In better days, we used to lie in bed together and quiz each other about the world. Sveden, you’d say. Svitzerland. Just to hear the sounds. You’d grab my tongue with your fingers and make me say it wrong. Because I don’t know shit about geography, I asked who you would fuck if you could fuck someone famous. No one, you said. You shook your head. You smiled your smile. It made you so happy and it made me so mad. I couldn’t take you seriously when you played the game all wrong.
Now you say it goes back to alignment, but I disagree. And really, shouldn’t I know? I’ve climbed every step in the ladder of your spine. I played you song after song on my sternum and you kept rhythm with your finger between my ribs. You shed that skin already. I see it now in a glass case on a shelf next to a card from your mother. Remember that? I ask. The card? you ask.
I’m on your couch eating pancakes when you tell me you’re sorry, but you’d probably take a crack at him if you had the chance. You point to the TV, some smooth-faced German kid who can sing. You’ve got your other hand on my knee and it dawns on me that you’ve been waiting for a punch line. I try to whistle instead and the sound makes your small white dog scream out the window. Sorry, I say. I guess you never taught me. You smile, and it means something. Taught you what?
Justin Brouckaert's prose and poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Passages North and Hobart, among other publications. He is a James Dickey Fellow at the University of South Carolina, where he serves as fiction editor of Yemassee.