He cuts my throat and daisies butt through an apple seed. No. Only a wet, full trachea. I told you, he says, you’re organic. I wasn’t arguing. I spit calmly. A vine snakes out, head at my throat, moves around my body with a severed lover’s hand in each arm. Not my lovers. Each hand holding both a cane and a spur.
I’m going to be late, I say. I told Angela that I would hang out. I’ve canceled the last 4.3 times. I think she’ll stop considering me if I leave her hanging.
Have you seen her biceps, he asks.
And, of course, I’ve seen her biceps. Her arms are in the best shape of their lives because of me and because of suffering. She has yet to thank me and I have yet to require it. I understand the incongruency in the service I offer as a mediocre friend. I make her strong and independent by creating a void where her needs pine and reach and return with nothing and continue to pine. But no one desires strength and independence if comfort and companionship are on the table and I should be on the table. Maybe if I were saintly, I would be on the table naked and open. If I were only friendly, I would be on the table clothed and self-identified but willing to change. I’m not on the table. I’m in the next room. I’m in the next room sending notes that I’m on my way, and I am, on my way, but I don’t arrive, and that, if I am honest, and I am honest, is on purpose. She, maybe because she’s melodramatic or maybe because she’s just emotionally open, vulnerable, and healthy, waits for me on the balcony, hanging from the railing over the poorly-kept grass courtyard. She is on the second floor so she is not crazy, only determined, determined to be a passionate person who perhaps slips into a zealous state from time to time. A passionate person undoubtedly and inevitably full of regret, but never the regret for things not done or the regret that comes from not trying hard enough. Only the kind of regret that comes from trying really hard for the wrong things, for not practicing more discretion, for not, perhaps, caring enough for oneself. She will think on some random Wednesday in her elderly years of all the cupcakes she could have eaten while she hung from balconies waiting for the kind of love that floods one’s vagina with heroin. At the time of this thought, her mind will have already begun to slip so her logic will be flawed and her metaphors a bit off but the seedling of truth will remain and make her doubt herself and her entire life.
I am one step away from being a bad friend or no friend if she proves to be pugnacious, a person of no bullshit. For now, it’s only neglect, but let’s say, right now I choose this intimacy with Frank instead of going to her. Then, it’s betrayal. That’s the fine difference between neglect and betrayal, whether or not what one chooses instead of the relationship in question is oneself or another person.
Frank pours water into the slit in my throat from a glass that has been sitting on the end table for an indeterminate amount of time. The daisies quiver. The vine exhales then tightens.
I tongue the vine until the vine is my tongue. The vine was always my tongue. I am tonguing my tongue but now that I realize what I’m doing some of the thrill is gone, replaced by a dull sense of embarrassment. Frank’s cheeks are a little red but I’m not sure if he’s witnessed my shame or is just really excited that I haven’t left.
I think I’m upset that you slit my throat, I say.
Oh, he feigns surprise, sorry. But he forms it like a question: sorry?
I’m offended but my vagina is still throbbing and he still smells like pecan pie in a well-heated house in winter. Maybe it’s just Old Spice. Jason smelled like Old Spice. Am I imposing an impermeable past into the ball sac of Frank?
That would be unfortunate. I pray to fortune. Let’s make love, fortune, I say. May you feel an insuppressible need to make me happy. I would do the same for you, but you have all you need so I’m insignificant and you’re intangible. I only hold you in my mind and then I’m nothing without you and you are nothing.
It’s clear that it’s only me and Frank here and I’m leaving.
I’m going to see Angela, I say.
Angela is dead, he says, I didn’t want to kill the mood so I was going to wait to tell you but if you’re insisting on leaving, I don’t want you to make a trip for nothing. She fell from the balcony.
Her apartment is on the second floor, I say.
Yeah, he agrees, I guess she fell a weird way. On her neck I guess, not sure.
He’s not as emotional as one talking about the death of an acquaintance should be, I assess. How do you know all this, I ask.
I ran into Janice on the way over here, he says.
Who’s Janice, I ask.
Oh, he says surprised, her lover I guess or her landlord. I dunno. They were close though.
How do you know they were close, I ask.
She was crying when she told me she found Angela, he says.
That doesn’t mean they were close, I yell.
His eyes get big with the question of why I am yelling. I begin yelling without words because I am so angry at his eyes. I scream for at least 40 seconds. Enough time for my throat to sting and my lungs to expunge many subsequent pant-breaths interpreted as one full, powerful breath.
I fall to the ground exhausted. Frank lies down next to me, misinterpreting my gesture or accurately interpreting my gesture. One always has a hunch but rarely a fact about these things, I think, as my eyes expire. The daisies rise to my nostrils, so fragrant.
Alethea Tusher earned an MFA in poems at the University of Notre Dame. She has work published in Black Warrior Review, The Gravity of the Thing, Hardly Doughnuts, Toad, and PRØOF.