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  • My Wife's Sandwich
  • Emily W. Blacker (bio)

I buy the avocado hard and place it on the counter to soften. When the fruit gives to slight pressure, when it feels like your resting bicep squeezed between my fingertips, I slice the imperfect oval with a carving knife and twist out the pit. If the flesh is green, like my wet eyes in the mirror, like the first layer of paint on our bedroom walls, I can scoop it with a butter knife and spread it easily on soft bread.

I've been counting—trying to notice—other things with sweet, vulnerable interiors: brie, clementines, tomatoes …

… all of which make your gut sores shriek.

I was grateful for the medical machine that wormed into your gut and snapped photos so we could finally know the source of your torso's twist and hunch. I was grateful to have a name, appropriately ugly, for what was broken and raw in you: ulcerative colitis; a time frame: chronic; a classification: disease; a type: autoimmune. Those images, reminiscent of skinned animals, made me want to crawl into your gut on all fours clenching a tube of balm between my teeth. Our access to each other has always been limited by skin, our openings merely foyers. How we bite, push, press, suck, desperate to get deeper. I can't get close enough, I say to you, you say to me, year after year after year.

I start your sandwich by toasting two slices of peasant bread to the edge of light brown. Or maybe it doesn't begin that way …

… It begins with the plate. I reach for one of the white ones hand-painted with yellow and orange flowers. What are such flowers called again? I'm terrible at naming small, delicate, external things. Never been one to notice the color of the walls, wisps of hair, or slight slants of light. I can spend hours plumbing [End Page 37] my internal thought-swamp and organizing the matter into sentences labeled "metaphor," "image," "reflection," and meanwhile an army of ants will blaze a trail across our apartment from living room to kitchen. How can you not see them? you ask when you come home and begin wetting paper towel. I just don't. I worry for you, you say. But there are some external details I have started to see: the un-avocadoed bit of bread, the edge of the knife canoodling with the unsanitary counter, the slight downturn of your lip when your gut is in more pain than you admit. Yesterday you pointed out that the hand-painted plates have been chipping around the edges. I hadn't noticed the chips, though I'm most certainly responsible. Now I can't unsee the wounds. I choose a sturdy, dishwasher-safe plate instead.

If I miscalculate the avocado's readiness, the flesh still clinging to paleness, it comes off the knife in ragged chunks. When I attempt to smear them into submission, I puncture the bread. I've been trying, wanting, to make your sandwiches well, but sometimes asymmetry is so insistent.

The heart as a symbol of love is insufficient, I think. I offer the gut as an alternative. Gut: the center of movement and feeling and knowing. The night we met, I watched you shimmy between tables holding three pitchers of beer in each hand, charming customers with your sass and a smile that seemed barely to fit between your ears (the same smile that emerged, in spite of your pain, to win over the nurses in the hospital). When you sat across from me in the booth I shared with your friends, it wasn't my heart that fluttered and flipped and told me, against all reason, to make sure I got invited back to your apartment. It was my gut. I felt you there first. I feel you there most. When you were in the hospital, it was my gut that ached with worry and exhaustion. When I wake to find you haven't come to bed, it's my gut that feels the hollowness. When you kiss the back of my neck, it's my gut that...


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pp. 37-42
Launched on MUSE
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