While she sleeps, the ghost rabbits return, shivering, annoyed. Who can blame them, their fur so long museumed in her anoraked dark? They rip themselves back from creamed coffee wool, streak through winter alleys, warm and wet-eyed again. In the morning they watch her wake in Target sheets, quaking with some small worry.
“I wasn’t expecting this,” her last fiancé said the first night. “If you wouldn’t mind, it’s hard to find my way around.” How quickly she reached for her knives, punished every pelt. How eagerly she disappeared into kind and careless men, into broad shouldered blazers, high school ski jackets, Ann Taylor peas.
Yet there is a majesty we can work ourselves into. A year of crying and running and her coats turn asymmetrical riot grrl pleather, become the bleat of trains in cities he’s never seen, a glass of leathery bourbon, the dark roads home from good and regrettable sex. She wears red and gold agates pulled from Lake Superior, thank-god-negative pregnancy tests, cheap furniture splintered in moving trucks.
At the conference in Chicago, she slides into the champagne lining at last, buttons herself snug. In hibernation her mane has deepened, become a field of snow turning to fresh dirt, to wheat grass. They are standing at the corner of Madison and Wacker, the river a smashed map. The rabbits sniff each icy wind but do not startle, do not bolt.
Once she might have swaggered and bloomed beside a Lafayette burlesque, or among the Pimm’s cups and bourbons of your last life. Back then, you arched your hips in bricked hallways while rain slapped ducted taped windows, while the smoky fractals spun closer to gulf. Now there is only prairie wind and the borrower pond of your own bed. Sober nights you nudge contained storms, go still. Nothing is flung or kicked aside or ripped. You understand this is a kind of gift, yet you drift to her plush raspberry shades, to her plated brass bass, trace the rivulet where she broke, feel the glue that still looks slick. Lit, garish and strange, she would require wry laughter, and an almost unbearable seriousness. Dimmed, she is cool and overwrought, opaque and so heavy in her waiting.
She is my ratty oil slick, her breast cups glinting jeweled plastic, her body strung with cheap boning. Together, we are out of places, no dark bars of tattooed, combat-booted women to frequent, no restaurants where khakied husbands and capried wives would not glare “trashy,” no kind man to nod at our “not forevers,” to run his fingers over our laces, swim me out of her corset clutch, split my mermaid legs. This is fine, this is fine, we tell ourselves. Our days are full of linguistic rushes, of coffee shop talks and patio garden aromatics. Still we stalk our own living rooms at night, so old and so young. We are desire pared to its barest shape, a snarling captivity, a thinly stitched calm. We cannot stay indoors for long.
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