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Keyholes Helena Duncan

On a summer day my girlfriend and I saw a skeleton in a box by a dumpster. It was a jumble of curled-up bones, sitting and holding its knees against its chest like those casts of people found in Pompeii. We unfolded it and held it up by its shoulders for inspection. It must have been retired from some anatomy class, but we didn’t know why. It was only missing one little finger bone. We were forgiving. We brought it back to our new place and hung it up on the living room wall. In those days, we told each other everything. We recounted our dreams each morning. My girlfriend’s dreams were always wild and I was jealous. I think sometimes she made them up. We went back and forth until we were talking nonsense at each other. To make the apartment bigger we kept the windows open all the time. The sunlight made us restless and happy. We inhabited a perpetual afternoon. I painted old glass bottles to make them into vases, and she lied and told me they looked good. We propped up the coffee table’s short leg with a dictionary we always had to kick back into place. We reupholstered the couches and argued about the colors. From the wall, the skeleton supervised, offering occasional input. My girlfriend cut her own hair, and it always looked even. We aligned our plans and our goals and our circadian rhythms. We didn’t like the silence of sleep, so when one of us woke first we’d nudge the other and whispered ourselves into wakefulness. Her favorite thing to say was “I’m an open book.” So I listened to her talk about her sister and her jobs and her conspiracies and her music and her travels and her pleasures. I listed my mistakes and my synchronicities and my past minds. We got high off this kind of kenosis. I warned her I’d forgotten a lot. Some of my memories are as tiny as keyholes and she said she still wanted to press her eye up to them if she could.

My girlfriend once told me she liked sex because it’s nosy. In those days we threw little dinner parties every week. Our guests greeted the skeleton warmly. They hung their scarves and hats on it. Sometimes it came down from the wall and joined our dancing. We had little patience for quiet people, so we’d get our guests drunk. The apartment walls reverberated with former secrets. We enjoyed the lives of others, but we liked to hear about ourselves more. They said we were an unlikely couple. They said we were so open, but what else is there to be? We made elaborate displays of our acceptance of each other. Perhaps we were improbable, but we wore our improbability like a badge. At Christmas we strung lights through the skeleton’s ribs, but when my mother came to visit we stuck it in the coat closet. We thought it might have scared her. We heard it tapping feebly at the closet door and we pleaded with it to stay quiet just a day longer. Dusk seemed to come more often. My girlfriend told me she didn’t experience regret. I said what do you mean? I listed all the things she told me and said what about this, or this, or this, you don’t regret this? She was hurt. Those are personal, she said. I said I thought you were an open book and she said that doesn’t mean you get to write things in the margins. In my memory, those days lay flat and exquisite like flowers pressed onto a page. But now I’m exhausted. I’ve been scattered and need to gather myself up again; I’ll need a thousand mornings of silence before I can feel un-depleted. We asked each other everything, but I never wondered why skeletons always look as though they’re smiling.

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Profile for Apeiron Review

Apeiron Review | Summer 2015  

The summer issue of Apeiron Review, a Philadelphia-based literary magazine, is ready for you and a glass of your favorite beverage. Cool off...

Apeiron Review | Summer 2015  

The summer issue of Apeiron Review, a Philadelphia-based literary magazine, is ready for you and a glass of your favorite beverage. Cool off...