Black Coffee, fiction by Dena Rash Guzman


If you were sit­ting here with me and I closed my eyes and asked you what col­or they are, you wouldn't know. You don't see me. The oth­er boy who loves me, I don't love him. I don't love him back at all, because I'm stuck lov­ing you, but he looks at me like I'm made of hap­pi­ness and choco­late milk. He looks at me like I'm a dream he nev­er wants to stop hav­ing. Every time I see him he asks me, “Sal­ly, when you take off them fake eyelashes?”

I don't wear fake eye­lash­es. He says when I look down, it's like cater­pil­lars are sleep­ing on my cheek­bones. He says he wants to take care of me and the babies he wants to have with me. He nev­er says you're no good, but no one has to say that. They all think it. Know it.

 You made me go to that hor­ri­ble doc­tor when I got preg­nant with your baby. You walked me there, smok­ing and silent. You paid the doc­tor, but when I came out of his office, you were gone. I walked home alone. You came home drunk long after mid­night and tried to joke about it. I laughed a fake laugh just so you would smile.

 The oth­er boy, he just smiles. I don't have to try to make him smile. I want to love him, but I can't stop lov­ing you, no mat­ter what you do.

One thing you haven't done in a good long while is show up here at home. You haven't even called. I watch the phone like it's a small child just about to wake up. It lays there, silent and peace­ful in its cra­dle. I check to make sure it's attached to the wall as often as a new mama checks to make sure her baby is breath­ing. My old friend Mona dropped by the oth­er night to see if I was okay. She was wor­ried because I have been miss­ing church. She heard I got fired from my job sell­ing tick­ets at the movie the­ater. I didn't get fired so much as I just stopped show­ing up after you left. I asked her to go home and call me so I could make sure the ringer isn't bro­ken, that the line is up and run­ning. When she called, I answered and hung up as fast as I could. She hasn't been back around. I can't find it in me to care. I am still scared that you tried to call and got a busy sig­nal at that very moment in time and didn't both­er call­ing back.

2 -

 We live just over the right side of the tracks. I still say we live here, even though you are gone. The trains all but run through our side yard. The ones that don't slow down on their way past nev­er catch my notice. It's the ones that stop that wake me from my mourn­ing and inter­fere with my rever­ie. If I'm sleep­ing, I wake up. If I'm doing any­thing else, I stop. I can see the plat­form from the bath­room win­dow. I run to look at the pas­sen­gers get off the train. I hold my breath as long as I can, imag­in­ing that if I can hold it till the last per­son steps down that the last per­son will be you. I make bar­gains with God. “If I can count to 100 before the tenth pas­sen­ger is greet­ed by some­one, he'll be on this train.”

It nev­er works.

3 -

Our radio broke. I can't afford a new one. Now it's just silence in the night, or the sound of trains speed­ing by. I went to see that oth­er boy last night. I cried to him. He said he'd buy me a new radio, but I don't want a new one. I want the old one, the one you used to tune and adjust. We lis­tened to shows togeth­er in the morn­ings some­times. We lis­tened to music when we were in bed togeth­er mak­ing love, sweat­ing late into the mid­west­ern sum­mer morn­ings. We caught the news before I went to work, while I made cof­fee and you smoked off your musician's rough late nights. I took it black, you took it with milk. Nei­ther of used sug­ar. Every­thing tast­ed sweet enough to us then.

4 -

I've tak­en up smok­ing and quit eat­ing. Cof­fee and cig­a­rettes – that's all I can stom­ach. I'm always in a dirty slip and rolled down stock­ings and a head scarf. My hair's always dirty and the sheets are always dirty. The cat's water bowl is usu­al­ly emp­ty and the sink is full of cof­fee cups. The only clean things are the dust­pan and clean­ing rags because I can't be both­ered to dirty them. I some­times do my make­up so that I look pret­ty for my mis­ery. I wear the Shal­i­mar you gave me only because of the mem­o­ries its scent car­ries to my mind, and to cov­er the odor of my body's des­per­a­tion. Our house is dirty all the time, baby. I keep mean­ing to clean it up for when you come home but when I stand up to sweep or wipe the kitchen table, I for­get what it was I set out to do, and go to look out the bath­room win­dow or shake the phone, or cry. I meet with the oth­er boy now and then. I only do it to steal his cig­a­rettes when he's not look­ing. I let him come over with a bot­tle of gin, and I let him tell me I have eye­lash­es thick­er than the for­est in June, but I don't love him. I love you, and I look at the phone and lis­ten for trains the whole time he's over. One day I know that just like you, he'll leave and nev­er come back, but I don't care. He puts no but­ter­flies in my stom­ach. I could nev­er wait for his train the way I wait for yours.

Dena Rash Guz­man is a Las Vegas born poet, visu­al artist and writer of short fic­tion who now lives on the fam­i­ly farm in north­west­ern Ore­gon. Pub­lished in var­i­ous jour­nals and antholo­gies on paper and on the inter­net, her first col­lec­tion of short sto­ries will be pub­lished in 2012 by HAL Pub­lish­ing, a Shang­hai-based inde­pen­dent Eng­lish lan­guage press. Dena is the edi­tor of the arts and lit­er­a­ture jour­nal Unshod Quills. (www​.unshodquills​.com)

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