| AND THE WINDOW IS SMALLER|
by Hannah Paige Dear Staples, here are your rubber bands backDeteriorating love is a funny thing.
You build up this glowing mass of memories and emotions.
It’s a warm rubber band ball orb that you two have protected,
have felt growing in your chests.
You build this rubber band ball,
adding to it in hours and days and in small moments
people besides the two of you miss entirely. You build it
and smile because this glowing beauty is the two of you.
It’s what you are.
As time goes by, you keep molding it, adding large bands and small,
painful and vital and joyous bands.
Temporary and absolute bands.
If you’re lucky, this rubber band ball remains glowing, safe beside your heart
until its neighbor gives out and turns out all the lights with it.
But if you’re not lucky, then it deteriorates.And if you pay attention, you can feel it.
You watch these bands disintegrate and strip off
slowly or all at once with clipped words and time spent elsewhere;
in missed opportunities and missed conversations
and just plain old missing one another through no fault of anyone’s,
like highway 20 and highway 40 in their famed coast-to-coast paths that do not intersect.
You watch this glowing ball shrink
and you feel its life, its light that once moved you forward,
that gave you breath, that made you think you could not breathe without it there,
You watch this warm love deteriorate
and one day you realize that all the rubber bands are gone.
You have no glowing love for someone inhabiting your chest.And you breathe. The One With All the Windows on the Second Story of the Brick House on the CornerWe’ll be simple.The future we will have,
the home we will make
will not be fancy
With pearls and lace
and dry Sauvignon Blanc that parches the taste buds
and duck confit with tomatoes cut into roses on the plate beside it.It will not be three different forks
or vacations to Turks and Caicos.
It will not be royal purples and balcony opera seats
or pristine tablecloths that would call out a spilled grain of salt
let alone iced tea.The table will be wood.
It will be bare and probably old
and might smell
like cheap boxed wine that the people we buy it from at a garage sale spilled on it.
But it will not be emptyOur life will not be empty.It will be you finding me curled up in the living room window
with a book, always a book.
And the yellow will warm me with the winter rays that don’t come often enough
and the spring ones that will thaw smelling of hydrangeas and fresh sap.It will be baked bread and sunset orange bleeding across the rough, beaten floor of the
It will be rosemary roast chicken in the oven
Because buying it whole is cheaper
and you love the way the butter and garlic and herbs I clip from the pots on our window
melt at the bottom of the pot.
Poor man’s gravy.
Lick your lips.
It will be dancing
inside and out,
On canary and pumpkin leaves that drift through the window,
screenless because the cat clawed the last
and it’s $40 to repair.Lemonade,
pink raspberry with sugar on the glass that sweats in the summer heat
beside the stars scattered on the roof we sit on,
laughing at the rich ones bustling below us.They’ll go home to their crystal glasses
and meals too fancy to eat or touch or throw across the table
with a patchwork persons’ shriek of laughter
and they’ll cross their legs on their duvets of pretentious pewter.I’ll keep the unmatching cups
and baked bread
and yellow. Independent1. a state of being that does not demand the reliance on another
2. as in what we are encouraged to be, within reason. As in two cups of independence is too much, instead use teaspoons. As in ‘a girl with too much independence will never love completely’. As in the one without a partner for family game night. As in no ‘plus one’, not two just one. As in candles just to smell the Vanilla Bean and Caribbean Sands and not scentless pillars for ambiance. As in she will be alone because that is all she knows. As in her past has determined who she is, how she is. She. As in Freud was right. As in our childhood is too determining when it comes to adulthood. As in taking care of oneself. As in time management, self-sufficiency, laundry, responsibility. As in leaving clothes on the ground and lateness and ‘They should’ve’ instead of ‘I should’ve’ due to a lack of independence. (see also antonyms for ambitious) As in the characteristic with which we aspire to obtain but only in good time. As in not too early, not too late. As in not the White Rabbit’s time. As in when everyone around you discovers the great white hope of progress. Keep up with the Joneses but don’t get ahead of them. (see also growing up) As in knowing what you want and how to get it. As in the willingness to reach. As in using a stool or climbing the counter if it’s too tall.
3. See also the ignored that ceaselessly try. Warning to the ReaderYou may in time seek prescriptions for disappointment. Orange pill bottles may eventually line your bathroom counter, white labels for ‘The Man Who Wasn’t Darcy’ (take 2 orally with meals) or for ‘When Everyone is Truly a Phony’ (take 1 dose before bed while wearing a red hat of atrocious style) or maybe still more pills to soothe the ache simply for ‘Atticus’ (3 pills daily, 4 hours apart, feel free to take more though; they will never work.)
You will badger the pharmacists with endless requests to dull the pain of reality acquired after each ‘The End’. Your symptoms will be endless and, if the book is right, if the writer is subliminally skilled at his or her job, exponential with every page turned.
Nevertheless you’ll remain dependent on the prescription filled with a stamp in a catalogue card that reads: due two weeks from today.
Don’t forget to grab a bookmark on your way out. And the window is smallerYou, in the field, with your arms outstretched.
Any sanity gone in equal time that it took for you to say goodbye.
Barely shutting the door before turning your back.Daddy burned dinner
while you lightened your heart and shrugged the marble-heavy yolk onto my shoulders.
Ghastly sores and open wounds festered on your skin.
Big deal–you told me when I realized mine would soon resemble yours.And the window is smaller where I look through to see you,
in the bedroom where I once slept and now comfort the rest of them when they ache.Did you use Tide instead of Gain–the latter gives the smallest one rashes–to wash the tear stains from stuffed monkeys and bears and tigers?
Oh my did you ever ask them what was wrong or if you could help?
Did you even think to look?Did you see the trembling bedroom doors that shook
from the fists he threw down the hall at you,
the chairs and the snowglobe I made for you for Christmas?
I glued sequins to the base for two hours until my fingers were raw
and stripped from Elmer’s harsh peelings.Did you see the height notches–December 5th, 2010: Jenny hit 4 feet–that he splattered
with the blood, spraying from your teeth?
You lost an incisor that day and the year of great vertical accomplishment was erased
with AB+ paint.Maybe if you’d spoken up,
if you’d opened your goddamn eyes
and seen the rashes that rose up on their arms because you didn’t think about the soap
you were using
the doors rattling
and the toes peeking out
from under the beds because
the bodies attached,
the hearts attached,
the souls shaking inside,
were terrified that they might get hit with the shrapnel you let fly in our house
and seen the stains bloom,
that’s impossible to peel off even with the harshest, the most artificial of chemicals,
the ones that sting your nose upon inhalation
and seen the lives you allowed to deteriorate alongside lunchboxes
and crayon bits
and shoes without laces because you never taught them to tie.Maybe if you’d picked up the phone,
knocked on the door,
called out for help,
grown a damn spine,it wouldn’t be me stuck behind the window.
It wouldn’t be me fearing for my own 32 teeth. About the Author:Hannah Paige is the author of the novels Why We Don’t Wave and 30 Feet Strong. Her work has also been seen in WaterSoup and she was the winner of the 2018 Biosophical Institute Poetry Event. She is the current editor of the online literary journal, The River, and is a Creative Writing Major and Publishing Minor at the University of Maine Farmington.