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Menagerie

Menagerie
“You make me feel drunk,” I tell him, rifling through a stack of yellowed, faded Polaroids. The pictures are completely foreign, yet totally personal. Each one seems to hold some sort of significance in his mind, because if it didn’t, he wouldn’t keep it.

“The hung over, nauseated kind of drunk, or the invincible, buoyant kind of drunk?” He asks. I smile because he’s quoting my exact words.

“Invincible, buoyant kind of drunk,” I say, nestling the pictures back into their box. His breath caresses heavy on the back of my neck, my shoulders, and I shiver.

“Good,” he puts his hands on my waist and his lips on my neck, rough and restless. It’s not going to go any further than this; it never does. His hands run up my torso, fingers feeling each of my ribs, tracing the lines of my shoulders, elbows, finally the tips of my fingers extended far above my head.

Hands tie, and I turn to face him, to look him in the beautiful brown eyes. My reflection peers back from his set of melancholy mirrors, and I take in the blissful girl, completely overwhelmed with fascination.

“I wish I could add you to my collection,” he whispers, soft whiskers brush against my upturned cheek.

“It would be an honor,” I reply, heart hammering in chest. Silent breaths are accompanied by the ticking of a multitude of clocks, their faces keeping watch of our precious time.

Everything in this house is treasured. How did I end up here? I wonder, absorbing all of the sights and sounds. Beneath my feet, an array of carpets covers the wooden floors, protecting my soles from splinters and cold. Eclectic patterns provide a base for the skyscrapers of history packed within these walls.

“Your mind belongs with Dickinson and Poe,” he decides, leading me through a narrow door into a smaller room fashioned as a library. The rugs are ever present beneath our feet, but the decorations, the collections, change. Rather than photographs and clocks and baubles, there are books and papers and scrolls. I take a deep breath of the dusty ideas packed into rickety wooden shelves.

“Where shall I stay?” I ask, hoping he will sweep off into one of his obsessive speeches pertaining to his gallery. To my delight, he releases my hand and slips to a nearby shelf.

“I told you,” he says, edges of his lips tugging upwards. “You belong between Dickinson and Poe.” He pulls a book off of a high shelf and tosses it in my direction.

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

“Are you suggesting I’m insane?” I query, raising an eyebrow in fictitious skepticism. He throws his head back and laughs with red lips.

“We’re all insane,” he replies, smiling with his eyes. I set the book in his overstuffed reading chair and step closer to him; he pulls me into his chest, and I lean my head against his hard shoulder.

“Why do you collect things?” I ask as I listen to his heart, warm and beating.

“I don’t want to forget something I find beautiful,” he kisses my hair and releases me. “Do you want some tea?”

Slightly disappointed by the sudden change of events, I reply, “I would love some,” before taking a seat with Emily Dickinson and propping my feet up on a foot-stool.

“What are you feeling right now?” He shouts from the kitchen. Mugs clank and cabinets slam as he prepares the tea.

“I told you; I feel drunk!” I yell, fingering the crisp pages of poetry. I open the book, not taking any of the words into account, and run my fingers over the pages. They are well worn, well loved. I like to think he has spent hours in this chair with this book, blonde hair hanging in his eyes and casting a shadow over the pages.

A few minutes later, he hurries into the room with two steaming mugs of sharp scented tea; a smile ever present on his stubble spotted face.

“Green tea with ginger, no sugar,” he says, setting the warm cup in the palm of my hand. With the other hand, I reach up and touch his cheek, drawing his face down so our lips can touch.

“Thank you,” I say when he pulls away.

“You’re welcome,” he replies softly. His composure diminishes in roughly two seconds, and he pivots on his heel, tea sloshing out of mug, to face a wall of books.

“You have Dickinson.” He doesn’t notice the tea stain on the front of his shirt. If he does, he doesn’t care. “I have… who do I have?” He sets his mug down on a shelf and pulls a book from up high, not paying attention to titles or authors. “I have Keats!” He holds up the leather bound poetry journal.

I smile with my lips pressed to the rim of the mug; steam swirls off the top and dances up my nostrils. It smells heavenly and tastes even more pious.

“What’s your favorite book?” I ask him. His nose is pressed into the pages of his book, and he only looks up when I repeat the question.

“What?” He asks with ignorant eyes.

“What’s your favorite book?” I ask, taking a sip of green ginger. The herbs open up my lungs but fill my head; I actually feel drunk.

“That’s an impossible question,” he replies. The chair is becoming liquid; I am becoming buoyant. My head falls against the back rest, and I let my eyes wander to the celestial ceilings decorated with crinkled maps and star charts.

“Nothing is impossible,” I state, attempting to keep my tongue solidified in my mouth. It wants to synthesize into the resilience of the chair, the buoyancy of my body.

“You’re right,” he says. My eyes drop shut, but I yank them open again. Through bleary lenses, I can see him snap Keats shut and place him back on the shelf.

“How’s the tea?” He questions. His voice has changed. It no longer holds tones of innocence and curiosity. It’s cold.

I am vaguely aware of the acrid taste sitting on my tongue. I’m not aware of much of anything at this point. He kneels next to my chair and runs a finger along the edge of my jaw.

“Are you floating yet?” He asks. I nod, head sloshing up and down. My mouth is far too heavy to form words. If I attempt to speak, they will emerge in a jumbled mess. Water washes over my body, holding me to the chair. My lungs breathe shallow, almost full of water. I am asphyxiating on air.

In the last few moments, my eyes are the only thing remaining active. They stay locked on his face, examining every last flaw he holds. One of my hands is wrapped in both of his, and he holds it to his lips. A quiet hush emanates from his lips. My eyes slip shut and I can barely feel.

“Welcome to my collection,” he whispers. “Welcome home.”



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