The Years I Lived Beneath the Lake
I wandered antique malls where the light was so dry you would not have known I was drowning, and the gloves were small and tight and stitched with monograms of strangers, and the real-iron irons stuck their stiff black noses in the air beside my ankles like dogs and I could say, good iron, good iron, heel as I moved among them, twenty and married and lonely in a way that only objects understood: handkerchiefs and tatted doilies and neon tubes blaring, like trumpets in the ocean, OPEN, though it was impossible to know what the OPENESS belonged to except itself or a solid wall or the doll’s eyes staring sun-burst- crazed at dust motes. What did I want? Stillness and a handwritten price, though I never bought anything; poor and scared of my life rubbing off on them: these objects that existed perfectly without me: the brown swan ashtray floating in its own dark glaze; the cherry-poxed bread box; the pedestaled glass cake plate’s caustic of green light beneath itself: one inedible wedge of hunger that would fade when the lights switched off, then return again. The mannequins blinking, necklaces slung around their narrow necks harmlessly. Here there were no backstories at all. The clean-cracked, glue-ridged pitcher with its discount sticker: numbered by some dull Midwestern God who’d laid aside the chaff from other chaff: each assigned its proper, jumbled stall. I’d come days I was depressed, he was depressed, we were fighting, he had hit me, my body on the couch with its stiff brown pillows that had been there when we moved in, that were ours now somehow. Here: ruffle-edged lampshades and wash- boards and gloves scorched at the tips by fire or what was maybe only dirt. No one had driven through this traffic light propped on its side, unlit, maybe unlightable. No one living wore such pleated skirts.