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I. They were completely happy. Blissfully content. Twice a week they met for breakfast at a nearby café and all the waiters would comment that they looked like smitten newlyweds. They would order separately, but he would always try what she ordered and occasionally he would slide a forkful of his into her mouth because it felt intimate and nice. Sometimes he would stay over for the night and they would sleep late and she would kiss him until he made breakfast in the tiny, cramped kitchen. It took quite a while because neither of them would want to leave the bed. Occasionally, on the nights when he didn’t stay over, she would think about Oliver when she woke. It would start as a lingering of a dream until it became a seed waiting in the back of her mind. Thinking about Oliver hurt her stomach, and made her very chatty. It started a burning in her intestine. She found she liked thinking about him. She didn’t like to see him because it made her fluttery, but sometimes she couldn’t help it. They talked for hours without noticing the clock. She would smile but when she left she would think of Adam and her intestines would start to burn again. She found that Adam’s kiss felt like the imprint of a finger on a dusty glass window. Oliver’s handshake felt like a foot’s impression on a firm foam mattress. Or the pull of a strong magnet. She thought about this as she half-wished that the seed in the back of her mind would shrivel and die and stay buried in a barren, lifeless earth. That night as she brushed her hair methodically, her mind was happily blank. When Adam came to meet her at the door, she smiled and felt buttery inside. They walked holding hands to the hotel bar, except for when they ran into Adam’s coworkers and he let her hand fall. The bar was ringed with sturdy wooden tables seen through a thick glass door, shined until it glittered golden. They entered through it and melted into a cloud of friends and strangers. She ordered a drink and sipped it quickly, biting back the bitter sting as it burned her throat. She wished she had started with something sweeter, but finished it all the same. The couple bounced from friend to friend, parting and reuniting in a social tango. When they came together, Adam would slip his arm around her slender waist and she would lean her hip into his so that the silk of her dress crinkled against the rough ironed cotton of his pants. Adam had always one eye wandering in her direction, and often she would catch his eye and smile. She noticed Oliver when he came through the golden doors, and spoke to him briefly as she sipped her third bitter drink. Both her throat and her intestines burned. It made her head start to float, giddy and dizzy. She continued to flit from friend to bar to friend, her cold, bitter drink chilling her hand as the warmth crept up her neck, tickled her ears, and rouged her cheeks. The door twinkled blurrily as the room whirled and friends spun past her eyes in a song echoing of loud voices and enthusiasm. She saw hazes of people and smiled and laughed and danced and fingers grazed her hips and someone pulled her hand and she felt the enlivening pulse of the music in her head and her feet and her skin was so warm and her dress rippled like water and then her hands burned on the glittery golden sunlight blur of the door. She woke to a warm feeling in the pit of her stomach and a dizziness behind her eyeballs. Dust swirled through a standard hotel room, coated thick plastic drapes, and settled onto the television that was bolted to the over-polished wooden desk. Everything was dark, and everything was warm. She rolled an aching body over and noticed the hand resting on her bare hip. The familiar magnetic pull pulsed gleefully in her hands and feet. It was not Adam. Her mind snapped into place and stayed there as she blinked back blurriness. The air conditioner buzzed. The push of the maid’s cart rumbled outside the thin door. A faint smell of soap and beer and sleep floated from Oliver’s serene form. His hand arched over

Whose law decrees the shaping of the crown? Fixed growth in buds by seed’s design? Or simply of the dirt and brine? Suppose, The logos without myth abounds. Veins palmate will drift to single course, And know no way but of the sun, And answering to nature’s wrath, The emblematic daylight spun, Elegance of all the world. And I, nothing but a passerby, A mere no one in her eyes, Received a call from a drunken friend, And ventured off to find him, and Congratulate him behind a blue house, From where he called my name, And we hugged and he slipped and proceeded Inside, Where we danced, And searched,With blurry sights and fading smiles, Beside, Passed out eyes on solemn isles, Spinning words and worlds of fated whimper. And finally we left the party, into The cold snow covered roads that spelled Jungle moods in asphalt pedestrians yelling Slander so spiteful at singing you. For melodies inside your headThey asked, “Are you human?” And later on, as roots exploding over ground, alone, The ringing lights exposed a note, Atone, His head with trees ‘neath muted skies, He lives,We all have roots beneath the eyes.

I. They Were Completely Happy II. Roots

her hip peacefully. She felt his stillness in warm, breathy bursts on her cheek. The sheets were astray. A single heel sat plumply in the middle of the barbed carpet. Standing up, the fire left her intestines. It worked its way up to her head where it raged fiercely, dizzyingly, and poundingly. The thin wooden door slipped shut behind her. The yellow taxi bumped and jostled its way down several blocks. The window frame eroded away as she traced her finger around its sticky rubber contours. She felt cold. The dewy window was warm to her touch. Getting out, she saw him. As she stood on the sole-worn cement sidewalk and he passed through the spinning apartment door, she felt her hands go numb and her feet freeze themselves onto the pebbly, beaten ground. Her heart slowed. Her dress hung heavily about her shrunken frame. Even the fire in her head faded to the grating crushing of cool steel machinery. Adam walked through the withered garden in front of his building until he reached the door of his car and ducked inside. He did not smile. Their eyes did not meet. She stood immobile on that sidewalk for eighteen minutes before her heart began to pump enough blood into her hands and feet for her to walk away down the crusty, sticky city streets. He drove alone to the café where he ordered an omelet with tomatoes and spinach and a side of toast and drank his coffee in silence.

Bullet Quarterly: Vol 3, Spring  

The first issue from Volume 3 of Bullet Quarterly.