You move closer towards me and you are not a zombie or anything like that, although your face is wrapped in grayish cloth. I don’t know how you aren’t bumping into the furniture. I haven’t moved anything in our house, but still. You don’t walk unsteadily or hold out your hands to protect yourself. It is seven P.M. You could have just arrived home from work and now walk towards me where I wait. I wait. How was your day? No, let’s not do that. I won’t ask you, and you won’t ever fucking ask me. Let’s do this instead—I sing my favorite song and you keep getting closer. I tell myself the mantra from my therapist—I have a feeling. I am not a feeling. You are so close now. Only two feet away. One foot. Your breath is warm coming through the cloth and there is the clean heat of your cologne. It is you. I grip your upper arm—solid, hot, alive—if I could move my hand, would I feel a pulse at your wrist? I have sadness. I am not sad. “You love that fucking song,” you say, and your voice is low, so low, scraping down the inside of my veins. If I could speak, I would say, “Talk, keep talking, scrape away at me.” Or, “Of course I still love that song. You know nothing has changed, right?” Nothing and Everything. Stop. You lean down and I raise my face. Your height, my height—it is right. My stomach is somersaulting and I am breathing hard and all the rest of it. Like the first time (and yes, like the last, too, my beautiful). I feel the cloth already, although we have not yet kissed—the coarse weave, stiff, cotton, tight. And I can taste it—hospital, institutional, before it gets to you. The cloth does not bother me. I know the precise place where your mouth is, where it always was.
Melissa Goode’s work has appeared in Wigleaf, SmokeLong Quarterly, WhiskeyPaper, Split Lip Magazine, Forge Literary Magazine, FRiGG and matchbook, among others. Her story "It falls" (Jellyfish Review) was recently chosen by Aimee Bender for Best Small Fictions 2018 (Braddock Avenue Books). She lives in Australia. You can find her here:www.melissagoode.com and at twitter.com/melgoodewriter