New Voices: Jesssica Soffer
You were born. You named yourself. You walked your turtle. You went to school. You had dirty feet. You lay in a field. You piled into the Vanagan. You carried signs. You grew long legs. You met someone. You were just a kid. You didn’t keep it. You got into college. You moved east. You shaved your armpits. You took up jogging. You discovered hairspray. You crossed your legs.
I saw you at that party, holding a rock in your fingers. I popped a mint. I cleared my throat. I had pennies in my loafers. I ate red meat. I could change. I told you, I would change. I knew by your face, you weren’t so sure. I was drunk. I wasn’t your type. I kissed you on the Lakefill. I lifted a lash off your face. I didn’t tell you, my parents belonged to a country club. I had season tickets. I thought, you looked so clean, you smelled like stems.
I walked behind you. You led the rallies. I lost my mother. You rubbed my back.
We got a place. We read a lot. We rescued a dog. You worked at a shelter. I was a terrible handyman. My father called friends. We moved to the city. We ordered in. We picked up dry-cleaning. We hailed cab after cab. We were promoted. We hardly saw each other. I drank too much. You wouldn’t kiss me. You said I was my father. I stood there, half-listening, sick of your hoping. You said, you weren’t angry just tired.
We got a bigger apartment. We ran along the pier. We ate organic. We tried for a baby. We tried again. You took hormones. You pushed me away. I moved out. I slept with our dermatologist. You buried our dog. You forgave me. You cut your hair. I moved back in. We almost adopted. We went to counseling. We got a puppy. We held hands on the bird trail and the puppy scampered ahead.
We wore pyjama sets. We saw Spanish films. We took our time at the market. We got a stationary bike. We feared the wind. We helped each other dress. We went to Tuscany. You wanted to stay. I bought you an MG. You named it Brando. I got mugged in broad daylight. I shattered a kneecap. We had to wonder.
We bought some land. It gave us hope. I loved the farm stands. We moved in April. You bought second-hand books. You painted the bathrooms. I planted tomatoes. We sat on the porch. We had soil in our fingernails. We let it be. We reminisced. We didn’t miss it. We left the door unlocked. You found a lump. I took you to the doctor. You had to drive. I blamed the hormones. I blamed that commune. I blamed soy. I blamed the sun. You took long baths. Your hair fell like feathers. I did the laundry. I managed your pills. I spoon-fed you yogurt. You asked for nothing. You gripped my sweaters. I didn’t sleep. I watched you breathing. You were quiet as a plant. You were the same but with a different face.
I always knew, you said, that I’d go first. You weren’t looking for an answer. I couldn’t say it anyhow. I couldn’t commit you to it. You were a shell.
Now, I think we should have adopted. We should have stayed in the city. We should have made more friends. This house is too big. You picked all the colors. Your earrings hang from a lamp. Your socks stiffen in the hamper. Your bookmark stops midway through. I sleep with your wallet. It sticks to my cheek like dead skin. Still. I try to walk every morning. I make big portions and freeze them. I donate to our college. I’ve been meaning to volunteer. I’ve been avoiding classical music. The best hours are at night when I can’t be sure if I’m dreaming.
Just the other day, I was moving the dust. The house was whipped by thunder. I covered my head. My arms were wet wood. I didn’t think of God. I got onto the floor. Before, I’d sat here like this. You were falling asleep. You put your hand on my shoulder. Isn’t it something, you asked. I knew what you meant.