Published in Black Fox Literary Magazine
There used to be two two mugs, two pillows, two people in this home. I’d watch your sun-lit silhouette through the window – watch your two feet trudge through the whitewash, surfboard in hand, the horizon behind balancing your steps with its visible, encroaching gaze. I’d sit there, sip there, mug in hand, heart reaching through the glass. I’d set down the half-finished sketch, swing open the creaking, paint-chipped door as you breached the part of the sand where a picket fence would’ve been if we were the kind of people to have a picket fence. I’d kiss your salty lips, caress your fresh scrapes, and take the board back out for my own surf along the horizon line. I’d run alongside your footprints, parts of you soon to be washed away by the always coming ocean pushed by the pulsing horizon.
There used to be two–two mugs, two pillows, and two people sharing one board. It worked that way that forced separation of space, that solitary time for each of our souls duck-diving through the crests, turtling on our own accord. We’d paddle at our own pace to catch a wave that signified how we wished the rest of our day, our week, our life would be.
On the good days, I’d dance across the board cocking my confidence from cove to cove. Your tall shadow waved back. I’d imagine you there smiling, mug in one hand, towel wrapped around the waist, drips of the ocean pooling in the same spot it had for the last seven years. Drips you’d let air dry, allowing part you, part sea bend the wood in ways we hadn’t intended. You’d trail your foot over this little mound, this little fragment made and meant for you. On the bad days, we’d each paddle out a little further, further, further with half-hopes the ocean would swallow one of us. Neither would ever say who, but as your arms grew smaller and your breath weaker we both knew it’d be easier that way – a kinder way to go amidst the horizon line we loved.
There used to be two–two mugs inscribed with each of our names. You’d sip from mine, so I’d sip from yours our own way of interchanging parts of self, sharing, merging, while still having our wholes on two sides of the imaginary line. Then, there was that first day of that last summer where I was sipping and you were sleeping–not out in the waves, not submerged amidst the floating kelp. Asleep–or maybe pretending to be. I kissed your dry lips and caressed your scratchless forehead, and whispered ‘going for a ride’ the way you had every morning, every summer before that.
Your board laid propped against our wooden house, alongside the green, chipped door–the squeaking one I said I’d paint last summer but never did. The door you said you’d fix, but walked through and never did. The raised mound of wood you formed and I ignored. The little niches we’d said we’d face, the way we put off those big trips and any discussion of kids, the silences we got used to it, kept moving through, and kept loving until we could love no longer.
I still think of you as I stare into the horizon, wondering which wave your riding. I still think of you as I walk through the paint-chipped door, the door I whisper promises of murals and fresh coats to. I look for you when the big ones come, when I’m beneath the ocean–body and water one. And on the good days I still dance across our board, your board, my board. Your tall shadow isn’t there to wave back, but the mug still sits right where you left it–with my name neatly positioned against the horizon. I used to say I’d move it, wash the brown rim linings that led your lips through its last sip. I used to say I’d wash it, put it away, wipe the sill clean.
Somewhere along the way I stopped looking at this mug as an intrusion and more of a legacy, the landscape we created and left behind. So, I just keep it there–our little work of art, our fragment of domesticity–the only kind I’d ever want, the only kind I’d ever do. With you and no picket fence, with the beach, and the board, and our bodies constantly nearing the horizon.