Exposure № 050: Black & White

This week, Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure
is being guest edited by photographer JA Mortram
.

Photographer Dina Oganova brings us this glimpse of family life.

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Dina Oganova’s photography can be found here. Her contributions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Humpty Dumpty: Friday

.
wake early on Friday.
I feel alive. You love me. You said so without my saying it first. You called me to tell you loved me. If I recognize that my thoughts have begun racing, I do not make note of it. I make you a CD. I haven’t made you on in a while. I still think that these CDs we make are as close to our hearts as we can give each other.

I call the therapist that Erin referred me to. Judi answers on the fourth ring. She sounds rushed. She says that she can’t see me for an initial session until two Fridays from now. Will you be OK until then?, she asks. I tell her I’ll be fine.

I bring the CD to the park near where you work, and I tape it to the new bench I wrote the Amanda Palmer lyric on two days earlier.

I’ve left you a pick-me-up.

A pick-me-up?

Something to remind you to have chaste, non-flirty fun at your birthday event and to encourage you to find rabbit time this weekend.

 OK.

I tell Eryn, my best friend at work, that you and I are talking, and that you have told me you love me.

What does Holly think?

I haven’t told her.

You’re not thinking, Will, she says.

I tell Eryn that I want to try. No more lies, I say. He knows everything, and he still loves me. I think we can get past everything.

He’s still a drug addict, she says.

I know, I say. I think he will change, I say.

You can’t change someone in order to make a relationship work. You’re only fooling yourself if you think you can do that. He’s an addict. He will always be an addict. Do you want an addict raising Avery and Aurora?

I love him, I say.

Listen to yourself. There are other men in the world you can love, she says. You can do better than a drug addict. You deserve better than a drug addict. The fact that you even have to say he’s going to have to stop using drugs in order for your relationship to work is ridiculous. He’s a drug addict. And she says it loudly, and I know she’s right. I know you’re a drug addict, and I doubt you will ever change, but I love you and I think you’re meant for me and I think you’re worth the risk. I think we’re worth the risk.

I go online to Amazon and I find a sailboat charm. The charm is not expensive, and there is enough room on it to engrave our initials. I am starting to feel manic. I know I am starting to feel manic.

I finish the day at work, and I go home. I decide I can’t text you again. I do not want you thinking I’m checking up on your or that I’m not OK with you having a life outside of me. I’m OK with it because I’m no longer a habit. You have picked me, even if we’re not officially back together. You said it yourself. No title, no Facebook status, nothing changes who we are when we’re together. Put us together; see how you feel. You said it.

Holly and I watch Valentine’s Day. At the end of the movie, several couples realize the inherent truth in the idea of for better and for worse. Things break, but love can put everything together again, or so I tell myself. I text you video clips from the film.

I wake up at 3 a.m. My body remembers 3 a.m. You have not responded to the video clips.

Are you OK?

I love you, and I’m OK.

I sit up and pull the blanket tighter around me.

I know you’re it. My it. Us. You, me, Holly, Avery, and Aurora. We can and will get there.

Really?

Yes.

Because I don’t want to be crying for no reason.

I’m yours. You’re mine, rabbit. Cry. I love you.

I love you too. That’s the first time you’ve typed Aurora’s name.

I suppose that’s very true.

It is.

There’s a lot to work out. But, I feel OK about a lot more now. Night all of my rabbits.

I know there’s still work to do. I’ve just worried that when one of us dated/slept with someone, we’d have to change, and I wasn’t convinced we’d get it back. I love you, too.

It never went away. You already know that.

Feelings aren’t logical.

And what is logic?

Logic is what you said: Repeating past mistakes expecting different results. Insanity.

I don’t know how this plays out. You finish what you have to.

And I think, what if our finish line is actually 57 years from now. And I’m still crying, and I want to ask you if I can come over and hold you and inhale and see if you smell like yourself again.

I want you to know it’s there. But, did you not know that the other night?

I know that when we’re together, we interact as a couple in love, and when we’re with Avery, we interact like a family.

We limit our reactions to each other. Aside from that – I need sleep.

We don’t need words to communicate. Avery wants you to push and you’re holding a bag and without saying anything I let go of the stroller and you hand me the bag and you start to push and it all happens seamlessly.

Love.

Love. I will see you when I see you.

I noticed it too at the same time. Sleep. Night.

Dream.

Wow.

Wow?

I haven’t in?

Maybe now.

Let’s hope I do.

Let’s hope.

You owe me a ring. I want/need to be tied to you in that sense. Not sure about the timing. Just a side thought.

I may have bought you a boat of sorts, I text. But I’m wearing it first.

I want to write the word MARRY on the palm of one hand and the word ME on the palm of my other hand, drive to your apartment, call you when I am downstairs, and ask you to come down for a minute. I would be on one knee, and you would be standing there, and I would draw the W ring on your left ring finger and I would hold up my hands. I think you would say yes because I would be using both hands to propose.

Sail away, sail away, sail away. You’re my guitar hero. Also, Holly and I get coffee together without you. Decaf.

To bond and begin plotting to overthrow me. I’m sure that will be fine.

No, we clearly both love you.

It will be a torch passing. Here’s what I’ve learned in 12 years; good luck figuring out the rest.

You probably can’t even comprehend.

Maybe not. If you want it, then we’ll figure it out.

I meant that we both still love you.

You’re my number one best decision for me and my kids.

Night, my rabbit.

Night and really just a PS: You haven’t smelled like you when we’ve hugged. Or maybe I wasn’t close enough to inhale. I will next time.

* * * * *

William Henderson has written for local and national newspapers and magazines, including the Advocate; the Boston Globe; and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism & Communications from the University of Florida, and a Master’s in Fine Arts from Emerson College, where he studied creative non-fiction. He earned a Hearst Award in profile writing in 1998, and various awards from the Washington Press Association, Florida Press Association, and the New England Press Association. Currently, he is a freelance writer, editor, and copyeditor, and a full-time father to his children, Avery and Aurora. He can be reached at wil329@yahoo.com and through his blog, Henderson House of Cards.

His other Snake-Oil contributions are here.

Exposure № 049: Untitled

This week, Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure
is being guest edited by photographer JA Mortram
.

Photographer and artist Lisa Manfre tells us about this affecting photograph:

“I took this picture during the summer of 2010. I was visiting my ill grandfather who just got kicked out of his apartment. It is a very little and uncomfy bed. It was his new bed. A year later, my grandpa passed away at the age of 84. When I look at this picture now, I can see this dominant red, which was his favorite color, but also this incredible source of light. I can’t help thinking it means something.”

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Lisa Manfre’s work can be seen here, and she blogs here. Her contributions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

People Will Talk

.
he sirens ring out clear
; they mingle in the air with wood smoke, puffs of exhaled breath. The sound seems to grow nearer, then farther away again, tossed against stands of trees, hills and hollows.

Helen stands at the end of her driveway, if it can be said to support such a name. It is barely one car-length from her front door to the edge of the road. Her trailer is nestled in a curve. The two-lane road in front was paved only a couple of years earlier. Her nearest neighbor is a quarter-mile away, but sound travels far and fast in these woods. When the wind blows the right way, a hunter’s gunshot can seem to come from just outside the back door.

She looks calm, housecoat huddled about her, as if it might ward off the December cold. She cradles a large tomcat to her chest. To anyone who asks, she will say that she was asleep on the couch when the fire started.

“I’d have been a goner for sure if Stripes hadn’t come and licked my face,” she will tell them.

If all this happened on one of the TV crime dramas she favors, the investigators would find that the iron was left on, and that the fire it started spread quickly to the curtains nearby. But they would not be able to say whether she turned the iron on to heat up, then walked to the mirror, tousled her hair just enough, drew her housecoat about her, and picked up her cat and walked out into the night. If her voice were tremulous enough when she told the story of how Stripes saved her, they would put those thoughts out of their minds altogether. She is eighty, someone’s grandmother, great-grandmother, even. Who could accuse her of such a crime without feeling guilty themselves at the prospect of being wrong?

Anyway, this is a small town. The authorities lack the know-how and the manpower to do the work she sees on the TV crime dramas.

A truck pulls to the side of the road. A man, a woman, and a child pile out. Her neighbors, the Kirks. The woman speaks first. “Thank God you’re alright! We heard on the police scanner that there was a fire, and then the sirens, and then they said where the fire was. We came as soon as they said where.”

For a moment she is touched by their concern, that they would pile into the truck in the cold, at night, no less, to make sure of her well being. A second vehicle pulls up, and then a third drives past slowly, the driver craning his neck at the spectacle. It parks up the road and a youngish man walks back to the scene. Helen has never met him. He is interested only in watching the small disaster unfold.

The firefighters arrive soon. She hears the words “insurance money” pass between people in the small crowd that has gathered. She is not concerned with the money. Most likely she will move in with her oldest son, Tom, and his wife, Linda, who she thinks is a sweet girl. If not, the money will be handy. It can pay for an apartment in one of those assisted living communities. She almost smiles at the thought of having someone around all the time. Then she hears the same voice say, “Well, anytime a fire happens, people will talk.”

She watches flames swallow the front wall.

“Let them talk,” she thinks. “It will be the first time they’ve said my name in years.”

This week, Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure
is being guest edited by photographer JA Mortram
.

 

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John McIntyre’s work has appeared in The American Scholar and Intelligent Life. He lives in Newark, NJ. His contributions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Exposure № 048: Walk Before Me and Be Perfect

This week, Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure
is being guest edited by photographer JA Mortram
.

Abram was 99 years old. God appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty. Walk before Me and be perfect. I will make a covenant between Me and you, and I will increase your numbers very much.’ […] This is My covenant between Me, and between you and your offspring that you must keep: You must circumcise every male. You shall be circumcised through the flesh of your foreskin. This shall be the mark of the covenant between Me and you. ‘Throughout all generations, every male shall be circumcised when he is eight days old. [This shall include] those born in your house, as well as [slaves] bought with cash from an outsider, who is not your descendant. [All slaves,] both houseborn and purchased with your money must be circumcised. This shall be My covenant in your flesh, an eternal covenant. The uncircumcised male whose foreskin has not been circumcised, shall have his soul cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.

(Genesis 17:1-14)

Walk before Me and be perfect.” How very confusing. It would seem god did not succeed in making people perfect in the first instance, otherwise why the need to saw away various parts of the newborn and infant genitalia? What bad design. And certainly not very intelligent.

Firstly, the female child. Imagine, if you would, a scene wherein this prepubescent girl is taken to a room. Upon entering this room, she goes through a procedure called infibulation. This involves partial removal of the labial lips to expose raw flesh. The exposed and raw labia are then sewn together using catgut or silk. A very small opening is left for the passage of urine and menstrual blood. In some instances the legs will be strapped together for up to two weeks, resulting in almost full closure of the sutured labia. On the wedding night, the vaginal opening is enlarged, by either the husband or a female relative. In some instances this is carried out with a ‘ceremonial’ double bladed dagger. Methods of infibulation differ according to region, culture and religious belief.

Let us now turn to the infant male child. Picture a child of only eight days old. He is about to be circumcised by a mohel. This ‘qualified’ adult male will cut the foreskin surrounding the head of this infant penis and remove the flap of skin. In some instances, the mohel will then take the infants penis into his own mouth to extract blood from the exposed tissue. These abhorrent procedures are often mandated by religion. Can you imagine any educated secular individual behaving in these reprehensible ways toward his or her own infant or newborn? These behaviours are quite simply inexcusable on any level whatsoever. And pray why the genitalia? As with so many religious edicts, we once again return to the penis and the vagina. Well-trodden ground indeed for the pious lunatic.

Sign this petition to protestThe Ashley Montagu Resolution to End the Genital Mutilation of Children Worldwide, a Petition To The World Court, the Hague.

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The|G|™’s other contributions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Exposure № 047: Small Town Inertia


Photographer JA Mortram is our guest editor this week, bringing us some fantastic fellow photographers as well as fiction from author John McIntyre.

These pieces are from Small town inertia : Electric tears and all their portent, a documentary about schizoid obsessiveness, addiction, creativity, family and how certain geographical locations are seemingly inescapable.

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JA Mortram is naturally drawn to people, circumstances and situations that inspire him to discover more about them and to give a voice to the seldom noticed or heard. For the last 18 months, together with people on or far beyond the outskirts of his local community, he has been recording a series of environmental portraits, interviews and straight documentary shoots of people’s lives, stories and memories. Recently he has been volunteering with local Mental Health projects, teaching photography in his spare time, and it has been amazingly rewarding.

His other contributions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Week 36

We featured some fantastic art, poetry, fiction and the continuation of Will Henderson’s “Humpty Dumpty” series this week. Our sonnet contest has also now closed, and we will be announcing the winners shortly! For now, catch up on this week’s posts below!

Artistical

Fictional

Non-fictional

Poetical

Stay tuned for sonnet winners coming up later!

Impression № 035: Julia-No Head

Gaëtan Vanparijs brings us this image of ambiguous decapitation.

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A native of Brussels, Gaëtan Vanparijs is a student at Art School St Luc. He frequently exhibits and enters competitions to spread to share his universe. Through “l’étrange vie des autres” (“The strange life of Others”), he inserts a touch of the absurd into everyday life scenes, leaving each reader to his own interpretation. He is currently working on a book about illustrated Monsters’ Biographies. He is influenced by movies and the Belgian surrealism that surrounds him. More of his work can be seen at Flickr.

His other contributions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

New Blood

I have not yet read any of his books,
but I have heard such grand, sweeping praise
for the new blood author, such vast exaltation,
that I no longer have any urge to read him.

I do not need to read his excellent books
because I know you’ll tell me how brilliant they are.

Thank god for his talent; what a scream we have.

I’ll simply assume he is the greatest writer
to have ever scrawled a word, the top-most soul
to have reached the ever steady tier,
and move on with my life.

* * * * *

Ray Succre is an undergraduate currently living on the southern Oregon coast with his wife and son.  He has had poems published in Aesthetica, Poets and Artists, and Pank, as well as in numerous others across as many countries.  His novels Tatterdemalion (2008) and Amphisbaena (2009), both through Cauliay, are widely available in print. Other Cruel Things (2009), an online collection of poetry, is available through Differentia Press.

His publications at Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Humpty Dumpty: Thursday

For the previous entries in Will Henderson’s Humpty Dumpty series, click here.

I ask someone in the human resources departmentwhere I work to help you. I don’t want you to work with me, but I think they may be able to offer you pointers on finding a different human resources job.

You are pleased with, maybe even excited by, my idea. You ask me to set up the appointment for a Thursday if possible. I ask you if doing all of this for you is OK. You say you appreciate it and that you don’t know what you’d do if I wasn’t in your life.

It is your day off. On other Thursdays, I would come to you at lunch and we would make love. I miss Thursdays.

Have a healthy and productive day.

 Thanks!

Welcome.

You send me a picture of some tools. I recognize nothing in the picture. You tell me that the Allen wrenches are not there. You send a second picture of new coffee mugs.

Did the clover mug make it home safely?

Yes.

 We reiterate our plan to continue stealing them.

After yoga on Wednesdays.

You text a picture of a bag of coffee.

Do you remember where or when I may have bought Yukon Blend?

I think at the Starbucks at Cambridgeside a few weeks ago when you bought a lot of mugs and I bought the computer mouse.

We stop talking for a while. I want to ask you to go see a movie. I want to ask you to do something normal and fun and date-like, but I don’t want you to think I want a date. I don’t want to push you faster than you’re willing to go. Still, I decide to ask.

You probably have plans, but do you want to see a movie tomorrow night? No biggie if you can’t, but I feel like seeing a movie.

Friday I have a birthday event to go to, otherwise I would.

No biggie.

Sorry rabbit. You were about one hour late as I just got the Facebook invite.

It’s OK. I didn’t want you to think it was a date so I wasn’t going to ask, but then thought the worst thing you would say is no.

 You reply with a smile. I get the confirmation about Thursday and the times and I tell you.

Thanks rabbit.

I meet with my realtor. She takes me to two apartments; one is perfect. The apartment is the first floor of a house. The landlord and his family live upstairs. I fall in love with the apartment before I even see inside. I like the idea of living in a house. I like the idea of living in a house with a huge backyard for Avery. The landlord has two children, both older than Avery, which means any noise Avery makes will be understood.

I give my realtor a check for the deposit. I haven’t rented a home on my own in 11 years.

I just rented an apartment. Or mostly. They need to approve me but that shouldn’t be a problem. I’m a little sad. I may have cried driving back to work.

Are you OK?

I will be. Thanks for asking. I’ll have a library and the kids will have a big yard and there’s tons of storage. The shower is small so I’ll have to be careful who I invite into it. And it’s cute and has character so it won’t take much to make it home.

I send you the photos of the apartment I took.

Very cute.

You send me a picture you took on Newbury Street of an Eiffel Tower that stands in front of a store.

I’ve seen that.

I figured you had. Just sharing. By the way, the last video I sent you was not a fuck you video. I had no idea about anything at that point. It was just a random D video.

I didn’t take it as a fuck-you video until afterward.

Well, it wasn’t meant like that at any point. I was just showering, so it occurred to me that I meant to tell you that all along.

I deleted it. I don’t have any of it anymore. But thank you for telling me. It’s OK. You had a list of how you could be mean and hateful and it was like you ticked them all off. I know it came from hurt and betrayal. It’s not who you are.

Nothing I did ever was with the intent to hurt you. It was to protect myself.

You still are. Protecting yourself. You should. I want to protect you too.

I operate as logically as I can. It’s my nature. Love doesn’t understand logic. They are not friends. I am still protecting myself. You promised to protect me and you unintentionally hurt me. I am doing the best I can to accommodate both logic and love.

I know. I would be OK if we were just friends. Or acquaintances. Random texts. Just knowing you’re OK is enough. I know you love me. You’re doing fine. We just have shorthand, and it’s easy, and I don’t have anything to compare it to.

Right now, I have friendship to offer you. I know that we have the essence of us still, and that may never go away, even as friends.

I know.

I know we can succeed at a friendship. I don’t want to lose you.

 There’s a chance this is it. There’s a chance we can be more again. There will be work, and who can say.

You and I are both making a lot of changes right now. Our friendship and support for each other is the part of our relationship that we need now. We don’t need fights or anything else right now; this is logical.

I know. I’m not sure I have fight in me. Not anymore.

You’re not losing me and I’m not losing you. We win.

We’re losing us for now and we in a union were pretty great. I guess I’m afraid if we make such great friends you’ll see no reason to take that step forward again.

We’re still us, Will. No words or titles or Facebook status changes that. Proof: Stand next to me and see how you feel. There’s no loss of connection there. But, that doesn’t mean that rushing back in is the right thing. If we can be friends and eventually best friends, then I think that’s where the payoff is. It will be a slow process. But when we get there, it will be seamless just as it has always been.

I know. Does it make sense to say I’ve felt halved since – there’s this myth that once we were all two souls connected and a god got angry and ripped everyone apart and we’ve spent eternity looking for our soul twin. I didn’t know how to handle everything I felt.

It doesn’t. I’ve felt the same way. My immediate instinct is to be with you again. But, past actions are indicators of future behavior. I need to look at the past and see a positive future. A solid friendship with you over time is the answer to that.

I do not tell you that I don’t believe in small breaks. A break is a break; small ones widen over time. So I agree with you, even though I know what was broken will not be fixed by time or friendship. Two halves do not make a whole when it comes to a healthy relationship; it takes two wholes. The ground beneath us is gone. We are falling. I know we are falling. I don’t want to know we are falling. I want to land. You were my home once, I think. You were wonderland.

I know. Was it this way when your other relationships ended? I think they were always just done, right? Your feelings ebbed and you moved on. And I’m not sure your logic in past indicating future holds. I think the reasons for my past actions don’t exist anymore. Like you said, the future that past was leading to is gone.

I just try not to repeat things that don’t work expecting a different result: Insanity.

That’s like saying you’re on your way to crystal again because you upped your drug intake that one time.

Well, Will, anything is possible. That was a risk I took.

The guy you dated with the other life is gone. He fell apart. There is no other life anymore. There is no self-hate. I don’t know how to explain it without seeming like I’m begging, which is not what I’m doing. You’re worth my patience, D. You always have been.

And you’re a new Will. Hello. Would you like to be friends? I think I’d like to get to know you.

Yes. Friend it out.

OK.

But don’t be surprised if one day we’re in matching suits and you have the W ring and I have whatever ring the key melts down to and I tell you I told you so.

I love to be proved wrong.

You don’t, but that’s OK. I will still try.

I am going to the RMV to get a license. I’ll talk to you later.

Go with the wind, Icarus. I love you and believe in you.

I love you, too. Or just love. Love.

I know. Love. I hear you sometimes just sleep and cuddle with friends. I’m going to hold you to it.

You send back a smile. Who knew that I would be able to use the fact that you and your best friend slept together as friends in my favor. Too bad you’re not ready for Avery. We’re going to the Charles River and maybe we’ll steal a Starbucks mug after. You told me you couldn’t handle a Will speech because I could sell you a boat. Well, I’ll be your boat. I’ll wear your boat. In my head, wearing a boat on a chain around my neck makes perfect sense. I will tell you I am your boat and that I will not sink again.

I call Holly. I ask her to bring me clothes so I can walk at the Charles. Holly brings me shorts and sneakers when she brings me Avery and the stroller. She says she needs the night out with her friends. I do not tell her that you and I have talked all day and that it feels normal and right. I do not tell her that I never thought you and I would spend all day talking again, and now that we have, I can’t imagine my life without talking to you all day. I tell her I will be home later.

I go to a mall to find a boat charm. Avery is talking in the backseat. I take some video of Avery talking, and I send the video to you.

I miss him.

Yeah, he’s missable. You were his stepparent. That wasn’t a lie.

I know that. I don’t feel any differently. I will treat him the same way.

Maybe, but you need to negotiate with his father first.

Maybe. But I don’t think there’s a better way to treat him than how I do. I’m open to suggestions.

You do just fine. You just can’t disappear from his life again. You broke up with him too.

I won’t just disappear without provocation.

I need to buy the boat charm today because the next time I see you, I want to have a boat on a chain around my neck. I want to be your boat that you can’t help but buy. I know you want to date it out again. And I want that, too. I do not listen when the voices in my head tell me I’m heading into uncharted territory. I do not listen when the voices in my head tell me I’m starting to go to bed later and wake up earlier. I do not listen when the voices in my head tell me I need to tell Holly. Instead, I am convincing myself to buy a boat that I obviously don’t know how to sail.

I do not find a boat charm, but I find tank tops. You say you have several you could give me. You say you have a pile of clothes in your closet that would fit me now, and that I am welcome to go through the pile and pick out what I like. I take pictures of Avery and send them to you. I’m delaying going home because I want you to ask me to do something. I see a Handy Manny toy. I take a picture and send it to you. Maybe I should get this for you and your best friend, I write. What I’m saying is I understand why you watched the cartoon when you were high, and I understand that I overreacted, and I hope you forgive me.

Can I interest you in ice cream? I don’t have any; just seeing if you would be interested.

Where? I am in the Common now.

I’d meet you there. Can you entertain yourself for a bit?

I get to the Common and find parking within a half hour. I put Avery in his stroller. We’re going to see D, baby, I say. D, D, D, Avery says. He has missed you too.

Sunbathers are on blankets. A group of men kick a soccer ball back and forth. There are no nets. They have figured out their own goal boundaries. I see two men sitting on a bench. They are clearly together. I take a picture of them. I am far enough away and behind them. They do not see me take the picture. I send you the picture.

I want this please.

Where are you?

I’m close.

I know where you are without even having to ask. Near Park Street Station. I see you there, and you’re sitting and drinking an iced coffee. There are a flock of birds nearby, walking and searching for crumbs. You see me and Avery and you stand up. You smile. I push Avery toward you and he is excited and you are excited, and I want to hug you and wrap my hands around the back of your neck and kiss you. Kissing strangers has gotten easier since Holly and I decided to separate; kissing someone I love should be simple, but it’s even more complicated.

You say hi and Avery says hi and I say hi and Avery wants out of his stroller and you know without my having to tell you that taking Avery out is a mistake. You tell Avery that you’ll take him out later. Avery pouts. You say, Buddy, I missed you, and you give him a hug. Avery holds onto you a little longer than necessary. You look at me over the top of his head and your eyes are wet and your eyes are smiling at me and I think that you would accept a kiss.

So ice cream, you ask, and I say yes, ice cream. And you ask if I had a place in mind, and I say no, and you say what about J.P. Licks, and I say that’s fine, and we walk. You look up and the sun is beautiful and you take a picture of it and I take a picture of you taking a picture of it and in the photo your back is to me and I can see Avery. I don’t know that this picture will be the last picture I take of you.

We walk. We walk across the Common and down Newbury Street. I think that this is the same way I walked when I bought the Amanda Palmer magazine on the night before your birthday. I feel that walking again on this street with you is somehow appropriate.

You say to Avery that he needs to tell his mother that the yellow stroller he is in sucks. And I say that the yellow stroller is small enough that I can carry it on my own, as opposed to the stroller I used when you and I walked together. I do not say, but I am saying all the same, that without your help, I have been reduced to a stroller one person can handle.

We walk and we talk about the car you want to buy. I suggest you get a used car, since it will be cheaper. You say you will think about it, but your mind is pretty set on a new car. I don’t say that I think you want a new car because your best friend has a new car. I don’t say it because I don’t want to cause a fight.

We walk and we talk about what went wrong and what happened and we talk about what we did in the time since we last saw each other and I point out different storefronts I had photographed on the night before your birthday, including a jewelry store that has as its window display a mock-up of the Mad Hatter’s tea party. There is Alice. There are the cups and saucers. A world of wonder awaits you upstairs; the headline above the picture. If I had only known the world of wonder that awaited me upstairs on the night I met you.

You tell me how one of the keys on the chain around your neck is a broken key. It is missing the part that fits inside a lock. You say you found it on this street, but couldn’t find the other half. You say that that was very much how you felt at that time. I tell you that I felt that way, too, then, and still feel that way. You point out the intersection where you found the broken key, and we look for the other half. I ask the universe to put the other half in view. I think we need to find the other half if we are going to get back together. Finding the other half will be a sign. I want to find the other half and give it to you. I think if I find the other half and give it to you, you will kiss me and everything will be OK.

We don’t find the other half of the key, but you say not finding the other half is OK. You hadn’t really expected to find it since so much time has passed.

We keep walking. Avery only wants you to push. You say nothing changes.

At times, everything changes, but we can take comfort in the parts that don’t change.

You say nothing.

Ahead, in front of a store, a Union Jack flag hangs. You stop and look at it. You ask me if we should take it.

I think you’re serious, and I say I think we should take it and leave.

Get the car and come back; you’ll grab the flag and jump in.

I say forget ice cream. Let’s do it.

You laugh.

You say rabbit, you would, wouldn’t you?

And I say yes, and that Avery would be our co-pilot, and you touch Avery’s head and he grabs your hand and pulls your fingers into his mouth. And I think that this right now, right here, in the middle of Newbury Street walking to get ice cream, is the way our life should be. This, right now, right here, is how our life should have been all along. But I don’t say that. I get the feeling that you’re not yet convinced. I feel like this, right now, right here, is an audition. I feel like you want to hire me for the part of your next boyfriend, but you’re still auditioning other guys. Maybe this is my callback. I should have rehearsed a song and dance number.

We get to the ice cream shop. You pay. We take turns feeding Avery and eating what we ordered. No Doubt is playing on the radio. You ask me if I like them. I say I do. You say you like some of their songs. You tell me about an MGMT show you went to with your best friend. You tell me that you bought tickets to see Ani DiFranco for you, your best friend, and another friend from work. Ani is playing Boston two nights before the Pittsfield show I bought us tickets for months ago. I think, really? You bought tickets for you, your best friend, and someone else, and you never bought tickets for us to see a concert? And I ask you if you would be OK if I bought my own ticket. I say I won’t stand with you and your friends. I say you won’t even know I’m there. You say that that would be fine. You can’t promise that I’ll be welcome to stand with you and your friends, but I should buy a ticket if I want to go. You go to the bathroom and I watch you walk away. I wipe Avery’s face with a napkin. You come out and we pack up our leftover ice cream.

We stop by a record store, and while you’re looking for a specific record, I find something you weren’t even looking for but that I know you want. You do. You buy it. We walk back in the direction of the Common. Avery is thirsty. He asks for juice. I give him his cup, but he doesn’t want it from me. He wants it from you.

Avery wants you to push him. He asks for you. You’re holding the Newbury Comics bag with the record in it. We don’t look at each other. I reach for the bag with one hand while still pushing with the other. You hand me the bag and simultaneously take control of the stroller. We don’t have to stop. We walk side by side. We may have gone into our relationship wanting to learn each other’s language, but we soon no longer needed each other’s language. Lovers develop a diction all their own.

You say you will help me move into my apartment. You offer your help without my having to ask. You say that if you help me, even if we end up hating each other eventually, when you move, I will have to agree to help you. I say I will do that. I say that if at that time you still don’t trust me in your home, then I will understand.

I’m not sure I don’t trust me in your home, you say, but my roommate has forbidden you from coming back into the apartment.

I don’t say that the apartment is yours and he’s just a subletter; that if we’re together, shouldn’t you get to decide whom you let into your apartment? I say instead that I will not want to go into your apartment. I say I’m not interested in seeing what your room looks like without pieces of me in it. I don’t say that I will never bring my son or daughter into your apartment again. I don’t say that I should never have brought Avery into a home where there are drugs and drug paraphernalia and men getting high. I don’t ask how many times you think Avery was there while your roommates were getting stoned. I don’t ask you if you even thought about that or cared.

I say that you’ll be welcome in my apartment. I say that I’ve spent six months in your home, and that it will be time for us to spend an equal amount of time in my home. You say you don’t believe that I don’t want to be in your home. I say it’s true. You say you’ll see.

You ask about the audio from the night before your party. I say I could send it to you. I say I haven’t listened to any more of it. You say again that you’d like to hear it, if only to hear things you’re not ready to admit about yourself.

We pass some of the more expensive apartments on Newbury Street, several of which have fire escapes, and you say that if you found out you had only one month to live, you would use every credit card you have and rent a flat for one month. Just to see what living like that feels like, you say.

You won’t do that at all, I say. You’d travel around the world. There are places you want to see before you die.

I know there are. And you laugh and you say that I know you too well, and of course you’d want to see the world.

I say that I would go with you and show you what I could, and learn with you the parts I didn’t know.

I’ll hold you to it, rabbit, you say.

You ask about Holly and how she’s holding up, and I tell you that she’s holding up better than I am. I tell you that she is the strongest woman I know. You say you’re looking forward to getting to know her.

I tell you I will walk with you to the train you will take to get home. We get near the train and we stop at a corner. There is a police officer at that corner. You bend at the waist to hug Avery, then you look at me. You reach for me, and I reach for you, and we hug a few seconds longer than friends hug and I inhale and you still don’t smell like you. And I let you go and you let me go and you smile at me and you say thank you and I say you’re welcome and you turn to walk away and I watch for a few seconds before I turn Avery’s stroller around and return the way we just came to walk toward my car.

I look into the storage area under Avery’s stroller, and I see what I think is your ice cream. I call you. I think I can catch you before you get on the train. You answer. I say I have your ice cream. You say you have your ice cream. I look in the bag and realize I am looking at my ice cream. I say you’re right and I hang up.

You call back. I wasn’t done, you say. I say sorry. You say thank you for coming out and for bringing Avery. You say you had missed him. I say he had missed you. You say I love you, Will. I say I love you, too, D. And we say nothing else, and I am wrapped in our story, and I think you are wrapped in our story, and I think we are each waiting for the other to say something else, but there is silence and we are each on our phones paused in our separate journeys home and I say I will talk to you tomorrow and you say you will talk to me tomorrow and we hang up.

What I should have said is come back. Don’t get on the train. I’m turning around.

And you would have, because you would have wanted to, and we would have met back where we parted and I would have put the brake on Avery’s stroller and I would have stepped into you and you would have hugged me and I would have wrapped my hands around the back of your neck and we would have kissed for the first time in more than three weeks and the police officer who had been standing on the corner where we went our separate ways would have looked away, because that’s what people do when they see two people so madly in love.

I walk with Avery through the Common toward my car. I look at the night sky. There are the stars, the same stars I thought you would imagine me living on if I had succeeded in killing myself. I turn in a circle and spread my arms wide. Avery laughs. I take a picture of a carousel. The photo doesn’t turn out well, but it is proof that I am here and you and I had been there together moments earlier. I get to the car and I strap Avery in and I get in and I say, we had a good night with D, right, and Avery laughs and says, yes. And I say I love you, baby, and he says I love you too, daddy. And he adds, I love D, and I say I love D, too.

I think this is the first time he has said I love D. He says it unprompted. There are few lies with children. They say what they mean. They have no filter. When he says I love D, he means he loves D.

We get home and Holly asks if we had fun. Holly hugs Avery. Did you have fun, baby, she asks. D, he says, D, D, D. Holly looks at me. Did you see him?, she asks me.

No, I say. I would tell you if we saw him.

I am lying, even though I have no reason to lie. She won’t approve, I think. She will say that you broke me and she put me together again and we were separating and I am moving out next week and it isn’t fair that I get you in the end. She would say that it’s not that she wants me to be alone and unhappy, but that she thinks I can do better than a drug addict.

Some nights, however shapeless, are meant to be seen. This night, tonight, you and I were meant to see what we have left. If there is anything left. I want there to be. I want you to think there is.

* * * * *

William Henderson has written for local and national newspapers and magazines, including the Advocate; the Boston Globe; and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism & Communications from the University of Florida, and a Master’s in Fine Arts from Emerson College, where he studied creative non-fiction. He earned a Hearst Award in profile writing in 1998, and various awards from the Washington Press Association, Florida Press Association, and the New England Press Association. Currently, he is a freelance writer, editor, and copyeditor, and a full-time father to his children, Avery and Aurora. He can be reached at wil329@yahoo.com and through his blog, Henderson House of Cards.

His other Snake-Oil contributions are here.