Mitchell Graham

In the Backyard Where We Parted With Monogamy

That morning my stomach hurt from leftover kid pizza. The night before you’d brought it home from work, from Chuck E. Cheese’s. You were saving for grad school, but then again fuck grad school, you often said. I turned on my pillow and looked at you cradling your arm. You complained how a shrieking mob of children had dragged you into the ball pit and dinged up your elbow. I was glad my HRT could keep us kid-less (what’s left sleeps in the bottom of a sample cup, on a freezer shelf, at the clinic downtown). In any case, you said you were staying on your birth control. Your eyes had a dead vibe from all the shouting and constant flashes of arcade screens. I got out of bed and put on my blue summer dress. I felt beautiful anyway.

We both knew about the texts, which bars, at least something of who fucked who, and so on, but neither of us had said anything yet. I didn’t say anything as I fried the eggs. I thought longer while you changed upstairs. (If you’re reading this I want to confess that often when you’re at work I go into your closet and try to breathe you into me). I took Betsy outside and let her pee in the rosebushes, waited by the alley gate and your parking space.

You came out the back door, down the two concrete steps. Your hair was wrapped around you like a scarf and tucked into the torso of your mouse suit. You lifted the Chuck E. Cheese head and placed it over yours.

Immediately the black-white terrier was growling.

I leaned down and held Betsy to my side, calming her. Standing I looked into the vacant plastic eyes. The wind blew the whiskers slightly. Your voice came out muffled: “Betsy doesn’t understand permanence.”

“But she understands deception,” I said.

The dog’s ears shot up. From the balcony above we could hear our neighbor Thorn begin to beat his collection of native drums. I took a glance: his dreadlocks whipped about. His pecs went spastic.

You turned the buckteeth and C cap to the west. “Well, I’ve got to get to work.”

“Alright.”

You went on, only hesitating a half-second.

Then the giant mouse closed the gate and the wind set to howling. The sun was keen.

I lingered with the dog in the yard.

In ten minutes you called my phone and so I held your voice close to my ear: “I could not say it to your face but you are not saying it to my face either. I am not bad for wanting what I want and you are not bad for wanting what you want.”

Thorn was still at it, whooping now, beating his drums louder, faster.

My voice was whispered and chant-like, “I know. And I love them. I love them all. And you, and myself.”

You were saying something back but in euphoria I lost language and only knew your tone. Everything was yes, yes, yes. I said, “I love you but I have to go.” At my feet Betsy was rolling, making happy snarf-noises, living in ecstasy of green grass, bright day.

Then Thorn called my name from the balcony, the name I chose and through which I give love. I still haven’t decided how to tell you that part, how I tied Betsy to the railing and went up the stairs holding a flower from our bed.

Mitchell Graham is a writer who lives in Columbus, Ohio. They tweet @theyismitchell.

 

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