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THE REMEMBERERM/mee Bender MY LOVER IS experiencing reverse evolution. I tell no one. I don't know how it happened, only that one day he was my lover and the next he was some kind of ape. It's been a month, and now he's a sea turtle. I keep him on the counter, in a baking pan filled with saltwater. "Ben," I say to his small protruding head, "can you understand me?" and he stares with eyes like little droplets of tar and I drip tears into the pan, a sea of me. He is shedding a million years a day. I am no scientist, but this is roughly what I figured out. I went to the old biology teacher at the community college and asked him for an approximate timeline of our evolution. He was irritated at first—he wanted money. I told him Td be happy to pay and then he cheered up quite a bit. I can hardly read his timeline, he should've typed it, and it turns out to be wrong. According to him, the whole process should take about a year, but from the way things are going, I think we have less than a month left. At first, people called on the phone and asked me where was Ben. Why wasn't he at work? Why did he miss his lunch date with those clients? His out-of-print special-ordered book on civilization had arrived at the bookstore, would he please pick it up? I told them he was sick, a strange sickness, and to please stop calling. The odd thing was, they did. They stopped calling. After a week the phone was silent and Ben, the baboon, sat in a corner by the window, wrapped up in a drapery , chattering to himself. Last day I saw him human, he was sad about the world. This was not unusual. He was always sad about the world. It was a large reason why I loved him. We'd sit together and be sad and think about being sad and sometimes discuss sadness. On his last human day, he said, "Annie, don't you see? We're all getting too smart. Our brains are just getting bigger and bigger, and the world dries up and dies when there's too much thought and not enough heart." He looked at me pointedly, blue eyes unwavering. "Like us, Annie," he said. "We think far too much." I sat down. I remembered how the first time we had sex, I left the lights on, kept my eyes wide open and concentrated really hard on letting go; then I noticed that his eyes were open too and in the middle of The Missouri Review · 270 taking off my clothes we sat down on the floor and had an hour-long conversation about poetry. It was all very peculiar. It was all very familiar . Another time he woke me up in the middle of the night, lifted me off the pale blue sheets, led me outside to the stars and whispered: Look, Annie, look—there is no spacefor anything but dreaming. I listened, sleepily , wandered back to bed and found myself wide awake, staring at the ceiling, unable to dream at all. Ben fell asleep right away, but I crept back outside. I tried to dream up to the stars, but I didn't know how to do that. I tried to find a star no one in all of history had ever wished on before, and wondered what would happen if I did. On his last human day, he put his head in his hands and sighed and I stood up and kissed the entire back of his neck, covered that flesh, made wishes there because I knew no woman had ever been so thorough , had ever kissed his every inch of skin. I coated him. What did I wish for? I wished for good. That's all. Just good. My wishes became generalized long ago, in childhood; I learned quick the consequence of wishing specific. I took him in my arms and made love to him, my sad man. See, we're not thinking...


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pp. 170-172
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