I moved in before she was truly gone. I knew it was too soon but I couldn’t help it. I nursed an ache for change in my teeth, carried the electric urge for motion in my fingers. I know she didn’t live carefully: there are scars on the walls and when it rains the joints creak a little.
Now that it’s mine I must take care of this vessel. I have tried to make it feel like home–new paint and curtains and fixtures–but my efforts are swallowed. Try as I might this skin remains tight and wrong-cornered, pulled around bones and stretched across knotted flesh. At least the foundations aren’t cracked. At least I stand on two feet, though they may not be my own.
It would be easier if she were gone. As it is I do not move without feeling her here too, another heartbeat behind mine, the hiss of a shadow following me from room to room. She’s left me love letters, too. You are just a mask, scrawled on the bathroom mirror. No one believes you, painted on the wall of the closet, hidden behind the clothes. You shall take no other wife on the ceiling, the first thing I see in the morning.
And it’s true. It’s been years and she hasn’t let me go. I cannot close my eyes without floating away, cannot fall asleep without sinking. In dreams I am still her, in dreams I die again and again but the stories keep going and I watch from above, a ghost in the wind. In dreams she is the one who kills me. I wake with blood in my mouth and I don’t need to read it to know: you shall take no other wife, but I don’t think anyone believes me. I am just a mask and the truth is this: in dreams we share the house like lovers, skin to skin, quiet in the night.
Emerson Henry’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Bayou Magazine, Emrys Journal, Crab Fat Magazine, Foglifter and the Emerson Review. Henry studied writing at Sarah Lawrence College and is pursuing an MFA at Portland State University.