FICTION: Same Husband Twice

I think you are still a carnival when you are asleep, I think I went to a carnival, I think I had a good time, I think I want to marry you, want you to marry me, want you to fit neatly in the lead mold of husband heavy in my brain and producing tears when I think of the smell of the word “belong” and I think I taste metal on my tongue when I think of you, I think my tongue is mine and not yours, or mostly mine, and I think I want you to want to marry me, to always be marrying me the way they say rivers always flow, I think you’re the kind of river who led someone long ago to declare you can never step in the same river twice, I think you are the same river but never twice, always in my bed but never the same man, I think I like it when you give me permission, let me give you permission, dress me up in your clothes and fit me with your name and take me to the carnival, I think I like it when abandon me there, let the carnival carry me along, I think every carnival is a storm and every husband is a carnival, and the thing I don’t know is whether I want to be abandoned or be the one abandoning but I have no one to abandon but myself and I am tired, always tired, I think, from watching you sleep, suspicious that sleep might turn you into a different kind of animal or change the direction of your flow or transform you into a smaller more metallic carnival, the carnival empty but bright and loud, vertical with a dirty tilt and traveling north until mirth is not the only thing made of ice, and I think I want you to be the husband that I think I am still allowed to want, the kind that is not entirely guilt-free, I think I want a husband, I think having a husband is the most efficient way to find out what it is about abandon that’s so necessary now, or will be soon, my body the wrong kind of cold front, a storm that hesitates, that whispers preferences and regrets in the form of the mist that makes rainbows visible, so many rainbows they stop being important, and I think you might already be my husband, I think you might already be sleeping here next to me, and I am the wrong kind of storm and night and chaos or progress breaking free of context like sex and conversation and politics and drowning myself in a few years by the old pier and I think I am certain you are the wrong carnival and will carry me nowhere, but no one else will either, I think I am fixed like a landmark waiting to be engraved after something sufficiently notable happens nearby, and I think I hate you because you’re capable of sleep and half-curled in half-light you seem like you enjoy it more than you enjoy being awake, and I think I am only ever a part of being awake, never a dream, never the dream that carries you down under the foam and the waves and the ice, and I remember when I asked you whether, when you die, everything slowly turns white, you didn’t say, you just told me you’ll find out sooner or later, which is true, true enough I had to find something else for just to be angry with each other about, and this morning is the wrong morning for confessions or being asleep or being awake or being alive or anything else, humid and tilted and rusted and too bright, my tongue trying to move in my mouth the wrong tongue, too heavy, like I gathered it from the fields to replace the original, but if you are not the right carnival I can ask you sleep questions, and my sleep question is this: when you fade away like my family and childhood and faith did, could you at least abandon me somewhere comfortable, like here, the spacious bedroom, somewhere with food to eat and a bed to sleep in, will you please, because even though I am already alone, I think it will take a long time to learn the new escape routes and exceptions and errors and rules, because I was told once and believe it — the world will never be truly empty until it is full with unspoken traces of errors, and the world is large, we are small, so are the past and the future, and so are my errors, I think, small and cold and white and not very organized, though every time I take them out from where I keep them in the hollow under my tongue they don’t seem to ever change even though I swallow and swallow and swallow and say yes and yes and yes until I think I may have devoured the whole world without either me or the world having noticed, though the errors are still there, and I can tell they love me as much as you do so I never throw them in the river, I think wherever it is dark it is dry and wherever I am is the center of the middle of the night, the same night every night, the one you gave me when you married me.

Nicholas Grider is the author of the story collection Misadventure (A Strange Object, 2014) and their work has appeared in Conjunctions, Guernica, Okay Donkey, Midnight Breakfast and elsewhere, most recently Five:2:One and Vol. 1 Brooklyn.

Image: Carnival at Nice, Paul Signac

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