page contents

FICTION / Hourglass / Marisa Crane

neonbrand-304490-unsplash.jpg

When I come to we are making out on the beach. I am straddling you, topless. It’s some inconceivable time. I am more whiskey than blood. There must be people around us but I can’t see anyone. You keep saying “How did we end up here?” And I keep saying, “Where?” before leaning in to kiss you.

***

We’re locked out of my apartment. I still don’t know what time it is. My drunk roommate lets us in the back, through his bedroom. A girl is sprawled out on his bed watching music videos. The music sounds like your body if your body could melt. The music sounds like the sun if the sun could moon.

“That’s my favorite band,” you whisper once I lock my bedroom door behind us.

“Who?”

“Daughter.”

I put their song, “Smother,” on repeat and you pull me onto the bed.

***

Now I’m moving on top of you in a way that’s cruel to people who aren’t us. I stick my fist in your mouth, relish your teeth digging into my skin. Craters where I’ll hold our whispers. “Where do we go from here?” I ask. It’s not a fair question. “I don’t know. You seem like you’ve got something good going for you,” you say. It’s not a fair response. 

Looking at you is like searching through an acquaintance’s medicine cabinet—it’s invasive in a sexy way.   

***

I’m sitting on the edge of my bed. You’re naked under the covers. Sand clings to my vocal cords. My throat is an exhaust pipe. I sputter puffs of hopeless smoke. “You look so sad,” you say. I picture my entire life in one, slow-moving mirage. You haunt every room of my life. The image makes my chest ache. 

My outdoor cat cries outside my window, demanding breakfast, and I know I have to send you home. 

***

The blood rushes in and out of my cheeks, a turbulent tide. I’m afraid of tomorrow. And every day after. I don’t close the door right away when you leave. I watch you pick a dandelion from the sidewalk and study it curiously. As if you’ve never witnessed an identity crisis before. I think you’re going to make a wish—hope that you do—hope that it’s about me—but instead you stick it under the windshield wiper of a stranger’s car before calling a Lyft. I watch the sun rise behind the vacation homes and it’s so painfully ordinary in comparison. 

***

I’m in bed, drinking heavily. Bourbon and water. I’ve had some Xanax too. My girlfriend calls me on FaceTime from Colombia. I want to want to be talking to her. The connection is bad. Hopefully it distorts my obligatory smile.

Your name pops up on my phone. You tell me that you love to consider spaces, how different ones evoke different emotions. “Some are too painful to return to,” you say. I listen, am unsure of my place in your life. I want to be every one of your places. Perhaps the most selfish thing I’ve ever said. 

My girlfriend asks why I keep pausing the conversation and I ask her how the coffee is in Bogota.

She smirks, is as coy as a sheep. Waiting to be herded in whichever direction. She doesn’t know who she is and I hate her for it. Yet I hear myself telling her how adorable she is anyway. 

My cat hisses then scratches at the door, wants to be let out.

***

I’m a grain of sand. You find me, days later, behind your ear. In the crevice of your hip bone. In your sand-colored hair. I am small wherever you’re not. I wonder if you know this. 

You count the minutes until your partner goes to bed. I try to pretend mine won’t ever come home.

“She’s just so happy,” you message me, and I know you don’t mean it kindly.

I nod even though you can’t see me.

I love you for your existential dread and the explosives tucked between your neurons.

“Mine too,” I respond. You probably hate that I call her “mine.” But that’s what she is, for now.

We selfishly make this about them. 

***

Your morning message arrives in a broken beer bottle I want to slice myself with. This is uncharted territory. 

“To answer your question, we would destroy each other,” you say. And I don’t have a rebuttal. 

***

Where are you on the time-space continuum? Will you scoot a little closer to me? I’m unconscious, coloring all the corners of our world black.

***

I come to and we are sitting by the ocean, tucked away in a cove. The clouds look like cotton candy against the metallic blue sky. At first I can't say a thing. There is always an adjustment period when we meet. I feel overstimulated, as if you’ve hooked my body up to jumper cables. Finally, I speak. In explosive bursts that leave me breathless and shaking.

You tell me you’ve never heard of Schrödinger's cat and I don’t have the heart to tell you there’s a 50% chance we are already dead. We are holding hands. Tracing each other’s callouses. Your eyes burn holes where I was once impenetrable. I don’t know how I’ve spent 31 years without you.

You open a big bottle of beer. The kind you only buy when you know you’ll be sharing it with someone you love. 

I show you this trick I learned in college, wipe the oil from my nose and swirl it in my beer to dissolve the foam. You laugh. Sometimes it’s all we can do.

We listen to the waves thrash about. There isn’t enough time. There’s never enough time. I’m aching for centuries more. We kiss feverishly. 

You peer over your shoulder, tell me she’s at book club, that we should head home soon. For now, those homes aren’t the same place. I’m terrified that they won’t ever be.

I finish my beer and tell you about the time my dad tried to shoot himself and missed.

That’s what this feels like. 

***

I like the pain of your absence. It’s the same reason I don’t wear sunscreen at the beach—to remember the sun’s touch days later.

You text me under the table during your meetings.

“I’m trying not to dwell or overthink. In this moment I am just thinking about you, and I miss you.”

I delete your texts every day when I leave work. A ritual cleansing that never actually rids me of you.

You go to sleep thinking about god knows what. I don’t have unlimited access to your brain, something I often lament. I wonder about the space of your bed, how it makes you feel. I hope you aren’t holding her the way you hold me. 

***

I dread picking my girlfriend up at the airport. She’s been gone for two months and I changed blood types while she was away. I want to set myself on fire. If only to be spontaneous. I act like the first person to ever be wedged between two worlds.

***

I don’t get out of the car to greet her. I’m afraid my legs will collapse if I do. She tosses her bags in back and climbs in the passenger seat. The lead singer of Daughter mourns landfills and the consequences of throwing someone away. 

It feels crowded in here. I can tell she’s disappointed, but I don’t have the energy to be someone else.  

I write you an email, tell you we can’t do what we do anymore. You feign surprise, a charitable act for the both of us. You make a rule for yourself. You’re not going to reach out to me. I’m playing a role I never auditioned for.

***

You write me anyway. Two days later.

“I’m at the beach watching the pelicans,” you begin. “I imagine us as pelican characters. I would be the one repeatedly dive bombing, partially for fun, partially to get the best fish. You’re the one sitting there, pace floating, observing all the others and waiting for me to bring you some fish. I broke my rule, but for good reason.”

***

At our wedding, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be you and me and the Daughter album on repeat. Maybe some pelicans circling overhead.

Maybe I’m delusional. Maybe dreaming is the only thing keeping me alive.

I visit a tarot card reader. She reaffirms what I already know, apologizes with her eyes.

***

I can’t stay away from you. My girlfriend thinks I’m at dinner with a friend. You’re that, aren’t you? Aren’t you? 

You walk on the other side of the sidewalk, a great expanse between us. We pass by a loud neighborhood bar. I tell you I’d like to go there sometime, that I’ve never been. You look at me with those round cinnamon eyes and tell me that I have, that it’s the first place you and I touched. “You put your hands on my thighs,” you say. “You really don’t remember?” 

Blushing looks good on you. 

***

A year later, I’m digging my feet into the sand at our spot by the ocean, watching the waves flirt with one another. I can hear your voice so clearly. “Look, that was a good one,” you say when there’s a particularly big collision. The sun has retired for the evening and the silhouettes of lovers and friends decorate the cliffs.

I’ve been crying for two hours straight. Now I’m crying about crying. You know how I tend to work myself up.

I think again about spaces, how this spot will never be the same since you and I have occupied it. 

I hope it never becomes a space that I can’t bear to return to.

My girlfriend is having game night with her friends. I know she doesn’t smile when she wins. Her happiness mask has finally begun to crumble.  

I’m running out of reasons to deny her sex.  

Earlier, she looked me in the eyes and asked if I’m as into this as she is. I told her no, but somehow that didn’t end things between us. 

When I return home, she opens a shareable bottle of beer, like she’s trying to become you without knowing it.

***

Smoke fills the room, mirrors face one another, reflecting eternity. It will be a long, laborious life without you. 

In the guest room of your house, you kiss me hard, say love is something to be reckoned with. I believe you for as long as it takes to undress myself.

***

I am the last grain of sand in an hourglass. Not just any hourglass. Ours. Your partner finds me in your eyelash, doesn’t say a damn thing. I think she’s afraid to turn fiction into fact.

“Things that aren’t normally for sale, you can have for free,” you whisper in my ear, lacing your fingers between mine.

I tell you what I want. It’s an exorcism.

You pause, pulling your hand back.

“Not that,” you sigh, looking towards the ocean.

We see a beautiful tidal collision, but you don’t point it out.

I tell you about the time I watched a man jump off of a building.

This feels like that.