diode v9n1



In the private world of being together, we’re lovers. In the public world of strangers, we’re lovers. In the stranger world of friends, it’s strange being only friends. One or the other of us will, at any one of these friends’ parties, become sad enough to go to a certain corner with a large drink, where she will look angrily at the other one, and the one who is looked at won’t be free to do anything about it. Each of us knew in advance how this would go, and neither decided, beforehand, which woman she was going to be, the looker or the looked for, and each still arrived to see the other, beside her good husband and dressed in her good dress. The one forced into the corner tonight will get sadder and sour; she will wish the drinks were given out with soda straws instead of cocktail straws. She will never leave her corner now, back-fenced by the pretty white wainscoting. The one who is forced to roam around will have gone blind; she will confuse her lovely friends’ faces. These friends will say gentle hostile things like, you don’t look well, have you been sick? Yes, I am very sick, she will want some of these friends, her very best friends, to know. Instead she will lighten her voice. What a party! The host will come with a tray of drinks. A very fancy party! If she passes the corner in question, she will attempt for a while to look as though she’s having a good time, the best time. But sometimes, should the scariest friends, the closest friends, be in the kitchen, and should the corner be dark in the darkest part of the entrance hall, she will dare a visit. She’ll come with a drink. One would think, now, the night could go in either direction. A resolve: a sip, then a look, someone puts her thumb in the thimble hole of a hipbone. But from here there is only one tense movement: worse, worst. The cornered one is preparing to leave, without a word, or with the meanest words she can think of. The other is preparing too, but for what?


Neither of us is ready to give in to the other. Not on the telephone. Nothing will be resolved. Neither will give up her bad feelings. Neither will say one kind word. Neither will stop guarding her proverbial door. Neither will feel entirely sure she is right. Neither will be pacified. Neither will feel good about this later. Both know how this thing goes. Neither wants to hang up. Neither wants the other to hang up. Both know how the next thing goes.  Neither will feel good alone later. Neither will be satisfied. Neither will feel halfway sure she was right.  Neither will keep guarding her proverbial verb. Neither will say one harsh word.  Neither will give in to her bad feelings. Nothing will be solved. Not on the telephone.  Neither of us is ready to give up the other.


You’re about to go home with the drummer or if you aren’t, you want me to think you are. OK, I say, the drummer’s cute. I hope you feel like your younger self. (That was a mean thing to say, even in my head, and I’m half sorry, because I know your younger self, who is the same as my younger self. She wakes up on a half-sheeted mattress wondering, who is this drummer and how do I get home? Where’s my car, where’s the subway station, where’s the friend who left me in the bar? I feel sorry for her, our single young self. Before this I was about to kiss you in the woods in the snow on the Heart’s Desire trail, which we chose for its fitting-at-the-moment name. And because we had already been fruit wine tasting, last year’s cherry and plum, and to the first and second bar, and anyway we were out in the country. I’d eaten mussels. I don’t eat mussels or drink plum wine but I’d do anything with you. Anyone will do anything when these things are true: it’s only the beginning; all I want is to feel this way; this feeling will never change; my heart will go on and on. Chorus.) I am about to pull your hair so hard our teeth will clack. Don’t go home with the drummer.  


Brittany Perham’s work in this issue is from The Night Could Go in Either Direction, a collaborative chapbook with Kim Addonizio, forthcoming from Slapering Hol Press. She is the author of The Curiosities (Free Verse Editions, 2012); new work appears in Colorado ReviewThe Journal, and 32 Poems. She is the recipient of a Wallace Stegner Fellowship, a residency award from the James Merrill House, and the 2015 Stover Award given by Southwest Review. She teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Stanford University.