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a dialogue

by Lauren Singer

You sit with your legs apart on the bed, and I am angry at you because you spilled coffee on the mattress. Because I just changed the sheets. Because I tell you constantly not to drink coffee in bed. Sometimes you remind me of one of those temperamental cats who takes a shit immediately after you clean its litter box. Yes, that’s how I think of you, most of the time. It’s not fair to look at you, and be mad at the same time. Those baby-blonde tufts of hair sticking out the sides of your head. It’s not right that you should be a full grown man.
I need to go, I say.
You stand up. You are naked. Except for one black sock. How long will you be gone?
I don’t know, not too long.
Will you call me from the road?
How do you know I’ll be on the road? Maybe I’ll fly.
You won’t fly. You think too much of yourself to fly. If you just get into the car and drive away, it’ll be more poetic.
Well, I’ll call you from the road then, I guess.
Will you fuck anyone else?
I’m not planning on it.
You don’t plan to do anything, though. Were you planning on going away today?
No. But I’ve been thinking about it for awhile now.
You’ll come back and your hair will be a different color. I like your hair red. I don’t want you to dye your this time.
I touch my hair, as though I will be able to feel its redness. No I won’t, I tell you. I didn’t even think of dying my hair. I’m over that phase. What makes you say that?
Because you want to be someone else. You want to forget where you belong.
I can just change my clothes. I can tell people my name is Susan.
If you want, you can stay. And I can call you Susan.
It won’t be the same.
Why not?
Because I need to leave.
Is it because of the coffee?
If I said yes, would that make it easier.
Then no, it’s not because of the coffee.
Is it because you don’t love me?
I do love you. I love you more than anyone.
Then why are you leaving?
Because I need to miss you. I need to not be annoyed by things you do that don’t matter. I need to remember why I can’t be without you.

You stand up, huffing and puffing like a petulant dragon. I want to hug you and throw you against the wall at the same time for being so useless and loving me so willingly. Without me here you will eat bowls of cap’n crunch for every meal and wear your socks a week at a time. You will call my phone and breathe on the other line, and I will call you back. When you answer and I ask, “What’s up?” you will feign ignorance. Sitting on the couch in your underwear you will say, “I didn’t call. I’m too busy to call.” You walk me to my car, and holding my suitcase, you say, “It doesn’t have to be so hard.” And I say, “It’s not hard enough.” And I know you want to hit me. You hand me my pack and step backwards, onto the curb. If I kiss you good-bye I know it will be demeaning so I get in and close the door softly so it won’t slam. It’s important for you to know that I’m not angry. “I might grow to hate you,” you say, and I know you will cry when my car is out of sight. “Yes,” I say. “I wouldn’t blame you.”

Days later, I get a flat somewhere in Pennsylvania. A man stops to help me change my spare. He is gruff and aging and hopes I will barter with him. It is the first time I miss you. What’s your name? he asks. Susan, I say.


Posted on 10/09/2012
Copyright © 2023 Lauren Singer

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Mo Couts on 10/11/12 at 02:22 PM

This intrigued me from start to finish. I don't know your artistic process, but I find it so interesting, as well as all of your work. This is a gem and caused me to think--which I loved <3

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