by KATE NURSAS
She explained she had brought her boyfriend, Davidson Legrange, to see her family on some minor holiday.
He wore a handmade shirt with the letter 'P' on it. Her mother asked him what it meant. "It refers to Plato," he said, and she saw her mother almost imperceptibly grimace. Later her cousins, all decked out in Raiders jerseys, got wind of the fact that Davidson Legrange had written a poem for her.
She found him in her father's garage, tapping on a toy piano that no longer could produce any discernible noise other than a soft G. He had not yet begun to cry, holding his hands in his hands.
The poem began,
Stars manage to bow,
I see you in the light
or out of it.
you should just let your
It went on like this, mostly about his feelings for her or himself, replete with so many broken metaphors it made her a little dizzy when she had read it the day before. She did not know if the purpose of the poem was praise or advice, but the more she thought it about, the nearer she was to the conclusion that this distinction eluded her fairly often.
While her family cut up cakes, he begged her to drive him to Home Depot. His broken Schwinn sat in the back of her truck. She watched him try to fix it outside a Dunkin' Donuts. Across from them, at a picnic table, an officiously dressed up family of four mildly ate bagel sandwiches. Their voices, low and steady, sounded like worship in the cool night.
When she pointed them out to Davidson Legrange, he shuddered, recalling her mother. It is one thing, she thought, to love the women who gave you life and another completely to be reminded of her when you really did not want to be. The faithful family joined hands around the table and let out a sigh. She reflexively put her hand on his boater.
Another part of the poem read
tumbles into the ocean.
A man stands on his heels
or falls to his knees
in supplication. Your hand touches my face.
She had looked up from his notebook and told him she thought using the word 'tumbles' was inappropriate. "It's nothing wrong with the word itself." She went on: "It's the association it has with a popular website." She has suspected at first this would make Davidson Legrange angry or chagrined, but he had kind of grunted and put an index finger to his temple. Then his face softened and he nodded. She supposed that meant he felt he was the one wandering through the lighthouse, the person this was all happening to. At that thought she herself had made a face.
The moon bristled and ascended over the Dunkin' Donuts. It did not surprise her that he could fix his own bike. He had said to her more than once before that he did not understand the idea of starting something and not seeing it through to its completion. At the time had been clearly referring to a mentorship program with underprivileged youth he had joined as an undergraduate. In time she had begun to wonder if it applied to her as well.
When they returned to her parents' house, everyone was watching the game in a drunken fugue. At halftime Davidson Legrange read his poem when her cousins demanded it, brushing his bangs back from his face and periodically looking at the sky. He never met her eyes. It was not that the poem was unkind to him or to her. It was that it existed at all.
Back at their apartment in the city he kept opening and closing the refrigerator, or drawing circles on his mousepad. She knew saying something was probably going to lead to unkindness on her part, so she suppressed it. She did not think he had ever been willfully cruel, or she hoped she had not been.
The end of the poem read,
A maelstorm. A haunted, caloric cavern.
Where I stand thinking of you forever.
She watched him at the desk from her sid of the bed, always about to say what she was going to have to say. His back was to her, and her mouth felt dry.
Once in a book by an author she used to admire, she read that a woman would tell you something on her own time, when she was ready for it, or not at all. This, she still believed, was not only sexist, but completely without even the slightest grain of truth that such generalizations usually possessed.
To her, both sexes seemed remarkably transparent. Even if someone she knew did not come out and explain their difficulties, it took no great insight to uncover the truth. As soon as this idea entered her mind, she knew that it was not about the world, held only as far from her as the top of the lighthouse might be from the ocean below in order to guide those who passed, but about Davidson Legrange.
Tears on a fucking mousepad. Jesus.
Kate Nursas is a writer living in Chicago. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.
"40 Times A Day" - Jil Is Lucky (mp3)
"Dead Star" - Jil Is Lucky (mp3)