Edgeways by William Henderson copyright 2012 by William Henderson NAP CHAP 7 NAP MAGAZINE & BOOKS NAPLITMAG.COM
need a new word for long-term love that is neither marriage nor foolish, she says to me, and I suggest besotted, because I have not heard someone use the word besotted in years, if ever, and she laughs and says she means a word that means something other than foolish, because long-term love should be something other than foolish, and I think, and I think, and I think, and I tell her that I will keep thinking until I find this word, and she suggests a swim and I tell her that the
taste of salt on skin is very much the word she wants and she laughs and says she knows. I lie. Already, at the start, I lie to you, because this conversation was not with a woman but with a man, and not with a man but with a man with whom I was sweaty and naked and sweatynaked and with whom I would continue to be sweatynaked until the afternoon I came home and his key to my apartment was on my counter in my kitchen and his pots that had hung from my pot rack which hung from my ceiling were gone and he was gone and his clothes were gone and his cologne was gone and his toothbrush was gone and he was gone and I was gone because
he was gone and he had stripped the bed and washed the sheets and the sheets were tumbling in the dryer, which was still on, and I had just missed him, which he must have known, and I am sitting here, gone, because he is gone. I would trade my voice for a pair of legs that knew how to swim, I told him once, and he laughed and said I didnâ€™t need to know how to swim because if we were in water and if I started to drown his job was to save me and I would have to let him save me because I had been saving him for months, and because he said I had been saving him for months, each time he needed saving I took
off my glasses and unbuttoned my shirt and helped him get lost in skin that was not his but that felt like his because he wanted it to be his. He left, and the sheets were in the dryer, and then they were not in the dryer, and they were on my bed, and then I was in my bed, and then several hims who were not he were in my bed, sometimes together, sometimes just with me, and I wash these sheets every Sunday because Sunday is sheet-washing day and I keep to a routine to keep from not keeping to a routine.
push away boys who tell me they love me or that they could love me, want to love me, are already loving me, and I say I do not want to be loved and I had said from the beginning that I do not want to be loved and they always say that they were the one to make me want to be loved, and I laugh â€“ I always laugh â€“ and I say that no one can make you do or be anything other than what you do and who you are. They say they donâ€™t understand
when I use words like I can’t and I won’t and please go and goodbye, but I know what I mean when I use words like I can’t and I won’t and please go and goodbye, which is that I mean I have fallen, and I don’t want to be caught.
ONE woos with the periodic
table of elements. Hydrogen (H) peroxide. Helium (He)-filled balloons. He promised to take his Lithium (Li). And then he had to get creative: Berries, plump red, for Berrilium (Be). A boring story about his day for Boron (B). Carbon should have been a diamond, or a ring, an engagement, but he told me the ring was at Tiffanyâ€™s and that one day I would have it.
How will you know it fits?, I asked him, and he said he had taken my measurements, nose to toes. And my eyes?, I asked. I canâ€™t measure those, he said. They wonâ€™t let me in. He slept in the sun, and would always tell me in advance that he was going to sleep in the sun, and he would tell me he was going to sleep in the sun by saying that he would reach me when he reached me, and I would always say that I would be reached when he reached me. And sometimes, he would not sleep in the sun but would drive to where I was and ask me to meet him and he would touch me and say that I had been reached,
had been breached, and that I needed to stop being afraid of being vulnerable, and I would tell him that I was not afraid of vulnerability or of intimacy, but of walking into my apartment and finding my sheets in the dryer. I am not him, he would say, and I would say that all of you are him. I apologize when I feel I have stepped out of line, and I like to say that in the relationships I create – aren’t relationships built? – there are no boundaries, which means there should be no lines, which means there should be no apologies, and yet I apologize because I feel I have stepped
out of line. Everything can change in a split second, he told me once, on the day his boss told him that everything had changed and his job had changed and his job had changed because it no longer existed which meant the company’s need for him no longer existed and security would help him pack his desk. I didn’t like her anyway, he told me, and I knew he didn’t like his boss because he told me every night that he didn’t like his boss, and then he tapped a new pack of cigarettes against his forearm – twice, tap tap – and I said I thought you had quit and he said he had, but after being fired, he could no
longer quit smoking. It’s been three months, I said. It’s been – here, he looked at his watch – four hours, 17 minutes, and a few seconds since I was fired. And then he lit a cigarette and inhaled. I’ve never liked smoke, and I realized between the inhale and the exhale, that I had never liked him, and even though I missed out on Xenon (Xe), Thallium (Tl), and Californium (Cf) – which would have been an easy one to woo with, since I’d like to live in California some day – I told him three days later that my need for him no longer existed and that security would
help him pack his two drawers, half a closet, and shelf in the bathroom.
latest loves me and I want to love him: •Because he wraps his legs around mine when we are sitting at a table in a restaurant, and because he knows where I’ll want to sit (I hate sitting with my back to a room). •Because he doesn’t mind waking up hours before he has to, if only to walk me out and kiss me goodbye. •Because he almost-but-notquite told his parents about me (which means something since he
hasn’t told his parents about a boyfriend in years). •Because he holds my hands with two hands. •Because he knows that I like my thumb on the outside when we hold hands. •Because he thinks chocolate martinis are girly drinks, but still drank one when I asked him to. •Because he introduced me to gin-and-tonics, and to limes inside of gin-and-tonics, and to the need for ice inside of gin-and-tonics. •Because he accepts my children as part of the package, but doesn’t expect that we will spend time as a family every time he and I spend time
together. •Because he knows the difference between wit and snark and wields each expertly. •Because he asked me to name five Red Sox players, even though he knew I wouldn’t be able to. •Because he hasn’t Googled me, even though I would have Googled him before going out the first time. And because he wants to discover me in the right time, instead of discovering me in a brain-dump of printed information. •Because he has on his bookshelves many of the books I have on my bookshelves. And because he wants borrowing privileges from my library,
which means returning privileges as well. •Because we started a conversation the night we met, and the conversation hasn’t stopped, growing unwieldly as we develop a lexicon (the difference between degression and digression, for instance). •Because his favorite quote of all time is: They did not believe Nature was ever askew–only inconvenient. Plague and drought were as “natural” as springtime. If milk could curdle, God knows robins could fall.” •And because he says this quote reminds him of me: You looked at me then like you knew me, and I thought it really was Eden, and I couldn’t take your
eyes in because I was loving the hoof marks on your cheeks.” •Because he is bold words, and because I am bold words, and because sentences aren’t always joined by a semicolon. But I do not love him, even though he gives me a new reason everyday to love him, and he knows I do not love him, and more than likely will not love him, and he tells me that not loving him is OK if I am willing to let him love me. But I am not willing, and I tell him I am not willing, and he says he understands, but his eyes tell me – not that eyes can talk, but you know what I mean – his eyes tell me that he doesn’t understand and will not
understand because he has given me several reasons â€“ and gives me reasons every day â€“ to love him and I am not willing to love him and he says he understands even though he doesnâ€™t and will not understand.
I ask him to take pictures in
bathrooms and cemeteries, and he takes pictures in bathrooms and cemeteries because I asked him to take pictures in bathrooms and cemeteries and sometimes he is naked and sometimes he is not naked and each time his eyes are closed because he doesnâ€™t want to look at me looking at him. Weâ€™d avoid Ferris wheels and houses of mirrors, I told him, and he asked how I knew he hated Ferris wheels, and if he
had forgotten telling me how he hated Ferris wheels, and I told him I hadnâ€™t known he hated Ferris wheels, but that I hate heights and assumed we each hated looking in mirrors for separate reasons, and he called me elusive and beautiful and I wanted to ask him to explain, but he wouldnâ€™t have been able to explain because these words are just words and these moments just moments. I just want someone on my left, in beds made with white sheets, and this someone would ask me each morning to not smoke, he says, and I tell him that I would tell him each morning that he could not smoke, and he says he would say that he
couldnâ€™t not smoke, and I say I would still ask, and he says he would still say no, until one morning, I would ask and he would say yes and he would say yes because he had no other answer but to say yes and I would say that this morning was our best morning and he would agree. I called the stars up aboves because the only song I remember hearing when someone used to sing songs to me that I could remember hearing was Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and I got confused and heard star and then up above and thought stars were up aboves and I called stars up aboves and I thought that faeries held up the up
aboves and no one corrected me when I used the words up aboves because they were too worried about finding a home for me and parents who would love me and someone who could help me remember things like up aboves and faeries because no one wanted me to remember what came before up aboves and faeries. And the pictures he takes in bathrooms and cemeteries show ampersands and semicolons and full stops and heartbeats and seconds, split in half, and I ask him how are seconds split, and he asks me if Iâ€™m always so literal, and I ask if we split seconds like we split atoms and he says that days with me must
never be boring and I say that days with me arenâ€™t divided into seconds, split or not, but between before and after.
sends me a picture, which is online-speak for hello, and maybe if you like my picture you will come over and fuck me, and I like what I see in the picture for he is laying in a bed, on white sheets, and one eye (his bottom eye, left if you must know) is hidden by a pillow on which should be a second head, and he is smiling, sort of, and he has a tattoo wrapping around his bicep (right) across his chest and down his side (again,
right) and I like what I see in the picture and I reply: If I was waking up next to you right now, and you looked like that, and you looked at me the way you are looking at the camera, I would say to you that waking up like this, with you there and me there and our pillows touching and our legs probably touching, doesnâ€™t suck. He responds: Would you like to see how waking up next to me in the morning feels. (In other words, come fuck me.) Yes, I say. (In other words, I want to fuck you.) Do you want my address?, he asks. (In other words, come fuck me now.) No, I say. But ask me again
after we’ve talked for the fifth time, and I will say yes, and I will drive to you, and I will knock on your door, and I will kiss you on your doorstep and I will walk with you into your bedroom and get into your bed and take off my clothes and take off your clothes if you want me to and we will lay there and we will sleep there and we will wake up there and I will say to you: Waking up like this doesn’t suck. (In other words: I’ve already come today, twice, so the prospect of disappointing you is enough to keep me from asking you for your address.) The second time, he to me: Are you excited hopeful crushing
anything? And I know what he means because I have used those same words and have asked those same questions and I think that gay men, once they come out, get a playbook downloaded into their heads – probably while we sleep – and this playbook includes questions and moves and ways to put on a condom without looking like you – we – are putting on a condom and here are these questions that I would ask and he is asking them and I want to say yes to each but I also want to say no to each because I have met someone else between the first and second times and he does not sleep on white sheets and
I am tired of white sheets and white sheets may be enough of a reason to pick whatâ€™s behind door number two. Maybe, I say, because maybe is all I can say because maybe is how I feel, and while I want to feel more, I donâ€™t feel more, so why lead him on. I can work with maybe, he says. And his saying I can work with maybe makes me feel like I feel more than maybe. We do not talk a third time because he erases his profile, and once I think I see him at the gym where I go, and I think he sees me, but I do not approach him because he is changing and has already wrapped a towel around his waist and there are
rules in changing rooms that prohibits you from talking to someone who has already wrapped a towel around the waist and I follow rules except when I donâ€™t follow rules and I still like his tattoos and I wonder who is on that pillow, and who, in the mornings, says: Waking up like this doesnâ€™t suck.
I do not wear deodorant, I tell
one man, and he says that my not wearing deodorant is good because he likes armpits, and then he lifts my arm and buries his face in my armpit and I do not like his face buried in my armpit because his tongue and nose should not be buried in my armpit, but I do not say anything because I am bored and mostly lonely and I do not want to be mostly lonely on a night when a comet is expected to flash, briefly, overhead, then pass by, landing somewhere, elsewhere, not here, and not there.
lives in Medina, Ohio, and I live in Boston, Massachusetts, and he wants to drive the 666 miles or so to me (only 11 hours, he offers; Iâ€™ve driven longer for less) and take me out for coffee and hold my hand and ask me to tell him about why I do not know how to swim and why I smell like sunset or sunrise, and how I dance under the moon by myself, always by myself, because alone is the only way I know how to dance.
I used to be afraid to be alone, and now Iâ€™m afraid that I only know how to be alone, I tell him, and he says that loneliness is next to godliness, and I laugh and ask how he knows what being a god is like, and he says, simple: I once was a god, back when gods roamed the earth. I once was a god, too, I tell him, and I was a god who was twinned to another god and we were two heads and four legs and two penises â€“ fortunately easily reachable by at least one of our heads â€“ and we loved each other and played with each other and we were Siamese and not Siamese and when we were split apart, because everything,
eventually splits, he went his way and I went my way and I gave up looking for him but I didn’t give up looking for him, if that makes any sense. Perfect sense, he tells me. I feel like I’ve already had your dick in my mouth. He gets out a map and he traces the roads connecting he to me and says that somewhere in Wilmington, North Carolina, would be halfway. How could North Carolina be halfway between anything?, I ask him. Don’t you mean anywhere?, he says. No, I say. Anything. How could North Carolina get either of us where we want to go?
He is silent and then he is not silent and he says things like you are wonderful and you are amazing and you are charming and I donâ€™t need you to meet me in North Carolina; just open your apartment door when I knock on it. And I have not given him my address, but I want to give him my address, and then I give him my address, but only because he says he wants to send me a postcard from Medina, if only to remind me that he wishes I was there. He sends me pictures of his tattoos because I ask him to send me pictures of his tattoos: nautical stars and anchors and a compass â€“ so he can always
find his way home – and lines from songs and poems: love kills slowly; it’s not faith if you use your eyes; every key works differently; sometimes the fall kills you; I will be your safety; unbreakable; fearless. Why these words and images?, I ask him. I’m trying to tether myself to something, even if just to myself. You feel untethered? I am adrift and have been for years. He asks for a letter and I send him a letter and I make no apologies for what I write in this letter and I write his story because I don’t know how else to say I love you but to
say this is your story and he is crying, he texts, later, maybe while, and he doesn’t know how to say that no one has seen him the way I see him. Emotional breakdown at 4 a.m., he texts. Bottle of wine. Pack of cigarettes. Open page. And I want to ask him if he could measure my eyes, because I am used to boys – men – who were unable to do much else but call my eyes beautiful and different and seaworthy. But I did not ask him if he could measure my eyes because I was unsure if I wanted him to measure my eyes and I looked at his text message with the eyes I was unsure I wanted him to measure and I did not respond because I had already
sent him a letter and in that letter I had said everything that needed to be said.
was in heat and now I am not in heat and I like my bed and its clean sheets and I still wash my sheets on Sunday and sometimes I still go online and I look at pictures and then I stop looking at pictures and I go to bed and sometimes I masturbate to porn and sometimes I masturbate to nothing and I am the best at what I do and I do it with my eyes closed because I do not want to see disappointment. One morning I get an e-mail
from a service offering daily horoscopes for couples. Romantic Daily Horoscopes, I think is the service provider, and I do not open the first of these e-mails, and I do not open the second of these e-mails, and I do not open the third of these e-mails, and when I open the fourth of these e-mails, the e-mail is really from someone in Nigeria offering me $100,000 if I verify some information, including back account routing numbers and pin numbers. You will come into a windfall of cash, the horoscope at the end of the e-mail. And I wonder if this man in Nigeria is my missing half. He says the right things, offers
to make my dreams come true, and I expect he is handsome, since he says the right things and offers to make my dreams come true, but when I send him wrong account numbers and incorrect routing numbers and a pin number that is not my pin number, he replies: FUCK YOU.
THIS is not my story to
tell, but I am telling this story that is not my story to tell because it is about him and I loved him or I wanted to love him and he loved me or wanted me to love him and after he told me this story, which is not my story to tell, he asked me if I still wanted to love him, or if I still could love him, and I said I still wanted to love him, and I still could love him, and he told me that most people leave him after hearing this story that
is not my story to tell. And I told him I am not most people, and he said he knew I was not most people because I listened to this story that is not my story to tell and I hugged him after and asked what I could make for dinner. Youâ€™re spectacular, he had said, because after hearing this story, you ask me what you can make for dinner. * What happened when I was seven? I told you; those types of stories are not meant to be written, but to be told, because some stories should be held, not read. But words cannot hold me. Or you. Or us. But youâ€™ve asked,
like I’ve been waiting for you to ask, and because you’ve asked, I am going to tell you, and because I am going to tell you, you will have to decide if the story is one you can hold. My sister is the madwoman in the attic. She threw herself down the stairs the first time she tried to kill herself. I used to count those stairs, when I still counted on things. She threw herself down the stairs, and I was seven, and I heard the sound a body makes when it has been thrown down a flight of stairs. I was watching TV. She threw herself down the stairs because she couldn’t not throw herself down the stairs. And I was watching
TV in the bedroom my parents shared because I couldn’t not watch TV in the bedroom shared by my parents. That may have been the only TV in the house at the time. Or no. There were other TVs. I’m not sure why I was in the bedroom shared by my parents. Maybe someone else was watching one of the other TVs that we may or may not have owned. My sister is the madwoman in the attic, and she threw herself down the stairs, and I was seven and heard it, and I can’t unhear it. Sometimes I hear it even when I’m not listening for it. The sound a body makes when it has been thrown down a flight of stairs is not a sound you
easily forget. I have to think about it as the sound a body makes because I cannot think about the noise as the sound my sister’s body makes – made – as it was flung down a flight of stairs. I cannot even think about her as the one doing the flinging. Passive voice. You don’t know who did the action. I don’t want you to know who did the action, even though you have to know who did the action. What was I watching? Couldn’t tell you. Therapists have asked, and my parents have asked, and I’ve even asked. 1993. What was popular in 1993? Was I watching TV in the morning, afternoon, or evening. I was in first grade, so
probably early morning or late afternoon. Evenings, my parents watched TV in the bedroom that they shared. A cartoon. Letâ€™s say I was watching a cartoon. Most cartoons end with a happily ever after. A fault line divides who I was before from who I am now. A happily ever cartoon on one side; everything after on the other. My sister is the madwoman in the attic, though the attic could neither contain my sister nor her madness. After the stairs, because who really dies falling down a flight of stairs, my sister devised more elaborate ways of dying, as if perfecting a magic trick. Look away, sheâ€™d say. Pay attention
to whatâ€™s going on over here so you donâ€™t see me when I disappear. But she did, disappear. First into herself. And then into her death plans. And then into psych wards, several, so many that the wards in one state could not contain her. Sheâ€™s been locked in facilities in three states. She could win a contest, if the game was getting locked away. I could win that same contest. I was seven when she threw herself down the stairs, and when I heard the sound a body makes when it is thrown down the stairs, and I stopped believing in God, and I stopped believing in childhood, and I stopped believing in whatever
it is that separates good from evil. Another fault line. Is there even good? Or God? Or childhood? My sister had a childhood, though she never believed in God. If she had believed in God – or believes, as she is still alive, living nearby, years since the last time she tried to kill herself (a lie; the last time wasn’t so long ago; I’m waiting for another try; I’m waiting for a success), still not believing in God. I do not know if she knows the sound a body makes when it is thrown down a flight of stairs. In one institution, she was
locked in one room with only a mattress and a roll of toilet paper. She had been drugged. My parents must have agreed that drugging her was the only way to keep her safe. Safe. I don’t remember when I learned what that word meant, but I remember when I learned what that word didn’t mean. I was seven years old and my sister had just thrown herself down the stairs that led from the attic to the rest of the house, and I was watching TV in the bedroom my parents shared, and I had no idea what the noise was. Then, I didn’t know the sound a body makes when it has been thrown down a flight of
stairs. Once, my sister, the madwoman, e-mailed me a suicide note. 21st Century suicide attempts. My sister sent me a suicide note, and of the people who read this e-mail (because suicide notes are better when shared), I was the only one who could figure out where in the Berkshires she had driven. She planned to fill her car with gas fumes. No oven for this Sylvia Plath. Three hours to get there; five hours to find her; another year of my childhood erased. What is childhood anyway but the bridge between birth and death? What is a sister but someone
whose actions convince you that there is no childhood, no God, no safety? The noise a body makes when it is thrown down a flight of stairs is not easily forgotten. I have sat at the top of those stairs. I have walked down those stairs. Nothing indicates that once a body was thrown down those stairs. My sister didn’t have a childhood. She was raped and sexually abused for 13 years. She was three when the abuse began. I don’t remember when I learned these facts about her. Or I do remember. I was eight. I don’t want to remember when I learned these facts. As with sounds, memories like when your
sister first was raped aren’t memories worth remembering, or connecting to the sound a body makes when it is thrown down a flight of stairs. At least three men, during that period of time, abused her. An uncle. A friend’s father. A friend’s brother. Until last year, the friend’s father lived across the street from my parents’ house. This friend’s father is a cop. Officer A-Little-Too-Friendly. He did it with the gun, and the rope, and the handcuffs, in the library or the kitchen or the study or wherever he felt like doing it, and no one had a clue. If she talked, because
little girls like to talk, he said heâ€™d kill her family. I was her family. Am her family. He threatened to kill me and our parents and our other siblings if she told anyone what was happening. So she didnâ€™t tell. And when she couldnâ€™t contain the story of what was happening to her, she decided to throw herself down the stairs that led from the attic to the rest of the house because people on TV who throw themselves down flights of stairs often die. Children who have to be braver and older than they are make me cry. Sisters who spend 13 years getting raped make me cry. Sisters who feel so desperate
that they drag knives across their jugulars, twice, make me cry. Sisters who have these visible scars make me cry. Can you meet her? Maybe in time. I told her about you. And our other sister. Iâ€™ll tell my brother next. My parents will be last. They only want to hear about and meet significant others who may stick around. They are tired of loving people who try to unstick. When you meet her, you will see the scars, and you will know my scars, and you will look at me with pity and maybe with love, but I will not see the love; I will only see the pity, and then I will not want
you to look at me because I will not want to look at you looking at me. My sister threw herself down the stairs, no longer willing to play the part of the madwoman in the attic. And I’m throwing myself into these words, no longer willing to let you tell me that I withhold love, because I am not heartless. Withhold love? I haven’t known you long enough to withhold love. Do I love you? Will I love you? I don’t think you love me, or that you will love me. I think you don’t even want to know me. I wouldn’t want to know me. I’m telling you this story so you know me, and so you can
decide to not know me. Don’t tell me you’re not like the others. Too many people have heard the story, and these same people have disappeared from my life, slowly in some cases, all-at-once in other cases. My sister’s attempts at an allat-once disappearance continue to fail. You won’t fail. Or you will, but your failure will be me. Or us. Do you think of us as an us? I’m starting to. When you sleep, because the nights we spend together are often spent sleeping, I watch you, and I wonder how long you will be in my bed, asleep. And when you’re not in my bed, asleep, and I am in my bed, not asleep, I search for your smell, because,
in time, and donâ€™t tell me otherwise, all you will leave me is your smell. You will find me broken. I might even agree with your diagnosis. My sister has had several diagnoses. Depression. Anxiety. Bipolar disorder. Mania. There is no diagnosis for someone who has survived, and in whose survival comes an overwhelming desire to unsurvive. Donâ€™t worry. Unlike ophidiophobia, an abnormal fear of snakes, madness and suicidailty are not inherited traits. I hate snakes. And rats. Mice, too. Spiders are OK, as are spider
webs. Honeybees make me smile, because they are always working. But not the queen. When I grow up, I want to be fat and plump and catered to, like the queen bee. A wannabe. Thatâ€™s been me. Or is me. A wannabe. Who do you want me to be? Yours? Because I do not think possessions are anything more than possessions, and I do not want to be a possession because possessions are so easily lost and misplaced. The same thing, lost and misplaced, except for my sister. She lost her mind. She did not misplace it. She did not leave it in the attic, in a box, in a corner, covered in dust, waiting to be found, waited for her to find it.
Her mind is lost. Was lost. She says she’s OK, that she will not write another note, but my parents don’t believe her, and I don’t believe her, and the way you’re looking at me tells me that you don’t believe her. Or me. Or maybe you believe me, and you’re thinking of ways to lose me. What happened when I was seven? My sister happened when I was seven. And I happened when I was seven. And you happened when I was seven. Because even then, a seven-year-old boy, I knew there would be a you who didn’t know that there was a me, but who maybe hoped there was a me, and I was seven and I was listening to my sister the
madwoman throw herself down a flight of stairs. You’re always happening to me when I was seven because I wanted you to be happening to me, and I wanted to be happening, and I didn’t want my sister to be happening because what seven-year-old should learn the sound a body makes when it is thrown down a flight of stairs? Don’t cry? How can I not cry? You said you wanted me to cry. You’ve asked me how I cannot cry at moments that make you cry – deaths and weddings and births and the way you substitute the words I know for the words I love you. You wanted tears. Don’t tell me you didn’t want tears.
You got my tears. I warned you not to dowse for my tears, because if you did, then you’d be gouging into my heart. And how can I give it to you, my heart, this heart that also knows the sound a body makes when it has been thrown down a flight of stairs, if you continue to look for what makes it beat? This, all of this, is my tear threshold. My eyes are dehydrated. I’m drowning in pools of tears I didn’t even cry. My sister was the madwoman in the attic, and sometimes I wish she had stayed locked away, counting minutes, and hours, and days, whispering to corners and dancing with dust.
Had she stayed in the attic, a flower, wilting, wilted, then I would have gone from seven to eight, and from eight to nine, and from nine to 10, and I never would have known the sound a body makes when it is thrown down a flight of stairs. * Because now I have fallen down a flight of stairs. The sound a body makes when it is thrown down a flight of stairs is the sound my body makes when I talk about the sound a body makes when it is thrown down a flight of stairs. What did I make him for dinner? Spinach lasagna. He loved it.
I fall in love with a girl
on a plane – not another lie, really, a girl – and I talk to her about falling in love with men who are the wrong men and she talks to me about falling in love with men who are the wrong men and I want to ask her to join me in the bathroom because I am getting aroused talking to her about falling in love with men who are the wrong men, but there is turbulence and peanuts – and peanuts make me gassy – and I do not ask her to join me
in the bathroom because I am no longer aroused talking to her about falling in love with men who are the wrong men. To be fair, I fall in love 10 times a day. On a plane, for hours, of course Iâ€™d fall in love with the person sitting next to me. I probably fell in love with her six times somewhere between Boston and Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, I meet a realtor who met me in Boston and took me out for oysters and lobster and champagne and after, I took him inside his hotel room, eighth floor, overlooking Boylston Street, and he was pressed against a window, arms above his head,
legs open, his insides on the outside, and I was behind him, pressed inside him, my outside in his inside, and he was loud – is loud – and I was loud – am loud – and nothing looks sexier than people walking on sidewalks and crossing streets unaware that above them, eight floors, men who were strangers two hours earlier are fucking and are being loud and are not noticing the people below them walking on sidewalks and crossing streets. In Los Angeles, we meet again, and he kisses me outside the airport, and I tell him that I fell in love with a girl while I was heading toward him, and he said that my falling in
love with a girl was OK with him because sometimes he falls in love with girls, and I kiss him again, and I ask him if heâ€™s ever gotten head in a car while driving and he says no and I say, well, not yet. I return to Boston, and I have two weeks of vacation to use before the end of the fiscal year, and there is no one I want to visit, and nowhere I want to go, and I pack a bag and my car and fill a cooler with ice and sandwiches and I look at Google Earth but there is still nowhere I want to go and then I remember Medina and Wilmington and I miss Medina and I wonder how Medina is and I wonder if he is in Wilmington
waiting for me. And I get in my car and I drive south and the trip to Wilmington is short, just six hours, and I listen to the radio until I drive through parts of the country where there is no radio and then I listen to the sound of me listening to the sound of nothing and then I am in Wilmington and I am looking for a coffee shop and there are three coffee shops and I decide I will spend an hour in each, drinking coffee and not smoking cigarettes. And I know Medina will not be in Wilmington, because he and I made no plans to meet, and I remember being asked to find a word that means long-term love, and I do not know this word, or
I do not have this word, and I do not know this word and I do not have this word because this word does not exist or it exists, but it is somewhere other than in Wilmington, North Carolina, and I know this word is somewhere other than in Wilmington, North Carolina, because I am in Wilmington, North Carolina, and I have no words for long-term love, or, if you must know, for love, because I do not know what love looks like, just what love looks like when I am looking for love.
William Henderson rarely reads directions, seldom follows instruction, and is never far from his phone, where he is often tweeting (@Avesdad) or blogging (hendersonhouseofcards.com). A former newspaper and magazine reporter and editor, Henderson freelances when he can, but mostly writes about love. He is a frequent contributor to Thought Catalog, and has been published in The Rumpus, Mental Shoes,
Revolution House, Specter Literary Magazine, and Used Furniture Review, among others. He writes a bimonthly column for Hippocampus Magazine, and is a regular contributor to Peripheral Surveys+.
Also, Henderson was nominated for a 2012 Pushcart Prize. Henderson is a Boston-based writer who has never been to Medina or Wilmington. Edgeways is his first chapbook.
Cover art from a mosaic tile installation created by Mark Schoening in 2005 for the author. Schoening is an artist who works in mixed media. For more information about Schoening, visit markschoening.com. Cover art courtesy the author.
by William Henderson. Fiction.