Contributor: Jessica Schmitt

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He cracked his knuckles like an instrument. The muffled pops of individual releases was void here. His efficiency culminated in both hands simultaneously flicking away the tensions built in the minutia of his joints. He had that accuracy and efficiency in all that he did with his hands. Today these hands played chess across the room from her. Her knuckles were thin, curved in the bony way that lacks comfort. Not a motherly hand. She clearly played the piano, long fingers like that, it had to be. They didn’t appear to go together and yet they had. Married couples seem to fit after a while. Not in a puzzle piece way but in the way that Sunday afternoons and reruns of your favorite comedy go together. It just fits. You can inhale the comfort, the knowing closeness of two people so in sync.

The first kiss was unexpected. They loved each other that much they knew yet neither could grasp their togetherness. The idea of marrying this person or even being with them seemed foreign and still it happened. Warmth from that authoritative first press of his lips warmed her from her hips up through her shoulders. The core of her being felt solid and bold while her skin became alert to every move his fingers made. The weight of his presence meant more to her than his actual touch. She reached around for him, she had him but it wasn’t nearly as good as when he had her. She thought he could have her forever and really should.

She lay there in the still morning across from his eyes. He looked so different to her lying there. It was as if he was a different creation, one that wanted her no matter how different he looked at seven in the morning with beams of the October sun kissing his nose in much the same way she had done the night before. He couldn’t really know that he had changed in her eyes even though she had done the same in his. It was what he had wanted for as long as he could remember. He chose her long before she knew she had been chosen. This clarity of mind he employed resided kindly in her conscience allowing her to peacefully exist in what he was.

She married him in the rain. That late August storm was ominous. Steel toned skies guarded the heavens against them. Nature disapproved of their union; still they danced in the park. Incompatibility was not their problem. The tension of so much connection scared the natural order of life. When she said yes he grinned. When he said yes she chuckled silently to herself. It was never supposed to be him and yet there she stood having made an agreement with someone she couldn’t not be attached to. Sure there were better matches but none elicited the love that wishes to provide copious amount of unsolicited affirmation to another for eternity.

He looked at her across the car. She was angry with him. He could tell by the way her chin wrinkled that this was anger, a deep and hurting anger. When she was disappointed her eyes sunk deeper into her face than usual and frustration led to a quick darting look followed by quickly raised and lowered eyebrows. A wrinkled chin could not be repaired with a kiss of his, in spite of her fondness for those. She fixed her eyes on the yellow line of the road as each section slipped underneath the wheels. Those wheels gave them another four minutes and seventeen seconds of each other.

He buried her in the sunshine. He had made all the arrangements for that sunny Wednesday as if it was a staff meeting complete with bagels and coffee. On that day he didn’t bother to ask why she was taken from him. She liked little moments. The ones so full of everything that they pulsed in anticipation waiting to combust. He would allow those moments to be her, now that her legs would no longer carry her from their bed to their coffee machine. Her hands would no longer tap out memorized melodies or be thrown up in exasperation with his forgetfulness. Her voice would no longer squeak at the idea of finally taking that trip they had been saving for or murmur kindly over his ear while he avoided leaving their bed to go to work.
He felt it; the feeling of sharing the same coffee mug, not caring that someone else’s lip had touched it. He had already had that lip in all sorts of ways. Scanning that mug for the remnants, the touch of that familiar feeling as if all the ways in which she had loved him would come rushing back to him with the steam. She didn’t come back to him, of course she couldn’t.

He started sleeping on the couch. He thought about the kids they couldn’t have, how just one fraction of her breathing into this world would still make it a worthy place to exist. He waited at the dining room table like a dog waits at the door waiting for the return of someone so necessary to the balance of the world. He wanted the world to turn faster as if going faster could bring them any closer. He wondered if she was somewhere wandering about looking for him in some distant afterlife. Some other dimension where they still existed together is what he hoped for during the day. During the nights she was there. He would hold her memory in his arms and smell her drugstore shampoo on her pillow.

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Jessica Schmitt lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. She currently studies at Concordia University as a double major in Interdisciplinary Studies and English Literature.
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