, fall apart, why is she always) on the naked November trees (this late in fall all leaves have fallen), it occurs to her then, after the Boyfriend has gone home—but this has been said already, how he always leaves first thing in the morning, even when she is falling and she asks him to stay—that, oh! how it catches her (offguard) catches her (unawares) catches her (breath), that: No one else, not the Boyfriend or the Ex or the Mother, can break her (fall) for she is free (falling) and something stronger than even silicone-nylon is unfolding within her, ready to explode overhead, hold tight the air, and ease her gently, safely down.


—from Kelcey Ervick (Parker)’s For Sale by Owner: Stories, Kore Press (2011)



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