Invocation, p.1Tami Porter-Jones
Copyright © 2012 Tami Porter-Jones
All rights reserved.
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The shower thunders down on my skull and pummels my bare shoulders with huge drops. With my head bowed, I hold my arms over my breasts, my hands up under my chin like I'm saying a prayer, but supplication is an illusion. I’m only letting the warmth penetrate my skin.
I haven’t prayed in so long I wouldn’t even know how to start. I’m not sure where I would begin to ask for what I want or remember how to say thank you for everything I have.
Some days, I’m not thankful anyway. Some days, I don’t want to think about those who are less fortunate than I am. I’m not a good enough person to pull that off. I just want to be angry that things ended up the way they did, that she slept with someone else while I was on the other side of the world toting a machine gun in pursuit of a cause I couldn’t appreciate. She left me months ago, but I just returned home. Being in this house without her makes everything fresh and raw.
Since I have seen pain and hunger so enormous it swallows entire villages, her infidelity seems like such a little thing except this time, the grief is mine. For me, that changes the size of it, and right now it eclipses the suffering of strangers. I haven’t eaten for days, not since I first walked in this house, because the loss of her sits inside my chest like a vortex sucking everything into it including my appetite.
This vortex is the reason I took a wrench to the pressure release valve in the hall closet and opened up the pipes to street pressure. I want the shower to hit me so hard it hurts, and I don’t care if leaks do sprout all over the plumbing. My house will match me. Our insides will spill out while we try to remain functional.
When the water runs cold, I turn it off. I didn’t wash my hair, but it probably doesn't matter. I run a towel over the dykey military cut. My hair would have some length to it if I could leave it alone, but every time I get angry my hands reach for the scissors. So it’s choppy now as well as short.
I slide into the same sweats I was wearing before the shower and wander into the kitchen. Nothing sounds appetizing. I don’t have the energy to make myself eat right now. Maybe when I wake up with hunger pangs in the middle of the night, I’ll put something in my mouth that will make me gag, and I’ll force myself to choke it down.
I stand there, staring at the sorry options for sustenance when the front door opens. I know I should be alarmed, but I don’t feel anything at all. I just wait for the intruder to make herself known. It could be my sister. I hope it’s my sister. She is the only person I could handle right now.
When my ex’s voice calls for me from the front room, my stomach pitches. “Colie, are you here?”
“No,” I say.
She steps into the doorway of the kitchen and blinks up at me, and my hands start to shake.
She studies my face. “Are you mad?”
That vortex in my chest opens up to tornado proportions, and I can barely hear around the din in my skull. I don’t give her an answer about whether or not I’m mad. It’s possible I am mad, even though I’m not angry. Not anymore. It doesn’t seem far-fetched, however, to imagine myself retreating into insanity.
“I don’t blame you for being mad,” she says.
“That’s mighty white of you.”
She kicks her foot against the base of the fridge. “That’s a racist comment, you know.”
She may be right, but I feel like arguing with her. “If it’s racist, it’s against white people.”
“How do you figure?”
“It implies that white people expect credit for doing something decent they should have done in the first place,” I say.
She doesn’t look up when she answers. “People shouldn’t even make fun of their own race.”
“Can I crack jokes about lesbians?” She gives me one of those looks that telegraphs how she feels about arguing with me over such a stupid subject. “What are you doing here?” I ask.
She moves up alongside me and opens the fridge like she belongs here, like she isn’t stomping on all of the pieces of me that are shattered and laying on the ground between us. “I don’t have anywhere to go tonight,” she says.
I can’t give her a place to stay. I’m not strong enough, and I don’t want to admit to her I’m still in misery. I want to act like I don’t care whether she lives or dies, whether she suffers in the cold night air or gets abused by her new girlfriend. I want to pretend her presence isn’t making me second-guess whether I should shut her out of my life.
I want her to tell me she made a mistake during a weak moment and it’s all over now. I want her to tell me she has come to her senses and can’t live without me, but it wouldn’t matter if she did. I’ll never trust her again. I only want her to say it so I can reject her. It seems like I would hurt less if I knew she was miserable.
“I’ve been thinking about you a lot,” she says.
I force my mouth not to twitch. “You should stop.”
“I’ve been re-reading the letters you wrote me.”
I move around her and head to the bathroom. I won’t let her do this to me. “You should throw those away,” I say right before I shut the bathroom door.
I grip the edge of the counter until my knuckles turn white. The tears are fighting so hard to get it out it feels like pipes are bursting inside me. I’m right on the edge of leaking. It’s too intense. I wish I had my own pressure release valve. I would dial it down until I felt nothing at all, until my emotions were nothing but a trickle.
“Colie, what are you doing in there?” she says from outside the bathroom door.
I pull it open. “I’m drawing up a rental agreement for the couch and deciding how much to charge you for one night’s stay. That’s the maximum, you know. One night.”
“Maybe I don’t want to stay here,” she says.
I point toward the front of the house. “Then, get out.”
She cringes. “Why do you have to be so mean?”
“Because I’m not a shelter. You can’t come running over here when you and your girlfriend get in a fight.”
She reaches her hand toward mine, but I pull it away. “I miss the girl who was my friend,” she says.
“We were never friends, sweetheart. We were lovers right out of the gate. So, let’s not pretend like we have some kind of enduring history that will transcend a break-up.”
“I love that you can say words like ‘transcend’ in regular conversation.”
I want to slam the door in her face, but I make myself remain still, all except for the shaking. I can’t do anything about the shaking. “I think you should go.”
“What if I sleep on your couch, and I don’t bug you for the rest of the night?” she says. She manages to conjure up some tears that hang on the edge of her eyelids, making her irises a phosphorescent blue. “I’m desperate.”
I wish I could say “no” to this woman, but I’m programmed to respond when she’s in need. I can’t help the fierce protection mechanism that flares to life when I see her in pain. “Fine. Sleep on the couch, but don’t bother me. I don’t even want to know that you’re here.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to talk,” she says, “for old time’s sake?”
She watches me for a few more seconds, probably to decide whether or not I’m serious, then shrugs before turning away. “Goodnight,” she says over her shoulder.
I wait until my legs get steadier before heading toward my bedroom. I don’t know how I’m going to deal with her being in the living room for the next 8 hours.
I crawl into bed and close my eyes,
I try so hard not to go out to the living room I give myself a headache. I become intimate friends with the shape and size of the numbers on my digital alarm clock. My fingers trace the beveled images of the bars that make up the numbers, and I try to picture what the numbers would look like without the bevels. This type of nonsense keeps me from rushing out and making a fool of myself.
Somewhere around four in the morning, I fall asleep. It is a disastrous sleep, one that makes me ache as I toss and turn in that shadowland between rest and consciousness. When I open my eyes, squinting against the morning sun, I listen for her. She is a hard sleeper, and when we were together I was the earlier riser.
I tiptoe out to the living room to see if I can catch a glimpse of her slack face in the throes of sleep. I have watched her lie next to me countless times amazed by how much I loved her, and though it will hurt more after she leaves, I want to see her like that again. I am weak this morning.
I flinch when I see the blankets folded and sitting on the couch with a note on top of them. The tremble in my hand ramps up to seismic proportions as I reach for the paper.
I decided to go home and work things out. Thanks for letting me stay the night. Wish things could have been different.
I crumple up the note and throw it on the ground. I hate that she signed it “Yours Always.” She has never been mine. If she was, she never would have left.
I head straight to the shower, tear off my clothes and step inside. The water is so hot it burns with every splat against my skin. I bow my head, raise my hands to my chest and interlace my fingers.
This time, I don’t care if I don’t how to start a prayer.
I make myself remember.
Invocation by Tami Porter-Jones / History & Fiction have rating 4.9 out of 5 / Based on39 votes