Here’s The Thing:

© 2010 David Parker

This isn’t what I was planning to write today. This is something else. This is about The Thing you want to forget. This is about the proverbial pebble in the shoe of every kind of important human relationship. This is about The Thing you fight about when there’s nothing else to fight about. When all of your other issues have been rubbed out, this is The One that remains. Like a cut on the roof of your mouth that you can’t stop tonguing long enough for it to heal.

Maybe it’s because the weather was perfect. Maybe it’s because I was hungry. Or maybe it’s because my jeans had decided to hang on for one more day before their last fatal rip. Whatever the reason or the occasion, I somehow managed to find the invisible, hidden trigger that would shatter my perfect fall morning with a silent BANG! And then there it was, The Thing That I Can’t Seem to Stop Fighting About, right there on the table next to the plate covered in powdered sugar where the beignets had been. And once it’s Out There, it just hangs heavy between you, sucking all the air. You’re both quiet because there’s nothing new to say about it. You both know that you could be kinder, but you’re both kind of pissed that the other hasn’t moved past it yet. Because, let’s be honest, in order for the Thing to exist, both parties have to feel that it is a Thing, because if it were a mere thing, then one of you would be able to dislodge it.

What really sucks is that there is no human relationship that is exempt from The Thing: parents, children, siblings, friends, lovers, colleagues, they’re all marked by a Thing. And even though you (and whoever) have The Thing in common, you wrestle it alone (seemingly forever). Until all you want is to have is a normal conversation, where there’s no trace of The Thing left in either of your voices. Until you’re pretty sure The Thing is more of a thing that you perhaps shouldn’t have given so much voice and energy too. Until you’re pushed to the point of making ridiculous claims like I won’t let it bother me again, when what you should be saying is Next time it bothers me, I won’t blame you, I won’t pick a fight about something else, and I’ll do my best not to pull any triggers. Because here’s the thing: even though you know somewhere in your Thing-laden mind that you’re both probably sort of responsible for The Thing (and the re-hashing thereof), you really just want to be forgiven for pulling the trigger. Again.

nothing breaking the losing of no little piece

© 2010 David Parker

I’m washing dishes at the kitchen sink. I’m angry. The water is running from my hands to my elbow and puddling on the floor around my feet. I scrub the plate hard, feel the beading around the edges. I’m thinking harder than I’m scrubbing, my thoughts like fists on the back of my brain. Put the plate down on the rack to dry. I’ve exhausted it. Pick up the forks, knives, spoons. In my small hands they look awkward, heavy, primitive. The skin on my hands is older, harsher than I remember. When I straighten them, my knuckles look like the rings inside a tree cut down. I pause. Bring my hands dripping out of the water, stare at them. Pick up a glass. More scrubbing.

I realize I’m holding my breath. Exhale.

There’s mold growing up the inside of my single-paned windows above the kitchen sink. The plants are drooping over the windowsill. It’s too hard to remember something so simple as to water them. Their pots were painted by Ruthie.

The anger is beginning to bleed out of me into the warm soapy water. With every tedious piece of silverware scrubbed clean, I feel less like wings beating against a cage.

I put the last clumsy spoon in the silverware basket, wipe my forehead with the back of my hand. My gaze is directed through the window just above me, but my mind is still reeling from the rage, slowing down like a roulette wheel with the little ball clicking over the redblackredblackredblack. My focus shifts outside of myself, and I notice that it’s not dark yet. I see the trees with their leaves pressed up against the sky as if at any moment, someone could pluck them from the ground leaving only their impressions against the clouds. The leaf-stippled sky quiets the guilt I feel for getting so angry over what I’m not sure.

The sound of running water and Ruthie’s heavy footsteps behind me, her voice chirping. It’s bathtime.