You are reading Fiddleblack #2
From the table to the bar I thought I saw the hawthorn decomposing on the floor right there on the hardwood floor, brick walls all around. Why did you wear that? That same sweater you’ve been wearing for weeks of thinking lately. But I told her the story of it. See, I said, I stole this sweater from my father, and I liked it because when I first reached in the pockets I found a cache of his fingernails, wool and fingernails on rough hands as though someone had crafted this experiment experience out of the desire to feel something uncomfortable and artistic, but like a slide-reel of naked pictures of people you know (like you showed) there was an air of familiarity as well as adversity.
So we lived in that house for weeks at a time, and only heated some of the rooms. Getting ready at a hasty noon I had made plates of food for you and me before we sat together on the recliner on the porch to smoke cigarettes. I wish he hadn’t done that without me asking because now I’ve got to do something nice for him or be less of a bitch. But I knew the cost and benefit of a gift economy.
This is where you’ve haunted me; an idea living down the cold hallway in the other room. I have never felt cold carpet like walking in that hallway. You never got out of bed but at least I know where you are but I’ve always known. You’ve given up what separated us now and asked for more but my words don’t do anything for you. Days were nothing to do in rooms and too good to work on anything real and at nights we drove the two blocks in my old ford or the leaning jeep (that we had to get the tire fixed I am pretty sure we warped like a board from driving on it half flattened for so long) to a body-heated house where we would drink more of the beer we’d finished that afternoon and played lackluster mind games to test each other on the shit that we gave before proving ourselves either way on the spoils in foil from our trips home or the rooms you and I snuck off to. Damn you in the bathroom leaving marks on my back. Then drifting home again in one of the automobiles over the fresh January midnight snow like a red fogging windowed sleigh whose ancient lights illuminated all of the dust or ash. The next day I’d be over it but you’d ask me. Where did you get those? You’d ask me when we were off taking showers. Damn you in the bathroom leaving marks on my back.
I split the neighbors’ firewood in exchange for some of it. You kept coming out on the porch when the sun was out and shinning on it to smoke (even though you did that inside as well even though you knew he’d get pissed but maybe you wanted to get him angry or see if he would) and shoot beer cans out of the tree. You did that a lot more than I did. I just wanted you to think I was helping you with the wood or at least keeping you company and it was nice if you thought I was shooting at you. Nice.
You would stare at regular things disapprovingly, as though they’d done something wrong or didn’t look enough like themselves. What are you looking at? But you were the one looking, whatever it was I was doing was just noticing that you were looking like a branch from a branch from a branch in winter sometimes covered with ice (that I had to saw through to get the limb off the roof of the porch) when do they cease to be branches (that we gathered up and painted) and become something else or trunk or twig. I stacked the wood in the living room because we weren’t using it for anything else. The snow and ice melted off the logs slowly and onto and into the carpet where it took a long time to dry because it was so cold. Why don’t you make a fort or something while you’re at it? So I set about building the Andrea Doria or a house like Abraham Lincoln’s. A house inside a house was a thing like our rooms because that winter it was like the living room didn’t have walls and winter had come inside and told you to put on your coat (and when I say your I mean the one you found in that free clothing shed in California where it doesn’t get this cold and brought here to give to me, and maybe you should where a fur coat because you’re a cartoon villain or something) because we only heated some of the rooms, so you took the sweater but not the fingernails because they were gone already. Fingernails and damn you in the bathroom for making marks on my back (but all I remember was the empty beer floating in the back of the toilet and sitting alone when we felt like getting up and going out). Some things hurt more in the cold and some things hurt less and I can’t believe I don’t remember what people call wood from a tree that has had nails driven through the bark, all stained on the inside, and you and your cigarettes and your nails.
We had to clean the kitchen but there was no hot water but the stove worked so we could boil some like they used to have to do but we got everything clean enough except ourselves and we would shower elsewhere where you might forget your handiwork and dirty and cold and water. That’s crazy those are so bad. But I didn’t really tell you what I remembered, and we’d both already remade it like a glued together statue you could fit in the palm of your hand (you didn’t mean to knock it over so you just balanced it’s head on its shoulders and waited for the day when I would knock it over and waited so I thought I did it) and would remake it again (I hate looking at that thing now I tried to cover it up but you just accepted knocking it over and glued it back together like it happens every day or something but it only happened once and it’s the only time it has happened maybe).
And when I brought home the front door with your father that one time you said that it wasn’t a front door or a door at all really because it wasn’t on any side or lead to anywhere and that maybe it was just a piece of wood, or just hid what was behind it like all other things so we just put it in the garage with all the rest of the things that had no place in a home (the calf skull you found in Mexico and smuggled back, all the paintings you’d done, and my old typewriter). But sometimes we would go to the opposite ends of the hallway with the cold carpet like I’d never felt before and do something in the warmth of those rooms that might come up in idle banter with others and ourselves as though a fireside lie down of a burning house in the living room had lulled us into discussing warmth because that was sometimes yet what we mainly felt like that night in the bar when you asked me what I was wearing. Even the bar was cold (we didn’t need even a refrigerator at home) and your nose was like a cold round doorknob, your tongue like a spade.
Mark Welborn was born in Chicago, Illinois, and brought up in Dayton, Ohio. He is currently living, learning, and working in northern Ohio lake country. There, he writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.