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Schulenburg

 

JIMMY CHEN

 

 

Still Life With Orange

 

It would be great if tomorrow were like this, it would be perfect. She woke up and said this, that’s one of the first things she said. It was late in the afternoon. The sky was faded and low, rolling through the motions of a long weekend. I’d just gotten back from my jog, sweaty before a shower and making noises to wake her up.

"Why’d you wake me up?"

I kneeled down on the bed and kissed her cheek. "I’m sorry."

"What time is it?" Squinting at the remaining light coming through the windows.

"Four." I guessed.

I left a note on my side of the bed, in case she woke up before I came back. I went jogging, it said. When I got back, before I woke her up, I removed the note and ripped it in pieces, so as not to confuse her.

"I’m hopping in the shower." I was already naked.

She didn’t even look, still she said, "It’s only four."

"I know. I’m tired."

When I got out of the shower, I tried to dry off on a damp towel, careful not to breathe in as I passed it over my face. All the towels were either blue or light blue, as if one day we were supposed to quilt a sky. She was sitting up in bed, arranging four pieces of paper together in various ways.

"I found your note," she said.

"I went jogging," I said without looking.

Raising one of her knees, a soft white melon. "When did you go jogging?"

"Before I woke you."

This had happened before. We would have these kinds of discussions where we kept repeating things to each other in different ways. Most of the time I would stick to the facts, sure that in the end they would make sense, especially if told together. "Why didn’t you tell me?" she asked.

"You were sleeping."

It started to rain and she said now she can’t go out. I told her she was still in bed so it didn’t matter. The cat jumped into bed and the three of us stayed close because everywhere around us seemed far.

"You’re getting the bed wet."

"The towel doesn’t work," I said, sticking to the facts.

"Neither does the bed."

It was like we were always figure skating, our brisk moods weaving, falling, and depending on each other. I never knew when to hold her, when to throw her up in the air, when to catch her. Sometimes I felt like I was always coming in third, next to her feelings and everyone else’s.

A dense cloud passed under the sun and for a moment it became very dark, the darkest a day can get and still be day. The walls sunk into a murky umber and corners disappeared. All I could see were her eyes, floating in the glaze of a Spanish painting.

She told me once that she felt guilty whenever she stopped moving. I asked her why and she said because her mind starts asking unanswerable questions. I told her everyone feels that way and the trick is to know when to stop thinking. She said all I did was sit around or go jogging. I said laziness was okay, as long as you get some exercise.

After a while it stopped raining and the sun came back, making its last orange note in the sky, valiant and embracing, strewn across the broad horizon. Horizons are cruel, because once you get there, there’s more. Suddenly, she got up and started getting ready to go out. She made the closet make noise the way only a woman can. I heard her shoes coming at me. They stopped.

"It would be great if tomorrow were like this, it would be perfect."

"Isn’t this perfect?" I asked, palms open.

She went back to the closet and I heard coat hangers changing their places. Then she paused for a second, and another second.

"Let’s go out tomorrow," she came out of the closet, now holding her shoes. "Today’s almost over and we still have to sleep."


 

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