I remember you smashing dishes in the kitchen, one by one, a wedding set. Blue tipped apparatus sitting on the white bathroom sink.
Traffic on Olympic is heavy, parking lot type, horns going off like car alarms. It’s a one-story brick building on the south side of the street, a white-capped gas station one one side with a tire rack near the back pumps and a desperate narrow alley for those who need a quick getaway.
You broke all our dinner plates that night. Crying in the bathroom with the door locked without me knowing why. I still don’t know why exactly.
On the drive, an old Muddy Waters song played, I don’t remember what it’s called, the funny things we remember, some old blues song playing on the radio because the car is silent, you staring away out the window, the brown curl of your hair coming up at the end when I looked over, the chorus went something like I don’t know.
The promises you made in a hotel room in Ohio after an old man died, a funeral to attend and ill talk of a wedding, an old man has died and we spoke of a possible marriage that we said we both saw the same way, the same way when the marriage took place on Ronald Coleman’s old estate where John F. Kennedy once honeymooned and how that marriage was too entwined with a death, the death of a stepfather the day after, one bad omen after another, marriage and death intertwined.
Back in the car something about a big leg woman on a simple acoustic guitar, the anger mine because of the lie that you had told me, of what was to be soon undone, what was soon to be taken, the lights of glass stars that had hung down over the vows, of you in the wronged white and me like an undertaker in a black suit while a few witnesses looked on and shared the thing that was not ultimately meant to be. You refuse to look at me on that car ride down Olympic and I too refuse to speak as well, anger wrapped tight in the fist around the black steering wheel as I remember those glass stars that we had hung above us from their chains with yellow candles burning within.
Later you found the hormone in your urine and you cried, you cried for fear of being trapped and pinned like one of those butterflies on those old boards that they had in the 60s, afraid that your freedom was taken by another or your fear of what it would do to the damage that was already done and damaged doubled was no end of trouble and what the fuck could you do: there were promises made, made in that wooden square house with the glass stars and the wedding guests, catered meals and flowers you had to buy yourself because they were forgotten, that same building that later burned down in a fire that no one knew how it started but like everything else in this relationship, life entwined with death and no symbolic rebirth, not here, not as we stop at the light on Olympic near the old Spanish-looking church and the small park with the children on the swing sets next to this busy street.
Only a few more blocks until we are there, and you still say nothing to me, the hate a silence, the silence an ultimatum that I had lost as you refused to discuss it any further, and Muddy Waters is still singing softly as he did in the Ohio hotel room the day of the old man’s funeral when those vows were made and promised only to come undone like poorly-wrapped gifts.
And the car pulls up to that small fucking brick building that I hate in my dreams and imagine I could burn down, if brick could burn, and you turn to me but still say nothing, and I open the door and, as I move, you shake your head. I stay in the car as you go in and I don’t know what to do to make the time pass so I drive around the block, once, twice, more and more, so many times that I lose track until I end up again in front of that brick building and you’re breaking plates as if you were counting out the number of pills into a pale hand or the adding up of a long unaccounted for checkbook, the ceramic white plates chipping the tiles of the floor as you drop them from a height as if to see how fast they could fall.
I sit in the car, cupping my eyes, trying to be hard because a man does not do those things except to wait and bear it out like an old tree and you come out, two hours later, the legs wobble and you look pale and frail like a ghost and I think about getting out of the car to help you but I wait as you wanted. Let you have what you want so I let it happen even though I didn’t want it to happen and I could do nothing to make it not happen but on the steps from that damned brick building you walk and put out a hand as if to grasp a rail that is not there and I bolt from the car to grab you before you fall faint from the loss of blood and more and the loss that I will feel and the loss that I don’t know if you feel and that neither of us, neither of us, will ever be able to account for ever, ever again.
Ron Burch‘s short stories have been published in Mississippi Review, Pear Noir!, Eleven Eleven, Pank and others. His first novel, Bliss Inc., was published by BlazeVOX Books. He lives in Los Angeles, where he is Co-Executive Producer on a TV show for DreamWorks Animation. He is also a produced and published playwright. Please visit: www.ronburch.com.