Arm’s Length – Roxanne Murphy

The unknowing, somewhere I long to stay and when I am there, it is vile. The harshness thick like bile burning my throat. But the pre-knowing, the before! The purgatory of potential of lives we could live. One where I’m a painter, in the farmhouse while you tend to our garden. The air sweet with honeysuckle and by moonlight our clothes stripped and we run. We run fast, our bare feet hitting the fresh earth. Our wealth of love almost tangible. Let me stay here. Unknowing of how you take your coffee in the morning, if you don’t want children, or if you believe in God. No, you are perfect right here, at arm’s length. I will never be up wondering where you are at 2 a.m., the door will still have its hinges, my milk jasmine vase still intact. I will never know if you hate your mother. Instead, you always remember her birthday and bring her fresh lilies each time you visit. In this life, your heart overflows. You smell of saltwater and cedar. Will you stay in my memory like this forever? Blue eyes hanging low, gentle touches of our hands. This fiction drips from my chest like sap, morning dew. I think of us naked in bed, exchanging Marlboros past our bedtime. Don’t ruin this for me. Stay there.

Then it comes, the unknowing. Reality has set my sun, the impostor has come. The receding hairline exposed, you don’t know your mother’s birthday, or even drink coffee. No, I am barefoot alone. You are running in the sand, in the other direction, while I have my feet in the sea. I wonder, is it better to live in the pre-knowing? Avoiding the inevitable dismissal, never purging my feelings into another. I’m not sure if I’ve ever loved anybody. Is everything not just falling for the potential? The 8 ball going in the pocket, the sauce we simmer, the porn we watch? Complexities of people bore me, the burr in my saddle. I long to be responsible for only myself. No, the ball didn’t go in, I forgot to chalk. The sauce is too sweet, add salt. And so on, but when a man doesn’t love me, it reminds me of church. Passing snakes around, others possessed by the Holy Spirit with mouths performing an unspoken language. The inhale as the serpent is placed in my hands, waiting for it to snap. But it never did.