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.
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.
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.
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)