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Ivy who lives among sparrows
She’s perched on the porch steps, in that heavy soft twilight heat that says more about love than weather. There’s sweat beaded on her bangs like dew- nymph of the suffering summer. She’s singing along with Uncle Tupelo’s version of ‘No Depression’, summer-drunk off-key. “I’m going whe-her there’s No Depression, to a better la-and that’s free from care. I‘ll leave this wo-orld of toil and trouble, my home’s in heav-ven, I’m going there…”
She sounds like Maybelle Carter. She likes to talk about how she would rather be alive during the Dust Bowl, starving. She’s wearing a faded t-shirt and salvaged jean shorts; there’s a mosquito on each of her shoulders- little twin devils. Her red hair falls over her back in a bloody wave. Her hips jut out, leaving the green cloth they hide behind to fall like a curtain. Her favorite adjective is ‘lilting.’
Once you watched her swim in the ocean, aiming for the horizon. She wants to fall off the world. She wants to know purgatory. She tells you about her sister. She tells you about how Laura drowned, and how her hands smelled like chamomile the day she was born. She doesn’t shake when she says this, she doesn’t cry. But her green-grey eyes go blue and turn transparent, hollow. They look like Ian Curtis’s. You find it repulsive. You fear, now more than ever, that you will lose her to the sea. You know you could never stop her. So, instead, you held her hand until the blood drained out of her fingertips.
When you were a kid you cared about everything with an exhausting intensity. Now you don’t care about anything at all. She knows how to measure it out. She knows how to love, you think.
Now when the screen door slams shut you think she’s angry, but it’s just the cat. She named it Siouxsie. The creature is grey, long-haired, blue-eyed - and insufferably close to Ivy herself. The day she named the cat, you didn't know what to say, so you just didn‘t speak. Now, you tell her she should call the animal something else. Something simple, like Ivy.
There’s a magpie in the rafters. Yesterday there were seven. You hate superstition, but she knows you’ve been counting. She knows about Alice, what you did last summer, but she won’t say anything. She’ll wait for you to leave her, and you never will. You’ll die together in separate beds, you think. You hate each other so much that it’s like being alive and in love.
When she’s frustrated her brow furrows, into the creases in the sheets she kicks off in the night. She hasn’t looked like that for months. She’s planted a garden, but she won’t grow flowers any more.
You had a parakeet but she set it free and now you can’t stand to look at her sometimes.
You had a son but she didn’t want him so she killed him, so young it didn’t count. He was like the compounds that break apart before they can be said to exist, you thought, at the still, quiet dinner table the night after. You called him David. She hated you for giving it a name. You aren’t angry, though. She would have been a terrible mother. You buried a baby bird under the withered tulips that September.
The house is dilapidated. The house is dieing. The house will bury you when you have both rotted inside these walls. You both refuse to fix anything that breaks. You used to have many more cats, but the window broke and you haven’t seen them in months. She says they’ll come back.
Tomorrow she will tell you she is going on walk. The cat will follow.
That cat will return by dinner time, nonchalantly, waving it's tail with half closed eyes. But when the night comes and she isn’t back, you’ll know she’s gone.
The police find the bloated corpse a week later, by the river where you and Ivy would fall asleep when the house got too hot. You will hitchhike to the county morgue. She is disfigured, but you will recognize your Ivy. You tell them you do not. You don’t want to have the responsibility of burying her.
Alice will cry softly, in her useless, miserable way, curled on Ivy’s chaise like the rodent she is. You will hush her, and kiss her on the forehead and on her lips. Her eyes will be closed. You will hate her eyelids. When you creep back from the kitchen her weak sobbing will have left her shaking, heaving, quiet. You will hold a cup of tea and a pearl handled revolver (Ivy’s) and she will not notice as you guide the metal to her pale temple. She will die almost instantly. Her cheeks will flush with a last rush of blood, and then the white shards of bone will flow in red rivulets in her dark, dull hair and down her spine. “Whore,” you will whisper, "Harlot." But you know it isn’t true. Poor Alice.
You will sit down, slowly in the green velvet armchair and drink your bitter tea. The next day, with your beloved's body - once so fervent, supple - decomposing on the carpet, you plant tulips.
But for now Ivy will sit on the steps and sing her songs about death, in her torn t-shirt, with her whiskey and her sad grey cat. You sit down beside her, and posses the circumference of her wrist in your hand. She knows what’s coming.