The Pill Bottle
The older of his two cats got sick, and there it was, his ex-girlfriend’s name on the cat’s pill bottle: Jessie. Well. It made sense. Jessie would’ve sometimes taken the cats to the vet. But still.
The Other Pill Bottle
I cleaned his room once. I cleaned his room and hung up his favorite Western shirt. I cleaned his room and I went in his closet and I saw the pill bottle. I saw the pill bottle—bigger than the cat’s pill bottle—there, on the shelf. I saw the pill bottle, but I didn’t look at the pill bottle. Later he would say, but you had to know. You were in my closet. You cleaned my room and you went in my closet, and you saw the pill bottle. I saw the pill bottle, but I didn’t look at it. I saw the pill bottle, but I didn’t know.
The Skinny House
He lived there first, in the skinny house. Then I moved in. The driveway was a classic cobblestone built by a European family in the last century, its iron gate opening backwards. Windows everywhere from the outside, but boarded up and plastered from the inside. I took the back bedroom and bathroom. He [End Page 97] stayed in the front. Joining us was a narrow hallway slanted by one too many LA earthquakes. We never blamed the landlord for ignoring it, and only when friends came by did I notice it—how crooked it was.
He would bring me sugary black coffee in bed. From the first time I woke in his sheets, we had coffee this way, his way: strong with lots of sugar—no cream, no milk. I never asked for cream, eager as I was. Then I was the one to make the coffee and bring it to bed. He was slower to rise. I thought it was that I was quick. Too quick. I’d always awakened anxious. It was normal, then, the way he’d sleep so long. I was the one wrong.
More coffee, our second cups. Always there were second cups. On weekends, there would be thirds, even fourths. Always, too, sugar poured from a bear-shaped jar. Sugar Bear! We sang this, like kids. Kids in our thirties. Once, I forgot to tighten the lid. He fixed our second cups and sugar spilt—his coffee ruined. I cringed. He laughed. By night, he would bang and yell if one pot, one spatula, one knife went out of place. I never wondered why: why might you be so different in the morning than at night? I never wondered, but enjoyed each of those mornings, until the neighborhood taco truck honked La Bamba, and we were late for work.
He had one guitar upstairs in his bedroom and one downstairs by the piano. When he played upstairs, I’d lie on his bed and drift. Think nothing. But maybe this: why’d it take so long to meet you? How’d I do it, that living without you? Green willow stems, perfect rows, and his two cats sprawled in the sun, with me. Downstairs, he’d sing on the big couch and I’d sit on the small one. I’d read; he’d sing and play his guitar. [End Page 98]
We walked to the mall for a broom. How it was we had no broom, I don’t know. All that was talked about was the selection of the broom—plastic or metal, soft or coarse. It was exhausting but exciting, this acquisition—our first shared thing. Hungry on the return, we stopped for caprice and ravioli—the broom on the rail beside us at our neighborhood restaurant. The waiters winked and we sat. We were that kind of couple—the kind waiters and store clerks winked at. I questioned why: why do they wink? I never questioned why I questioned this. Bread dipped in olive oil and we’d chosen a good broom. He blinked behind thick glasses, sipped wine, and agreed: the broom was...