He touches her hand. His cold fingertips cool her warm skin.
If his touch bothers her, she does not say. She knows that goodbyes are cold.
Leaving her feels like leaving home.
But he will go.
And she will not stop him.
In time he will forget the girl, her name and face like something from one of his childhood textbooks.
“A man knows when to forget; a good man knows when not to,” his father says.
He is content in being a man.
The sky is red.
Pollution: she knows. She refuses to say romantic.
The big city smog has settled in her valley. The horizon is like a fire belonging to someone else.
The heat is tangible and stillborn.
She lays in the truck bed with the back flap kicked open.
Someone on the other side of the world is watching the sun rise. She does not know who.
The truck bed is hot like an oven split in half. She sweats.
She will go soon to a cold shower.
She waits for the red sky to submerge itself beneath the distant trees.
She will not call it romantic.
His legs look too thin to stay upright.
He runs as if ready to fall. Where he might land does not concern him. He has bled before.
He will bleed again.
Someone calls for him from a doorway.
He will need washing, a cold rag to scrub the dirt beneath his fingernails and the dust caked to his elbows and knees.
He will do these tasks himself one day.
The table is high, and he leans elbows first into the placemat. The food is warm. He does not savor it; he eats it.
He does not know how the food came to be in his possession, only that it belongs to him and no one else.
The kettle whistles with hot tea.
She pulls the window blinds up as the grey night diminishes.
The dog trails her steps and sniffs at the English muffin out of reach. She will share when he begs and when he does not.
The two cats wait at the stairs for half a can of food and fresh water.
She will feed them because she always feeds them.
The ice will need to be scraped from her windshield. She knows this already and brings a pitcher of water to the curb.
She thinks of dinner during the drive. The food was purchased on Saturday. She knows it will be good.
They will like it.
The Quiet House
His wife left him and took the kids.
He lives alone in the house.
He bought a dog. He spends his time training the little creature.
The evenings are quiet. The kids are gone.
The dog curls into his lap. He feeds it scraps when his team gets a hit. He curses and scratches behind its ears when they do not.
His wife’s toenails do not scratch his shins at night. Her restless turning does not wake him now. She is in someone else’s bed.
The house is cold, the way he likes it. The windows above the bed are open at night.
He vacuums twice a week. The act soothes him, and he does not remember enjoying it so much.
She is not coming back. Neither are the kids. He knows this, but still he writes short notes for them. He pins the notes throughout the house.
The kids are older now, but not yet grown. He has seen photographs of them. The hairs are dark above his son’s upper lip, and his daughter’s breasts are noticeable now. She is beautiful, which scares him.
The dog wobbles behind him. It is fat and slow and old. Its brittle bones do not allow for jumping, and he must pick it up and place it on the couch.
He painted the house green because it is his daughter’s favorite color. She has not seen it yet.
The dog lays in the kitchen. It does not move. It licks his hand and growls when he tries to touch it.
He writes a letter to his son who is now in college. He has re-written the letter several times. He will have to buy stamps.
He put the dog to sleep. It was in pain. Death was a kindness. He does not buy another dog.
His daughter is pregnant. His ex-wife told him over the phone. He will buy the baby something nice and green because it is his daughter’s favorite color.
When the game is on, he thinks about the dog. He turns off the television and works on the letter for his son.
He needs to buy stamps.