I’m not sorry about what I took, because at the end it was a fire sale and a frenzy. The whole place just smashing their hands through those boxes with the glass–which no one ever has a problem with even though we’re all so paranoid about mirrors, but boxes with glass, no problem–just to get to an axe. We heaved our little axes, cut little splinters through the painted plywood doors and then: full-flood daylight. Sucked a deep breath of all the air, then remembered, oh we left a life behind, so back into the house to grab what we could, looping every greedy bit around our arms like spaghetti on a silver fork.
Well, I say “we.”
1. taking inventory?
2. ain’t that enough relief
3. it’s my bail
5. so don’t I
6. dead right
Not one for counting, though. Particularly since he took that one.
“They’re just on loan,” says Casey to me.
“They’re not,” I say. “They’re a form of colonialism.”
“Lots of colonies got free,” she says.
“They had to fight wars,” I say. “Walk on salt. Common Sense. I can’t remember. Things like that, though, things of which I can’t do. I’m drained of it.”
She blows air through her straw and makes bubbles like a five-year-old.
“Is this boring?” I ask.
“It is technically,” she says.
How many candles can I light at once? Not with one match. I mean like how many can be placed around this room before it’s a fire hazard? It only takes one I guess so who cares? Just not under anything wood, near anything paper, any oily rags or hairsprays or coolants. Just not near any bombs or any other fires that have been burning since this morning. Not on a heating pad or a fan left on while I was out of the room. Plus half are scented. I’ll knock myself out before I calm myself down. I’ll burn this place down before I get them all lit. I’ll fall a fucking sleep before I get to relax at all. Candles are the worst idea I’ve ever had. Candles were never my idea. Candles were never his idea. We were perfect in that. Was it a hatred of candles or a hatred of impracticality? It’s a miracle how far you can drift at this hour. Oh but wait. Oh but wait a goddamn. Oh but wait before this whole place goes cinders and the truth is unknown. Hold still. He bought me this candle that fucking asshole I thought we had an agreement about fucking candles. It was spring when he did it.
We meet in a parking lot. Drive our cars window to window. I face south, which is of no consequence.
“Take your candle,” I say, to break the ice. I hold it out through the window but he doesn’t move.
“Can’t we go in or something?” he says.
“In where?” I say. “It’s K-Mart.”
“Isn’t there a snack bar?” he says.
I cannot find all the volume knobs in the world but:
“YOU WANT TO DO THIS IN A SNACK BAR AT K-MART?” is how it comes out.
“Icees?” he says.
I have kissed that retarded mind, I think.
We go into K-Mart but I don’t take any of the things I want to give to him. He’s right about the snack bar but the Icee machine isn’t lit up, so we get a tall wax bag of popcorn and two child’s size Cherry Cokes. He pays. We sit in swoosh-molded booths and stare at each other.
“I don’t want the candle,” he says, finally.
“Me either,” I say. “It smells like incense.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” he says. “But that’s not why I wanted to meet.”
“I have your toothbrush in the car,” I say. “I’m not bringing a toothbrush into a K-Mart. Plus that shitty graphic novel.”
“It was sad!” he says.
“I’ll say,” I say.
“That!” he says.
“What?” I say.
“I’ll say,” he says, but this time he is mimicking.
“So what?” I say.
“I’m giving it back to you,” he says. “I took it.”
“I still have it,” I say. “I just said it.”
“Please,” he says. “There are others. I don’t want any of them. They’re all yours.”
I start to say what about the things of yours. I start to say failsafe, so don’t I. I start to say your hick mouth. I start to say poisoned the well. Instead I think of sepoys chewing cow-laced gunpowder.
“I’m not taking them back,” I say.
“Why?” he says.
“Your mouth is scorched earth,” I say. “I am Sherman.”
The colonized can colonize! I give my mother all the candles.
The new one holds back because he’s a veteran but I want to tell him (so I do) that our love could be a museum someday, and I prod with affection and liquor until one sloppy night he confesses all of his prisoners to my left shoulder and I nod to the stenographer with the cuneiform, yes, yes, this is it, this is how we diffuse, heavy as hell but so’s civilization. At some point this is the choice we can all make.