Afterwards, we stared at each other for far too long. No one knew what to say. We left the hospital and, later, you and I curled into bed as if we thought we could escape in sleep. You reached out to pull me closer and I moved my body further away. But neither of us knew what the other was doing. If I had known you were reaching, if you had known I thought I was giving you space.
Here is a fact I told you on our very first date, because this was the sort of knowledge I had: the Davenport Brothers perfected the art of the spirit cabinet, of speaking with the dead on stage. I wanted to apologize for what it was that I thought of as small talk. But you asked me to explain, to tell you more.
We both sleep as if we are new at it. I sigh and shift and try to keep my eyes pressed closed. You flip onto one side and then the other, back and forth so routinely that it is almost enough to make me sleep.
After the first time we had sex, after the first time I learned the entire shape of your body, the jut of your hip bones and the birthmark at the small of your back, I told you a fact that I always found sad: Howard Thurston was known, in his time, as the greatest magician of all, but now he’s misremembered. I said, see, I even have to say his whole name because, otherwise, you wouldn’t know he was. You laughed and said, I still don’t know who he is. I said, he was a master of levitation, of making woman float.
I wonder if we fall into sleep at the exact same time, if we dream the same dream. In mine, I am lying on a table and someone is preparing to saw me in half. He runs a finger across my abdomen and says, this won’t hurt anymore. And I sit up in bed, gasping at the same that you do. You reached across the cool spot between us in the bed and clasped your fingers with mine.
Later in our relationship, when I knew you were the person I never wanted to be without, I tell you this fact which I had been safeguarding, waiting to give you when you least expected it: Houdini felt immense guilt for leading the grieving to believe that the dead could talk from the beyond. You said, but wasn’t his whole thing illusion? And I said: his thing was escape. He was always escaping. Which is magic in its own way. And you said, so is staying in one place if you know how to do it.
Chloe N. Clark's work appears in Drunken Boat, Flash Fiction Online, Hobart, and more. She tweets about baking, basketball, and sci-fi, at @PintsNCupcakes.