Monday, May 17, 2010

I Call This Happiness

by R. Gay

I think of you but tell myself I should not. I cannot. I must not. I should want not. There is not a moment when I do not think of you, want from you, need of you. I pull apart our every conversation, worrying the words beneath my tongue until they are dark, shiny stones I carry in my pocket. When we see each other, there is a burning in my chest that rises up through my throat, the taste of it sharp and bitter. I think, “I am alive.” Each time I see you, there is too much I want to say. I smile and nod and say pretty, unimportant things leaving you to believe I am a pretty, unimportant person. You see through me. You forget me as soon as I’m gone, as you should. When we see each other again, I have to work to make you see me, even if for a moment. I really talk to you when I’m alone because when I’m with you, I cannot think clearly or say the smart things you deserve to hear. I write to you—long letters filled with ugly, important words about me and you and us. I create imaginary places where we can find each other; these places will never appear on any map but in my heart they are real, not hard to find. If you love me, you will know where to go. At night, I fall asleep next to a good man who loves me, who is in love with me. I am in love with him. He is steady and safe. He makes me feel calm and good. That is more important than you might think because when I’m not with him, nothing makes sense and my mind is wild and uncontrollable. He is a compass, showing me where I am. You are the very opposite of him and yet, you are exactly the same. You show me where I could be. My good man makes me want to properly play the part of the proper wife and so I do. I hold his hand when we walk and rub his shoulders after a long day of work. I wash and fold his clothes and make him sandwiches in the middle of the night. When we go out with our friends, I laugh and charm. I help him to bed when he drinks too much which is too often but that has nothing to do with this. He was the first man who really loved me right; I owe him for that so I carry the weight of his ring on my finger and imagine the weight of yours. When we make love, my good man and I, I crave his body on top of mine, how he holds me down, how he spreads me open and apart until there is nothing left of me. His breath falls hot on my face. His hands are gentle until they are not. His heart pounds so hard it feels like it is trying to break free from his chest to get closer to mine. Sometimes, he says, “Open your eyes.” He says, “Look at me.” He is a smart man. Sometimes, he asks, “Are you with me?” I smile. I hold my hand against his cheek. I lie because though I am with him I am always, always with you, imagining how our bodies would work together, how you would taste and feel, how you would smell and look at me. We would not be gentle with each other or maybe we would—I often change my mind on this—but we would be perfect together because we could give in; we could be our ugliest selves. When my good man makes me come, I swallow your name and I whisper his. Sometimes, he falls asleep inside of me and I stroke the back of his neck and his sweat dries between our bodies, his seed spreads inside my body, holding us together. When we talk about our relationship, my good man often tells me he feels like he is always chasing after me. Like I said, he is smart. He says he won’t ever stop, won’t ever let get away from him. From the mouth of another man, that might sound like a threat. He was chasing me the very first time we met. He had seen me around town but I never noticed him. I’ve never been good at seeing things right in front of me very well. One night, in a gas station parking lot, he stood in front of me as I walked out with a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of wine. He told me his name and all the times he had seen me and gave me his phone number. He said, “You should call me.” I told him to get out of my way but he wouldn’t move until I agreed. On our first date he said I would fall in love with him. He opened doors for me and bought me a nice dinner and said sweet things and didn’t even try to kiss me even though if he had asked, I would have let him fuck me because that’s who I am when you peel away the good wife and that’s who you would love if you saw me instead of through me. Instead, my good man gave me a warm hug on my front porch and asked if he could see me again and I thought, somewhat angrily, he was right—I would fall in love with him. I did, weeks later when after several dates. He stood in the foyer of my house with his bulky frame taking up so much space. He worked up his nerve and leaned into me and pressed his lips against mine, and then slid his tongue into my mouth and the longer we kissed, the more excited he got until he had me pinned against the wall, breathing hard. He was hard against my thigh and as I reached to unbuckle his pants, he stopped himself, apologized and I understood he didn’t undersand me. He asked if he could touch me. He asked if he could make love to me. No man had ever done that before. I said yes. I said please. I said things no woman had ever said to him before and he treated my body like a gift instead of a curse. It would have been impossible not to fall in love. I’m in love with you too but it is different, terrifying, the whole of all the impossible things in the world. My love for him is a strong, straight line— measured and knowable. It is unwavering but not all consuming. I love you in a way that sharpens and deepens and grows every time I see you, speak to you, think of you. My heart cannot possibly hold so much love— you are also in my blood and my bones and my sweat and my skin and someday soon, my body won’t be enough to hold what I feel for you. I do not know what will happen then. On nights when I can’t sleep, on most nights, I go outside and I lie on our driveway and stare into the clear night sky. We can truly see the stars where we live. They are bright and big and close. If I try hard enough, I can touch the edge of a constellation; it burns my fingertips and I think, if you were here with me, you would take my fingers into your mouth and take burn away. I lie on our driveway, hard and cold beneath me. I tap the pavement with one hand and the cage of bone over my heart with the other until all I can hear is my breathing and my heart beating and my blood coursing. I do these things, these tiny acts of living, for you. It feels like we’re together, like you are the last person I will ever love, like you see me, feel me, hear me, touch me. Loving you is the loneliest place in the world. I never want to leave.

R. Gay
writes things and is terribly unimaginative when it comes to bios and that doesn't bode well for her writing. She is proud this week of having remained mostly faithful.


  1. this reads like what I am going through
    so of course I psychotically love it

  2. p.s. the last 2 lines are killa dilla

  3. xTx, see you at the altar.

    mistivelvet: Thanks thanks thanks!

  4. I already liked your stuff, but this piece blows away any of the previous Roxane Gay work I've read.

    The housewife's lament.

    We are all this woman, and we never tell.

    You said it out loud. Fucking amazing.

  5. This is fucking brilliant. Just read this at my desk, mouth hung open in awe. x

  6. I love this piece so much it hurts right behind my shoulders and makes my cheeks ache like I'm eating sour candy. Thought I wrote it at first, but it was too pretty for my stuff. I have similar hounds inside it seems. Thank you for releasing them.

  7. On good days, writing such as yours, push me, trigger me, inspire me. On bad days, I wonder why I even try.

    I´m always grateful, though =)