Shelf Space {Flash Fiction}

This story is missing something, just one paragraph. Something to put after “I showed you.” While I’m waiting for that paragraph to hit me, I’ll just let the piece camp out here.

– – –

Do you remember when we first met?

When you were lost in a city strange to you, where I helped you get your bearings, set a course by dead reckoning, that first week, when we flouted all norms, flouted the three day rule, is this now lost to you?

Remember exploring each other’s self: the time you whispered to me, when we were coming in from the rain, your hair all wet and mussed from running from the airport shuttle which delivered you to that little bistro down the block–where I had waited an hour for you that one time when you said Logan was grounded–that no word, in all its varied meanings, was more evocative than “crush”.

Remember how I smooshed you against the wall of my study, the both of us smelling of wet and tasting of our shared dinner of mussels and angel hair and wine, the acrid coffee that followed, after that summer of “seeing” each other. How I fumbled double entendre when I asked if you’d like to move in, remember? And you asked, “For the kill?” And I laughed, disoriented, and asked “How do you mean?”

And you stopped. I stepped back, and we ended up talking until three, both our backs to the wall, wrists resting on our knees, like I hadn’t done since college, about the curiosity of that question, “How do you mean?”

That moving guy, the Chicano, however improbably named Paul, remember how on the side of the glass boxes, instead of writing Fragile, he chose Delicate? This, after my comment about your delicacy, for which you chided me, because if you wanted to carry boxes you could. That he remembered “delicate”, two hours after that, the twittering between two nesting birds, it still boggles me.

Remember how, before we flattened the boxes, you placed each one’s contents in little mounds, in no particular order, on and before the couch. Sitting, spent, it was so quiet, and after such a long day of hauling your life across a city, being alone was good. Your decision, to let the mounds sit ’til morning, it was a winner.

I remember the emergency trip the next morning to the impossibly distant Ikea to buy a tall shelf named Billy, because we noticed, after merging our libraries, the crowded cloth-bound covers, ribs and spines, crushed together scandalously, suggestively—of what I still don’t know.

I remember that afternoon, you on your toes, sidling your favorite alongside mine on the top shelf, and how I ached at the sight of your calves: their firmness, no match for the book shelf’s fiberboard, its wood veneer and plastic gloss. I showed you.

Can you remember that magical year, or is it now dead to you, now that you’ve moved out, went upstate, chasing that trader (traitor?) who you met on a business trip, who promised you unimaginable riches, a life of charm and glowing magnetism, which yours truly, admittedly, could not.

I want you to know I kept a piece of you, one from a collection of fragile things.

“How do you mean?” I asked again, when you told me you were leaving, when I walked into our place, and found you half-packed, your hair again messy, your flush so lovely, chin trembling, lost again.

This as you packed the last of your books into the Delicate box.


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