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Rough Hands

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Sunlight. Stars, fresh paint, spring time, blue eyes. A balloon against a cloudy sky. Loud music and late nights and long, slow, get-your-heart-racing kisses. Love. Nights remembered only because someone thought to bring a camera.

As I lay on the floor of my decaying loft, I realized I sincerely hated each and every one of these things.

Weak sunlight filtered trough the greasy windows, further hindered by smoke-stained blinds with only half the slats in them. I lay situated spread-eagled on the thin carpet, outlined in empty beer cans, stale ships and ramen noodle cups. I was a murder scene all to my self. The clock that lay upside down beside me read 2:47pm, which meant I was up way too early.

The door opened, and closed.
I let my eyes drift shut and hoped maybe she would think I was asleep.

"I thought you were getting groceries."
Oh well, I tried.

I made sitting up look like a great battle, hard fought and barely won. She sighed and I offered a plantive smile.

"I decided it's against my religion,"
This earned me a cold, flat stare.
"Against your religion?"
"Yes."
"To eat?"
"Yes."
"You're an athiest."
"Yes, well, I've seen the light. Halleluja, and what not."
"You're disgusting"
"I made dinner."

She left me sitting in my nest of garbage to examine my latest creation, ramen noodles with almost expired pizza sauce on top. We ate in silence and left the dishes to blend on the floor.

"Want to have a shower?"

I took her hand and followed her in to the cramped bath-space. Steam billowed from behind the curtain, beaded on the mirror and her eyelashes.

As we lay damp and intertwined on the bed later, I felt her slow sleep-breathing against my side and stared at the dark ceiling. I realized that like everything else in our life, sex had become more routine than anything. It was done purely for the satisfaction of following a habit. I closed my eyes again, this time trying to trick myself in to thinking I was asleep, but the tears still escaped.

In the dark, I whispered "I love you,"

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She was already gone when I woke up.

I walked in to the bathroom and rested my forehead against the cold mirror. Haggard grey eyes stared back, set in a thin pale face framed by too-black hair. I was beautiful before I stopped trying. I had gone to bed with wet hair and it took fifteen minutes to sort the tangled mass in to something resembling order.

I kicked the clock right side up and glanced absently at the scolding red 11:34am.

My cereal was stale but the milk hadn't gone bad yet. I picked at a hole in my jeans, waiting for my body to finish the motions of eating breakfast. Again I was struck by the force of habit I lived in. My thoughts turned to Reo and the shower. I hoped she was at work.

I borrowed garbage bags from the old lady next door with too many cats and a disapproving eye(She was obviously disappointed by the lack of young men wandering in and out of our place, the old vulture) and set about scraping the filth from our living space.

The phone rang just as I was hauling our dusty, ancient vaccuum from the closet.

"Maddy, do we need anything?" Somewhere, something inside me still thrilled at her voice, the same way it used to when she would kiss me in secret behind the college dorms. I tucked the phone against my shoulder and wandered in to the kitchen to take stock.

"Well, we need some milk, eggs, ramen noodles, bagels, some meaningful sex and garbage bags, and I think we're nearly out of catfood and communication," As if in response to the magic word, our most social of kittens wandered over and licked my elbow. I scratched Anorexias' ears and ran my fingers over her prominent rib bones, as I always did.

"I'm gonna stop and pick us up some supper so don't make anything, okay?" I clicked my tongue. She was never one to appreciate my sneaky little jokes.

"Take out, mm? What's the occasion?" Invisible and Monotony scrambled on to the counter to team up on Anorexia, and an epic battle of kitten-y wrath ensued.

There was silence on the other line and for a moment I thought she'd gone again, out of my life for so many more hours.
"Today is your birthday, Maddy,"
Well, that one caught me off guard.
"I.. Right. I was testing you. Listen I'm doing a little cleaning, I'll see you around seven, okay?"

I hung up in a daze.

What was happening to me?

I remembered, it seemed like not so long ago, when Reo and I were newly in love. Things had seemed so much easier then. Back then all we had to do was defy our parents and society, flaunt our unacceptable affection in public much to the delight of adolescent boys and hard drinking men, and the disgust of their girlfriends and wives. It made no sense. We had planned everything. We found the perfect loft, gathered our collection of questionable strays, shopped at the cheapest furniture stores we could find and lived off ramen noodles and Kool Aid and Kraft Dinner. We were almost so hip, it hurt. But I suppose in hindsight, we should have known it couldn't last forever.

When I lost my job, I assured Reo that things would be alright, that all we needed was time and it would sort itself out.
We went hungry for that month and she told me that she wanted a change. I vividly remember the night of begging, pleading, crying, promising her everything from new shoes to another cat to my first born. The make-up sex had been excellent.

I pressed my head against the refrigerator door. I was done cleaning.

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As it turns out, she one up'ed her promise and bought me cake too.

I saw the sparkle in her vibrant green eyes and I didn't ask her if we could afford this. I pulled her close, and kissed her like the first time. Her hand shook against my cheek.

We laughed all night. She smeared icing on my face and fed pizza toppings to the kittens. I spilled my cake in her hair, by accident. I let her shower alone, and when she came out, I pulled her against me again, burying my face in her wet hair. Over and over I said her name, until it became a wordless blur falling from my dry lips, and she silenced me with her soft, damp ones. With my eyes I apologized, and with my hands I told her how much I needed her. Her skin told me the same and this time we fell asleep on the floor together. The kittens warmed our feet and in the morning, she was still there.

Sunlight and green eyes, vanilla flavored skin, chocolate cake and three grey kittens. Late nights, late mornings, watching her wake slowly in my arms, seeing her smile.

As I lay on the floor of my decaying home, I realized I sincerely loved each and every one of these things.





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