You came home that evening in a pea coat you bought in Dublin, and when you saw me at the table with some film, with my camera, you said:
IIIIIIIIIIII—You won’t believe what happened today.
IIIIIIIIIIIII set the camera aside.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Tell me, I said. Something bad?
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou sat at the table. You were concerned about the camera.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Is it broken? you asked. Did it damage the film?
IIIIIIIIIIII—I’ll fix it. I’ll try to. What happened?
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou cradled the camera in your hands and knew I couldn’t repair it. You saw the film in a coil near some flowers I’d bought you.
IIIIIIIIIIII—A work thing, you told me. My boss.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou put the camera on the table and slipped the coat from your shoulders. You put the coat on the chair back, and on the coat’s satin lining, I saw the label, letters stitched into fabric.
IIIIIIIIIIII—I was in my office, you said, and I heard something behind me. I didn’t turn, though. I waited till he spoke to me, and when I looked, there he was. With his hands on his hips. He wore a swimsuit. Those swim briefs. The small ones.
IIIIIIIIIIIII reached for your hand.
IIIIIIIIIIII—He stood there, you said, and he asked how he looked. He said he’d bought them—the briefs—for vacation.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou’d picked the paint from your fingernails again. The nails were pink near the bottom like the dress you wore to the wedding last April—the dress that had a stain on the shoulder in the shape of a comma. No one would see it, I told you, but you scrubbed the stubborn stain with a washcloth, and later, at the reception, you asked to leave before we ate. I drove us home. In my car the next morning, I found flakes of paint on the car seat—flakes the same muted blue as your nail polish.
IIIIIIIIIIII—What did you say? I asked.
IIIIIIIIIIII—I told him he’d certainly make an impression.
IIIIIIIIIIIILater, as you bathed, I looked for his name in the phonebook. You didn’t care, you insisted—planned to leave the job soon.
IIIIIIIIIIII—That’s not right, though, I said. He can’t do that.
IIIIIIIIIIIII asked you where he lived.
IIIIIIIIIIII—I want to talk to him, I said. Set him straight.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou looked at me then. It was the same look you gave me when you soaped the small stain that I said no one would notice. A look of pity. Annoyance. Disappointment.
God had shared the bed with us.
IIIIIIIIIIII—God, you said in bed when I touched you.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Caitlyn, I said.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Oh my god.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou held your body against me. I felt your breath when you whispered—heard the breath in your voice.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Oh my god.
IIIIIIIIIIIIWith your eyes closed. A prayer.
IIIIIIIIIIIIThe bed was warm with the heat of god. As a child, as an acolyte, I lit the wicks of white altar candles. To a cross overhead—a cross colossal and stern—I bowed with gratitude, deference, fear.
IIIIIIIIIIIII was awed by its immensity.
IIIIIIIIIIIIAt twenty, at a wake, I placed god in a classmate’s casket, and they buried my god with his body.
IIIIIIIIIIIIBut your skin resurrected it.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Oh my god, you said always.
IIIIIIIIIIIII tasted sweat on your neck.
IIIIIIIIIIIIWe could feel god. Our bed was religion.
You smelled like Secret and bath soap. You wore a plaid shirt with buttons, and when you adjusted the thermostat:
IIIIIIIIIIII—Should I wear a sweater? you asked me.
IIIIIIIIIIIII’d left the phonebook on the table beside the film and the camera. You touched a finger to its open pages, your nail with ragged polish scanning paper sheer as onion skin. As you closed the fat phonebook:
IIIIIIIIIIII—Are you ready? you asked.
IIIIIIIIIIII—We don’t have to go. Let’s stay in.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou took my keys from the counter and slipped a finger through the key ring.
IIIIIIIIIIII—We should go soon, you said. We’ll be late.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou spun the keys on your finger. As I searched for my wallet, you went to the closet. You returned with your shoes and a sweater. You put the keys in my hand and took your coat from the chair.
IIIIIIIIIIII—I don’t need you, you said, to protect me.
IIIIIIIIIIII—I think it’s ruined, I told you. The film.
The first time I dreamed of you, I dreamed you’d dyed your hair blonde. In the morning, when I told you about the dream, you were making crepes in the kitchen. You made crepes on Sundays but were never happy with them. You said they didn’t taste like your mother’s crepes, and as I put the eggshells in the trashcan, I said:
IIIIIIIIIIII—In the dream, I was angry.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Did I look bad as blonde?
IIIIIIIIIIII—You looked different. You didn’t look like you anymore.
IIIIIIIIIIIII watched you butter the skillet. Before you took the batter from the counter—before you poured the batter in the skillet and made the kitchen smell of crepes—you moved the hair from your face with your wrist.
IIIIIIIIIIII—I wouldn’t do that, you know. Dye my hair.
IIIIIIIIIIIII took the forks from the drawer and took the plates from the cupboard. I set them on the table, and as you finished the crepes:
IIIIIIIIIIII—I’m in your dreams now, you said.
IIIIIIIIIIIIAnd you smiled. You said:
IIIIIIIIIIII—These crepes look fantastic.
We parked down the street and walked through slush on the sidewalk. The snows from the work week were beginning to melt, and the shoes you wore because they were canvas and comfortable soon were soggy and cold.
IIIIIIIIIIII—We can go back, I told you.
IIIIIIIIIIII—No, you said. It’s fine. Let’s keep walking.
IIIIIIIIIIIIAt an intersection where the gutter was dammed and slush was stagnant and deep, I let you ride on my back as I stepped through melting snow. You laughed as I carried you, and when we reached the other side of the street and I set you down again:
IIIIIIIIIIII—Bipolar Bear? you asked.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou wore the pea coat from Dublin. You had your hands in your pockets, and when we walked past a thrift store, you asked me:
IIIIIIIIIIII—Who picked the name?
IIIIIIIIIIIII told you:
IIIIIIIIIIII—Do you like it?
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou were silent for a block or so, and when we came to the record store—when I opened the door for you—you took your hands from your pockets. You breathed into your hands.
IIIIIIIIIIII—It’s a good name, you said.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Do you think so?
IIIIIIIIIIII—For a band, yes. It works for a band.
IIIIIIIIIIIIThe store was crowded already. We stood in back, near the soul albums, and because the band hadn’t started, you browsed through some records. You read the names on the albums. You read titles of songs. You showed me records you liked, and when the band started playing and we moved toward the stage, you took my hand. You asked me:
IIIIIIIIIIII—Which is your cousin?
Beside the drummer, who played shirtless—behind the singer in dark sunglasses and the guitarist, who wore motorcycle boots—was my cousin, who was turned toward the speakers.
IIIIIIIIIIII—There. To the right. He plays bass.
IIIIIIIIIIIIHe found the strings with his fingers. His instrument rumbled above the shriek of his bandmate’s Stratocaster, and you stared at my cousin with his back to the audience. You stared till the song’s final note, and as the others applauded:
IIIIIIIIIIII—I like them, you said.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou took your coat off.
IIIIIIIIIIII—They’re good. We can’t leave.
You were in a pageant in high school. You were starting college that autumn, and the winners earned scholarships. You played piano and sang and wore your sister’s green prom dress. You smiled on the stage till it pained you.
IIIIIIIIIIIIContestants came from each of the area high schools. When you met them before the pageant, you wondered which was the prettiest, and as the pageant was ending—as results were compiled—you hoped they’d hand you the flowers, the crown.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou didn’t win, though. You weren’t first runner-up or second runner-up, and when the pageant was over and you stepped out of your dress, you walked away from the other girls. You cried near a closet. It was a small county beauty pageant, and you hadn’t even placed.
IIIIIIIIIIII—I remember that, you told me once. I remember it when I’m out with my friends, and no one asks for my number. Or when men try to tell me I’m pretty.
IIIIIIIIIIII—I meant it. I thought that you’d like it.
IIIIIIIIIIII—I don’t believe you. Tell me anything else.
When the concert was finished and the only sound that remained was the electric hum of speaker feedback:
IIIIIIIIIIII—Hold my coat, you said.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou went down the hall where the restrooms were. My cousin drank a Guinness by the stage, and when he saw me, he asked me:
IIIIIIIIIIII—What did you think?
IIIIIIIIIIIII told him that his bandmate’s guitar was out of tune. I told him that the drummer was getting better and that the songs were tremendous. I told him that our aunt was in remission again.
IIIIIIIIIIII—She came to see us, he said. In Columbus.
IIIIIIIIIIIII saw you across the record store. You talked to a man in a bomber jacket and to his girlfriend, who wore bangs. You laughed as you spoke to them, and as the owner of the store put on a Joy Division record, I asked my cousin:
IIIIIIIIIIII—Are you driving back tonight?
IIIIIIIIIIII—We’ll try. But the weather—
IIIIIIIIIIIISome of the audience members were leaving the concert. They held the door as they exited, and cold air blew through the store. You hugged your arms against your body. You came through the crowd. You said:
IIIIIIIIIIII—I don’t think so.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou took your coat. Put it on. Met my cousin.
IIIIIIIIIIII—He used to live with me, I told you. Then he started the band.
IIIIIIIIIIII—We were younger then, my cousin said. Wilder.
IIIIIIIIIIIIHe complimented the coat.
IIIIIIIIIIII—It’s from Dublin, you told him.
IIIIIIIIIIIII saw you pick at your nails.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Let’s get going, I told you. The roads.
On a gray day in Dublin, you looked out the window. You took the sheet from the bed and held the sheet to your chest.
IIIIIIIIIIII—It looks cold out, you said. Kind of gloomy.
IIIIIIIIIIIIOur hotel was near the river. Below us, you saw cars. Some pedestrians. A sightseeing bus.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Wear my jacket, I told you.
IIIIIIIIIIIIBut because we were staying for a week, we went to a department store on Abbey Street. You found a pea coat you liked, and under overcast skies, we ate soup at St. Stephen’s on a bench near a statue. I carried my camera. I took a photo of you when you dipped bread in your soup. I took some photos of children. The fountain.
IIIIIIIIIIIIWe walked around the pond in the park. We walked beneath the arch at its entrance, and I paused to let you pass me. You’d raised the collar of your coat and had your hands in the pockets.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou turned—heard the click of the shutter.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Let me take one, you said. One of you.
IIIIIIIIIIIII checked the camera.
IIIIIIIIIIII—That’s the end of the roll, I said.
IIIIIIIIIIIILater, at the Stag’s Head, you ordered coffee with Baileys. I changed the film as you watched, and then I gave you the camera.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Take a picture, I said. If you want to.
IIIIIIIIIIII—I want to wait, you said. I want to wait till you’re looking away. When you’re not ready for it.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou carried the camera as we walked along the river. It was dark then, and there were gulls on the rails looking lazy and pompous.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Stand beside them, you said. By the gulls.
IIIIIIIIIIIII leaned on a rail. The river was below me, and there were gulls to my right.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Try to scare them, you said. Make them fly.
IIIIIIIIIIIII clapped my hands at the birds. The gulls looked bothered, bewildered, and they soared from the rails not in fear but in annoyance.
IIIIIIIIIIIIThe camera clicked then. You laughed.
IIIIIIIIIIII—That’s the one.
IIIIIIIIIIIIWhen you gave me the camera, I saw that your nails, Kerry green, still had all of their polish. We could almost hear the buskers from Temple Bar and saw the streetlights reflect in the river.
IIIIIIIIIIIIThe lamplight was on at the Ha’penny Bridge. We crossed the bridge together. It was busy with tourists, and when I tried to take your photo beneath the archway:
IIIIIIIIIIII—Let’s go back, you said. It’s cold.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Let’s wait a bit longer.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Put the camera away. No more photos.
IIIIIIIIIIIIIn our hotel room, you slept in your coat.
It rained as we walked to the car—a rain that froze when it landed—and after I started the engine, you sat with your hands against the vents as I scraped ice from the windows.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Please be careful, you said. It looks slick.
IIIIIIIIIIIIWe turned the heat on the windshield. I drove away from the meter we’d parked beside, and when we reached the light at Calhoun Street, you asked me to stop. The windows had iced already.
IIIIIIIIIIII—I can’t see anything, I said, and because we were alone at the intersection, I opened the door. I broke the ice off the wipers as you watched through the windshield.
IIIIIIIIIIIII scraped the windows again—scraped them better.
IIIIIIIIIIIIThe rain was constant, monotonous, cold. You looked miserable, and when we drove through the intersection, I thought of the car ride last April when we went from the wedding—when you picked at blue nail polish.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Is something wrong? I asked you as we drove from the reception.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou didn’t look from your hands. Remembering the bride and the groom at the altar:
IIIIIIIIIIII—It’s the way he looked at her, you said.
IIIIIIIIIIII—What about it?
IIIIIIIIIIII—You only see me like that when you look through a camera.
IIIIIIIIIIIIThrough the rest of that drive, you were a rowboat at sea drifting farther away. You’d soon be beyond me, and at home, I told you:
IIIIIIIIIIII—Maybe we need to get away for a while. Where do you want to go? We can go anywhere.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou thought about it, and before we slept—before you reached for the lamp on the nightstand—you kissed me on the temple.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Dublin, you said.
IIIIIIIIIIIISo we went.
IIIIIIIIIIIIIce started forming where the wipers couldn’t reach. The side windows frosted, and you asked me:
IIIIIIIIIIII—Where are we going?
IIIIIIIIIIII—Home, I said.
IIIIIIIIIIII—This isn’t the way.
IIIIIIIIIIIIWe passed a high school. A hospital. I braked by a service station and felt the car slide beneath me. You didn’t notice. You had your hands in your lap. You were picking at your nail polish. You tried to see through the ice on the windshield, but as the rain continued, the wipers smeared the freezing water. Ice on the wipers formed in crystals like rock candy, and when I glanced at you, your skin looked eerie and blue in the dash lights.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou leaned forward. Through a clear patch on the windshield—through a space no larger than a file folder—you tried to read the green street signs.
IIIIIIIIIIII—I’ve never been here, you told me. Are you sure you’re not lost? There’s a station right there. We can stop.
IIIIIIIIIIIIBut I didn’t stop. I signaled. I turned. And when you looked from the window—when you stared at my face—you said:
IIIIIIIIIIII—I know what you’re doing. I know where we’re going.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYou felt betrayed—said:
IIIIIIIIIIII—I shouldn’t have told you.
IIIIIIIIIIIIThe windshield wipers waved at us in quick, clumsy arcs. Their blades caught on ridges of ice, and as we drove by the houses:
IIIIIIIIIIII—Do you know where he lives? I asked.
IIIIIIIIIIII—I’ve never seen it, you said. I don’t know.
IIIIIIIIIIIII turned the heat setting higher. It was warm in the car, but the ice on the glass thickened. Porchlights past the windows were like match flames in fog, but I kept driving—driving though I didn’t know his house number.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Does he live near the park?
IIIIIIIIIIII—I don’t have any idea.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Does his house have a gate?
IIIIIIIIIIII—I don’t know.
IIIIIIIIIIIINothing was clear anymore. I steered the car by the edge lines—by the stripes of white paint along the side of the road—and when I bumped against the curb, you put your hand on my knee.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Why are you doing this? you asked me.
IIIIIIIIIIII—Because I have to, I said.
IIIIIIIIIIIIOut the window, we saw a world glazed with ice.
At night, when you slept beside me, I’d sometimes reach through the darkness to find you. You slept with your weight on your shoulder, your body turned toward the wall where I lay silent, awake. I tried to see you in the darkness. I put a hand on your hip—on the ridge where the bone was—and when the darkness deepened, I pulled you close to me. We woke in the morning to find the points of our hips pressing against one another, and I put my hand in your hair and kissed your shoulder, your neck.
IIIIIIIIIIIII sometimes reach for you still, but there is nothing beside me. Morning arrives, and I am alone in my bed.
IIIIIIIIIIIIYour coat is in the closet in a room I don’t go in anymore. The smell of your soap is in its fabric. I put your things in the closet, and the coat soaks them all in your scent.
IIIIIIIIIIIIThe camera is there also. Broken, unrepairable, it waits in a box that held a teakettle someone gave us as a gift. Some rolls of film sit beside it. The film is damaged, undeveloped, and it coils in the box like twists of ribbon or tapeworm. Our fingerprints are on the edges of the filmstrips, near the perforations. The film had photos from Dublin once. The photos are lost. I see the dark, empty frames. I remember.