She counted his breaths, until the clock flickered and changed. Even meant he would stay. Sometimes she lost count and started over the next minute, knowing it still counted, she’d never know.
He slept in the afternoons, napping when the day was hottest, saving his energy for the bursts of creativity at two in the morning, when he went downstairs into the open warehouse and danced to strange music she’d never heard on the radio or even in a class. Even his pirouettes looked like a foreign language, she wanted subtitles as she peered through the railings of the loft, or at least a synopsis. Perhaps a program with credits:
Dancer: Daniel Prokoliev
Girlfriend: Tara Sutton
But it would never be written down, not so boldly, so permanently, I’m not a words person, he said, what do my actions say?
At dawn he crawled into bed for a few hours. She pulled strands of her hair, and bound his wrist to hers with the long filaments. He broke them casually, rolling over, making the snorting noise he made when his sleep apnea kicked in.
Each night, when she went to work, she wondered if he’d be there when she got back. She had stopped into a dusty little shop on Queen West, squeezed between a millinery with fascinators decked with black goth-y feathers in the window, and a bubble tea café. The Chinese lady there nodded knowingly, even though Tara was sure she didn’t speak enough English (Canadian? It was really its own language, full of ‘sorry’ and too many pleases) to really understand. But Tara sprinkled the bottle of black herbs in his pillow, put a second case on so they wouldn’t spill out all over the bed, and hoped for the best.
His suitcase was already packed, on Wednesday. Clearly the herbs had been a rip-off. Well, that was fifty dollars she wouldn’t see again. He made her dinner, a little like fattening the sacrificial calf, and told her it was fine if she stayed for a few days. She thought of her own apartment, dusty and probably spider-webby by now, her plants brown and dying, Thank God I don’t have a pet.
In the morning, he crashed around, cursing and lifting things, finally waking her on purpose, and she rolled over and smiled at him, looking at the clock, guessing that his plane was boarding, thinking of the pile of shoes—sneakers, dress loafers, even his ballet slippers, dropped one by one from the back fire escape into the dumpster below.
whipchick would always rather be a leaver than a left.