sidebrow

Puppeteer

She often thought about her body breaking, no smashing, against a wall or a street or something brutally unyielding until the bones were tender, only barely sinewed.


The thought kept her in bed an extra fifteen minutes this morning. There was something enormously pleasing about visualizing herself limped and flattened, peeling herself off the floor. The body was nothing if not a destroyed thing, or a thing in the process of destruction, growing flaky and gone. 


She told this to her husband one morning and he put down his coffee, dutifully, as if he were readying himself for a very serious talk. But she had brought it up casually, over her cereal, and truly she did not mean for him to put down his coffee in such a way. But his concern felt burdensome and she felt obligated to accommodate that. Such a shame to create a concern and not reward it with something equally concerning. 


He called this tendency masochistic, but she found the term simplistic, though she thought she would like for it to be masochistic because the simplicity of that seemed shiny and generous. When he used that word, she wanted to say, Yes, tell me more. And he seemed so pleased with the succinctness of that word, the way it herded her thoughts into this strange small area of definition, that she felt inclined to agree with him, nodding when he explained to her that violence and pleasure were not so different as they may seem. She wished she could be that, be masochistic, if only for his sake.


He was sleeping in this morning, as he often did on Sundays, as if he were entitled to the privilege. He often forced himself to go back to sleep if he woke up before 9 a.m. on Sundays. The right side of his face was thoroughly smashed into his pillow and he had the pleasing smell of morning grease—dull, earthy. His hand was propped up on the pillow, open. She wondered if she were to place something in it, would it instinctually close, wrap around like a Venus flytrap? She placed her cheek there. The palm remained flat, obstinately flat and she drummed her fingers against the side of his arm, trying to stimulate the nerves. The palm caved, just slightly and she felt enormously powerful, her body bloating with the feeling, as if she had discovered the mechanism of human movement and the secret of it was so pleasingly simple—a measure of weight in a palm. A grand puppeteer. The feeling propelled her out of bed. 


Walking downstairs into the kitchen felt like an adventure. The hallway was particularly dark and the rush of blood from getting up so suddenly was making her brain swell and her vision tunnel. She gripped hard onto the railing. They bought this house because she liked the way the staircase funneled directly into the kitchen, as if the house was eliminating choices for her. She had never been a very decisive person. The kitchen looked unlived in this morning, strange and more beautiful than she had left it last night. There was a quiet gloss on all the appliances and the furniture, the dining table looked content in its arrangement. She opened up the cupboard and felt along the inside walls. No coffee. This upset her. Up until now, the morning had flexed towards her, everything bending her way. She would go out and buy coffee, she determined, remedy the morning, forget that the cupboard was empty. She peeled an orange halfway and left it centered on the dining table, for him, in case he woke up while she was gone. Something left behind. 


The car arrowed with a pronounced straightness, an unrelenting line. She liked these drives so early in the morning that the brightness of the day seemed unsure of itself, still holding onto the night. The road was empty and she pulled back the lever for her fog lights, her fingers curled back in a come-hither motion and signaled a pattern to the asphalt, to the concrete divider, to the dotted yellow line patterning the freeway. 


The road was curving in, delicately. She knew the angle well and watched the roundness of the steering wheel, the way her fingers wrapped tighter and pulled to the right, the pivot of her wrist and how the motion shifted her entire arm and exposed the inside of her elbow. It embarrassed her. Such a small movement, the turning of a wheel four inches to the right—it reconfigured so much of her form. 


She could see where the curve began to become straight, the muscular part of the turn behind her. There was an unexpected number of cars on the road, all politely out of each other’s blind spots. It seemed impossible to be so graceful at such speeds. It felt as if she were watching them from above, an aerial view of their unwavering lines and rows, the preciseness of their placements and she could feel the bulk of her car beginning to unfurl out of the turn to meet them. 


The curve began escaping from under her tires, her wheels grinding against nothing. Her hands kept overlapping on the wheel, the left dragged under the right and the right grappling for more ground. Bits of steering wheel leather gathered under her nails, leaving desperate perforations. The tension of the wheel loosened and she could feel her hands and the wheel were no longer in conjunction. The moment—bloated, suspended. She tucked her hands underneath the seatbelt and thought about the motion of objects on ice, how she used to release what she brought with her onto the frozen lake near her childhood home to see how far the pieces would go. A fleece glove. A waxy apple. A small plastic ring acquired from a gumball machine.



Impact.


Again, impact



Her hair was in her mouth. 



The car stopped. She stopped. Everything was black rubber. It tarred the inside of her nose.


Her head would not turn and so she twisted from the waist. The asphalt seemed glossy, slick though not wet. A grey car was hugging the center divider. She looked ahead and there was a car on its hood, the tires still spinning and she thought it looked silly. The car did not know that it was upside down. Through the glass was a woman, her hair dangling in a sheet and obscuring her face.


She thought, let that be me. Let that be my body, there.